We have finally waved goodbye to 2021. After filling in 365 pages, a fresh set of 365 days has been provided to us. With the conclusion of a year is the commencement of a new one. 2021 was filled with uncertainties as the pandemic continued to wreak havoc across all parts of the world. The vaccination drive kicked off as well but the threat of the Omicron variant is about to reverse all the gains made. Nevertheless, hope still springs eternal despite the uncertainties that shroud the future.
Staying true to what has become my annual tradition, I am kicking off the new year by looking back to the previous year, its hits, and of course, its mishits. It is also an opportunity to take a glimpse of how the coming year is going to shape up. This book wrap-up is a part of a mini-series that will feature the following:
- 2021 Top Ten Not-So Favorite Reads
- 2021 Top Ten Favorite Books
- 2021 Book Wrap Up
- 2021 20 Most Memorable Book Quotes (Part I)
- 2021 20 Most Memorable Book Quotes (Part II)
- 2021 New Favorite Authors
- 2022 Books I Look Forward To List
- 2022 Top 20 Reading List
Reading-wise, 2021 was generally a slower year compared to 2020. Nevertheless, I managed to complete 92 books for the year, just a book shy of my 2020 record. This also marked just the third time I read at least 90 books for the year; the 100-book mark remains elusive. 2021 was basically an extension of 2020 as I had a diverse reading year, with over 30 translated books. For the first time, I had a South American literature reading month. Japanese, Asian, and African months were sill fixtures.
I was also successful in one goal I carried over from 2020: reading more “new books”. A self-confessed backlist reader, I have been reading more new books in the past two years. I read 26 in 2020 and 21 in 2021. Kicking off this annual mini-series is a list of 2022 books I look forward to. This is the fifth year in a row that I prepared a similar list. In the first four years, I failed in reading all the books I listed although I did come close in 2020 when I was one book short of ticking off all books on my list. Nonetheless, I am again preparing a list of 10 books I am looking forward to in 2022. Hopefully, after four failed attempts, I will be able to read all of these books. Without more ado, here are the 10 books I look forward to in 2022.
Olga Dies Dreaming by Xochitl Gonzalez
Synopsis: A blazing talent debuts with the tale of a status-driven wedding planner grappling with her social ambitions, absent mother, and Puerto Rican roots, all in the wake of Hurricane Maria
It’s 2017, and Olga and her brother, Pedro “Prieto” Acevedo, are bold-faced names in their hometown of New York. Prieto is a popular congressman representing their gentrifying Latinx neighborhood in Brooklyn while Olga is the tony wedding planner for Manhattan’s powerbrokers.
Despite their alluring public lives, behind closed doors things are far less rosy. Sure, Olga can orchestrate the love stories of the 1%, but she can’t seem to find her own…until she meets Matteo, who forces her to confront the effects of long-held family secrets…
Twenty-seven years ago, their mother, Blanca, a Young Lord-turned-radical, abandoned her children to advance a militant political cause, leaving them to be raised by their grandmother. Now, with the winds of hurricane season, Blanca has come barreling back into their lives.
Set against the backdrop of New York City in the months surrounding the most devastating hurricane in Puerto Rico’s history, Olga Dies Dreaming is a story that examines political corruption, familial strife and the very notion of the American dream–all while asking what it really means to weather a storm.
Release date: January 4
Wahala by Nikki May
Synopsis: An incisive and exhilarating debut novel of female friendship following three Anglo-Nigerian best friends and the lethally glamorous fourth woman who infiltrates their group—the most unforgettable girls since Carrie, Samantha, Charlotte, and Miranda.
Ronke wants happily ever after and 2.2. kids. She’s dating Kayode and wants him to be “the one” (perfect, like her dead father). Her friends think he’s just another in a long line of dodgy Nigerian boyfriends.
Boo has everything Ronke wants—a kind husband, gorgeous child. But she’s frustrated, unfulfilled, plagued by guilt, and desperate to remember who she used to be.
Simi is the golden one with the perfect lifestyle. No one knows she’s crippled by impostor syndrome and tempted to pack it all in each time her boss mentions her “urban vibe.” Her husband thinks they’re trying for a baby. She’s not.
When the high-flying, charismatic Isobel explodes into the group, it seems at first she’s bringing out the best in each woman. (She gets Simi an interview in Hong Kong! Goes jogging with Boo!) But the more Isobel intervenes, the more chaos she sows, and Ronke, Simi, and Boo’s close friendship begins to crack.
A sharp, modern take on friendship, ambition, culture, and betrayal, Wahala (trouble) is an unforgettable novel from a brilliant new voice.
Release date: January 11
How High We Go in the Dark by Sequoia Nagamatsu
Synopsis: For fans of Cloud Atlas and Station Eleven––Follow a cast of intricately linked characters over hundreds of years as humanity struggles to rebuild itself in the aftermath of a climate plague
Beginning in 2030, a grieving archeologist arrives in the Arctic Circle to continue the work of his recently deceased daughter at the Batagaika crater, where researchers are studying long-buried secrets now revealed in melting permafrost, including the perfectly preserved remains of a girl who appears to have died of an ancient virus.
Once unleashed, the Arctic Plague will reshape life on Earth for generations to come, quickly traversing the globe, forcing humanity to devise a myriad of moving and inventive ways to embrace possibility in the face of tragedy. In a theme park designed for terminally ill children, a cynical employee falls in love with a mother desperate to hold on to her infected son. A heartbroken scientist searching for a cure finds a second chance at fatherhood when one of his test subjects—a pig—develops the capacity for human speech. A widowed painter and her teenaged granddaughter embark on a cosmic quest to locate a new home planet.
From funerary skyscrapers to hotels for the dead to interstellar starships, Sequoia Nagamatsu takes readers on a wildly original and compassionate journey, spanning continents, centuries, and even celestial bodies to tell a story about the resiliency of the human spirit, our infinite capacity to dream, and the connective threads that tie us all together in the universe.
Release date: January 18
Notes on an Execution by Danya Kukafka
Synopsis: In the tradition of Long Bright River and The Mars Room, a gripping and atmospheric work of literary suspense that deconstructs the story of a serial killer on death row, told primarily through the eyes of the women in his life—from the bestselling author of Girl in Snow.
Ansel Packer is scheduled to die in twelve hours. He knows what he’s done, and now awaits execution, the same chilling fate he forced on those girls, years ago. But Ansel doesn’t want to die; he wants to be celebrated, understood. He hoped it wouldn’t end like this, not for him.
Through a kaleidoscope of women—a mother, a sister, a homicide detective—we learn the story of Ansel’s life. We meet his mother, Lavender, a seventeen-year-old girl pushed to desperation; Hazel, twin sister to Ansel’s wife, inseparable since birth, forced to watch helplessly as her sister’s relationship threatens to devour them all; and finally, Saffy, the homicide detective hot on his trail, who has devoted herself to bringing bad men to justice but struggles to see her own life clearly. As the clock ticks down, these three women sift through the choices that culminate in tragedy, exploring the rippling fissures that such destruction inevitably leaves in its wake.
Blending breathtaking suspense with astonishing empathy, Notes on an Execution presents a chilling portrait of womanhood as it simultaneously unravels the familiar narrative of the American serial killer, interrogating our system of justice and our cultural obsession with crime stories, asking readers to consider the false promise of looking for meaning in the psyches of violent men.
Release date: January 25
Black Cake by Charmaine Wilkerson
Synopsis: In this moving debut novel, two estranged siblings must set aside their differences to deal with their mother’s death and her hidden past–a journey of discovery that takes them from the Caribbean to London to California and ends with her famous black cake.
We can’t choose what we inherit. But can we choose who we become?
In present-day California, Eleanor Bennett’s death leaves behind a puzzling inheritance for her two children, Byron and Benny: a traditional Caribbean black cake, made from a family recipe with a long history, and a voice recording. In her message, Eleanor shares a tumultuous story about a headstrong young swimmer who escapes her island home under suspicion of murder. The heartbreaking tale Eleanor unfolds, the secrets she still holds back, and the mystery of a long-lost child, challenge everything the siblings thought they knew about their lineage, and themselves.
Can Byron and Benny reclaim their once-close relationship, piece together Eleanor’s true history, and fulfill her final request to “share the black cake when the time is right”? Will their mother’s revelations bring them back together or leave them feeling more lost than ever?
Charmaine Wilkerson’s debut novel is a story of how the inheritance of betrayals, secrets, memories, and even names, can shape relationships and history. Deeply evocative and beautifully written, Black Cake is an extraordinary journey through the life of a family changed forever by the choices of its matriarch.
Release date: February 1
Very Cold People by Sarah Manguso
Synopsis: The eagerly anticipated debut novel from “one of the most original and exciting writers working in English today” (Jhumpa Lahiri): a masterwork on growing up in–and out of–the suffocating constraints of small-town America.
“My parents didn’t belong in Waitsfield, but they moved there anyway.”
For Ruthie, the frozen town of Waitsfield, Massachusetts, is all she has ever known.
Once home to the country’s oldest and most illustrious families–the Cabots, the Lowells: the “first, best people”–by the tail end of the twentieth century, it is an unforgiving place awash with secrets.
Forged in this frigid landscape Ruthie has been dogged by feelings of inadequacy her whole life. Hers is no picturesque New England childhood but one of swap meets and factory seconds and powdered milk. Shame blankets her like the thick snow that regularly buries nearly everything in Waitsfield.
As she grows older, Ruthie slowly learns how the town’s prim facade conceals a deeper, darker history, and how silence often masks a legacy of harm–from the violence that runs down the family line to the horrors endured by her high school friends, each suffering a fate worse than the last. For Ruthie, Waitsfield is a place to be survived, and a girl like her would be lucky to get out alive.
In her eagerly anticipated debut novel, Sarah Manguso has written, with characteristic precision, a masterwork on growing up in–and out of–the suffocating constraints of a very old, and very cold, small town. At once an ungilded portrait of girlhood at the crossroads of history and social class as well as a vital confrontation with an all-American whiteness where the ice of emotional restraint meets the embers of smoldering rage, Very Cold People is a haunted jewel of a novel from one of our most virtuosic literary writers.
Release date: February 8
Pure Colour by Sheila Heti
Synopsis: Pure Colour is a galaxy of a novel: explosive, celestially bright, huge, and streaked with beauty. It is a contemporary bible, an atlas of feeling, and an absurdly funny guide to the great (and terrible) things about being alive. Sheila Heti is a philosopher of modern experience, and she has reimagined what a book can hold.
Here we are, just living in the first draft of Creation, which was made by some great artist, who is now getting ready to tear it apart.
In this first draft of the world, a woman named Mira leaves home to study. There, she meets Annie, whose tremendous power opens Mira’s chest like a portal—to what, she doesn’t know. When Mira is older, her beloved father dies, and his spirit passes into her. Together, they become a leaf on a tree. But photosynthesis gets boring, and being alive is a problem that cannot be solved, even by a leaf. Eventually, Mira must remember the human world she’s left behind, including Annie, and choose whether or not to return.
Release date: February 15
When I’m Gone, Look for Me in the East by Quan Barry
Synopsis: From the acclaimed author of We Ride Upons Sticks–a luminous novel that moves across a windswept Mongolia, as a pair of estranged twin brothers make a journey of duty, conflict, and renewed understanding.
Tasked with finding the reincarnation of a great lama somewhere in the vast Mongolian landscape, the young monk Chuluun seeks the help of his identical twin, Mun, who was recognized as a reincarnation himself as a child, but has since renounced their once shared monastic life.
Harking back to her vivid and magical first novel set in Vietnam, Quan Barry carries us across a landscape as unforgiving as it is beautiful and culturally varied, from the stark Gobi Desert to the ancient capital of Chinggis Khan. As their country stretches before them, questions of the immortal soul, along with more earthly matters of love, sex, and brotherhood, haunt the twins, who can hear each other’s thoughts.
Are our lives our own, or do we belong to something larger? When I’m Gone is a stunningly far-flung examination of our individual struggle to retain faith and discover meaning in a fast-changing world, and a paean to Buddhist acceptance of what simply is.
Release date: February 22
All My Rage by Sabaa Tahir
Synopsis: From #1 New York Times bestselling author Sabaa Tahir comes a brilliant, unforgettable, and heart-wrenching contemporary YA novel about family and forgiveness, love and loss, in a sweeping story that crosses generations and continents.
Lahore, Pakistan. Then.
Misbah is a dreamer and storyteller, newly married to Toufiq in an arranged match. After their young life is shaken by tragedy, they come to the United States and open the Cloud’s Rest Inn Motel, hoping for a new start.
Juniper, California. Now.
Salahudin and Noor are more than best friends; they are family. Growing up as outcasts in the small desert town of Juniper, California, they understand each other the way no one else does. Until The Fight, which destroys their bond with the swift fury of a star exploding.
Now, Sal scrambles to run the family motel as his mother Misbah’s health fails and his grieving father loses himself to alcoholism. Noor, meanwhile, walks a harrowing tightrope: working at her wrathful uncle’s liquor store while hiding the fact that she’s applying to college so she can escape him—and Juniper—forever.
When Sal’s attempts to save the motel spiral out of control, he and Noor must ask themselves what friendship is worth—and what it takes to defeat the monsters in their pasts and the ones in their midst.
From one of today’s most cherished and bestselling young adult authors comes a breathtaking novel of young love, old regrets, and forgiveness—one that’s both tragic and poignant in its tender ferocity.
Release date: March 1
This Time Tomorrow by Emma Straub
Synopsis: The New York Times bestselling author of The Vacationers and All Adults Here combines her trademark charm and wit with a moving father-daughter story, and a playful twist on the idea of time travel.
What if you could take a vacation to your past?
On the eve of her 40th birthday, Alice’s life isn’t terrible. She likes her job, even if it isn’t exactly the one she expected. She’s happy with her apartment, her romantic status, her independence, and she adores her lifelong best friend. But something is missing. Her father, the single parent who raised her, is ailing and out of reach. How did they get here so fast? Did she take too much for granted along the way?
When Alice wakes up the next morning somehow back in 1996, it isn’t her 16-year-old body that is the biggest shock, or the possibility of romance with her adolescent crush, it’s her dad: the vital, charming, 49-year-old version of her father with whom she is reunited. Now armed with a new perspective on her own life and his, is there anything that she should do differently this time around? What would she change, given the chance?
With her celebrated humor, insight, and heart, Emma Straub cleverly turns all the traditional time travel tropes on their head and delivers a different kind of love story – about the lifelong, reverberating relationship between a parent and child.
Release date: May 31
On top of these ten books, I am also looking forward to the new releases of familiar names. Amongst these comeback works I am looking forward to in 2022 are the following:
- To Paradise by Hanya Yanagihara – January 11
- Violeta by Isabel Allende – January 25
- French Braid by Anne Tyler – March 22
- Young Mungo by Douglas Stuart – April 5
- You Made a Fool of Death with Your Beauty by Akwaeke Emezi – May 25
I am fervently hoping that I get to finally complete all books on my yearly list. How about you fellow readers, what books do you look forward to in 2022? Please share them in the comment box or you can do your own list and tag me. It would be a pleasure going through your own lists.