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22 of 2022’s Top New Books (So Far)

Early favorites include gripping thrillers, literary fiction, health and finance guides

22 Notable Books
Crown / Knopf / Ballantine Books / Grand Central Publishing / Brandeis University Press / Feiwel & Friends / National Geographic

This year has started off with a bang for book lovers: The first three months of 2022 have brought loads of must-read novels and fascinating nonfiction of all stripes. These are 22 standouts, including releases big (the best seller from Dolly Parton and James Patterson, for one) and small (Jimmy Fallon’s sweet children’s book, Nana Loves You More).

22 Fiction Books
Ballantine Books / Grand Central Publishing / Doubleday

Fiction

The Recovery Agent by Janet Evanovich

Evanovich’s many fans can now dive into a new spin-off series featuring Gabriela Rose, the sexy weapons expert (now a recovery agent, hired to find and return lost or stolen valuables and missing people) from the author’s hugely popular Stephanie Plum novels. It’s a breezy, action-packed caper, told with JE’s signature humor. Gabriela needs money for her family, and somehow (it’s complicated, but the ghost of the pirate Blackbeard’s lover is involved) ends up in the jungles of Peru searching for hidden treasure — with, alas, her handsome-but-annoying ex-husband, Rafer. Together they have to outsmart a ruthless drug lord, and try to get the treasure without getting murdered, or murdering each other. (March 22)

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Booth by Karen Joy Fowler

This wonderful novel from Fowler, the author of the PEN/Faulkner-award-winning We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, is a fictionalization of the lives of Lincoln assassin John Wilkes Booth and his family, with many details imagined but the most seminal events based on deeply researched historical facts. John was one of 10 siblings (only six reached adulthood) fathered by the erratic, alcoholic and egotistical Junius Booth, the most famous Shakespearean actor of his day. While Junius is off touring and carousing, his family spends many years barely getting by in a cabin near Baltimore (Tudor Hall, a historic site in Bel Air, Maryland, that you can visit today), and is gradually swept up by growing political tensions that lead to the Civil War. (March 8) 

Black Cake by Charmaine Wilkerson

Hulu is already working on a TV series based on this absorbing book, about a family’s complicated history that begins to emerge after the death of its Caribbean-born matriarch, Eleanor Bennett. When Eleanor’s two adult children, Byron and Benny, travel to California upon her passing, Eleanor’s lawyer hands them an audio recording in which their mother spins a remarkable story about a young swimmer named Covey and a tragic incident that changed the course of her life and the lives of others. She also tells her children that she has baked a traditional Caribbean black cake and left it for them in her freezer, adding, “I want you to sit down together and share the cake when the time is right. You’ll know when.” And, eventually, after receiving the shock of their lives, they do. (Feb. 1)

Run, Rose, Run by James Patterson and Dolly Parton

A collaboration between one of the country’s most beloved musicians and the blockbuster author, this fast-paced novel has been a No. 1 best seller since its release a few weeks ago. Patterson, 74, is the mastermind behind the novel’s cliff-hanger chapter endings, but you can hear Parton, 76, loud and clear in the two main characters: AnnieLee Keyes, a gifted, feisty young singer who hitchhikes her way to Nashville carrying little more than “big dreams and faded jeans” (the title of one of her songs, included on the accompanying soundtrack by Parton), and Ruthanna Ryder, a seasoned country-music megastar — to be played by Parton in the movie version — who takes AnnieLee under her wing. It’s suspenseful and fun, with a dose of romance. For more, read our interview with the two authors. (March 7)

The Match by Harlan Coben

This is Coben’s second thriller featuring Wilde, the character who was rescued from a feral childhood in the wilderness, first introduced in his best-selling The Boy From the Woods. Wilde has given up trying to live a normal, domestic life, focused instead on finding the identity of his parents and how he ended up abandoned. A DNA match sets him on a promising path that turns dangerous when clues lead him toward a killer. It’s a classic Coben-style (twisty) story, quite probably already on its way to become a TV series adaption like many of his other novels — The Woods, The Stranger and Safe among them. (March 15)

To Paradise by Hanya Yanagihara

Another weighty and, yes, dark novel from the author of 2015’s A Little Life, her latest is an arguably even more complex (in terms of plot and structure) exploration of tragic love, suffering and hope. It consists of three stories set in different time periods and altered realities, with overlapping characters. Many are gay men, whom we encounter in varying contexts — including the 1890s, in a New York City where homosexuality is legal and accepted, and in Hawaii and New York during the AIDS crisis of the 1990s. The last section is the most searing, a vivid portrayal of a pandemic-plagued, climate-changed, dystopian New York set some 70 years in the future that feels all too real. If it sounds bleak, it is, but it’s also brilliant. (Jan. 11)

French Braid by Anne Tyler   

This new novel is classic Anne Tyler, with warmth, wisdom and a Baltimore family at its center. The story begins in 2010, with two cousins’ awkward encounter in Philadelphia’s 30th Street train station, before jumping back to 1959 and their grandparents: Robin and Mercy Garrett, who are on their first and only family vacation with their two teenage daughters and young son. As the decades pass, there are marriages and births, but what remains consistent through the generations is a lack of candor (the couple never tell their kids that Mercy has moved out of the family home to pursue her dream of becoming an artist) and a tension between yearning for and resisting familial intimacy. (March 22)

The Lightning Rod by Brad Meltzer

The second thriller in Meltzer’s new series, following The Escape Artist, brings back mortician Jim “Zig” Zigarowski and artist Nola Brown (whose life Zig saved in the first book). After he discovers a telling clue while working on the body of a murdered military officer, Zig ends up following a trail that leads to both Nola and some dangerous Cold War secrets. Meltzer loves taking readers into secret underground bunkers, and here he does so again, as the characters shine an unwanted light into the dark corners of the U.S. government’s Strategic National Stockpile — government facilities for large-scale attacks and biological threats. AARP members can read an excerpt here. (March 8)

Books on Health
Riverhead Books / Crown / Crown

Health and Wellness

The Invisible Kingdom: Reimagining Chronic Pain by Meghan O’Rourke

The author vividly describes living for years with undiagnosed, debilitating symptoms — while facing skeptical, dismissive physicians — before being told she had late-stage Lyme disease. The millions of other Americans silently struggling with such hard-to-label illnesses, including a growing number with autoimmune disorders, will relate to her frustrations at “living at the edge of medical knowledge.” (March 1)

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Stolen Focus: Why You Can't Pay Attention — and How to Think Deeply Again by Johann Hari

Journalist Hari’s call for an “Attention Revolution” explores the consequences of our general lack of focus in the internet age — including less satisfying individual lives and a hampered ability to confront global crises — and how we might reverse our slide into mindless distracted lives. Read it (if you can concentrate long enough), and you may want to throw your smartphone out the window. (Jan. 25)

Healing: Our Path From Mental Illness to Mental Health by Thomas Insel, M.D.

Those with mental illness and their families will appreciate this passionate call for a new way to address our country’s growing mental health crisis. A former director of the National Institute of Mental Health, Insel suggests, among other reforms, a heavier focus on prevention and a more holistic approach to recovery, and presents the problem as a critical human rights issue. (Feb. 22)

Bittersweet: How Sorrow and Longing Make Us Whole by Susan Cain

Why do some of us love sad, yearning music? Why does so much transcendent art derive from suffering? The author of the best seller Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking now offers a poetic and poignant exploration of melancholy. She views it as an authentic “response to the problem of being alive in a deeply flawed yet stubbornly beautiful world” and an inspiration for connection and creativity. (April 5)

The Beauty of Dusk: On Vision Lost and Found by Frank Bruni

The New York Times columnist movingly describes how he lost sight in one eye after a stroke at age 52; a doctor told him there was a very definite possibility he’d go blind. Spoiler alert: He didn’t. But the journey toward recovery was a frightening experience that, he writes, spurred him to “contemplate and experience aging as I never had before,” including its many upsides, and develop a new perspective on — and gratitude for — life. (March 1)

The Whole Body Reset: Your Weight-Loss Plan for a Flat Belly, Optimum Health & a Body You’ll Love by Stephen Perrine with Heidi Skolnik

Many of us gain weight and lose muscle in midlife, but there are simple ways to prevent such age-related decline, laid out in this diet and health guide developed by AARP and approved by a team of nutritionists, doctors and fitness experts. (March 1)

52 Ways to Walk: The Surprising Science of Walking for Wellness and Joy, One Week at a Time by Annabel Streets

This short, enthusiastic guide extolling walking’s mental and physical benefits will motivate you to get outside and move, step by step, throughout the year in 52 chapters. (Feb. 17)

Super Gut: Reprogram Your Microbiome to Restore Health, Lose Weight and Turn Back the Clock by William Davis, M.D.

A cardiologist and author of the mega-bestseller Wheat Belly, about the health horrors caused by modern wheat consumption, Davis now argues that our unnatural lifestyles have led to a proliferation of unhealthy bacteria in our digestive tract — a “monstrous microbial mess” that contributes to constipation, colon cancer and loads of other woes. He lays out a diet plan to establish order in our intestines. (Feb. 1)

22 History Travel Books
Brandeis University Press / Feiwel & Friends / National Geographic

History, travel and more

Sandy Hook: An American Tragedy and the Battle for Truth by Elizabeth Williamson

Williamson, a seasoned journalist in The New York Times’ Washington bureau, explores the 2012 school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, where a gunman killed 20 children and six adults. Her presentation of the story is bolstered by fantastically thorough reporting that dives deep into not only what happened on that awful day but also the disturbing events that followed. Parents of dead children faced insults and threats from some seriously unhinged conspiracy theorists who declared the event was a hoax — bizarre assertions Williamson views as a precursor to the decline in fact-based political discourse in recent years. (March 8)

50 States, 500 Campgrounds by Joe Yogerst

If you like camping or even are considering giving it a try, this book from National Geographic will whet your appetite with a stunning range of places to pitch your tent all over the U.S., including in national and state parks, and Canada. But it’s not all about camping: There’s lots here for RVers, glampers and more — such as Treehouse Cottages in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, where you can sleep in four-poster beds among the trees. This guide follows NG’s also incredibly comprehensive 2017 book 50 States, 5,000 Ideas: Where to Go, When to Go, What to See, What to Do. (Feb 22)

Finance for the People: Getting a Grip on Your Finances by Paco de Leon

De Leon, founder of a financial firm for freelancers and creative people, offers a great resource for straight talk about money and — more important, she suggests — how we feel about money. She doesn’t offer investing advice, but rather asks you to look frankly at whether you’re limiting your financial potential by sticking to unhelpful saving and spending habits, possibly shaped by your upbringing and social expectations. “Understanding why we’re weird about money is the first step in having the power to be less weird about it,” she writes. (Feb. 1)

The Second Half: Forty Women Reveal Life After Fifty by Ellen Warner

Warner, a photojournalist, spent 15 years traveling the world to talk to women — all of them age 50 or older — about how they’re experiencing the “second half” of life. The result is a series of 40 portraits of and interviews with a wildly diverse range of women, from the late actress Olivia de Havilland to an Algerian nomad. For similarly inspiring reading, check out Collective Wisdom: Lessons, Inspiration and Advice From Women Over 50 by Grace Bonney, which came out last year and features more than 100 American women — including author Cheryl Strayed and model JoAni Johnson — who discuss their regrets, hopes, challenges and dreams. (March 8)

Nana Loves You More by Jimmy Fallon

Here’s one for the grandkids: Host of NBC’s The Tonight Show, Fallon moonlights (daylights?) as a children’s book author. The father of two daughters — author of Your Baby’s First Words Will Be Dada, among others — says his latest book is “for all of the Nanas out there — the Grandmas, the Gammys, the Grans, the GiGis, the Meemaws, the Abuelas, and the Bubbies. Whatever you call your grandmother, we wouldn’t be who we are without their love.“ A taste of this sweet book, best for ages 1 to 3: “How much does Nana love you? More than the moon? More than the stars? More than all of the planets by far!” Aw… (March 29)

365 Quick & Easy Tips: Home Organization by Weldon Owen

If you take decluttering and tidying one day — and one section of your home — at a time, you can neaten up the whole place within a year (then begin again, perhaps?). That’s the premise of this low-stress guide that breaks down what can be an overwhelming project task by task. The word is that such tidying can be life-changing. (Jan. 4)

Love to read? Join the Girlfriend Book Club, a fun Facebook group devoted to all things literary. Get ideas for your TBR list, and enjoy live author talks and book giveaways!

Love to read? Join the Girlfriend Book Club, a fun Facebook group devoted to all things literary. Get ideas for your TBR list, and enjoy live author talks and book giveaways!