Best Books We Read This Year 2022 by Independent Book Review
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The Best Books We Read This Year (2022)

THE BEST BOOKS WE READ THIS YEAR (2022) is a collaborative book list by the reviewers at IBR in which they review the best books they read this year irrespective of their publication date. It consists solely of books by indie presses and indie authors.

The Best Books We Read This Year (2022)

Curated by the IBR team

Let’s talk about the best books we read in 2022.

This doesn’t mean they were published in 2022.

Yes, some of them were published this year, because this was an impressive year for indie books, but some of these titles have been out for years and have been making a difference in people’s lives long before we got to them.

But they’re still here, they’re still awesome, and we can’t wait to share them with you.

If you don’t know, IBR is a team of book lovers dedicated to highlighting the best of indie presses and indie authors, so this list reflects that. You won’t find any books by big five publishers here.

This year, 15 of our 25 reviewers participated. Some of these books came from IBR assignments, and some came from their own leisure reading (because, plot twist, I think they like books). And while some reviewers chose five and an honorable mention list (whoops!), others only chose two or three that stood out the most. You will find the books, publication information about them, and a mini-review about why each book was chosen.

So if you’re in the mood to treat yourself to something indie and something awesome, consider yourself prepared.

Here are the best books we read in 2022!

#1. Braiding Sweetgrass

by Robin Wall Kimmerer

Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer book cover for our best books we read in 2022 book list.

Publisher: Milkweed Editions

Released: August 2015

Genre: Nonfiction / Nature & Ecology

Review by Joe Walters:

A thing about books is that they can change your life. I know this. I believe this. I just wish I could have known that this would be one of them so I could have read it sooner.

I learned so much about being alive on this planet thanks to Robin Wall Kimmerer, the author and narrator of this audiobook. Kimmerer told me stories and taught me the wisdom of the earth, most often while I was doing dishes. Not only did I enjoy it, I had a regular excuse to revisit a place of gratitude for the planet I’m living on.

Braiding Sweetgrass shares insights on nature with the knowledge of a botanist and the prose of a poet. If you’ve got some dishes to do, I’d recommend giving your ears to this book.

#2. My Volcano

by John Elizabeth Stintzi

My Volcano by John Elizabeth Stintzi indie book cover featuring a hawk staring on a green background

Publisher: Two Dollar Radio

Released: March 2022

Genre: Literary / Disaster Fiction

Review by Joe Walters:

This novel sprouts a volcano from the reservoir in Central Park and continues to take big risks and land big punches. I was flabbergasted by where Stintzi took me. I read so many books that sometimes I think I get what you can do with them, then a book like this comes along.

It describes the various eruptions of our personal and collected lives with surprises and characters doing their best. I am so grateful to have found wonder in the pages of this groundbreaking book.

I read it on vacation, and strangers asked me about it (prob because of this badass cover), and I had so much trouble talking about it, despite doing it for a living. It might be hard to talk about, but it’s cool as hell to read it.

If you like experimental fiction and prose that’ll circle around you like a swarm of bees, you’ve got my wholehearted recommendation here.

#3. Jerks

by Sara Lippman

Jerks by Sara Lippman indie book cover which features two people dressed from the 80s shaking hands after tennis

Publisher: Mason Jar Press

Released: March 2022

Genre: Literary Fiction / Short Story Collection

Review by Joe Walters:

I admit that I make a majority of my book purchases based on the cover. This is no different with Jerks. I mean, look at this thing.

It’s such an unbelievable experience for a book to be as good, if not better, than its great cover. A treat waiting to be peeled open.

The language is so bouncy in this collection. It features a cast of strong, weird, funny, sexual, and flawed characters, and each story fulfills or exceeds my expectations. Every. Single. One.

Short fiction fans: this is an easy recommendation.

#4. The Anthropocene Epoch

by Bruce Glass

Released: November 2021

Genre: Nonfiction / Climate & Environment / History

Review by Joe Walters:

Important. Impactful. Surprising.

The Anthropocene Epoch: When Humans Changed the World is about as good of a book on the climate crisis as I could have asked for. Supremely readable and undeniably informative, it has what it takes to transform everyday citizens from unknowing contributors in the end of the world to enthusiastic and active participants in its possible salvation.

If you don’t know much (or want to learn more) about the history of humans on this planet, I’m throwing a recommendation for this one your way.

#5. Negative Space

by Lilly Dancyger

Negative Space by Lilly Dancyger is included in our best books we read this year list, and it features a drawing of a bunny.

Publisher: Santa Fe Writer’s Project

Released: May 2021

Genre: Nonfiction / Memoir / Family

Review by Joe Walters:

Another audiobook choice for me! Narrated by the author, Negative Space plants me in 80s/90s New York City with a group of artists and punks who have so much to show me about love and family.

I don’t read enough books about kids who love their parents despite their flaws, like drug addiction in this one, but I’m hoping this book changes that. It’s both a heartbreaker and a heartwarmer thanks to Dancyger’s deft hand.

Honorable Mentions:

#1. First Born Sons

by Vincent Traughber Meis

First Born Sons by Vincent Traughber Meis is the first choice by Jaylynn Korrell.

Genre: Literary Fiction / LGBTQ+

Review by Jaylynn Korrell:

First Born Sons follows the lives of a handful of standout characters as they navigate their worlds, which are soon to be rocked by the year 2020. 

Touching on subjects such as race, being trans, politics, pandemics, adoption, and more, this story is jam-packed with contemporary issues. And yet it never feels like too much. Meis gracefully weaves in and out of the narratives, writing with sensitivity and honesty about each subject.

I can honestly say that I enjoyed every single chapter of this book—and each narrative within it. It is impressive to say the least for an author to tackle such difficult subjects in such a complete and compelling way. 

Meis brings humanity to the forefront of this book: characters who are uniquely flawed and deeply recognizable. 

#2. What Happens In…

by Steffanie Moyers

Genre: Mystery, Thriller & Suspense / Romance

Review by Jaylynn Korrell:

What Happens In… is a white-hot thriller set in the wonderful world of Las Vegas. With a steamy romance at the forefront and a dangerous killer lurking in the background, this novel absolutely mesmerized me.

I’d recommend What Happens In… to those readers who enjoy lustful and high-stakes stories. From the beginning, we know that Knox is engaging in activities that could put her away for life, and it makes the book even sexier. We never know what scene will be her last, if any. We never know who will catch on or when. And for a long time we have no clue just what it is her mysterious new boyfriend is up to while he is away. It creates a damn-near perfect hodgepodge of events that leaves readers guessing.

It’s one of the best books I’ve read in a while.

#3. The Linchpin Writer

by John Matthew Fox

Publisher: BOOKFOX

Genre: Nonfiction / Authorship

Review by Jaylynn Korrell:

A valuable guide to crafting a novel worth reading

In writing, the “linchpin moments” are the pivotal places that will either make or break your work. When done correctly, these moments hold your book together and make sure your readers are always engaged.

With specific examples from some of the greatest novels ever written (both classic and contemporary), his own personal experience, and lessons from writing professionals, Fox guides readers to better writing in regards to killing characters, ending chapters, creating gripping first dialogue, describing characters, evoking wonder, and much more. 

In addition to some really spot-on writing advice, Fox provides personal experience and inspiration to make this book something that writers can’t afford to miss.

#1. The Maenad’s God

by Karen Michalson

Maenad's God by Karen Michalson book cover for our best books we read in 2022 list.

Publisher: Arula Books

Released: December 2022

Genre: Literary Fiction / Metafiction / LGBTQ+

Review by Tucker Lieberman:

An engaging metafictional romp through an improbable New England

What you’ll get out of this strange novel isn’t the blow-by-blow of how a drug ring is busted. It’s a character-driven story of interpersonal relationships and a general wonder at the explosive funniness of life. The dominant voice is irony and camp, even leaning into the 1970s-style bizarro that has been called “high weirdness,” but there are also glimpses of sincere existential questioning. 

The narrator is unique and memorable: a gay FBI agent who appreciates potpourri aromatherapy with his gun at the ready. Michalson also surprises readers with language that describes, for example, what it is to feel “like an old sea mollusk might feel dying on an Iowa plain.” 

#2. Man Made Monsters

by Andrea L. Rogers

Publisher: Levine Querido

Released: October 2022

Genre: Short Story Collection / Aboriginal & Indigenous Fiction

Review by Tucker Lieberman:

Monsters menace the border between realms. One kind of monster can wrap around a coyote, leaving “an empty skin and gaping eyes.” Core to this collection is Cherokee folklore; for example, if you see Uktena, a serpent with deer antlers, it means “the world is about to change.”

Every story is a different scenario and setting, but it all coheres into one world with energy and depth.

#3. When They Tell You to Be Good

by Prince Shakur

When They Tell You To be Good book cover Prince Shakur best books 2022 list

Publisher: Tin House Books

Released: October 2022

Genre: Nonfiction / Memoir / African & African American Literature

Review by Tucker Lieberman:

A memoir of coming into self-knowledge as a queer Black man and coming into activism as a young Jamaican-American. Shakur, who was an infant when his father was murdered, describes feeling “the importance of being incompatible with a world that aimed to destroy you.” The chronology circles like a ribbon, walking the labyrinth forward and backward.

#4. Cascade

by Rachel A. Rosen

Publisher: The BumblePuppy Press

Released: June 2022

Genre: Fantasy / Magical Realism

Review by Tucker Lieberman:

A novel of climate apocalypse and magic. This magic, a power that comes to some individuals, is a gut response to suffering or injustice or whatever they can’t accept. This story stars a new plant species called shriekgrass. Why does the grass shriek? Because it knows what’s happening to the world. Out of all the solutions we brainstorm to address the climate crisis, why don’t we hear more about magical ones?

#1. A Perfect Night

by Joseph Stone

Released: June 2022

Genre: Fantasy / Dark

Review by Alexandria Ducksworth:

I cannot get enough of Joseph Stone’s dark fiction.

A Perfect Night is Joseph Stone’s unforgettable story about a young girl and the terrible secrets tied to her gift of seeing spirits. You think your family has dark secrets. You’ll be glad you don’t have any like Fran. 

Stone weaves heavy scenarios you can’t stop thinking about in this story. It’s like not being able to fall asleep after watching a horror movie. Stone really knows how to give us the creeps. Scenes are disturbing yet strangely captivating. Readers may become addicted to the drama.

Everybody involved in this gripping story has something to reveal, and the results are often jaw-dropping and downright scary.

#2. Rogue

by Tam Derudder Jackson

Released: May 2022

Genre: Fantasy / Romance

Review by Alexandria Ducksworth:

Move over JR Ward and Gena Showalter.

Tam Derudder Jackson is coming for the paranormal romance pantheon. 

Rogue, her sizzling romantic adventure, is going to have readers missing its story and characters before they even reach the final page. This steamy story gives readers a little extra spice to their romance, and the tale includes characters as believable as you’re going to find with a splash of underrated Celtic mythos.

I highly recommend Rogue to longtime paranormal romance readers who can’t get enough of handsome, magical fighters with big swords. After reading this book, you’re are going to be starving for more of Jackson’s tales.

#3. Whole Body Prayer

by Yan Ming Li

Released: January 2022

Genre: Memoir / Spirituality / Asian & Asian American Literature

Review by Alexandria Ducksworth:

A tall glass of water for the parched soul

Yan Ming Li’s spiritual memoir Whole Body Prayer is an absolute treasure. Li is no stranger to hard times, yet his book is filled with encouraging moments for those who feel less than they should in this world.

We all have a gift of some sort. Some of us are born builders, writers, healers, and more. Whole Body Prayer is a wonderfully-written reminder of it. 

Although this is a short read, it’s uplifting and well worth the time spent. We all need a book like Whole Body Prayer during eventful times. It can give readers peace of mind and the power to keep moving no matter what happens out in the world.

#4. The Grand Game

by Tim Ahrens

Publisher: Atmosphere Press

Genre: Fantasy / Dark

Review by Alexandria Ducksworth:

Hunger Games meets Battle Royale fantasy delight

Do you control your fate, or is a higher power doing all the work? Is there some god out there who sets up where you live, work, date, and die?

Tim Ahrens takes this thought and throws it into a fun, fantasy adventure in The Grand Game. It’s a wonderful world filled with intriguing characters, unique lore, and memorable faraway lands. 

Ahrens knows how to scribe entertaining fantasy. Sure, there are tons of fantasies filled with kings, queens, dragons, and fairies, but what else can writers do with these age-old elements? Ahrens takes these tropes and twists them into an RPG “fight for your life” ordeal. Every page is filled with surprises, dangers, and secrets worth reading.

#5. Creole Conjure

by Christina Rosso

Publisher: Maudlin House

Released: October 2021

Genre: Short Story Collection / Fantasy

Review by Alexandria Ducksworth:

Alluring and mystical—Creole Conjure captures Louisiana in all of its mysterious glory.

This story collection comes with a pinch of magic. Author Christina Rosso thrives in her depiction of mystical New Orleans and makes you want to explore its singular charm.

This collection of intertwining stories is set both in New Orleans and the Honey Island Swamp, modeled after the real Manchac Swamp. The areas are well known for their magic, superstitions, and folklore. There are witches, werewolves, vampires, cursed dolls, and more than you can imagine in Creole Conjure. And the non-magical folks are just as peculiar.

Rosso has a way with mystical storytelling, taking you in like one of her witches and capturing you in her spell. 

#1. Stamp Mill Murder

by Sherilyn Decter

Released: January 2022

Genre: Mystery, Thriller & Suspense / Historical Mystery

Review by Joelene Pynnonen:

Despite being an escapist novel, this novel doesn’t sugarcoat the darker parts of the era.

The Moonshiner Mysteries series steps up its game with this second installment. The first book, Big Sky Murder, is a great set-up: it introduces the characters and shows readers around a fascinating historical small world.

This second book, Stamp Mill Murder, expands all the horizons: Characters who were already thoroughly enjoyable gain more nuance; we explore the town of Pony Gulch and its surrounding mines and forests deeper; and all the great historical aspects are developed even further too.

Light and fun with enough historical clout to hold its own, this series has been a fantastic escape from reality so far.

#2. Balsamic Moon

by Alan Gartenhaus

Publisher: Atmosphere Press

Released: October 2022

Genre: Literary Fiction / Disaster Fiction

Review by Joelene Pynnonen:

Most disaster novels I’ve read follow similar conventions to disaster movies: more action than reality. Balsamic Moon breaks that mold. It’s a thoughtful, nuanced, and authentic exploration of the occurrence and direct aftermath of 2005’s Hurricane Katrina. The long days of waiting, the stifling anxiety about whether they’ll be rescued, and the dwindling of already meager rations are all drawn with stark clarity.

Something about the way Balsamic Moon is written pulls readers so smoothly across its pages. It’s easy to empathize with the characters through the struggle for survival. The heat of the long days is palpable, the stench of the floodwater equally so.

While Balsamic Moon uses Hurricane Katrina as a vehicle for its story, the story isn’t really about the storm. There are so many different things that this novel explores, but, at its heart, I think it is about the people that society accepts and the people it rejects.

Reading Balsamic Moon is somehow both wonderful and heartrending. I could easily have spent more time with these characters. There seems to be so much of both of them left unexplored. It feels fitting, though, that in the wake of this disaster, things are left messy and incomplete. It leaves an air of disturbance around the novel. A feeling of disquiet that somehow mirrors the ultimate atmosphere of the book.

#3. Life, Travel, and the People In Between

by Mike Nixon

Publisher: Palmetto Publishing

Released: September 2022

Genre: Memoir / Travel

Review by Joelene Pynnonen:

An insightful, feel-good travel memoir that shows how following your passion can change your life

Life, Travel, and the People in Between is like an interesting discussion with someone talking about the life they love. It’s accessible, relatable, sometimes funny, and sometimes painful. It’s also one of those books that inspires you just by existing.

For someone without a lot of means, either social, professional, or economic, it’s amazing how Nixon manages to build such a fulfilling, enriching life while following his heart.

#4. So Far From Home

by Robert Wilhelm

Released: December 2021

Genre: Nonfiction / True Crime / Historical

Review by Joelene Pynnonen:

A vivid true crime story that dives into the social and political climate behind a gruesome murder

So Far From Home is a fascinating historical tale. While the crime is at the forefront, there is a lot going on behind the scenes. Wilhelm paints a full picture of the stakes that pertain to all parties through the trial. Pressure is on the prosecution to return a guilty vote. 

Author Robert Wilhelm maintains the perfect balance in giving all parties involved a voice, but also in making each of their perspectives persuasive. He takes the time to humanize the people involved in this story. For a book gleaned from old newspapers, it does so well in delving into personalities.

#5. Laugh Cry Rewind

by Judy Haveson

Released: July 2022

Genre: Memoir / Women

Review by Joelene Pynnonen:

A poignant memoir that shows how love perseveres beyond death

Laugh Cry Rewind could easily fall into pity memoir territory, but the often funny, irreverent tone puts it onto another level. While the central most devastating event in Judy’s life might have been losing her sister, Celia’s life dominates the page more than her death. This isn’t the story of a person fixed on one terrible moment, but of a person whose moments, both bad and good, all add up to an incredible life. 

Funny, awkward, and sad by turns, it explores the ins and outs of navigating all the complexities of the world from adolescence to relationships to careers.

#1. Don’t Ask the Blind Guy for Directions

by John Samuel

Don't Ask the Blind Guy for Directions - a 30,000 mile journey for love, confidence, and a sense of belonging by John Samuel included in our end of the year book list.

Released: November 2022

Genre: Nonfiction / Autobiography / Disability

Review by Andrea Marks-Joseph:

This is a tremendous book about the powerful impact of having a disability, denying that disability, and then finally using tools that make the world accessible for people with your specific disability. It’s a short, personal story that could be an afternoon read, but John Samuel’s words and life will stay with you long afterwards.

Though my disabilities are very different from Samuel’s, I could see so much of my own journey (the best parts: getting the accessibility tools I needed!) in there, but it’s filled with enlightening, practical lessons that would be beneficial and life-changing for everyone to read–especially if you’re running a company or involved in hiring processes. 

#2. The Sleepless

by Victor Manibo

Publisher: Erewhon Books

Released: August 2022

Genre: Science Fiction / Cyberpunk

Review by Andrea Marks-Joseph:

I think about this book every day, and I read it almost a year ago. This is a sci-fi novel about a world where “sleeplessness” (chronic, permanent insomnia) is the product of a global pandemic, but it is now something accessible on the black market.

What does capitalist society look like when the world is filled with people who never sleep? What does that mean for our office culture, our personal lives, our brain’s capacity to make and store memories, and for how our families see us? The worldbuilding is phenomenal, but this is also a murder mystery, a corporate conspiracy, and a highly motivated queer Filipino protagonist on his devastating journey through compounding grief. 

#3. Like & Subscribe for Murder

by Elle Kleos

Released: May 2022

Genre: Mystery, Thriller & Suspense / LGBTQ+

Review by Andrea Marks-Joseph:

Like & Subscribe for Murder is a super fun, hilarious queer murder mystery complete with constant, affirming use of they/them pronouns (and gender neutral Spanish!) for its nonbinary protagonist, Detective Sam. Imagine HBO’s The White Lotus as more focused on the murder, just as horny but way more queer, heavier on the ‘eat the rich’ energy, and depicting actual solidarity with its local hotel staff. 

Elle Kleos nails the absurdity of wealth and the traditions of the rich, alongside the ridiculously serious business of an influencer’s lifestyle. I wish there were already ten books in this series because it’s truly unlike anything else I’ve read in the genre!

#4. Xenocultivars: Stories of Queer Growth

edited by Isabela Oliveira & Jed Sabin

Publisher: Speculatively Queer

Released: March 2022

Genre: Anthology / LGBTQ+ / Fantasy

Review by Andrea Marks-Joseph:

This short story anthology is the perfect gift for anyone interested in speculative fiction, and should be part of every inclusive library. All these stories—written by diverse marginalized authors from every corner of the globe—are magnificently queer and fantastically imaginative.

This vibrant collection blooms with ideas of what the world could look like and flourishes because it models what community should look like; it crosses genres from fairytales to horror to space adventure and back, radiating gender expansiveness and everyday queerness everywhere it takes us.

#5. Wicked Blood

by Margot de Klerk

Released: September 2022

Genre: Young Adult / Fantasy / Paranormal

Review by Andrea Marks-Joseph:

A wild and dreamy poetic journey through the wilderness in all of us.

De Klerk’s writing is effortlessly descriptive… The prose is never dense or overwhelming and really makes us feel as though we are wandering the streets of Berlin: riding its trains, noticing its architecture, appreciating its history, encountering its strange and mysterious people carrying worlds of secrets in their skin. 

I particularly enjoyed reading the shapeshifting experience as Cynthia transforms into whichever animal she chooses. De Klerk’s worldbuilding is rich with fresh takes on old magic. The fascinating mechanics of being a shapeshifter are by far my favorite. Shapeshifting is described clear as day, as if you’re watching on screen. The rules of Cynthia’s magic create challenges just as exciting as the opportunities they cause. The supernatural in Wicked Blood is wonderfully accessible and conversational, bringing you into the experience with ease. 

Wicked Blood is a book I’d read again with pleasure. Like any young adult’s time abroad, the true magic is in the surprises that each day brings and the people you meet along the way—prickly and powerful as they may be here.

Honorable Mentions:

#1. Personal Demons (Hopeless, Maine)

by Nimue Brown and Tom Brown

Hopeless, Maine is one of the best books Kathy L. Brown read in the year 2022

Publisher: Outland Entertainment

Released: September 2021

Genre: Graphic Novel / Fantasy

Review by Kathy L. Brown:

This is a beautiful graphic novel with engaging characters and a really interesting story. I’m thrilled to see more magical orphanage adventures are available!

Fans of gorgeous art, subtle eldritch horror, and all around creepy good times will enjoy this hardback, full-color book.

#2. The Kraken Imaginary

by James M. Wright

Publisher: Montag Press

Genre: Fantasy / Historical

Review by Kathy L. Brown:

This secondary world has strong similarities to our own world’s ancient history and tells stories that interweave amongst each other.

Hilarious and entertaining while philosophically exploring the nature of, well, everything. Strong character development and well-crafted storytelling too! Great for fantasy fans, especially role-playing gamers and history buffs. (Disclosure: this reviewer also has a book out with the publisher, Montag Press.)

#3. 1836: Year of Escape

by Rose Osterman Kleidon

Released: August 2022

Genre: Historical Fiction / Adventure

Review by Kathy L. Brown:

A desperate and dangerous journey; an immersive historical fiction

Rose Osterman Kleidon crafts a compelling tale, seamlessly weaving family research, historical facts, imagination, and insight into human emotion and behavior into an exciting story. 

The first book in a series, it describes the Kästner family’s travels from Prussia to the Port of New Orleans. 1836: Year of Escape includes everything you could want in historical fiction—engaging characters, brisk action, compelling drama, and historical facts that are totally integrated into the narrative.

#4. Dilation: A 10,000 Year Sci-Fi Epic

by Travis Stecher

Released: January 2022

Genre: Science Fiction / Epic

Review by Kathy L. Brown:

The human drive to survive propels this skillful epic sci-fi, where humankind suffers from its own folly and an alien race plans for its annihilation

Author Travis Stecher takes on a vast subject in Dilation: A 10,000 Year Sci-Fi Epic—nothing short of the near-destruction of humanity. The story brings together people from across nations, planets, solar systems, and historical epochs to combat an extinction threat from light-years away.

Dilation’s prose is skillful and the voice confident. The author’s wry humor grounds the narrative, especially when things get dark and heavy. Readers who enjoyed The Expanse series by James S.A. Corey will appreciate Dilation’s grand scale, well-rendered characters, and ingenious melding of scientific possibilities with logical speculation about what lies ahead in humanity’s future. 

#5. Taming Infection

by Gregg Coodley & David Sarasohn

Publisher: Atmosphere Press

Released: April 2022

Genre: Nonfiction / Health / History

Review by Kathy L. Brown:

An engrossing history of infectious diseases’ toll on humanity

Taming Infection is the story of the infectious diseases that have most tormented humanity as well as the impact of these illnesses on American history. In a clear conversational voice, the book explains fifteen major infectious diseases’ microbiology and clinical presentation as well as the measures developed to combat them. 

Readers interested in infectious diseases of the past and, unfortunately, the present will gain much from this book. History buffs will find new insights into the tremendous impact disease has had on events from war to colonization to legislation, as well as human behavior.

#1. The Seed Keeper

by Diane Wilson

Publisher: Milkweed Editions

Released: March 2021

Genre: Literary Fiction / Native American Literature

Review by Genevieve Hartman:

This intergenerational narrative of one Dakota family’s struggles to maintain their homeland and their family legacy despite war, generational trauma, hostility from white neighbors, and environmental threat is one of the most achingly beautiful books I’ve ever read.

The characters are finely rendered with a deep devotion to each other, to their family history, to the land they call home, and to the seeds that represent both past and future hope.

#2. The Wet Hex

by Sun Yung Shin

Publisher: Coffee House Press

Released: June 2022

Genre: Poetry / Asian & Asian American Literature

Review by Genevieve Hartman:

The Wet Hex plays with form and expectations, using the symbols of shadows and light to create a gripping portrait of Korean folklore, motherhood, immigrant experience, and cataclysm. The poems are darkly resonant and honed to fine metal, piercing and leaving the reader paging through the depths of legend and our fading future.

#3. Born Into This

by Adam Thompson

Publisher: Two Dollar Radio

Released: July 2021

Genre: Short Story Collection / Indigenous & Aboriginal Fiction

Review by Genevieve Hartman:

A stark, moving window into Aboriginal life in Australia

Immersive, honest, and at times cutthroat, this short story collection peers into the lives of ordinary people across Tasmania—students, activists, desk workers, prisoners, and beyond—looking broadly into how people learn to survive in the circumstances they are born into.

Thompson leaves readers wondering what to say in the face of suffering and resilience, of fading ties to the land and the people who once lived there. Frank and darkly perceptive, yet somehow still tender, Born Into This is built out of short stories that strike, that spark, that ignite into flame.

#4. Coffee, Shopping, Murder, Love

by Sherilyn Decter

Publisher: Red Hen Press

Released: June 2022

Genre: Mystery, Thriller & Suspense / LGBTQ+

Review by Genevieve Hartman:

A chaotic, hilarious, and murder-filled journey through LA and Baja California

Readers will embark on a riotous, ribald, and somehow still laughter-inducing ride, from a terrible first date over coffee to a somewhat-accidental-but-also-on-purpose murder, with a few unintended deaths, a lot of misery, and of course, shopping and love to boot. 

It’s been a long time since I’ve read a book as unabashedly fun as Coffee, Shopping, Murder, Love, and I think it’ll be a while before I read another book that so deftly marries whimsy with wrongdoing, that makes me laugh out loud while cringing at the same time.

#1. A Lot of Questions (with no answers)?

by Jordan Neben

Publisher: Atmosphere Press

Released: May 2022

Genre: Nonfiction / Philosophy / Essays

Review by Jadidsa Perez:

A Lot of Questions illuminates the darkest corners of humanity with humor and intelligence.

Neben has written one of the strongest debuts I’ve read in a while. A Lot of Questions does not simply look at the surface of ideas; it plunges deep into the waters of human behavior. The prose is clever, neat, and most importantly, accessible. Neben clearly explains any concept that is introduced and creates analogies that are easy to understand.

The book does not hone in on only one perspective. Instead, it looks at many different angles. As Neben himself admits, humans are extremely complex, thus history itself is almost a labyrinth. 

A Lot of Questions is an incredible read—emotionally intense but extremely important. 

#2. Lost Roots

by KArl von Loewe

Publisher: Atmosphere Press

Released: September 2022

Genre: Memoir / Family History & Genealogy

Review by Jadidsa Perez:

A seed is planted in the reader’s mind that blossoms into a beautiful flower of prose, memories, and familial bonds.

Lost Roots: Family, Identity, and Abandoned Ancestry details the way oppressive structures have altered the identity of millions of families. For von Loewe, what began as a search for the significance of the compound name, “von Loewe Kiedrowski” resulted in a historical journey through wars, borders, and time. 

Lost Roots has equal parts nostalgic storytelling and detailed research, providing beguiling context for what’s happening in Poland, Germany, and America… My favorite aspect of this book is the juxtaposition between the family’s recollection and actual evidence of what occurred. Embellishment is a natural part of oral storytelling, and despite the documented evidence, it’s an important part of how people are remembered. 

#3. The Perfect Tulip

by Alexander Martinez

Released: December 2021

Genre: Nonfiction / Self-Help

Review by Jadidsa Perez:

Impulsivity and indecision can alter your life completely—let this book help you make the best decisions.

The goal of this book is not to make the “perfect” decision for someone, but to allow readers to critically engage with their choices and understand themselves, their environment, and how all of that will impact their future

What sets Perfect Tulip apart from other psychological self-help books, especially as personality tests have risen in popularity? Martinez’s honesty and focus on decision making carves out a niche within the self-help genre and makes Perfect Tulip not just enjoyable, but practical and informative. 

#1. What Have I Done?

by Carrie Close

Publisher: Unsolicited Press

Released: March 2022

Genre: Memoir / Poetry

Review by Anne Greenawalt:

I loved the hybrid/fragmented style of this book as well as the intimacy of the writing. I felt like I was getting a secret glimpse into the author’s private notebook. She writes unabashedly with the gritty and uncomfortable details of relationships and motherhood. This is one of the first hybrid books I’ve read, and I was drawn to the style because of the way the gaps leave room for the reader to make meaningful connections. 

#2. Beautiful, Violent Things

by Madeline Anthes

Publisher: Word West

Released: September 2021

Genre: Short Story Collection / Literary

Review by Anne Greenawalt:

The first time I read this book, I thought it was narrative prose poetry (even though it says “stories” on the cover) because the language is so beautiful and vivid. The strong narrative voices within each story drew me in, as did the themes of romantic (or not so romantic) relationships and motherhood. The intimacy Anthes creates, even in the micro stories, touched me viscerally. 

#3. Ceremonials

by Katharine Coldiron

Publisher: Kernpunkt Press

Released: February 2020

Genre: Literary Fiction / Women / LGBTQ+

Review by Anne Greenawalt:

Coldiron writes with gorgeous, lyrical prose about love, loss, and obsession that leaves me feeling haunted. This novella lives up to the jacket description of “a song etched in ink.” Now I want to listen to the album (Florence + the Machine’s 2011 album Ceremonials) that inspired it. 

#4. Somewhere, a Woman Lowers the Hem of Her Skirt

by Laurie Rachus Uttich

Publisher: Riot in Your Throat

Released: May 2022

Genre: Poetry

Review by Anne Greenawalt:

I love the fierce, feminist themes of all of Riot in Your Throat’s poetry collections, and Uttich’s collection is no exception. Each poem tells a story, often about de/constructing identity, motherhood, teaching, and fighting for equality in all of those realms. The narrative quality of each poem made them emotionally true and relatable. The line “I wonder if who I’ve become is who I am” still stays with me and helps me reflect on my own journey and identity as a woman.  

#1. My Volcano

by John Elizabeth Stintzi

My Volcano by John Elizabeth Stintzi indie book cover featuring a hawk staring on a green background

Publisher: Two Dollar Radio

Released: March 2022

Genre: Literary / Disaster Fiction

Review by Nathaniel Drenner:

My Volcano explodes with a surreal, apocalyptic take on modern society. 

Stintzi’s novel reflects the surrealistic feeling of the early 21st century—the feeling of life going on as normal when things are decidedly not normal. The threats rumbling under the surface are, we may feel, invisible even as they stare us in the face.

The novel gives us a funhouse mirror of ourselves and our society: entertaining, thought-provoking, and purposefully strange. The volcano—any of our volcanoes—always threatens to overwhelm, demanding our attention. The question remains what, if anything, we will do about it.

#2. The Happy Valley

by Benjamin Harnett

Released: October 2022

Genre: Literary Fiction / Dystopian

Review by Nathaniel Drenner:

A thought-provoking exploration of the past, the future, and the worlds we construct for ourselves

The story involves a secret society, a potential murder, and a law firm as old as the United States. The layers of plot, setting, and theme turn what could have been a simple young-adult adventure novel into a thought-provoking tale investigating how we construct our past, how societies function, and who gets to decide.

The Happy Valley offers fascinating insights about the relationship between the past and the future, anchoring its philosophical musings in a personal story of rediscovery. To blend the abstract with the concrete, to mash-up genres with intention—neither is any small feat, and this novel pulls off the sleight of hand necessary to bring its distinct vision to life.

#1. Dawn of Deoridium

by Jeff Ting

Released: February 2022

Genre: Young Adult / Fantasy / Asian & Asian American Literature

Review by Chika Anene:

A fantastic YA Fantasy that fans of The Poppy War by R.F Kuang will love

Trust me when I say: You’re going to fall in love with the world that Ting has created here.

16-year-old Kaili, who is next in line of the queens of the kingdom of Kalulishi, is no ordinary royal. She possesses electromagnetic power caused by The Shiftan upheaval of the earth’s magnetosphere more than three hundred years ago

From reading Dawn of Deoridium, one thing is clearest to me—Jeff Ting is one heck of a talented writer. The worldbuilding is unique, the descriptions are alive, and the characters all play integral roles in the development of the story. Brilliant.

#2. Welcome to the Free World

by Lloyd Raleigh

Released: November 2022

Genre: Science Fiction / Post-Apocalyptic

Review by Chika Anene:

Embark on a whirlwind of feverish exhilaration in this post-apocalyptic page-turner.

Will Robin is part of a group called “Scalpels,” and they are in opposition of the creators of the AI technology dominating the society he lives in. Scalpels work tirelessly to remove microchips embedded in the brains of individuals in society. 

As a part of Scalpels, Will’s job is to help individuals escape a totalitarian government that wishes to survey and control society through a metaverse where the “utopia” is in their heads. 

The world is so intricately woven together that readers are going to be sucked in from the moment they begin. Everything from the details of how the technology works to the state of the society has been so cleverly crafted that we always feel a part of the story and world.

Settle in to the comfort of your chairs for this story that grabs you by the throat.

#3. Wind Out of Time

by Rhema Sayers

Publisher: Atmosphere Press

Released: January 2022

Genre: Science Fiction / Time Travel

Review by Chika Anene:

A funny, whimsical, and adventurous fantasy retelling of King Arthur of Camelot

While on a wild chase after a wanted terrorist, FBI agent Andrea Schilling unexpectedly finds herself tumbling through a portal leading to 5th century Britain where the ruler of the land is King Arthur. However, something’s not quite as it should be, as the kingdom Andrea finds herself in seems to be the exact opposite of what she remembers from the popular tales about King Arthur. 

What I enjoyed most about Wind Out of Time is the character development. As King Ardur gets to know Andrea, he becomes more willing to see the flaws within his kingdom and more willing to improve them.

The characters, scenes, and places are described with such vividness that I feel like the one who fell through a portal into a fairy tale.

#1. Singing Lessons for the Stylish Canary

by Laura Stanfill

Publisher: Lanternfish Press

Released: April 2022

Genre: Historical Fantasy / Magical Realism

Review by Erica Ball:

A playful and loving take on authenticity and pursuing your own path to happiness

From the first pages to the last period, the author’s spirited storytelling style lifts the prose above the actual action to a place where the reader can smile at the foibles of human life and behavior. This means that though unfortunate things happen to these likable characters, the reader can take the broader view of these circumstances.

Another strength is the originality of the writing. Simple scenes evoke strong emotions, such as a quiet moment between a mother and her colicky baby. There is a plethora of unexpected analogies that reframe ordinary experiences, often into the language of music.

Singing Lessons for the Stylish Canary is a place of music, birdsong, and beauty; a wonderful world in which to rest awhile. It is a look at how the destruction of certainty can make space for growth, and the peace that can be found in allowing ourselves to just be ourselves. 

#2. Wipe Out

by Teresa Godfrey

Publisher: Roswell Press

Released: January 2022

Genre: Science Fiction / Dystopian

Review by Erica Ball:

A hopeful look at what can happen, even in a dystopian future, when someone decides to do the right thing

Wipe Out by Teresa Godfrey is the story of a tough-as-nails military driver who accidentally finds herself leading a revolution. In this world, society is recovering from a deadly disease that has collapsed civilization.  

It is a story of one of those rare moments when many factors come together to trigger rapid change. A pivot point. A flashpoint occurs because the right people are in positions to make things happen, and—most importantly—choose to do so. 

#3. The True History of Jude

by Stuart Campbell

Released: July 2022

Genre: Science Fiction / Dystopia

Review by Erica Ball:

The story of a rebellious woman and the power of our stories, even in a world where truth is not welcome

The True History of Jude is an epistolary novel about a bleak dystopian future in which the geopolitical structure of the world has drastically changed. Due to massive environmental upheaval caused by climate change, many countries, including Australia, face grave uncertainty about the future of their cities and the people who live in them. 

When a pivotal moment strikes in the form of a tsunami, a complex political plan years in the making is triggered and the fates of millions are rewritten in an instant.

In many ways, it is a thought experiment with a terrifying premise: What would happen if the greatest powers in the world—those of government, military, and corporations were to join forces or be joined under a single will? As such, it is a look at how change can come gradually or in a single cataclysmic event. Of how freedoms can be slowly whittled away even if it’s obvious what is happening because no one has any idea what to do about it. Is there even anything to do about it, once such forces are at work?

#4. Brilliant White Peaks

by Teng Rong

Released: September 2021

Genre: Middle Grade Fiction / Animals

Review by Erica Ball:

An engrossing story capturing life through the experiences of a young wolf.

We follow him from birth, growing up in the warmth and comfort of his family, and exploring the slowly expanding world around their den. As he gets older he experiences all the ups and downs of living in the wild: hunting, accidents, fights, danger, love, and more.

In the wolf’s world, scent carries all important information, food is always the priority, and memories–good and bad–fade equally quickly. 

#1. Pearls on a String

by Jane Merling

Publisher: BayMar Publishing

Released: November 2022

Genre: Historical Fiction / Romance

Review by Tomi Alo:

A captivating historical fiction that uncovers family secrets and connects the past to the present

Author Jane Merling thrives in her depiction of tenacious and courageous people facing adversity.

Sarah Langner, a successful independent woman in the progressive 1980s, stumbles upon a mysterious box containing journals and letters belonging to her grandmother. As Sarah goes through the contents of the box, she uncovers many family secrets that will change what she thought she knew about her grandmother, father, and even herself. Though the book is from Sarah’s perspective, the story revolves mainly around the life of her grandmother, Augusta.

Merling writes Augusta’s life with such eloquence, capturing a true perseverance and resilience in her character. Even though Augusta isn’t alive to tell her story, we can see much of her kindness, generosity, and positive attitude toward life. 

It is a sweet and exciting historical fiction filled with love, strength, courage, tragedy, and humor.

#2. Gods of the Garden

by Robin Strong

Gods of the Garden by Robin Strong featured book cover

Released: October 2022

Genre: Young Adult Fiction / Science Fiction

Review by Tomi Alo:

Robin Strong’s debut novel Gods of the Garden is an enlightening and engaging narrative that allows its reader to gain a fresh perspective on human existence.

With a focus on cultural anthropology, the book analyzes the foundation of life, offers a fresh perspective on how life changes when influenced, and poses the questions that have always seemed too ambiguous to have clear-cut answers—Why are we here? What’s our purpose in this world?

The author does an outstanding job of evoking varied emotions in her reader through the novel’s characters and description. She creates an atmosphere in which you can experience their losses and wins right alongside them.

#1. Icarus Never Flew ‘Round Here

by Matthew Edwards

Publisher: Atmosphere Press

Released: August 2022

Genre: Literary Fiction / Coming of Age

Review by Madeline Barbush:

A curious portrait of a cattle rancher searching for meaning

Dale Samuel doesn’t know the meaning of life, if there is one, so he asks the sky. Blunt and raw in style, author Matt Edwards crafts this indelicate Frankensteinian tale of one man’s poorly cobbled-together idea of god and creation and the power that these entities hold. 

I highly recommend Icarus Never Flew ‘Round Here. It’s a novel that surprises you, makes you uneasy, and flies by in an instant. Matt Edwards creates a surreal world seen through the eyes of a cattle rancher who, once settled and serene, becomes hungry for meaning. It’s a quiet and slow sort of anxiety but one you can put back down, although in this case, I doubt you will want to. 

#2. By Fire

by Rhonda Harris Slota

Publisher: Atmosphere Press

Released: December 2021

Genre: Poetry

Review by Madeline Barbush:

A hauntingly beautiful collection that explores the life of a daughter seeking love and reconciliation

By Fire is a fervid debut poetry collection, retracing the life of a youth growing up in southern Indiana with a father whose mental illness took the form of an overzealous belief that he was the prophet Elijah. 

Slota instills in each of her poems not only a palpable feeling of devastation, but also, eventually, renewal. She earnestly exposes and examines a family’s secrets and vulnerabilities; she need only describe the mother’s hands or the change in the father’s eyes and hair for us to feel the weight of all their suffering at once. 

There is both a silence and a bellowing call in each of these poems: the silence to quiet out the cries of pain, and the bellowing call for love. Slota paints a life with so many brilliant colors that all fade at once before brightening up again.

#1. Witch Window

by Phil Bayly

Released: October 2022

Genre: Mystery, Thriller & Suspense

Review by Lindsay Crandall:

A gripping mystery set in a stunning Vermont landscape

Witch Window starts in the summer heat with the discovery of a body. A body that just so happens to be dressed for skiing. 

Author Phil Bayly decorates this engrossing tale with rich descriptions of Vermont’s landscape and local flora—vivid enough that I started researching real estate prices in New England. 

As soon as I thought I had part of the mystery solved, Bayly slyly shifts focus to revisit a previously mentioned character or locale. He is clearly comfortable turning his mysteries around on their heads and enjoys leaving readers guessing to the final pages, to see how all of the dots of the story connect.

#2. The Source of Smoke

by V.L. Adams

Publisher: New Degree Press

Released: May 2022

Genre: Mystery, Thriller & Suspense / Small Town

Review by Lindsay Crandall:

V.L. Adams absolutely nails the combination of true crime and small town drama in The Source of Smoke.

Fans of the true crime genre are sure to love this novel. I think Adams really excels in pacing this story. Every new rumor or bit of gossip Charlie hears seems relevant to the situation, making it difficult to put the novel down. The story picks up most when the lies start to unravel, making the last quarter of the book easy to fly through. I genuinely enjoyed The Source of Smoke, and I think you would too.

#3. Reportedly Murdered

by Geoffrey Walters

Publisher: Wipf & Stock Publishers

Released: May 2022

Genre: Mystery, Thriller & Suspense / Detective

Review by Lindsay Crandall:

An unputdownable mystery about a reporter-turned-detective with a colorful cast of characters

Walters has a realistic reporter-turned-detective mystery. Each character, all unique and intriguing, is a viable suspect.

Set in New York City, it feels like a good old fashioned whodunnit detective mystery, even though Gregory isn’t really a detective. Fans of the mystery genre and detective fiction are going to enjoy this one. 

Happy reading! What were the best books you read in 2022?

About IBR

Founded in April 2018, Independent Book Review is dedicated to showing readers the best in small press and self-published books. IBR has over 25 reviewers on staff with an enthusiasm for genres all across the literary landscape. They are based out of Harrisburg, PA and are always considering new books for review.

Thank you for reading “The Best Books We Read This Year (2022)” curated by the Independent Book Review team! If you liked what you read, please spend some more time with us at the links below.

19 comments on “The Best Books We Read This Year (2022)

  1. It’s fun to see so many great indie covers. This is a intriguing list. Happy reading in 2023!

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  5. Loved all the books that you’ve mentioned as a an Avid reader these some books that I loved reading in 2022
    1. We Are the Weather: Saving the Planet Begins at Breakfast by Jonathan Safran Foer
    2. The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett
    3. The Prophets by Robert Jones, Jr.
    4. Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents by Isabel Wilkerson
    5. The Sun Does Shine: How I Found Life and Freedom on Death Row by Anthony Ray Hinton
    6. The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V. E. Schwab
    7. The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Malcolm X and Alex Haley
    8. How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi
    9. The Deepest South of All: True Stories from Natchez, Mississippi by Richard Grant
    10. The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern
    11. The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah
    12. The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate by Peter Wohlleben
    13. The Overstory by Richard Powers
    14. The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett
    15. If Beale Street Could Talk by James Baldwin
    16. The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead
    17. The Witch Elm by Tana French

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  19. Nice books

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