Top 3 Best and Worst Books* of 2022

Hi Everybody!!

Today is the last Monday of the year! You know what that means? It’s the 3rd annual year-end countdown of books* I reviewed in 2022!

*This year I expanded my reviews to include more movie adaptations of the novels I read for this website. At least one of those will be on here.

Like before, I’ll pick 6 titles for this list – 3 for the best and 3 for the worst! Now, I have only one question for you!

I sure am! Let’s get started with the Best Books of 2022!

I read a lot of 4-star titles this year, but that doesn’t mean that they weren’t worthy for the list. All I’m saying that it was a little easier to choose the best of the best since at least 5 of the books that I read and reviewed this year were exceptional. At the end of the day, I had to narrow down the best list to 3 of those titles, which I’d love to show all of you now.

3. Maus by Art Spiegelman

Initially published in serial form from 1980 to 1991, Maus by Art Spiegelman experienced a popularity resurgence earlier this year due to the McMinn County School Board removing from its 8th grade curriculum for reasons that still don’t make a whole lot of sense. This further sparked debate about banning books from schools. Reading this Pulitzer-Prize-winning graphic novel made me realize how vital it is to teach about the Holocaust in non sugarcoated ways. Even though it’s obvious to people who’ve read it, what makes this book iconic is its stark black-and-white imagery with the mice being the Jewish people and the cats being the Germans. It simplifies the infamous conflict in ways anyone can understand without watering it down. It also balances the darkness and horror with humor and flawed protagonists. Maus truly shows that the most powerful books are the ones that are often at risk of getting banned, and this one is most definitely fits that category. Go read it if you haven’t already!

2. The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster

I spent a good chunk of this year as a Children’s Librarian. As a result, I read plenty of classic and contemporary juvenile literature. The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster is the best of the classics that I read this year. It’s extremely silly in most creative ways even though some of the puns are dated. That aspect is balanced by the profound message of learning and experiencing all of the senses. This is definitely for kids who love learning, but not necessary in school, as well as anyone who loves reading about faraway lands, absurdism, and puns (lots and lots of them). So jump to the Island of Conclusions if you haven’t read it already. It’s the best example of deep and simple storytelling that populate the most beloved stories for children.

1. The Crossover by Kwame Alexander

If The Phantom Tollbooth was my favorite classic children’s story that I read this year, then The Crossover by Kwame Alexander is the best contemporary juvenile book that I read in 2022. It contains memorable and layered twin protagonists as they navigate their world through basketball. Oh by the way, did I mention that there is non-rhyming verses? It’s so digestable and heartfelt that I even recommended it to an older woman who was looking for a quick read at the library. She was excited to read it. It’s for all these reasons that I can’t wait to check out the series when it eventually comes out on Disney+!

Before, we get to the worst list, I want to mention that the chosen titles bothered me in a variety of ways, and that’s why they’re on the worst list.

Now that we got that out of the way, it’s now time to get to the Top 3 Worst Books* of 2022!

3. Where the Crawdads Sing Movie

The movie adaptation of Where the Crawdads Sing is not bad. It’s aesthetically pleasing, the theme song “Carolina” by Taylor Swift definitely deserves the nominations it’s gotten at various award shows, and I enjoyed David Strathairn’s performance as Tom Milton – Kya’s lawyer.

The thing that bothered me was that it was so average that I could see why reviewers preferred to talk about the controversy surround author Delia Owens rather than the film itself. The choices made when adapting felt marketable and predictable. So much that it strips some of the nuance of Kya’s character and possibly reduces her to a Nicholas Sparks female archetype. Granted, the book wasn’t exactly great, but even that offered more to the consumer than the film ever did.

2. The Fountainhead Book by Ayn Rand

I can see why people might like The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand, but I couldn’t have cared less. Philosophy aside, it’s too long with too many speeches, and I wasn’t convinced by the main character Howard Roark as the model of objectivism. It also didn’t help that Howard rapes Dominque – the main female in the book, and the novel tries to justify it! Now, by mere coincidence, I’ve read 15 novels since April that feature and/or mention sexual assault. This is the worst depiction of rape that I’ve ever read in a book due to the victim blaming.

This book isn’t any higher because I lowered my expectations before reading it. Also, the movie version is more entertaining, so if we didn’t have the tome, we wouldn’t have the flick.

1. For Whom the Bells Tolls Movie

Ever since I watched this 1943 movie adaptation of Ernest Hemingway’s novel For Whom the Bell Tolls back in March, I wanted to say the following:

  1. If you want to watch a movie that involves people waiting for orders and sitting in a room and talking, see Battleground (1949) and 12 Angry Men (1957).
  2. If you want to watch a nearly three-hour film that’s based on a book and involves blowing up a bridge, view The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957).
  3. If you want to torture someone, look them in a room, tie them to a chair, peel their eyes open, and make them watch the scene from For Whom the Bell Tolls, in which one character says “I don’t provoke” while getting repeatedly punched for no logical reason on an one-hour loop.

What I’m saying is that unless you’re an Oscar buff, avoid For Whom the Bell Tolls at all costs. It’s dull with a capital D and eliminates majority of nuance present in the novel. Oh, by the way, did I mention that there’s brownface in it? Stay away from it as much as you can!

And that was the Top 3 Best and Worst Books* of 2022! I hope all of you enjoyed it. I look forward to having plenty of new reviews for 2023! See you next year!

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Published by emilymalek

I work at a public library southeast Michigan, and I facilitate two book clubs there. I also hold a Bachelor's degree in History and Theatre from Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, MI; a Master's degree in Library and Information Science from Wayne State University in Detroit, MI; and a Graduate Certificate in Archival Administration also from Wayne. In my downtime, I love hanging out with friends, play trivia and crossword puzzles, listening to music (like classic rock and K-pop), and watching shows like "Monty Python's Flying Circus"!

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