39 Best Books of 2022

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Here are the can’t-miss books to buy, gift, and read before the year is out.
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“The Man Who Could Move Clouds” by Ingrid Rojas Contreras (Doubleday) “This is a memoir of the ghostly,” writes Ingrid Rojas Contreras in her author’s note to T “which celebrates cultural understandings of truth that are, at heart, Colombian.” The memoir, unusually, finds its center in acts of forgetting—two bouts of amnesia, one experienced by the author’s mother at age eight, having fallen (or perhaps been pushed) down a well, and Contreras’s at age 23, after a bike accident. Contreras comes from a lineage of curanderos, or healers. Her grandfather, called Nono, was a charming, philandering, illiterate man with a steel trap of a memory who once threatened his wife and newborn with a machete after one of his ominous premonitions. That newborn was Contreras’s mother, who from her accident and subsequent amnesia would gain and lose the ability to hear voices, but retain one to be in two places at once. In the wake of her own accident, 43 years later, Contreras writes, “I lost the impulse to hide that I was a brown woman born of a brown woman born of a poor man who said he had the power to move clouds”—but, she describes with some regret, “I cannot see ghosts like Mami could, I do not hear the dead, and the future is hidden from me as much as it ever was.”  The family was driven by violence to leave Colombia in 1998, when Contreras was 14; the action of the memoir begins when three of Nono’s daughters—Mami, tía Perla, tía Nahía—dream that Nono wants his remains disinterred, and then Contreras dreams of Nono pointing to a river, saying “this is the scene,” which is enough for her mother to organize a trip back to Colombia to exhume his remains. Contreras’s book interweaves history of all magnitudes, from the atrocities perpetrated upon Native tribes by Spanish colonizers, to stories handed down through generations, to family lore—and in examining the past in this way, in bringing it back into the light, Contreras works an act of magic all her own. —K
$23 at Amazon
$28 at Bookshop
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“Less Is Lost” by Andrew Sean Greer (Little, Brown and Company) More things are more important n. Truth, we’re told. Accountability. Acceptance of historical and ongoing wrongs. Hard yes on all that. But also, humor. Humor is what I need now more than ever. Maybe it’s aging. Maybe it’s the last few years, all caught up. Maybe it’s just that it feels really good to laugh, and always does, but the present takes prominence. Andrew Sean Greer’s 2017 novel L which follows bumbling, endearing, middle-aged, middling author Arthur Less through a grand tour of the world in the hopes of running far away from his ex’s wedding, made me laugh and laugh, and then it won the Pulitzer Prize. With the announcement of a sequel, L I experienced both joy and dread; like the announcement of a film adaptation of a beloved book, a sequel can mean much more of a good thing, or a dark cloud over the whole endeavor. This book falls firmly in the first camp. On the off chance dear reader hasn’t yet experienced the first book, I’ll refrain from revealing the narrative sleight of hand that illuminates it, and which dwells out in the open in the second—but suffice to say that in L we find Less once again on the move, this time through our own vast country. It is sharp and smart and sad and sweet, and once again made me giggle aloud. More of Less, please. And well-earned happy endings. Would take more of those too. —K
$17 at Amazon
$27 at Bookshop
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“Stay True” by Hua Hsu (Doubleday) In Hua Hsu’s S—a coming-of-age memoir exploring identity forged at the margins—time is measured by alternate means. A college-era drive to the grocery store is six songs long. Balcony conversations tick by at the pace of a cigarette. “A day felt like forever, a year was a geological era,” Hsu writes of his impatient teenage stretch: faxing math questions to his dad in Taiwan, combing for Nirvana’s spiritual successor at the record store, editing zines while at UC Berkeley. Part of what makes the book so transfixing is the specificity of detail: a high-definition panorama that includes mixtape highlights, dorm-room riffs, and influences (L Derrida, T) captured at their flashpoints. But it’s the impetus behind that diligent chronicling—a friend’s sudden death—that casts a shadow throughout, leaving Hsu, a N writer, to sensitively chart those depths. “I remember an unshakable humidity, standing in a hangar where you could hear too many of the sound systems at once, the psychedelic aura smothered by gray clouds, a drifting weariness,” Hsu writes, recalling the rave he attended while, across town, a life was cut short. It was a premonition: “For a flash, I no longer felt young.” But even where memory fails (the book’s title comes from a long-forgotten inside joke), there’s a sense of history forever being reknit into the present. /em>
$22 at Amazon
$24 at Bookshop
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“Incredible Doom: Vol. 2” by Matthew Bogart and Jesse Holden (HarperAlley) As Twitter begins to unravel, super users are left wondering what will happen to the community that the platform created. But long before Elon Musk, during the internet’s infancy, friendships were forged across message boards and servers, with strangers bonding over fandom, punk rock, movies, and more. In this graphic novel (the sequel to I), EVOL House, a dilapidated Ohio home serves as a real-life refuge for those who became friends online—but can these relationships persist offline? With every ultra-absorbing panel, you’ll be eager to find out. /em>
$22 at Amazon
$24 at Bookshop
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“The Nineties: A Book” by Chuck Klosterman (Penguin Press) The guide to explaining America’s Late Before Times to Gen Zers, this breezy, witty skip-hopping dissection of the decade’s defining events, personalities, pop culture, and Gen X stereotypes keeps overwrought phenomena from N to the Clinton sex scandal fresh by interpreting them through the vagaries of looking back and our tendency toward sociocultural revisionism. When analyzing the nineties, “the central illusion is memory itself.” The veteran culture journalist’s take on the period’s hot topics and tropes are arranged in easily digestible, connectable theories, often based on the primacy of TV coupled with the lacuna of an instantly accessible repository of facts. Our last gasp of national monoculture was also “perhaps the last period in American history when personal and political engagement was still viewed as optional.” Tapping everything from T to steroidal baseball in order to posit truths about collective memory during America’s “good time,” Chuck Klosterman rationalizes his own career’s avoidance of those more serious issues—and offers privileged Gen Xers a chance to put our complicity on hold for a couple hours. /em>
$23 at Amazon
$26 at Bookshop
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“Lincoln and the Fight for Peace” by John Avlon (Simon & Schuster) In these dark times, it can be hard to even imagine what good, let alone great, national leadership looks like. That’s what makes John Avlon’s account of Abraham Lincoln’s plan to win the peace after winning the Civil War so important. Though the plan itself was tragically cut short by his assassination, Lincoln’s keen intellect and profound human decency set a precedent that reverberated in the century that followed, as Avlon astutely demonstrates. The book kicks off with a tour de force narration of the 16th president’s triumphant arrival in Richmond (excerpted right here on VF.com) and positively brims with astonishing details plucked from the vast library of historical facts that, as Avlon’s pal, I happen to know he carries around in his head. If you ask me, this is the perfect holiday read for anyone who, in spite of it all, just can’t quit the American Dream. /em>
$22 at Amazon
$28 at Bookshop
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“Mr. B” by Jennifer Homans (Random House) How on earth can anyone sum up the life of George Balanchine, the visionary, exacting choreographer behind New York City Ballet? To him, the art form existed on an otherworldly plane, with apotheosis springing from pure, unembroidered technique. “To dance this way, you have to take everything off. Expression, persona, personality—your very s must go,” writes Jennifer Homans in M a decade-long project for which the scholar and former ballerina pored over archives across continents and interviewed nearly 200 dancers. (Stamina is a prerequisite for his work.) But this is not just a biography for balletomanes. Balanchine’s career, stretching from imperial Russia to 1980s New York, brims with 20th-century characters; collaborators include Igor Stravinsky, Katherine Dunham, Isamu Noguchi, and the powerhouse NYCB cofounder Lincoln Kirstein. Homans, an insightful magpie, braids together differing accounts—as with the opening gesture of S (1934), Balanchine’s first ballet on American soil, which some see as a commentary on the Nazi salute. (The choreographer managed several well-timed departures, leaving Russia ahead of Stalin, Europe before Hitler’s reign.) Balanchine’s revolving-door relationships with dancers—marriages, rumored abortions, roles bestowed and withheld—get a clear-eyed examination. “They were ‘dear,’ and he was ‘Mr. B,’” Homans writes of the complicated, if often treasured, symbiosis. Jealousy was common; weight, scrutinized. “He had an instinct, gently, for the jugular.” For a man who called himself a “cloud in trousers” (a line borrowed from poet Vladimir Mayakovsky), Homans captures many of those elusive contours within the fabric of her book, making special room for NYCB’s behind-the-scenes figures and lucid discussions of key ballets (A and others). Balanchine’s push for full-tilt momentum echoes still: “What are you saving it for, you might be dead tomorrow.” —L
$32 at Amazon
$37 at Bookshop
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“In the Mouth of the Wolf” by Katherine Corcoran (Bloomsbury) Regina Martínez was a bold woman. An investigative journalist out of Veracruz, Mexico, her stories outlined corruption, greed, and abuse in Mexican politics—an anomaly in a place where gangs and shady politicians often ruled what was (and wasn’t) printed. It was her steadfast dedication to the truth that many believe is the reason she was murdered. I isn’t your ordinary true-crime account. It’s a deep dive into the injustice and danger many Mexican journalists face to this day. Katherine Corcoran explores the mystery of Martínez’s death and the risk many reporters take to keep the press free. /em>
$27 at Amazon
$26 at Bookshop
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“The Old Place” by Bobby Finger (G.P. Putnam & Sons) I’m a longtime listener of Bobby Finger’s podcast W which he tapes twice a week with cohost Lindsey Weber, so I was excited to see what he could do with the generous space of a novel. An absolute ton, it turns out. T a story of a prickly, retired school teacher and the secrets at the heart of her most enduring relationships, gave me several gifts: a steady voice that handles pain and grief with as much humor and lightness as it does poignancy. Accounts of life in a small Southern town that feel well-studied, but never, ever clichéd. An emotionally devastating set piece involving large quantities of potato salad. I found myself thinking of each character’s complexities and their imperfect dynamics as much as I do those of lifelong friends, and know they’ll stay with me a long time. /em>
$23 at Amazon
$25 at Bookshop
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“Trust” by Hernan Diaz (Riverhead) What begins as an easily digestible tale of a Wall Street tycoon and his intellectual, well-bred wife—their successes and tragedies—against the backdrop of historic New York City twists into a masterpiece of competing perspectives that puts truth and its relativity front and center. Page by page, Hernan Diaz introduces layers of complexity to his characters, all while dissecting wealth, greed, and love. As you follow the efforts of one woman to unravel fact from fiction, the reality that we are all editing our own narratives takes hold. —A
$18 at Amazon
$26 at Bookshop
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“Constructing a Nervous System” by Margo Jefferson (Pantheon) In fewer than 200 pages, Margo Jefferson unlocks the ways by which we are and she has been influenced and shaped by art. Shifting between tone and material—songs, poems, memories, among others—Jefferson somehow manages to construct a cogent reflection on the subtle and stark ways in which we are shaped by what we consume all while tackling the complexities and contradictions of identity. She captures the struggles of being human. —A
$23 at Amazon
$25 at Bookshop
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“I’m Glad My Mom Died” by Jennette McCurdy (Simon & Schuster) Each year, there are a few interviews that linger. Our conversation long ended, story filed, book released—my mind often flickers back to Jennette McCurdy and her all-consuming debut memoir I That incendiary title beckons even the most passive to turn an ear her way—and after an existence centered on her abusive mother, she’s more than earned a moment of our time. McCurdy doesn’t stray from any of it: her turbulent time as a child star on Nickelodeon, crippling eating disorders introduced by her mom, and the painful journey to saying those five words aloud for the first time. It’s not only McCurdy’s story that resonates—it’s her ability to tell it all. With total command and sardonic comedic timing earned in s of her sitcom training, she winds through her darkest days and makes a compelling case for getting to the other side, scars and all. In promoting her memoir, McCurdy was forced to rip that Bandaid time and again, including with me. Her gumption to do so is something I’ll be carrying with me into the next year. /em>
$17 at Amazon
$26 at Bookshop
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“Corporate Rock Sucks: The Rise and Fall of SST Records” by Jim Ruland (Hachette) SST Records’ run in the 1980s was epic. Just flip to the end of Jim Ruland’s C and scan the catalog of groundbreaking albums from Hüsker Dü, Minutemen, Sonic Youth, Dinosaur Jr., and more. But the story begins with Greg Ginn, a teenage ham-radio enthusiast who cofounded seminal hardcore band Black Flag and transformed his mail-order electronics business into the defining indie label of the era—and a harbinger of the alterna-rock and grunge explosion to come. (SST put out early records by Seattle’s Soundgarden and Screaming Trees, though Ginn passed on Nirvana.) Ruland digs into the drama, from SST’s clashes with police, the media, and the music business, to Ginn’s spats with everyone from bandmates like Henry Rollins to his brother, the artist Raymond Pettibon, who came up with Black Flag’s name and iconic four-bar logo. That symbol, still a go-to tattoo for punks four decades later, speaks to the label’s imprint on underground culture. /em>
$20 at Amazon
$28 at Bookshop
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“Everything I Need I Get From You” by Kaitlyn Tiffany (MCD x FSG Originals) My biggest takeaway from reading E is that one day, if you’re very lucky, hopefully you’ll love something or someone as much as teenage girls can love a boy band. Tiffany, a former One Direction fangirl turned A writer, bravely dives into the wild west of online fandom to give an in-depth account, both personal and reported, of “How Fan Girls Created the Internet as We Know It.” It’s an empathetic and entertaining analysis of the power and influence of the (mostly) young women who dedicate themselves to the stars they love. You’ll want to pass this book on to anyone who has ever cared deeply about anything at all. Come for the deep-fried memes, stay for the roadside shrine to Harry Styles’s puke. —D
$15 at Amazon
$17 at Bookshop
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“Who by Fire: Leonard Cohen in the Sinai” by Matti Friedman (Spiegel & Grau) Matti Friedman’s concise and poetic book recounts Cohen’s highly improvised concert tour of the front lines of the 1973 Yom Kippur War between Israel and its Arab neighbors. The little-known episode marks a resurrection of sorts in Cohen’s life. Holed up on the island of Hydra before the war, he was in a personal crisis: Dried up creatively, he had spoken of retirement. The war deeply rattles his sensibilities and awakens his sense of purpose—within a few months of the war’s end, he releases one of his best albums, N and reenters the musical world, becoming over time the priestly elder statesman we’ve come to know, the focus of near religious devotion. /em>
$14 at Amazon
$25 at Bookshop
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“Secret City: The Hidden History of Gay Washington” by James Kirchick (Holt) James Kirchick’s opus is the definitive book on the intersection of Washington politics and gay and lesbian history. S presents the largely unknown backstories of the DC power brokers who helped shepherd or scuttle the careers—indeed, the lives—of their LGBTQ+ colleagues, friends, and enemies. Insightful, astute, and exhaustively researched through scores of interviews, archives, long-lost articles, and declassified documents, Kirchik’s doorstop of a book is an ingenious unicorn of scholarship: leviathan in length (848 pages!) but also a page-turner. —D
$23 at Amazon
$35 at Bookshop
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“Portrait of an Unknown Woman” by Daniel Silva (Harper) Daniel Silva’s latest had to be one of V’s favorites this year. The novel not only braids together art forgery, murder, spycraft, sex, and a Baedeker of swank locales, but its climax is set in the V offices at One World Trade Center, featuring a dogged investigative reporter inspired by V’s own Marie Brenner. Silva’s central character—as in many of his previous thrillers—is the spymaster/art-restorer Gabriel Allon, who, after his near-demise in Silva’s last tour de force, T manages (spoiler alert!) to evade yet another attempt on his life (this time by a cell phone-detonated bomb at a Paris art gallery). Long live Allon—and Hi Ho, Silva! —D
$19 at Amazon
$28 at Bookshop
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“All This Could Be Different” by Sarah Thankham Matthews (Viking) “This is not a story about work or precarity,” Sarah Thankham Matthews’s narrator explains early on in A “I am trying, late in the evening, to say something about love, which for many of us is not separable from the other shit.” Love all ways: familial, friend, romance. Sneha, 22 years old, lives in a Milwaukee apartment paid for by her employer, a corporate consulting firm for whose client she creates Gantt charts while sipping whiskey from a Nalgene. Sneha, according to her mother, is “cold,” and this is an affect she actively attempts to cultivate. She longs to let people in, but to do so makes her nervous. She sends far less than half-hearted attempts at pickups to women on a dating app: s She makes a wonderful new friend, finds complications with old ones, and thinks about home. “To send my parents the transfer to replace the roof and the damp-rotted door,” she rationalizes, “was easier than saying, I think of you always. Than asking, why did you leave me.” (Matthews’s language is, across the board, so succinctly precise as to appear tossed off. A street lamp’s glow is “a dog cone for the night,” the feeling of taking hydrocodone akin to “the foamy white soap that machines into your palms at public bathrooms, without you having to touch a thing.”) And she falls in love. There’s something a little bit fated about the pair of them, the way they keep crossing paths—Matthews has said that Richard Linklater’s B trilogy was an inspiration, which tracks—and then fit together so well. But we all know, now, about the course of true love. I closed this book feeling frustrated that, because this is Mathews’s debut, I had no backlist to turn to for more—and equally elated that this is just her beginning. —K
$24 at Amazon
$25 at Bookshop
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“Just Passing Through: A Seven-Decade Roman Holiday—The Diaries and Photographs of Milton Gendel” edited by Cullen Murphy (FSG) Everyone came to Milton’s. That is, the enchanted Roman palazzo of critic, aesthete, and social magnet Milton Gendel. Camera forever in tow, Gendel chronicled a coterie of 20th-century sophisticates, exposing 72,000 black-and-white frames and maintaining (until his death at 99, in 2018) voluminous diaries about his life amid this charmed circle. And what photographs! Here are intimate and sweetly forgiving images of everyone from Peggy Guggenheim to Salvador Dali, Gianni Agnelli to Babe Paley, André Leon Talley to Gore Vidal. A smiling Princess Margaret is photographed beaming in a bathtub. A slightly shleppy Queen Elizabeth II appears in a headscarf, tending her corgis. Expertly weaving Gendel’s pictures with his observational barbs, legendary editor Cullen Murphy constructs a vivid fresco of an endangered world of art, fortune, and impeccable taste. —D
$28 at Amazon
$32 at Bookshop
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“Agent Josephine: American Beauty, French Hero, British Spy” by Damien Lewis (PublicAffairs) Damien Lewis journeyed down the rabbit hole of arcane European archives to piece together the elusive tale of Josephine Baker’s French espionage service during World War II. The result, which evokes the sensuous glamour of Baker’s expatriate superstardom, is 400 pages of bravery and heroism that read like a spy novel you can’t put down. —J
$30 $26 at Amazon
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“Last Call at Hotel Imperial” by Deborah Cohen (Random House) Meet the talented, complex, and sometimes messy foreign correspondents who rose to stardom in the run-up to World War II—a larger-than-life posse of globe-trotting American reporters whose personalities leap off the page in Deborah Cohen’s rollicking postmortem of their careers. Set against the creeping menace of European fascism, it’s a story of love, loss, adventure, and, above all, the thrill of crusading journalism. —J
$22 at Amazon
$28 at Bookshop
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“Bless the Daughter Raised by a Voice in Her Head: Poems” by Warsan Shire (Random House Trade Paperbacks) “No one would leave home unless home/chased you.” Warsan Shire states in “Home” one of the poems included in her debut full-length poetry collection. Shire retraces familiar thematic paths of girlhood and womanhood, uncovering new trails through dissecting refugee and immigrant experiences as fuller, messier, and m than just imagery of camps and the foreign Other all accomplished with reverence for the simple nobility of being. With this collection Shire takes on a task which would perhaps be cumbersome in other hands but hers. “Bless the Type 4 child,” she writes and, as one, it was a blessing to encounter the world through her perspective. /em>
$13 at Amazon
$16 at Bookshop
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“Time Is a Mother” by Ocean Vuong (Penguin Press) Poet, essayist, and novelist Ocean Vuong mused in an Instagram Story on just how many more stories he had left in him to give. Amid a content saturation with titles in every medium and platform, pumped out at a dizzying pace it was an invitation to pause and consider a moment without any more of his work. Before that inevitable, if saddening (and selfishly, I hope long off) time comes, Vuong has provided readers a collection that is a perfect companion to grief, as he writes through the aftermath of losing his mother. Each included poem a dedication to himself, to the love that lives through grieving. Proving regardless of how many titles the writer produces he will be ever prolific in my eyes: even just one of his poems plentiful of heart, of meaning, of devastation. /em>
$18 at Amazon
$22 at Bookshop
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“The Song of the Cell: An Exploration of Medicine and the New Human” by Siddhartha Mukherjee (Scribner) With T and T Siddartha Mukergee established himself as one of the most lucid, stylish, and downright exciting physician-writers working now. In T his breadth gets even wider, with an eye toward helping a reader understand how a living organism works and how doctors use their knowledge of cells to treat and innovate. —E
$27 at Amazon
$30 at Bookshop
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“Lungfish” by Meghan Gilliss (Catapult) L the debut novel by Meghan Gilliss, tells the story of a mother named Tuck who takes her daughter and husband to an abandoned island in a quest to live off the grid and scrape up money for the future. The novel has the sweep of an epic, and its juxtaposition of natural detail and the detritus of modern life in hardscrabble circumstances makes for an enjoyably uncategorizable reading experience. —E
$26 at Amazon
$24 at Bookshop

Frequently asked questions

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What are the must read books for 2022?

The must read books for 2022 are still to be released, but some of the most highly anticipated titles include The Sorcerer Heir by Cinda Williams Chima, The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner, and The Last Magician by Lisa Maxwell.

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What genres are popular in must read books for 2022?

Some of the most popular genres of must read books for 2022 include fantasy, science fiction, young adult fiction, romance, mystery, and thriller.

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Are there any must read books for 2022 that are appropriate for children?

Yes, there are many must read books for 2022 that are appropriate for children. Some of the most popular titles include The Child Finder by Rene Denfeld, The Land of Stories by Chris Colfer, and The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau.

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Are there any must read books for 2022 based on true stories?

Yes, there are many must read books for 2022 that are based on true stories. Some of the most popular titles include Educated by Tara Westover, The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls, and Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson.

Are there any must read books for 2022 with strong female protagonists?

Yes, there are many must read books for 2022 with strong female protagonists. Some of the most popular titles include The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton, and The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X.R. Pan.

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