A good book is the easiest way to travel and see places you’ve never been. When I read a fiction book, I am transported to the world that the author created. When I’m done, I’m often left a bit sad thinking that those worlds and the people that inhabit them are not real. An author’s ability to draw someone in and make them feel such ranges of emotion is what keeps me coming back to fiction books again and again.
Rereading books, especially fiction books, is a part of my normal cycle of reading. In 2022, this wasn’t any different, and I did reread many books over the course of the year. I didn’t include any of my rereads in this list. If you’re interested in seeing all of the books - fiction, nonfiction, and rereads - that I read this year and/or discussing any of them, I invite you to follow me on Goodreads. And if you'd like to see which non-fiction books I thought stood out this year, please check out my Top 5 Non-Fiction Books of 2022.
Without further delay, here are my Top 10 Fiction Books of 2022!
#1 - Wish You Were Here
My number one pick for 2022 - Wish You Were Here by Jodi Picoult - surprised even me.Kudos to my friend Jean (aka Carni #1) for lending it to me.
This book is very, very much about COVID-19 Pandemic and the characters all embody some real-life version of what was going on, especially in the first several months after the pandemic was declared.
For some (I am one of them), that may be somewhat triggering, especially if you have personal experiences with having the virus and/or watching helplessly as someone you love very much slowly dies from COVID-19 (both of which I personally have experienced). It’s for these reasons that I was surprised that I liked this book so much and that became the book I kept thinking about the most as the year went on.
The heart of this book is something I have personally reflected on a lot since the pandemic began and since I had COVID-19: that my life was/is transformed by the virus. The actual virus, not the governmental/societal response to COVID-19.
So many people call the pandemic and/or resulting inconveniences “COVID” as a catch-all term and thus making this distinction that I actually mean the virus is really important, especially to those of us whose lives have been irrevocably altered by COVID-19 itself. While certainly stressful in its own way, the pandemic experience of shut downs and inconvenience simply is not the same as the experience of having the virus in the early stages of the pandemic and/or watching the person I caught it from die in front of my eyes (and feeling tremendous guilt as I was surviving it at the same time that they were dying).
In many ways, COVID-19 was an unplanned pit stop for me in my life, with a very distinct before and after that will always be a part of me. This paradox could cause bitterness, but the truth is that I survived COVID-19 and since then I’ve gotten to experience many firsts in my life again. As an adult, it’s not often that we get to experience things for the first time; as we get older we increasingly focus (and lament!) on the last things or the losses we incur. Since January 2021, I’ve been experiencing firsts again and again, and I’m beyond grateful for that.
This book explores this theme...how for some, having the virus and/or the experience during the pandemic became quite literally life-altering, and not in the splashy, clickbait or Instagrammable ways that many people have shared. I enjoyed this exploration and the characters of the book very much and it rang very true for me. It is - in so many ways - a beautiful book.
It was an immersive and engaging read that took me only two days to finish. I loved how it was organized into sections based on each generation of witch (the book tells the story of five generations of witches in the same family/lineage). The author made Irene (Witch #3) into a completely detestable and revolting character, which I actually enjoyed as a break from the personalities of the other main characters in the book.
I also liked how the fictional witchcraft in the book was rooted in real practices that those who practice witchcraft utilize. I also really enjoyed how the author weaved real-world history into the plot lines of the story. The ending was so fitting for the story that had been told, and I appreciated that Ms. Morgan had the guts to wrap it up that way. All of this made it completely imaginative and immersive and left me wanting more at the end.
#3 - The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
As much as I adore MGM’s 1939 classic film The Wizard of Oz, I cannot recall ever reading through the entirety of L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Thus, I set out to remedy this travesty, and I read it in 2022.
I loved it (not surprising). There are many more details that were not in the film, but it was interesting to see how they modified some of the elements to translate better to the screen.
I'm embarrassed that it took this long for me to finally read The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, but better late than never.
#4 - One Italian Summer
If you want to be transported to a different place, look no further than Rebecca Serle’s One Italian Summer, which takes place in beautiful, delicious, sunny Italy.
This was the second book that I read by Ms. Serle, and just like the first (In Five Years), I was captivated by this one. It's an imaginative, moving, and beautiful exploration of love...in so many of the forms it takes.
The narrator's emotions feel a very authentic expression of grief, which is something almost everyone can relate to. This was interesting for me because honestly, the narrator and I got off to a rough start. She's fairly unlikable and somewhat unrelatable (mostly due to her internal dialogue, and especially due to the fact that she boldly states that her mother was the "love of her life") in the beginning chapters, but she grew on me. By the end of the book, I was right there alongside her feeling what she was feeling. Ms. Serle gets major points for getting me to empathize with the narrator; for better or worse, it’s not often that I change my mind about a character once I’ve decided I don’t like them.
This book does a wonderful job of transporting you to Italy. It made me want to hop on a flight and have fresh tomatoes under the Italian sun tomorrow.
The Humans did not disappoint; I love a good science fiction/alien story (Project Hail Mary was my top pick in 2021) and this was not an exception. This plotline involves an extraterrestrial coming to Earth and taking the form of a professor at Cambridge University and inhabiting his life. The alien’s (narrator’s) observations about human nature were honest, striking, and thought-provoking and I enjoyed how the story unfolded over the course of the book.
#6 - In Five Years
In Five Years is the second of Rebecca’s Serle’s books to make it to my Top 10 list this year, and with good reason.
It was imaginative, captivating, and not what I expected. I read it in a single day; I couldn’t put it down. Nine months after I finished it, I'm still trying to decide if I truly like how the plot resolved, but I need to give credit where credit is due; the author's ability to draw the reader in and craft a story that kept surprising me along the way makes this worth reading.
Ms. Harmel clearly does extensive research for her historical fiction novels, which makes them that more rich and wonderful to read. I was engaged from the first page to the last. After finishing this book, I dove into some additional research into the people and places that inspired this story, and I learned a lot. Learning new things is one of my favorite things, so all in all, this book was simply a delight.
#8 - The Winemaker’s Wife
The Winemaker’s Wife is another book written by Kristin Harmel that I really enjoyed this year. This story is also set during World War II and is inspired by true events. The setting is a vineyard in France and dives into the world of those who helped hide munitions for La Résistance.
I enjoyed the way that the story was told, which was from varying perspectives of the main characters. The main protagonist/narrator is fairly unlikeable, but - ironically - I actually did really like that the story was mainly told from her perspective. There were a few plot twists that I did not foresee; since I can actually often see them coming, I always enjoy it when I’m surprised.
By the time I was halfway through the book, I didn’t want to put it down. It was definitely an enjoyable read.
It was deeply imaginative and thoroughly enjoyable. It was slow to start (be warned!), but I really got into it as the story evolved and I started to see how the author was interweaving each of the short stories to make up a collective whole.
All in all, this was an original, beautiful debut novel.
#10 - The Wish
I’ve been a fan of Nicholas Sparks’s books for over twenty years. The Wish was really lovely for me because it wasn’t quite as formulaic as some of Mr. Sparks’s other books have been/can be.
I did figure out the ending about halfway through (seriously, I can usually see things coming; I blame my four years at Ithaca College studying storytelling for that :D ), but how the story unfolded to get there was great and it was a very enjoyable, easy read.
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Coach Laura Henry
Laura Henry is a Syracuse, NY-based coach who is a USA Triathlon Level II Long Course and Level II Paratriathlon Certified Coach, USA Cycling Level 2 Certified Coach, VFS Certified Bike Fitter, and has successfully completed NASM's Certified Personal Trainer course. Coach Laura is passionate about helping athletes of all ability levels reach their goals and has coached many athletes to success.