27 September 2023

Best Books 2022

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Reviewed by Robert Goodman.

2022 was another great year for books and reading. No matter how many books I read I can never get to everything but here is a survey of my favourites of the year. Picks are very loosely organised by genre with links to the full reviews.

Crime Fiction

Once again, 2022 saw a plethora of great new crime authors coming onto the Australian scene. This included new rural crime voices – Dinuka McKenzie’s The Torrent featured Kate Miles a pregnant part Sri Lankan detective in northern NSW, Shelley Burr’s Wake centred on a couple of damaged protagonists and a cold case while Emma Styles No Country for Girls and Michael Trant’s Wild Dogs gave us two propulsive road trips into the wilds of Western Australia. But we also had some great city-based Australian crime debuts – Matthew Spencer’s Black River set in a private boys school on Sydney’s Parramatta River and Nina D Campbell’s Daughters of Eve which opens with a shooting in Sydney’s Darlinghurst and explores the issue of domestic abuse.

Popular Australian crime authors continued to shine in 2022. Michael Robotham delivered the third of his Cyrus Haven series Lying Beside You, Garry Disher returned to South Australian town of Tiverton in Days’ End, his fourth Paul Hirschhausen outing, Emma Viskic finished her Caleb Zelic series with Those who Perish and Chris Hammer took readers to the river red gum forests on the Murray River in The Tilt.

And as always, there was also great international crime to discover. Two standout debuts from New Zealand both dealt with the long term impacts of colonialism – Tom Bagwanarth’s Page Cage and Michael Bennett’s Better the Blood. Don Winslow riffed on The Iliad for the start of his new organised crime series City on Fire; DV Bishop returned to renaissance Italy in The Darkest Sin; and Danya Kukafya looked at the impacts of crime in Notes on an Execution.

Special mention in this category to one of the books of the year John Darnielle’s Devil House which takes on and deconstructs the true crime genre

Science Fiction

Science Fiction standouts this year include Ray Naylor’s The Mountain and the Sea which explores issues of sentience and intelligence, Veronica Roth’s Poster Girl which deals with a post-dystopian society and Silvia Moreno Garcia’s reimagining of an HG Wells classic in The Daughter of Doctor Moreau. There was some somewhat serious fun to be had in Edward Ashton’s expendable clone tale Mickey 7 and John Sclazi’s The Kaiju Preservation Society and two interesting new voices Adam Oyebanji’s generation ship debut Braking Day and Ren Hutching’s timey wimey space opera Under Fortunate Stars.

Special mention of a great book that sits between this category and the next – This All Come Back Now a collection of speculative fiction stories by Australian First Nations authors, edited by Mykaela Saunders.


Best fantasy books this year drew on a range of influences. Chelsea Abdullah’s The Stardust Thief is a rollicking debut based around middle eastern mythology; RF Kuang’s Babel explores issues of empire and colonialism with a unique magic system in an alternative 19th Century British Empire; and Nghi Vo’s Siren Queen reimagines Hollywood in the 1930s through a fantasy lens that magnifies and reveals ongoing prejudices in the film industry. Fonda Lee’s Jade Legacy is the final epic volume in her organised crime meets Hong Kong-action Jade Bone Saga, Ben Aaronovitch continues to build on his Rivers of London urban fantasy universe in Amongst our Weapons and Holly Black moves well away from her YA roots with the grungy but compelling Book of Night.

Literary Fiction

Best of the non-genre books this year include Benjamin Myers The Perfect Golden Circle about a pair of crop circle makers in the UK in the 1980s; The Colony by Audrey Magee set on a rocky island off the coast of Ireland and exploring different models of colonialism; Anthony Marra’s Mercury Pictures Presents is a sweeping historical novel set around a movie studio during World War 2; and Lavie Tidhar’s Maror, an excoriating history of modern Israel in the style of James Ellroy.

Four more Australian books worth noting are Jock Serong’s The Settlement, based on the true story of the relocation of Tasmania’s Aboriginal people in the 19th century; Paul Howarth’s Dust off the Bones an Australian Western which deals with the aftermath of a massacre in Queensland; The Islands by Emily Brugman which tells the story of the fishing industry on Western Australia’s Abrolhos Islands and Rhett Davis’s award winning debut Hovering, a surreal exploration of modern Australia.

There were plenty of great books from this year that did not get a mention (reviews of all of which can be found on Pile by the Bed) and the Pile is already growing for the start of 2023.

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