2022 Staff Favorites

The last year was a very full year for all of us here at the Southern Review of Books, in many ways, of course, but since reading is such a priority for all of us, 2022 was certainly a year of great books. I asked our editorial team to talk about the best books they read (or movies/TV shows they watched) over the last year.

Chaney Hill

Fernando Flores’s wildly unpredictable texts are a joy to read. Valleyesque, his most recent collection of short stories, includes stories about a MAGA hat-wearing racist neighbor who has a piece of secret UFO history and a young woman being consumed by a used clothing warehouse. Delightfully fantastical with a sharp edge, Valleyesque portrays the absurdity, danger, and reality of the borderlands.

Fernando A. Flores
MCD x FSG Originals

Mesha Maren’s Perpetual West plumbs the depths of human motivation in a cunningly sharp novel about what it means to return to a home you never knew. Maren’s novel is not only a thoughtful reflection on love, friendship, borders, and home, it is a brilliantly written critique of the present moment. 

Perpetual West
Mesha Maren

E. J. Batiste

Dagenhart’s collection of poetry, Yellow Leaves, is a lyrical beauty. It features graceful and personal turns, well-crafted lines, and warmth. Yellow Leaves takes the reader through a voyage of emotion, speaking to and from the heart. 

Yellow Leaves
Alana Dagenhart
Red Hawk Publications 

This Game of Thrones prequel about House Targaryen is a fantastic creation! From story, to casting choices, to dialogue, there is so much to love about this entry into HBO’s GoT universe. The acting talents of Paddy Considine, Matt Smith, and Milly Alcock round out the reasons why this television series is unmatched. 

Game of Thrones: House of the Dragon
Co-created by Martin and Ryan Condal
Directed by Clare Kilner, Geeta Vasant Patel, and Greg Yaitanes

Disney’s Turning Red is a journey into nostalgia with great references to the early 2000s — complete with flip phones and vintage hair clips! This story of adolescence is a letter from Millennials to past generations and is a great family/comedy film. 

Turning Red
Directed by Domee Shi
Produced by Lindsey Collins

Amy R. Martin

The Midnight Library is a place between living and dying, and the books that line its shelves are the lives Nora Seed might have lived if she’d made different choices. Are any of these other lives better than the one she’s living now? This is the premise of the multiverse fantasy The Midnight Library, which I read this past year, two years after it was published. But better late than never. Haig’s novel is for those of us who have ever looked back on our lives with regret, or who have said to ourselves, “If only…”; in other words, it’s for all of us. I found it therapeutic and life-affirming. A film is in the works.

The Midnight Library
by Matt Haig

Both sci-fi and workplace thriller, Severance follows a group of employees of the mysterious Lumon Corporation who have agreed to undergo a neurological procedure in which their memories of their home lives are “severed” from their memories of their work lives. But what is Lumon really up to, and how dangerous are they? The show is weird, unsettling, funny, suspenseful, and deeply humane, and it has the most original production design of any show on television today. I was on the edge of my seat during the season finale. Ben Stiller directed six of Season 1’s nine episodes. Filming of Season 2 is underway.

Created by Dan Erickson
Apple TV+

Chelsea Risley

Short stories aren’t something I’m usually drawn to, but I was hooked on Shit Cassandra Saw from the first page. It was weird, powerful, unexpected, funny, and brave. I feel changed after reading it, like I could be all those things too. In a blurb, Liv Stratman said she “read along in a fugue state of gleeful panic,” and honestly, same. Hands down the best book I read all year.

Shit Cassandra Saw
Gwen E. Kirby
Penguin Books

I Kissed Shara Wheeler was a romp and I loved it. I grew up in a similar town and went to a similar school, so the story really resonated with me. It felt like it was written with love for the South and a particular community within it, but also clearly reckoned with the problems and pain therein.

I Kissed Shara Wheeler
Casey McQuiston
Wednesday Books

Anna Harris-Parker

I leaned into light reads this year. As a fan of the self-care podcast Kate Spencer co-hosts, Forever35, picking up her debut rom-com, In a New York Minute, was a no-brainer, and a delightful springtime story. If you’re in a colder climate this season, I think it would also be a great holiday read.

In a New York Minute
Kate Spencer
Forever (Grand Central Publishing)

I also listened to Kirsten Chen’s Counterfeit. It was such a fun story. If you’re looking for a bestseller that lives up to the hype, this is it. 

Kirstin Chen
William Morrow

Jennette Holzworth

This story takes a unique perspective, set in an alternate reality where women hold a physical advantage as the dominant gender. It was a thrilling, suspenseful and captivating read that challenged everything I was taught about gender, power and humanity. 

The Power
Naomi Alderman
Little, Brown and Co.

A girl from nothing suddenly gets everything, and when it all vanishes so does she. Full of compelling characters that were richly developed in a complex plot gushing with vivid details and imagery, this story runs the gamut of emotions and gets to the heart of humanity and our deepest desires. 

The Glass Hotel
Emily St. John Mandel

Mara Davis Price

This novel really resonated with me. I felt that the narrator was so accessible, and the writing was beautiful. It’s fantastical and strange in a way I think many people have not encountered.

Susanna Clarke
Bloomsbury Publishing

This collection of short stories was a joy to read. I love that magical realism, fantasy, and sci-fi all coexist within this book. I feel that it’s accessible to a wide range of ages, as it’s categorized as YA, but still resonates to read as an adult.

Pretty Monsters
Kelly Link