Choosing the best fiction books of the year is no easy task – but we put our heads together and over many cups of coffee narrowed down our list to 13 exceptional novels. From acclaimed speculative narratives and moving family dramas to beguiling new mysteries, here are the best fiction books of 2022.
Best Fiction Books of 2022
Settle in for the year’s most extraordinary reads.
By Jean Hanff Korelitz
Bestselling author Jean Hanff Korelitz (The Plot) spins a delicate web of family, feelings, and forgiveness in The Latecomer. A New York Times Notable 100 Book, this celebrated work of literary fiction introduces us to Salo and Johanna Oppenheimer, a wealthy couple based in New York City who struggle to start a family before their triplets are born via IVF. After the sustained mania of raising three kids at once, the Oppenheimer household is about to go quiet once again; the triplets are now preparing for college and eager to start lives of their own. That’s when Johanna decides to have another child. Will this so-called latecomer bring the Oppenheimers together? Or permanently drive them apart? Korelitz excels at crafting richly layered narratives and fully realized characters. Here, she delivers a compelling examination of family dynamics and the power of relationships, capturing each Oppenheimer’s reaction to the new arrival and how it changes their position in the family.
The Kingdoms of Savannah
By George Dawes Green
Murder, disappearance, scandal, corruption… Add in an imperious amateur detective and a beguiling Georgia backdrop, and you’ve got George Dawes Green’s Southern mystery The Kingdoms of Savannah. The narrative centers on Morgana Musgrove, a commanding Savannah socialite who takes up the investigation of a murdered person and the disappearance of another. She enlists her four adult children to help in the investigation, though they’re hesitant to join their mother in her latest scheme. Nevertheless, the siblings agree, and together, the Musgroves scour Savannah in search of the dark truth about the case — moving from the city’s homeless encampments to its turreted mansions and everywhere in between. New York Times bestselling thriller author Riley Sager describes The Kingdoms of Savannah as “a rich, sprawling, dazzling mystery that’s also a journey into history — of a nation, of a city, and of one unforgettably dysfunctional family. I savored every page.”
By Alexis Schaitkin
Saint X author Alexis Schaitkin wows with her latest novel Elsewhere, which explores maternal sacrifice and the burdens of motherhood through an otherworldly lens. The speculative fiction narrative beckons you to a mysterious village high in clouds where girls are raised to become wives and mothers but some mothers simply vanish into thin air. How could you cope with the uncertainty, the fear? Vera is all-too-familiar with the affliction that haunts her community; she lost her own mother to this mysterious phenomenon years ago. Now, as she approaches motherhood, Vera wonders if she too will disappear after the birth of her child. A transfixing amalgam of the visionary worlds of Margaret Atwood and the dark dreams of Shirley Jackson, Elsewhere is a “stunning work of speculative fiction. The prose is as magical as the haunting world Schaitkin creates; the story is as captivating as the prose; the characters, the imagery — flawless” (Library Journal, starred review).
Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow
By Gabrielle Zevin
Childhood friends Sam and Sadie reconnect as young adults in a chance meeting across a subway platform. Soon they’re funneling their friendship, passion, and creativity into video game design, creating a smash hit that launches them into superstardom. But what comes after success? Sam and Sadie see their bank accounts balloon, but they still have stories to tell and lessons of the heart to learn. Author Gabrielle Zevin charts the pair’s friendship over 30 years in Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, exploring the nature of art and fiction, the importance of virtual worlds and play, and the need for human connection. Author John Green describes the novel as “utterly brilliant… One of the best books I’ve ever read.”
The Marriage Portrait
By Maggie O’Farrell
Maggie O’Farrell charmed readers around the world with her 2020 Shakespeare novel Hamnet. In her latest work of historical fiction, the author transports us to 16th-century Italy, where a young girl is thrust into a role for which she’s ill-prepared. Lucrezia is content as the duke’s third daughter, free of royal responsibility and able to enjoy her own pursuits. But when her eldest sister dies unexpectedly, Lucrezia is forced to marry Alfonso, the ruler of Ferrara, who demands that she produce an heir. O’Farrell vividly captures the splendor of the era in this sweeping narrative, inviting us to witness history through Lucrezia’s scrutinizing gaze. For all the lush beauty of Renaissance Italy, there’s plenty of uncertainty, fear, and contradiction in the air.
Sea of Tranquility
By Emily St. John Mandel
Emily St. John Mandel, the award-winning author of Station Eleven and The Glass Hotel, guides us across galaxies and through 500 years in her latest speculative fiction novel. Sea of Tranquility is a powerfully written testament to everlasting love and connection, even in the face of disaster and death. St. John Mandel skillfully connects characters across different eras, weaving the thread of humanity through history and into an unknown future. Kiran Millwood Hargrave, the author of The Mercies, describes the novel as “a spiraling, transportive triumph of storytelling — sci-fi with soul.” It’s a rare breed indeed: a dystopian novel that shimmers with hope.
Olga Dies Dreaming
By Xóchitl González
Storm clouds gather and threaten to break in Xóchitl González’s acclaimed work of fiction set in 2017. In the Caribbean, Hurricane Maria intensifies on its path toward Puerto Rico. Meanwhile, in New York City, Olga and her brother Prieto endeavor to contain the force of nature that is their mother. Blanca abandoned the siblings years ago to pursue a militant political cause. Now, however, she’s thrust herself back into their lives. An International Latino Book Award finalist, Olga Dies Dreaming blends humor with family drama as its characters weather romantic worries, career complications, and familial obligations in the midst of hurricane season.
Lucy by the Sea
By Elizabeth Strout
Pulitzer Prize-winning author Elizabeth Strout revisits the life and loves of her cherished heroine Lucy Barton in Lucy by the Sea, the fourth installment in the author’s series. This time, Lucy’s back in a relationship with her first husband William as COVID-19 spreads across the globe. Together, the pair escape New York City to a cottage by the sea, where they have time to regroup and plan for what lies ahead. It’s an all-too-familiar scenario: We all went through some degree of reflection and reinvention during lockdown. From her oceanside perch, Lucy absorbs the tensions of the country, fielding anxious calls from her daughters as she looks back on her stormy past and processes her anxieties about the future.
By Emily Henry
It takes panache to satirize rom-coms while concocting your own delightful book about love, but Emily Henry does just that in her bestseller Book Lovers. Big-city girl Nora Stephens spends a month in small-town America, but it’s not all cute ice cream parlors and sun-kissed farm boys leaning on country fences. Instead, Nora, a tenacious book agent, crosses paths with Charlie Lastra, a terse editor she’s met before in Manhattan, and she is not interested in the least. Well, maybe a little bit interested… How will they rewrite their love story? No spoilers here, but “whatever Henry decides to spear, be it literary posturing or vacation rom-com, she subverts her subjects in the most delicious ways” (Entertainment Weekly).
By Ling Ma
Put away your expectations before picking up this short story collection by Severance author Ling Ma. The new collection presents eight vignettes that brilliantly depict how we navigate our hectic present. These are wildly different tales; indeed, they’re wild tales, period. Read about a drug that makes you invisible and how friends deal with that. Or burying yourself alive as part of an ancient ritual to heal what ails you. Tor describes Bliss Montage as “less a feverish dream state than akin to being buoyed along by a current of shallow, ambient fantasy… Stunning.” We concur.
By Sara Nović
A school for the Deaf in a depressed area of Ohio is the setting for Sara Nović’s True Biz, a fictional deep dive into the real challenges that young people in the Deaf community face. Identity, belonging, and equality merge with the drama of teens exploring independence, love, and friendship as Nović shows us a year at the school. Her three main characters experience Deaf culture in different ways, and that raises issues that can be polarizing within the community, such as the debate surrounding educational mainstreaming and “assimilation” into the hearing world. A “tender, beautiful, and radiantly outraged” (The New York Times Book Review) novel, True Biz has heart and pulls no punches. It’s a timely, enlightening read.
By Hernan Diaz
Hernan Diaz’s “buzzy and enthralling” (Oprah Daily) new literary enigma boasts an inventive design, its puzzle-like structure illuminating the author’s core concerns about truth, accuracy, and remembrance. At the heart of Trust are Andrew and Mildred Bevel, rich Manhattanites. The history of their wealth and inheritance is examined through four sections: a novel, a partial memoir, a memoir of that memoir, and a journal. Which story is accurate? How do we know? Diaz has fun with the labyrinthine search for truth and plays with words like “trust” and “bonds,” which can apply to matters of the heart as well as money.
The Candy House
By Jennifer Egan
We conclude our list with a bang: Jennifer Egan’s latest dazzling confection The Candy House, which was longlisted for the 2023 Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Literature. The astonishing narrative centers on Bix Bouton, a techbro supergenius whose new venture allows you to plug into your brain and download all your memories. You can even swap memories with other people if you like. Needless to say, Bouton’s invention has captivated millions – but not everyone is on board with this alluring and deeply problematic new tech. Egan draws on a chorus of voices and an array of narrative styles to concoct her latest literary stunner, channeling it all into “a brilliant demonstration of the unquantifiable pleasures of great fiction (The Washington Post).”