Announcing our Top 20 Books of 2022

Archives of "The BookBrowse Review": Reviews, previews, back-stories, news

November 16, 2022

Dear BookBrowsers,

In this issue, we cover Barbara Kingsolver's latest novel Demon Copperhead, an inspired retelling of Charles Dickens' David Copperfield set in contemporary Appalachia and featuring a hardy young protagonist coming of age. Our accompanying Beyond the Book article explores the original work by Dickens.

Interestingly, we have reviews of several additional novels, both YA and adult, that follow young people grappling with the realities of grown-up life. In adult fiction, Meg Howrey's They're Going to Love You focuses on Carlisle, a teenager living with her mother in Ohio, as she seeks a sense of belonging through a series of visits to her father and his partner in New York. Foster by Claire Keegan, an international bestseller and winner of the Davy Byrnes Award newly released in the US, is about a girl sent to stay with her mother's relatives on the Irish coast, where she discovers new ways of connecting with others as well as a tragic secret.

The Life and Crimes of Hoodie Rosen, Isaac Blum's young adult debut, is told from the perspective of an Orthodox Jewish American teenager whose community becomes mired in neighborhood conflict. Acclaimed YA author Courtney Summers combines queer romance with a dark mystery based on the crimes of Jeffrey Epstein in I'm the Girl, examining power dynamics through the eyes of adolescent Georgia as she investigates a murder in the ski resort town of Ketchum, Idaho.

This issue includes our review of the latest novel from prolific Pulitzer-nominated and Booker-shortlisted author Percival Everett, the paperback original Dr. No, a madcap philosophical tale involving a professor who studies nothing, a billionaire who aspires to be a James Bond villain and a conspiracy behind the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. — along with an article about the real-life unknowns surrounding King's death.

You can also enjoy our list of the Best Nonfiction for Book Clubs in 2023, a new Wordplay and more.

Thank you for supporting BookBrowse as a member.

Davina Morgan-Witts
BookBrowse Publisher

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November 02, 2022

Dear BookBrowsers,

Every avid reader is familiar with the magic of stories, but what about the magic of the vessels that contain them? In this issue, we review Emma Smith's Portable Magic, a history of the book from the perspective of its physicality, or as the author terms it, "bookhood." In our accompanying Beyond the Book article, we explore the fascinating topic of the "shelfie," looking at how three historical women — Marilyn Monroe, Madame de Pompadour and Lady Anne Clifford — used books and reading to influence their public images long before people were curating their bookshelves to show them off on social media and Zoom calls.

Many other books in this issue also feature a historical component or reflections on specific periods. The ambitious latest novel from Ian McEwan, Lessons, follows Roland Baines, a British man who struggles with a sense of mediocrity, across a lifetime that spans from the post-World War II era to modern day.

Matthew Delmont's impressively researched Half American focuses on Black members of the American military who served in WWII, the role the Black press played in the war, and labor rights for Black workers in the United States at the time.

In Robert Harris's historical cat-and-mouse thriller Act of Oblivion, a fictional character named Richard Nayler pursues two real-life figures who were in part responsible for the execution of King Charles I in 1649.

New Yorker staff writer Hua Hsu's intimate debut memoir, Stay True, recalls events from his youth in the 1990s, including the sudden tragic death of a college friend, while reflecting on the distinct subcultural quirks of the decade.

We also have previews of upcoming releases, author interviews and a new Wordplay for you to enjoy.

Thank you for being a BookBrowse member.

Davina Morgan-Witts
BookBrowse Publisher

Top 10 Novels for Book Clubs in 2023

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October 19, 2022

Dear BookBrowsers,

In this issue, we bring you two new novels by much-loved authors that explore societal issues of current and historical oppression through fictional universes. Celeste Ng's Our Missing Hearts follows 12-year-old Bird Gardner and his Chinese American poet mother, Margaret, in a dystopian near-future where the United States government regulates cultural influences deemed to be unpatriotic. Maggie O'Farrell's The Marriage Portrait portrays an alternate version of the life of Lucrezia de' Medici, daughter of the Grand Duke of Tuscany Cosimo I de' Medici, in which she contends with a constrictive marriage and a murderous husband in 16th-century Italy.

We also cover The Birdcatcher by Gayl Jones, which provides a very different and much funnier take on the threat of marital violence. A humorous but highly philosophical novel about a sculptor who continually tries to kill her husband, and a friend of the couple who can't seem to stay away from the strange drama, this book from an author lauded by Toni Morrison and Tayari Jones is a current finalist for the National Book Award in Fiction.

Two works of nonfiction in this issue offer an accessible, nuanced and up-close view of politically and socially significant subjects. Kindra Neely's Numb to This is a young adult graphic memoir written from the perspective of a mass shooting survivor; our accompanying Beyond the Book article expands on the topic of mass shootings in Oregon. Dipo Faloyin's Africa Is Not a Country debunks common negative perceptions of the continent; the associated article deals with white-savior complex, the impacts of which Faloyin examines in his book.

We also have an exciting list of the Best Fiction Books for Book Clubs in 2023 to help you plan your reading for the upcoming year, a new Wordplay and much more.

Thank you, as always, for being a BookBrowse member.

Davina Morgan-Witts
BookBrowse Publisher

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October 05, 2022

Dear BookBrowsers,

This week, we review the highly anticipated ninth novel from Pulitzer Prize finalist Marianne Wiggins, Properties of Thirst, a sprawling work of historical fiction set in California during World War II. The book features multiple narrative threads, including a rancher's quarrel with the Los Angeles Water Department about an aqueduct built near his land and the construction and operation of the Japanese internment camp Manzanar.

We're also covering the latest from Kate Atkinson, Shrines of Gaiety, about the nightclub scene in London during the 1920s. Our reviewer gave it five stars, likening it to Atkinson's previous historical triumphs Life After Life and Transcription.

If you're looking for an uplifting read, we review Freya Sampson's The Lost Ticket, a novel about a woman beset by life challenges who finds a new source of meaning in the friendship she develops with an older man she meets on the bus — a man who is searching for a lost love from 1962.

We're giving away 50 copies of Billy-Ray Belcourt's poignant novel A Minor Chorus, about a queer Indigenous writer working on his first book and the lives that intersect with his in Northern Alberta. Enter to win copies for yourself and/or your book club.

We also have a new Wordplay, previews of new releases, and much more in this issue.

Thanks for being a BookBrowse member.

Davina Morgan-Witts

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September 21, 2022

Dear BookBrowsers,

In this issue, we cover three books set during the 1940s-1950s, offering a unique window into this era in world history from multiple perspectives. Jerome Charyn's entertaining latest Big Red is a noir-tinged exploration of the marriage between director Orson Welles and actress Rita Hayworth, narrated through the eyes of a spy sent by Columbia Pictures to surveil the famous couple.

Yiyun Li's The Book of Goose tells the story of two teenage girls, Agnès and Fabienne, who write a book in the early 1950s. When the book is published, Agnès becomes an overnight literary celebrity, which profoundly affects the course of her life and her friendship with Fabienne. In the Beyond the Book accompanying this review, we look at the life and career of real-life teenage author Françoise Sagan, whose debut novel Bonjour Tristesse attracted a similar level of fame and attention when it was published in 1954.

Melody Razak's much lauded debut novel Moth follows a Delhi family thrown headlong into the upheaval of Partition in 1947. Razak brings the profound disturbance of this event to life through the primary catalyst of a 14-year-old girl's abduction and a general atmosphere of dread punctuated by catastrophe.

This issue also features our review of the debut short story collection If I Survive You by Jonathan Escoffery, which appeared on the National Book Award longlist last week.

We also have a fun new blog post featuring Book Club Food Ideas for Hearty Discussions, with some great tips for refreshments whether you're meeting in person or remotely, as well as a new Wordplay and much more.

Thanks as always for being a BookBrowse member.

Davina Morgan-Witts
BookBrowse Publisher

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September 07, 2022

Dear BookBrowsers,

In this issue, we review some excellent new works of historical fiction, including Afterlives by Nobel Prize winner Abdulrazak Gurnah. This novel is set in East Africa in the early 20th century and focuses on the lives of characters impacted by German colonial rule. More than anything, though, it's a character study about people and their relationships to one another — human connections that span great distances and offer meaning during periods of upheaval.

The Swift and the Harrier by Minette Walters is set during the English Civil War (1642-1651) and also centers fascinating characters and their relationships to one another. These characters include Jayne Swift, a doctor, and William Harrier, a footman rumored to be a spy. Walters deeply explores her characters' backstories, beliefs, dreams and capabilities with care and nuance.

In Rebecca Stott's Dark Earth, two sisters survive by their wits in post-Roman Britain after their father dies, attempting to make a life for themselves at a time when women had few options beyond seeking safety from a man. The novel's highlights include the poignant bond between the two sisters and the well-drawn backdrop of London after the Romans abandoned it.

We also have a new Wordplay, along with over 40 previews of new releases. And if you haven't already entered our giveaway to win a copy of Susanne Pari's In the Time of Our History, make sure you do so by September 12.

As always, thank you for reading BookBrowse.

Davina Morgan-Witts
BookBrowse Publisher

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August 24, 2022

Dear BookBrowsers,

This week, we cover two high-stakes thrillers involving Cold War tensions, both of which earned five-star ratings from our reviewers. In Natasha Pulley's The Half Life of Valery K, a former biochemist and a KGB officer in the Soviet Union are thrust together to determine why radiation levels are so high in the area around the mysterious "City 40." You can learn about the author's inspiration in our Beyond the Book article on the Kyshtym Nuclear Disaster.

Meanwhile, in Dan Fesperman's Winter Work, Emil Grimm, a former member of East Germany's secret police seeks to provide information to U.S. intelligence in exchange for a new life in America. But when his coworker is murdered, Emil's future freedom, and his life, come under threat.

We also review the latest from Anthony Marra, Mercury Pictures Presents, revolving around a Hollywood studio experiencing the upheaval of World War II, and a movie producer attempting to create art within the confines of the Hays code and conflicting personal and professional loyalties.

In addition to the 16 reviews and Beyond the Book articles in this issue, we have a link to our new blog post, featuring 8 Recent Books by Native Authors That We Recommend, a new Wordplay, and much more.

Plus, enter to win a copy of Susanne Pari's In the Time of Our History, a novel about an Iranian American family in the 1990s struggling with loss and generational differences, based on the author's personal experiences. The publisher has been extremely generous with copies of this book, so we have 50 copies to share, which are in addition to those already assigned through our August First Impressions offer.

As always, thank you for being a BookBrowse member.

Davina Morgan-Witts
BookBrowse Publisher

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BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.