The 15 most-anticipated books of 2022

The 15 most-anticipated books of 2022

From Nobel winner Olga Tokarczuk’s magnum opus to Janelle Monáe’s debut story collection, here are the books we're most excited about reading in the New Year

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Graphic: Natalie Peeples

You can read any book, from any year, anytime you want. Publicity cycles in publishing, feverish and insistent, have a way of making people forget this. There’s the sense that if a new book is not read right now, it never will be. Then again, there is something satisfying in reading the new thing when it is still new, when other readers may be picking it up the same time you are.

If that’s something you’re into, rest assured that there are plenty of new books for you to read this New Year. There are novels from literary heavyweights like Marlon James, Sheila Heti, and Ottessa Moshfegh; works in translation from some of the world’s best authors writing in non-English languages; as well as books from a few filmmakers and musicians making their first foray into literature. What’s great about these books, besides them being written by exceptional or otherwise interesting writers, is you can read them in 2022. Or in 2023 or 2024…

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To Paradise by Hanya Yanagihara

To Paradise by Hanya Yanagihara

Cover image: Doubleday
Cover image: Doubleday

To Paradise by Hanya Yanagihara (January 11, Doubleday)

From the author of A Little Life comes another hefty years-spanning novel of high drama. To Paradise begins in an alternative New York in 1893, where, as with the rest of the United States, people are allowed to love whoever they please. Then it’s 1993 and the AIDS epidemic is ravaging Manhattan. Finally, in 2093, plagues and totalitarian rule have fallen upon the country. Yanagihara’s A Little Life was a runaway bestseller that also drew criticism for its melodramatic depiction of the lives of gay men, so it should be interesting, to say the least, to see how she treats the material here.

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The Books Of Jacob by Olga Tokarczuk

The Books Of Jacob by Olga Tokarczuk

Cover image: Riverhead
Cover image: Riverhead

The Books Of Jacob by Olga Tokarczuk (trans. by Jennifer Croft; February 1, Riverhead)

Olga Tokarczuk is one of our greatest living fiction writers, Jennifer Croft’s translations are always magnificent, and this epic thousand-page novel is said to be their magnum opus. Paginated in reverse as a nod to Hebrew bookbinding, The Books Of Jacob is the story of Jacob Frank—a real-life Jewish mystic who claimed to be a reincarnated messiah in 18th-century Poland and amassed tens of thousands of followers. he Nobel Committee specifically cited The Books Of Jacob, which was first published in Poland in 2014, when it awarded Tokarczuk the 2018 prize in literature. This could well be a decade-defining book akin to Bolaño’s 2666.

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Moon Witch, Spider King by Marlon James

Moon Witch, Spider King by Marlon James

Cover image: Riverhead
Cover image: Riverhead

Moon Witch, Spider King by Marlon James (February 15, Riverhead)

Black Leopard, Red Wolf, the first book in Marlon James’ Dark Star trilogy, was a violent, sprawling, thrilling read. The Man Booker Prize-winning author’s follow-up, Moon Witch, Spider King, promises to deliver more of the same, but with a twist. The titular Moon Witch, Sogolan, retells the plot of the first book from her perspective, complicating the already complicated world of the trilogy. James has an uncanny ability to use multiple perspectives to deepen and expand his worlds, and that bodes very well for his forthcoming book.

Read The A.V. Club’s 11 Questions interview with Marlon James.
Read The A.V. Club’s review of Black Leopard, Red Wolf.

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Pure Colour by Sheila Heti

Pure Colour by Sheila Heti

Cover image: Farrar, Straus & Giroux
Cover image: Farrar, Straus & Giroux

Pure Colour by Sheila Heti (February 15, Farrar, Straus & Giroux)

Sheila Heti is one of the most innovative and interesting writers working today. Her prior two novels, How Should A Person Be? and Motherhood, were ruminative and experimental works of autofiction. Pure Colour has Heti examining many of the same questions about what it means to exist in the world, this time outside the autofictive realm. Heti is a challenging, engaging writer and every new stylistic step is an exciting one.

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Comedy Comedy Comedy Drama by Bob Odenkirk

Comedy Comedy Comedy Drama by Bob Odenkirk

Cover image: Random House
Cover image: Random House

Comedy Comedy Comedy Drama by Bob Odenkirk (March 1, Random House)

Bob Odenkirk’s elegantly titled Comedy Comedy Comedy Drama takes readers on a hilarious tour of the comedian and actor’s career, from his time performing at Second City in Chicago (comedy), to writing for Saturday Night Live (comedy), to creating the sketch classic Mr. Show with David Cross (comedy), to landing a plum role on Breaking Bad (drama), then its eventual spin-off, Better Call Saul. Celebrity memoirs are a dime a dozen, but if there were one we’d put our money on as being well worth the time this year, it’s this one.

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Run Towards The Danger by Sarah Polley

Run Towards The Danger by Sarah Polley

Cover image: Penguin
Cover image: Penguin

Run Towards The Danger: Confrontations With A Body Of Memory by Sarah Polley (March 1, Penguin)

Sarah Polley has embodied what feels like multiple lives. She’s been Canada’s sweetheart, a teen activist, an Academy Award-nominated screenwriter, a documentarian, a filmmaker, and a TV director. It’s no wonder her diverse body of work tends to center on protagonists whose identities are shifting and morphing under the weight of an unexamined past and a tense present. In this essay collection, Polley projects that recurring question of memory on pivotal moments in her own life for a book that promises to be more vulnerable and introspective than your usual child-star-turned-adult narrative.

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Paradais by Fernanda Melchor

Paradais by Fernanda Melchor

Cover image: New Directions
Cover image: New Directions

Paradais by Fernanda Melchor (trans. by Sophie Hughes; March 15, New Directions)

Within the new wave of Latin American literature in translation, Fernanda Melchor’s bold yet beautiful prose sheds light on the uglier aspects of Mexican society. As in her English-language debut novel, Hurricane Season, her unflinching portrayal of the brutal violence in her country is more horror than crime, more hypnotic than raw. In her new novel, two frustrated teenage boys from opposite walks of life befriend each other in a gated community. It’s doubtful lighthearted hijinks will ensue. Instead, expect a dark and turbulent narrative that continues to probe the claustrophobic inequality of Mexico, which turns citizens into both victims and perpetrators.

Read The A.V. Club’s review of Hurricane Season.

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9 / 17

In The Margins by Elena Ferrante

In The Margins by Elena Ferrante

Cover image: Europa Editions
Cover image: Europa Editions

In The Margins: On The Pleasures Of Reading And Writing by Elena Ferrante (trans. by Ann Goldstein; March 15, Europa Editions)

Part memoir, part craft book, Elena Ferrante’s new nonfiction collection promises to be a writer’s origin story. In four essays, the Italian author of My Brilliant Friend and The Lying Life Of Adults revisits her first childhood experiments with narrative, her earliest attempts at writing a novel, the unique challenges faced by women writers, and how Ferrante was influenced by the work of Gertrude Stein, Emily Dickinson, María Guerra, and Dante. In The Margins looks like an intimate self-portrait and an essential read for Ferrantephiles.

Read The A.V. Club’s review of The Lying Life Of Adults.

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The Memory Librarian by Janelle Monáe

The Memory Librarian by Janelle Monáe

Cover image: Harper Voyager
Cover image: Harper Voyager

The Memory Librarian And Other Stories Of Dirty Computer by Janelle Monáe (April 19, Harper Voyager)

Janelle Monáe is arguably the most influential Afrofuturist of the century so far, in large part due to Dirty Computer, her Grammy-nominated 2018 album. The Memory Librarian is a short-story collection inspired by that album, set in a dystopian future where “whether human, A.I., or other, your life and sentience was dictated by those who’d convinced themselves they had the right to decide your fate.” Monáe collaborated with a team of writers on her first work of prose, including Yohanca Delgado, Eve L. Ewing, Alaya Dawn Johnson, Danny Lore, and Sheree Renée Thomas.

Read The A.V. Club’s review of Dirty Computer.

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The Faces by Tove Ditlevsen

The Faces by Tove Ditlevsen

Cover image: Picador
Cover image: Picador

The Faces by Tove Ditlevsen (trans. by Tiina Nunnally; April 19, Picador)

Long one of Denmark’s most famous writers, the late Tove Ditlevsen won international acclaim in 2021 thanks to a new translation of The Copenhagen Trilogy, an unflinching memoir that was one of our favorite books of the year. The Faces is a novel set in Ditlevsen’s native Copenhagen about a children’s book author named Lise who sees faces and hears voices that aren’t really there, and then, well, things get worse. Expect another haunting look at the costs of being human.

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All The Lovers In The Night by Mieko Kawakami

All The Lovers In The Night by Mieko Kawakami

Cover image: Europa Editions
Cover image: Europa Editions

All The Lovers In The Night by Mieko Kawakami (trans. by Sam Bett, David Boyd; May 3, Europa Editions)

Japanese literary sensation Mieko Kawakami is back with her third novel in three years to be published in English. All The Lovers In The Night centers on an isolated copy editor in her mid-30s named Fuyuko who one day sees her lackluster reflection in a Tokyo store window and decides to change her life. The experience leads Fuyuko to remember painful experiences from her past, and according to the jacket copy, “her behavior slips further and further beyond the pale.” Kawakami’s novel Heaven, named one of The A.V. Club’s favorite books of 2021, portrayed both the brutality and kindness that children are capable of, and we expect no less of a complex story in this latest book.

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13 / 17

Trust by Hernan Diaz

Trust by Hernan Diaz

Cover image: Riverhead
Cover image: Riverhead

Trust by Hernan Diaz (May 3, Riverhead)

Hernan Diaz follows his magnificent debut, In The Distance, with another historical novel that appears to have a strikingly different tone. Gone is the austere landscape of the American West and in its place is the decadence of 1920s New York. Described as an homage to Edith Wharton, the multiperspective novel is interested in the capital, excess, and upward mobility of a tycoon and his aristocratic wife. If Diaz’s previous work is any indication, Trust will end up being stranger and more critical of America’s foundational myths rather than a fawning depiction of the razzle dazzle of the Jazz Age.

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Either/Or by Elif Batuman

Either/Or by Elif Batuman

Cover image: Penguin
Cover image: Penguin

Either/Or by Elif Batuman (May 24, Penguin)

Elif Batuman’s debut novel, The Idiot, is one of the best works of fiction published in the 21st century. Her new novel, Either/Or, picks up where The Idiot left off. Her main character, Selin, is beginning her second year at Harvard, and she’ll have to reckon with the unanswered questions lingering from her freshman year. Batuman has an extremely keen sense for what makes characters engaging and renders it all in supernaturally observant and funny prose.

Read The A.V. Club’s review of The Idiot.

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The Twilight World by Werner Herzog

The Twilight World by Werner Herzog

Cover image: Penguin
Cover image: Penguin

The Twilight World by Werner Herzog (trans. by Michael Hofmann; June 14, Penguin)

Werner Herzog—the visionary filmmaker, opera director, and Star Wars character actor—has written a novel. His name on the cover is reason enough to anticipate The Twilight World, but here’s the true-story premise: Near the end of World War II, in 1944, a Japanese soldier stationed in the Philippines, Hiroo Onoda, was ordered to defend a small island until his army returned. Onoda defended the island for almost three decades after the end of the war, which sounds exactly like a Werner Herzog movie.

Read The A.V. Club’s 11 Questions interview with Werner Herzog.

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Lapvona by Ottessa Moshfegh

Lapvona by Ottessa Moshfegh

Cover image: Penguin
Cover image: Penguin

Lapvona by Ottessa Moshfegh (June 21, Penguin)

Ottessa Moshfegh’s grimy aesthetic would be right at home in medieval times. Her new novel, Lapvona, tells the story of Marek, the son of a village shepherd who builds a relationship with a local midwife who’s got a supernatural connection to the natural world. Famine and drought exacerbate conditions imposed by a despotic leader and tensions enflame from there. Moshfegh’s prior work has thrived on her precise eye for the indignities people face, and the circumstances of her forthcoming book should be ripe for her strengths.

Read The A.V. Club’s reviews of Death In Her Hands and Homesick For Another World.

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