The Best of 2022
Books, TV shows, movies, podcasts, and albums that served as bright spots in an otherwise dark year.
Hot DAMN, 2022. You sure did have your way with me! As a creative, I’m even more grateful for the products of other creatives that have gotten me through these deeply dark 365 days. Making art requires unflinching perseverance, constant ego death, willful self-belief, and blind trust—it’s a wonder anything gets made under these conditions. In observance of a tradition I started in 2021, here’s a round-up (in no particular order) of my very favorite little miracles from the past year.
I read more books this year than ever—a whopping 80 so far (I only say that because, as I write, there are two days left in 2022 and I’m a shameless overachiever in this department). Of the many excellent novels I devoured, here are a few that rose to the top.
I loved T. Kingfisher’s novella so much—it’s a sharp reimagining of Edgar Allan Poe’s Fall of the House of Usher. It manages to be both cozy and foreboding, includes delightful mycology horror, and even throws in a Beatrix Potter nod for good measure. I bought two more of Kingfisher’s books before I even finished this one—she has such a confident, approachable voice and engaging writing style.
I blazed through this—it’s an utterly engrossing, hugely impressive, beautifully written debut about a group of contestants on a wilderness survival reality TV show gone very, very wrong. It’s deeply moving, occasionally disturbing, and highly enlightening regarding foraging and off-grid living. I’ve followed author Blair Braverman on Twitter for years—she’s a badass dogsledder and survivalist and, no surprise, an incredibly talented writer.
I read this in one sitting. It's utterly wrenching, but—especially for those of us raised by deeply narcissistic mothers—it's revelatory. (Added trigger warning for my fellow eating disorder sufferers and those who've lost a loved one to cancer.) It's introspective, honest, and brave as hell. Deep gratitude to Jennette McCurdy for her strength and voice.
This solidifies Julia Armfield's status as one of my most beloved literary fiction writers. Internal, haunting, and filled with dread, it delves into the trauma of crumbling relationships through the lens of a slow-burn deep-sea expedition gone awry and some truly gnarly, affecting body horror. The prose is so exquisite, so evocative, I want to slide into it and tread.
I absolutely loved this coming-of-witch story—it’s funny and dark and digestible. I couldn’t put it down! Honorable mention to author Rachel Harrison’s latest, Such Sharp Teeth, which is like a big bowl of gourmet popcorn—page-turning and full of deliciously visceral body horror while also being beautifully written and conceived.
Gwendoline Riley’s novel is an absolutely searing, brilliantly-observed portrait of how a mother and daughter hurt while processing hurt. The characters are so sharply-wrought that it reads like a memoir. Just…devastating, masterful writing.
The Undertaking of Hart and Mercy
Megan Bannen's unique and absorbing fantasy romance boasts wildly imaginative worldbuilding and gloriously complicated characters. It's the first M/F romance I've read where I identified most with the male lead; Hart's story has something of a Mandalorian quality. It's a weird, fun, affecting breath of fresh air.
Where even to begin with Alison Rumfitt’s utterly singular punk trans horror haunted-house-as-fascism homage to Shirley Jackson, Daphne du Maurier, and Angela Carter? It incisively, brutally captures our current climate. It’s an all-timer. (Note: this doesn’t release in the United States until 2023, but if you can’t wait you can nab a copy on Book Depository.)
The Book of the Most Precious Substance
Set against the backdrop of the rare book world, the protagonist in Sara Gran’s novel is a dealer searching for a 17th Century erotic grimoire that’s rumored to be one of the most powerful occult books ever written. As she follows mysterious leads from LA to Paris, she becomes entangled in the tome’s spell—it’s a thrilling, sexy, grimy story.
Sarah Tolmie’s transporting novella boasts gorgeously poetic prose, a haunting plot centered on the mysteriously displaced community of a hidden island, and a sense of setting so lush you can practically smell and feel it. (Not to mention a spectacularly stunning Rovina Cai cover!) It’s steeped in Irish folklore with a smattering of supernatural and horror elements, intricately weaving timelines and perspectives like the threads of the warding wool sweaters at the heart of its story.
Between reads, I tend to binge-watch—lucky for me, there are excellent options on every streaming service. I loved these enough to rewatch them.
This show belongs here on the merit of theme song alone (and frankly, the music directors deserve all the Emmys for the use of soundtrack as propulsive element throughout the episodes). I binged season one in time to watch season two in real-time, and it was a cringey, pitch-black comedic, wry, hella fun experience. Mike White’s creation is a bit like a darker, more character-intensive Rian Johnson whodunnit.
This is a really thoughtful modern adaptation with a whole lotta money on screen for an AMC series. It’s sexy and gory and perfectly cast, and the writing is beautifully lyrical. Anne Rice executive produced the project before her death and it feels like it has her blessing.
This was the breakout show of the year—no one saw it coming and seemingly everyone watched it. It deserves every ounce of praise—it perfectly translates the frenetic, high-tension atmosphere of working in a kitchen while weaving in deeply engaging and satisfying character arcs.
I had a lot of fun with this retelling of Romeo and Juliet from the perspective of Romeo’s ex-girlfriend—it’s an anachronistic romcom that gave me Dickinson-meets-10 Things I Hate About You vibes. Kaitlyn Dever should be a massive star (watch her in one of her first film roles, the excellent Short Term 12, and tell me I’m wrong!)
Who doesn’t love to get enmeshed in the drama of a wholesome teen coming-of-age crush-to-love triangle? This show catapulted me back to the seemingly mundane intrigues of my youth while concurrently allowing me to live vicariously through a protagonist who had a far, far more eventful sixteenth year.
This is the perfect LGBTQIA+ offering to screen for teens and boomers alike—it’s deeply sweet and accessible, and I really believe it has changed many a heart and mind. I also love how the show brings some of the graphic novel source material’s elements to life in animated flourishes throughout.
I’m thrilled to say that Rose Matafeo’s hilarious, relatable show remains an absolute delight in its second season. Much like Phoebe Waller-Bridge, I want Matafeo to be in—and writing—all the things.
I still largely avoid crowded spaces thanks to COVID (I seem to be a mask-wearing party of one these days), so I’ve missed most of the big theatrical releases and still have a lot to catch up on. Of the titles I managed to see before the year's end, these are the most unforgettable.
Everything Everywhere All at Once
I guess the pressure’s off to create a visionary piece of art that’s profound and thrilling and playful and heart-swelling and wondrously bizarre, because the Daniels made this. It’s a viewing experience like no other, truly.
If someone had told me this movie is the love child of Fleabag, Sally Rooney novels, and High Fidelity (2020) with a dash of Amelie whimsy thrown in, I would’ve had it injected straight into my veins and saved the trip to the theater. Very specific to the cusp-of-30 cis female experience, but boy howdy if you’re in the bullseye of all that does it ever hit!
Controversial opinion alert—I think this is Jordan Peele’s best film yet. It brilliantly blends sci-fi, western, and horror elements and crescendos to a deeply satisfying brother and sister character arc (Keke Palmer is a national treasure!). I especially appreciate Peele's light touch with gore in this—it's dread-filled, to be sure, which only underscores the impressive craftsmanship behind the lens.
The fastest way to break through my superhero fatigue? Cast Robert Pattinson and Zoë Kravitz in a Batman movie directed by Matt Reeves. This boasts major noir vibes and the leads have crackling chemistry.
Trust Rian Johnson to follow up his smash hit Knives Out with another perceptive, relevant, twisty, uproarious story featuring a glitzy cast and a wholly satisfying finale.
Todd Field has more than made up for the sixteen-year wait after his last feature, Little Children. Everyone is praising Cate Blanchett’s (admittedly incredible) performance, but Field should be mentioned in the same breath. The film moves from a portrait of a lauded conductor to a ghost story to a thriller with understated, razor-sharp slickness. Tonally and thematically, it’s a bit like Personal Shopper mixed with Parasite and a more muted Black Swan.
Thanks to long daily walks, I’ve become a Podcast Person, and I’ve branched out to a pretty wide variety of subjects this year. Here’s what I’m currently cycling through.
Martha Beck’s work is hands down my favorite new discovery of the year—her thoughtful, supportive, wisdom-filled podcast episodes have gotten me through many a dark moment.
Pollen: For Creative Entrepreneurs
My best friend Diana Davis launched an incredible podcast this year that supports self-employed business owners—she also went nomadic and is currently traveling the world while still running her super successful coaching business. Basically, she’s my hero. This podcast is an incredible resource for any creative, no matter where you are in your journey.
Alex Steed and You’re Wrong About co-host Sarah Marshall’s “feelings podcast about movies” is absolutely everything I never knew I needed. It’s hard to pick a favorite from this year, but the My Girl episode occupies a special place in my heart.
I love to start my Mondays with Chani Nicholas’ digestible, empathetic outlook on what to expect from the cosmos. She never misses.
Money management has always been a sore spot for me, and Jean Chatzky’s approachable, deeply serviceable episodes have empowered me to begin demystifying my finances.
Glennon Doyle, Abby Wambach, and Sister (Glennon’s sibling Amanda) always get to the heart of the matter with their guests—the episodes exploring the deepest thoughts of celebrities, authors, activists, and mental health professionals are deeply enlightening and a true balm for the soul.
Eli Ro’s insights and advice have been invaluable to me—each episode is bite-sized and packed with information, and Eli is a knowledgeable and approachable voice in the witchcraft world.
My Top Songs 2022 Spotify end-of-year playlist offers a pretty keen peek into my sonic proclivities. As a little break from my near-incessant Nine Inch Nails and Phoebe Bridgers album replays, I spun a few new releases—here are the records that didn’t disappoint.
I’m an unabashed Taylor Swift fan, and after her two more acoustic pandemic albums, this one is a rousing return to pop. Bops across the board.
I keep coming back to Beyoncé's latest album—it's a mood-lifting, dance-inducing, brilliantly produced listen from start to finish. I'm afraid to look at my play count for COZY.
Are You Happy Now?
I’m so grateful to have discovered Jensen McRae—her soulful voice and searing lyrics cut right through me, and she’s one of my firm new favorite artists. My Ego Dies at the End is the official theme song of my 2022.
No one combines introspective lyrics and brooding vocals like Mitski.
Lizzo’s music just makes me feel so. damn. good. She is a visionary, a virtuoso, and a refreshingly positive breath of fresh air.
A Light for Attracting Attention
The Smile’s music is an excellent way to get a Radiohead fix (the band is Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood’s side project), and this album is a MOOD.
Did I miss something you think I’d love? Want to debate your own favorites of the year? Let me know in the comments!
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