Looking for the definitive list of the best fiction titles published in English this year to help choose a Christmas gift for the book lover in your life? Our round-up features all the books that were nominated for the Booker Prize and International Booker Prize in 2022
Heaven by Mieko Kawakami, translated by Sam Bett, David Boyd
Told through the eyes of a 14-year-old boy subjected to relentless bullying, this is a haunting novel of the threat of violence that can stalk our teenage years. Translated by Sam Bett and David Boyd.
Instead of putting up resistance, the boy suffers in complete resignation. His sole ally is a girl classmate, similarly outcast and preyed upon by the bullies. They meet in secret to take solace in each other’s company, unaware that their relationship has not gone unnoticed by their tormentors…
Mieko Kawakami’s deceptively simple yet profound work stands as a testament to her remarkable literary talent. Here, she asks us to question the fate of the meek in a society that favours the strong, and the lengths to which even children will go in their learnt cruelty.
Elena Knows by Claudia Piñeiro, translated by Frances Riddle
After Rita is found dead in the bell tower of the church she used to attend, the official investigation into the incident is quickly closed. Her sickly mother is the only person still determined to find the culprit. Chronicling a difficult journey across the suburbs of the city, an old debt and a revealing conversation, Elena Knows unravels the secrets of its characters and the hidden facets of authoritarianism and hypocrisy in our society. A unique story that interweaves crime fiction with intimate tales of morality and the search for individual freedom.
Paradais by Fernanda Melchor, translated by Sophie Hughes
Written in a chilling torrent of prose by one of Mexico’s most thrilling new writers, Paradais explores the explosive fragility of Mexican society.
Inside a luxury housing complex, two misfit teenagers sneak around and get drunk. Franco Andrade, lonely, overweight, and addicted to porn, obsessively fantasizes about seducing his neighbour - an attractive married woman and mother. Meanwhile Polo, the community’s gardener, dreams about quitting his gruelling job and fleeing his overbearing mother and their narco-controlled village. As each face the impossibility of getting what they think they deserve, together Franco and Polo hatch a mindless and macabre scheme.
Tomb of Sand by Geetanjali Shree, translated by Daisy Rockwell
In northern India, an 80-year-old woman slips into a deep depression at the death of her husband, then resurfaces to gain a new lease of life. Her determination to fly in the face of convention confuses her bohemian daughter, who is used to thinking of herself as the more ‘modern’ of the two. To her family’s consternation, Ma then insists on travelling to Pakistan, confronting the unresolved trauma of her teenage experiences of Partition. Despite its serious themes, Geetanjali Shree’s light touch and exuberant wordplay ensures that Tomb of Sand remains constantly playful - and utterly original. An urgent yet engaging protest against the destructive impact of borders, whether between religions, countries or genders. Translated by Daisy Rockwell.
Cursed Bunny by Bora Chung, translated by Anton Hur
Bora Chung presents a genre-defying collection of short stories, which blur the lines between magical realism, horror and science fiction. Translated by Anton Hur.
Korean author Bora Chung uses elements of the fantastic and surreal to address the very real horrors and cruelties of patriarchy and capitalism in modern society. Anton Hur’s translation skilfully captures the way Chung’s prose effortlessly glides from the terrifying to the wryly humorous. Winner of a PEN/Haim Grant.
The Book of Mother by Violaine Huisman, translated by Leslie Camhi
Violaine Huisman’s remarkable debut novel is an exquisitely wrought story about a daughter’s inextinguishable love for her magnetic, mercurial mother. Translated by Leslie Camhi.
Beautiful and charismatic, Catherine, aka ‘Maman’, smokes too much, drives too fast, laughs too hard and loves too extravagantly. During a joyful and chaotic childhood in Paris, her daughter Violaine wouldn’t have it any other way. But when Maman is hospitalised after a third divorce and breakdown, everything changes.
As the story of Catherine’s own traumatic childhood and coming of age unfolds, the pieces come together to form an indelible portrait of a mother as irresistible as she is impossible, as triumphant as she is transgressive.
Happy Stories, Mostly by Norman Erikson Pasaribu, translated by Tiffany Tsao
A powerful blend of science fiction, absurdism and alternative-historical realism that aims to destabilise the heteronormative world and expose its underlying rot.
Inspired by Simone Weil’s concept of ‘decreation’ and drawing on Batak and Christian cultural elements, in Happy Stories, Mostly Pasaribu puts queer characters in situations and plots conventionally filled by hetero characters.
In one story, a staff member is introduced to their new workplace - a department of Heaven devoted to archiving unanswered prayers. In another, a woman’s attempt to vacation in Vietnam after her gay son commits suicide turns into a nightmarish failed escape. And in a speculative-historical third, a young man finds himself haunted by the tale of a giant living in colonial-era Sumatra.
Love in the Big City by Sang Young Park, translated by Anton Hur
An energetic, joyful, and moving novel that depicts both the glittering night-time world of Seoul, and the bleary-eyed morning after. Young is a cynical yet fun-loving Korean student who pinballs from home to class to the beds of recent Tinder matches. He and Jaehee, his female best friend and roommate, frequent nearby bars, where they suppress their anxieties about their love lives, families and money with rounds of soju and freezer-chilled Marlboro Reds.
In time, even Jaehee settles down, leaving Young alone to care for his ailing mother and find companionship in his relationships with a series of men - including one whose handsomeness is matched by his coldness, and another who might end up being the great love of his life.
More Than I Love My Life by David Grossman, translated by Jessica Cohen
A sweeping story about loving with courage that asks us to confront our deepest held beliefs about a woman’s duty to herself - and to her children. On a kibbutz in 2008, Gili is celebrating the 90th birthday of her grandmother Vera, the adored matriarch of a sprawling and tight-knit family. But festivities are interrupted by the arrival of Nina: the mother who abandoned Gili as a baby. Nina’s return precipitates an epic journey from Israel to the desolate island of Goli Otok, formerly part of Yugoslavia. It was here, five decades earlier, that Vera was tortured as a political prisoner. And it is here that the three women will finally come to terms with the terrible moral dilemma that Vera faced, and that permanently altered the course of their lives.
Phenotypes, written by Paulo Scott, translated by Daniel Hahn
Paulo Scott delivers a smart and stylish account of the bigotry lurking in hearts and institutions alike. In this complex tale, two very different brothers of mixed Black and white heritage are divided by the colour of their skin, as racial tension rises in society and a guilty secret resurfaces from their shared past.
Paulo Scott here probes the old wounds of race in Brazil, and in particular the loss of a black identity independent from the history of slavery. Exploratory rather than didactic, a story of crime, street-life and regret as much as a satirical novel of ideas, Phenotypes is a seething masterpiece of rage and reconciliation.
A New Name: Septology VI-VII by Jon Fosse, translated by Damion Searls
Jon Fosse delivers both a transcendent exploration of the human condition and a radically ‘other’ reading experience - incantatory, hypnotic, and utterly unique.
Asle is an ageing painter who lives alone on the coast of Norway. His only friends are his neighbour, Åsleik, a traditional fisherman-farmer, and Beyer, a gallerist who lives in the city. There, in Bjørgvin, lives another Asle, also a painter but lonely and consumed by alcohol. Asle and Asle are doppelgängers - two versions of the same person, two versions of the same life, both grappling with existential questions. Written in melodious and hypnotic ‘slow prose’, this is the final instalment of Fosse’s Septology, the major prose work by ‘the Beckett of the twenty-first century’ (Le Monde).
After the Sun by Jonas Eika, translated by Sherilyn Hellberg
With irrepressible urgency, Eika’s astonishing fiction juxtaposes startling beauty with grotesquery, and balances the hyper-realistic with the fantastical.
After the Sun opens portals to our newest realities, haunting the margins of a globalised world that’s both saturated with yearning and brutally transactional. Under Cancún’s hard blue sky, a beach boy provides a canvas for tourists’ desires, seeing deep into the world’s underbelly. An enigmatic encounter in Copenhagen takes an IT consultant down a rabbit hole of speculation that proves more seductive than sex.
Meanwhile, the collapse of a love triangle in London leads to a dangerous, hypnotic addiction. And in the Nevada desert, a grieving man tries to merge with an unearthly machine.
The Books of Jacob by Olga Tokarczu, translated by Jennifer Croft
Olga Tokarczuk’s portrayal of Enlightenment Europe on the cusp of precipitous change, searching for certainty and longing for transcendence. In the mid-18th century, as new ideas begin to sweep the continent, a young Jew of mysterious origins arrives in a village in Poland. Before long, he has changed not only his name but his persona; visited by what seem to be ecstatic experiences, Jacob Frank casts a charismatic spell that attracts an increasingly fervent following.
In the decade to come, Frank will traverse the Hapsburg and Ottoman empires as he reinvents himself again and again. He converts to Islam and then Catholicism, is pilloried as a heretic and revered as the Messiah, and wreaks havoc on the conventional order with scandalous rumours of his sect’s secret rituals and the spread of his increasingly iconoclastic beliefs.
In Audrey Magee’s lyrical and brooding fable, two outsiders visit a small island off the west coast of Ireland, with unforeseen and haunting consequences.
Mr Lloyd has decided to travel to the island by boat without engine - the authentic experience. Mr Masson will also soon be arriving for the summer. Both Englishman and Frenchman will strive to encapsulate the truth of this place - one in his paintings, the other with his faithful rendition of its speech, the language he hopes to preserve.
But the people who live on this rock - three miles wide and half a mile long - have their own views on what is being recorded, what is being taken and what is given in return. At the end of the summer, as the visitors head home, there will be a reckoning.
After Sappho by Selby Wynn Schwartz
A joyous reimagining of the lives of a brilliant group of feminists, sapphists, artists and writers from the past, as they battle for control over their lives, for liberation and for justice. Told in a series of cascading vignettes, featuring a multitude of voices, After Sappho hails the female torchbearers of the late 19th and early 20th century.
WHAT did we want? To begin with, we wanted what half the population had got by just being born.
Sarah Bernhardt - Colette - Eleanora Duse - Lina Poletti - Josephine Baker - Virginia Woolf… these are just a few of the women sharing the pages of a novel as fierce as it is luminous. Lush and poetic, furious and funny - in After Sappho, Selby Wynn Schwartz has created a work that celebrates the women and trailblazers of the past - and also offers hope for our present, and our futures.
This energetic and exhilarating joyride from NoViolet Bulawayo is the story of an uprising, told by a vivid chorus of animal voices that help us see our human world more clearly.
A long time ago, in a bountiful land not so far away, the animals lived quite happily. Then the colonisers arrived. After nearly a hundred years, a bloody War of Liberation brought new hope for the animals - along with a new leader: a charismatic horse who commanded the sun and ruled and ruled - and kept on ruling…
Glory tells the story of a country trapped in a cycle as old as time. And yet, as it unveils the myriad tricks required to uphold the illusion of absolute power, it reminds us that the glory of tyranny only lasts as long as its victims are willing to let it. It was shortlised for the Booker Prize 2022.
Claire Keegan’s tender tale of hope and quiet heroism is both a celebration of compassion and a stern rebuke of the sins committed in the name of religion.
It is 1985, in an Irish town. During the weeks leading up to Christmas, Bill Furlong, a coal and timber merchant, faces his busiest season. As he does the rounds, he feels the past rising up to meet him - and encounters the complicit silences of a small community controlled by the Church.
Small Things Like These was shortlisted for the Booker Prize 2022.
At once agonising and mesmerising, Nightcrawling presents a haunting vision of marginalised young people navigating the darkest corners of an adult world. ‘When there is no choice, all you have left to do is walk.’
Determined to survive in a world that refuses to protect her, a 17-year-old girl finds herself walking the mean streets of Oakland after dark. When she is picked up by the police, the gruesome deal they offer in exchange for her freedom lands her at the centre of a media storm - and facing a terrible choice.
If she agrees to testify, she could help expose the corruption of a police department. But honesty comes at a price - one that could leave her family vulnerable to retaliation, and endanger everyone she loves.
Under attack from within, Lia tries to keep the landscapes of her past, her present and her body separate. But time and bodies are porous, and unpredictable. Something gleeful and malign is moving in Lia’s body. It shape-shifts down the banks of her canals, leaks through her tissue, nooks and nodes. It taps her trachea like the bones of a xylophone. It’s spreading.
Lia’s story is told, in part, by the very thing that’s killing her; a malevolent voice that wanders her systems, learning her from the inside-out. The novel moves between her past and her present as we come to understand the people that have shaped her life.
In turn, each of these take up their place in the battle raging within Lia’s body, at the centre of which dances the murderous narrator and a boy nicknamed ‘Red’ - the toxic chemo that is Lia’s last hope.
Graeme Macrae Burnet offers a dazzlingly inventive - and often wickedly humorous - meditation on the nature of sanity, identity and truth itself.
‘I have decided to write down everything that happens, because I feel, I suppose, I may be putting myself in danger.’
London, 1965. An unworldly young woman believes that a charismatic psychotherapist, Collins Braithwaite, has driven her sister to suicide. Intent on confirming her suspicions, she assumes a false identity and presents herself to him as a client, recording her experiences in a series of notebooks. But she soon finds herself drawn into a world in which she can no longer be certain of anything. Even her own character…
This latest fiction from a remarkable and enduring talent brilliantly illuminates an introspective young mind trying to make sense of the world around him. Joe Coppock squints at the world with his lazy eye. He reads his comics, collects birds’ eggs and treasures his marbles, particularly his prized dobbers. When Treacle Walker appears off the moor one day - a wanderer, a healer - an unlikely friendship is forged and the young boy is introduced to a world he could never have imagined.
In this playful, moving and evocative fable, set once again in his beloved Cheshire, the masterly Alan Garner delivers both a stunning fusion of myth and folklore and a profound exploration of the fluidity of time. Treacle Walker was shortlisted for the Booker Prize 2022.
A violent history refuses to be buried in Percival Everett’s striking novel that was shortlisted for the Booker Prize 2022, which combines an unnerving murder mystery with a powerful condemnation of racism and police violence.
Something strange is afoot in Money, Mississippi. A series of brutal murders are eerily linked by the presence at each crime scene of a second dead body: that of a man who resembles Emmett Till, a young black boy lynched in the same town 65 years before.
The investigating detectives soon discover that uncannily similar murders are taking place all over the country. As the bodies pile up, the detectives seek answers from a local root doctor, who has been documenting every lynching in the country for years…
Trust by Hernan Diaz
A literary puzzle about money, power, and intimacy, Trust challenges the myths shrouding wealth, and the fictions that often pass for history.
He is a legendary Wall Street tycoon; she is the daughter of eccentric aristocrats. Together, they have risen to the very top - but at what cost have they acquired their immense fortune? This is the mystery at the centre of Bonds, a successful 1938 novel that all New York seems to have read. But there are other versions of this tale of privilege and deceit.
Trust elegantly draws these competing narratives into conversation with each other - and in tension with the perspective of one woman bent on disentangling fact from fiction. The result is a provocative and propulsive novel that spans an entire century and becomes more exhilarating with each new revelation.
Shehan Karunatilaka’s second novel is a searing, mordantly funny satire set amid the murderous mayhem of a Sri Lanka beset by civil war. It was the winner of this year’s Booker Prize.
Maali Almeida, war photographer, gambler and closet gay, has woken up dead in what seems to be a celestial visa office. His dismembered body is sinking in the Beira Lake and he has no idea who killed him. At a time when scores are settled by death squads, suicide bombers and hired goons, the list of suspects is depressingly long.
But even in the afterlife, time is running out for Maali. He has ‘seven moons’ to try and contact the man and woman he loves most and lead them to a hidden cache of photos that will rock Sri Lanka.
Bestselling author Elizabeth Strout returns to her beloved heroine Lucy Barton in a luminous novel about love, loss, and the family secrets that can erupt and bewilder us at any time.
Lucy Barton is a successful writer living in New York, navigating the second half of her life as a recent widow and parent to two adult daughters. A surprise encounter leads her to reconnect with William, her first husband - and longtime, on-again/off-again friend and confidante.
Recalling their college years, the birth of their daughters, the painful dissolution of their marriage, and the lives they built with other people, Strout weaves a portrait, stunning in its subtlety, of a tender, complex, decades-long partnership.
Oh William! was shortlisted for the Booker Prize 2022.
Karen Joy Fowler’s epic novel about an ill-fated family of thespians, drinkers and dreamers, whose most infamous son is destined to commit a terrible and violent act.
Junius is the Booth patriarch. A celebrated Shakespearean actor who fled bigamy charges in England, he is both a mesmerising talent and a man of terrifying instability. As his children grow up in a remote farmstead in 1830s rural Baltimore, the country draws ever closer to the boiling point of civil war.
Of the six Booth siblings who survive to adulthood, each has their own dreams they must fight to realise - but it is Johnny who makes the shocking decision that will change the course of history.