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The Best Books of 2022: Fiction

Posted on 13th September 2022 by Mark Skinner

Whether it's mapping the intrigue of the Florentine court with Maggie O'Farrell, interrogating post-war Britain through the eyes of Ian McEwan or navigating the residents of a crumbling Rust Belt apartment block with Waterstones Debut Fiction Prize winner Tess Gunty, there have been plenty of superb stories to hold us spellbound in 2022. Draw up a brand new to-be-read pile courtesy of our selection of the year's finest novels and short story collections.  

 

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O'Farrell paints as evocative a picture of Renaissance Italy as she did Shakespearean England in the former Waterstones Book of the Year Hamnet, as Cosimo de' Medici's third daughter learns to navigate an opaque Florentine court and an enigmatic new husband.
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The author of Ariadne returns with another spellbinding reimagining of Greek myth, this time focused on the origins of the Trojan War and the dreadful curse blighting the House of Atreus.
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In the sequel to former Waterstones Book of the Year The Miniaturist, Burton crafts another exquisite story of family and fate set in early 18th-century Amsterdam.
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Turning his masterly pen to the dramatic manhunt for the murderers of King Charles I, the bestselling author of Munich and V2 delivers a gripping, continent-spanning tale about treason and justice.
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The author of the bestselling phenomena The Song of Achilles and Circe returns to the realm of Ancient Greek mythology with this blazing short story that reimagines the tale of Galatea and Pygmalion.
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Traversing three centuries and three alternative versions of the American experiment, the author of A Little Life returns with a spellbinding chronicle of love, the meaning of family and the excruciating cost of unattainable dreams.
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From the classicist and author of A Thousand Ships and Pandora's Jar comes another bravura reimagining of Greek myth as the story of Medusa is transformed into a powerful meditation on mortality, betrayal and the cruel limits of beauty.
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The author of Any Human Heart guides readers expertly through the richly imagined life of a fictional nineteenth century figure, tracing his passage from adventurer and bankrupt to African explorer and minor diplomat in perfectly crafted, immersive prose.
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The third instalment of Gregory's sweeping historical Fairmile saga finds Alinor enmeshed in intrigue as the spectre of civil war appears once more, forcing her to make some life-changing decisions.
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Best known for swashbuckling narrative history like Crusaders and Powers and Thrones, Jones delivers his debut historical novel with this page-turning account of a band of hardened British soldiers deep in enemy territory during the Hundred Years War.
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A must for fans of historical fiction, this addictively readable debut merges the Greek myth of Pandora with the milieu of Georgian London where a frustrated young artisan and an ambitious antiquarian scholar discover a mysterious ancient vase.

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Bright, breezy and perfect for all fans of Bridgerton, Irwin's entrancing period novel details a young ingénue's attempts to land a moneyed husband - and save her family from the bailiffs.
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The award-winning author of We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves delivers a mesmerising nineteenth-century saga of a thespian family whose six siblings come to adulthood in the shadow of the American Civil War.
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From the author of The Mercies comes an enthralling, highly atmospheric historical novel set in 16th-century Strasbourg that revolves around the outbreak of a bizarre plague and its repercussions on a small, close-knit group of women.
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Macro and Cato return in another heart-pounding historical blockbuster from the military master, as the Roman army prepares to face off against the Iceni - and the formidable warrior queen Boudica.
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Narrated in the style of a gloriously witty Regency polemic, The Secret Diaries of Charles Ignatius Sancho reimagines the life and times of the maverick Black writer and composer in 18th-century London in illustrious, unputdownable prose.
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Whispers of witchcraft and sinister revelations of an old shipwreck fill the life of Thomas Treadwater – a reluctant soldier and man of reason – with dark unrest in Andrews’ mesmeric historical mystery set amidst the English Civil War.
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Following on from the bestselling The Wolf Den, this second part of Harper's mesmerising trilogy set in ancient Pompeii sees Amara, now freed from slavery, navigate her new life which transpires to be no less precarious than before.
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A scintillating allegory of anthropomorphic uprising with echoes of Animal Farm, the second novel from the author of We Need New Names incisively captures the destructive cycle of corrupting power and relentless tyranny.
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The author of Miss Austen returns to the life of the celebrated Regency novelist with an elegant, atmospheric account of a young governess forming a firm friendship with the literary genius.

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The first instalment of the Tudor Rose series from the author of the hugely popular Six Tudor Queens books, Elizabeth of York, the Last White Rose focuses on the tumultuous life of Henry VII's bride.
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Across three timelines, the author of Our Friends in Berlin weaves a complex, deeply rewarding meditation on the nature of creativity and self-sacrifice as a Georgian double-portrait reverberates down the centuries in dark and unexpected ways.
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A medieval village houses witchcraft, hypocrisy and the depraved excesses of its lord and master in this dazzling dissection of illusion and reality from the bestselling author of My Year of Rest and Relaxation.
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Mining the real-life seventeenth-century Batavia mutiny for page-turning drama and emotional insight, this scintillating historical novel from the author of Things in Jars interweaves the stories of a pair of troubled children born three centuries apart.
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Powered by playful originality and a cast of brilliantly drawn characters living in the same dilapidated apartment block in a post-industrial Mid-West town, Gunty's compulsively readable debut blends razor-sharp psychological insight with irresistible humour.
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Filled with power and raw beauty, Mottley’s searing debut follows seventeen-year-old Kiara who must navigate the darkest corners of the adult world to keep those she loves safe.
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An exuberant tribute to the 'vagabonds' who live their lives in the margins, Osunde's freewheeling takedown of Nigerian capitalism takes readers on a twilight tour of the spirits and misfits of Lagos.
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After providing near-real-time commentary on #MeToo, Brexit, the refugee crisis and a global pandemic in her dazzlingly original Seasonal Quartet, Ali Smith returns with a luminous novel that explores companionship in its innumerable manifestations, as the world continues to change rapidly.
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From the bestselling author of The Atlas Six comes a beautifully wrought romance about love, mental health and the damage we can inflict on others without meaning to, written with sensitivity and page-turning brio.
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The unforgettable protagonist of My Name is Lucy Barton and Oh William! finds herself reluctantly agreeing to spend lockdown with her ex-husband in a house by the sea in Strout’s masterful, pin-sharp yet comforting meditation on relationships, isolation and change.
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Tackling vital contemporary issues such as nationalism, censorship and the irrepressible power of literature, this beautifully wrought dystopian novel from the author of Little Fires Everywhere is essential reading for our times.
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The award-winning author of Home Fire delivers a characteristically insightful and compelling examination of identity, friendship and the contradictions of contemporary London as two Pakistani women confront the disturbing ghosts of their past.
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From the author of The Book of Two Ways comes a characteristically powerful and engaging story of parent-child relationships as the owner of a beekeeping business confronts the brutal murder of her child's lover.
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Reimagining Dickens' David Copperfield for the modern age, the bestselling author of The Poisonwood Bible spins an utterly immersive bildungsroman rich in characterisation and grand narrative set pieces.
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The author of the beloved and bestselling Queenie returns with another winning combination of laugh-out-loud humour and exquisite character-led drama, as Dimple Pennington prepares to get to know her motley assortment of half-siblings.
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An audacious tour de force that is both heartwrenchingly moving and darkly funny, Mortimer's accomplished debut centres on Lia and the shapeshifting malady that enters her body at the close of her life.
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From all-too-credible dystopian near-futures to profound character pieces brimming with compassion, the titan of the modern short story returns with a collection of wickedly funny, perceptive and subversive miniatures - his first for ten years.
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Imbued with the same beautifully evoked strangeness and yearning as her short story collection Salt Slow, Armfield's debut novel finds the relationship between two women transformed by a deep dive onto a mysterious underwater vessel.
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From the bestselling, Booker Prize-shortlisted author of Brick Lane comes a powerfully humane, hilarious and heartbreaking story of a young couple about to tie the knot as their families from two different cultures try to understand each other.

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Blistering satire from the pen of the award-winning author of May We Be Forgiven and This Book Will Save Your Life, The Unfolding finds the Big Guy reeling from political bombshells as his family implode around him.
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The long-awaited follow up to Keyes' bestselling Rachel's Holiday finds our titular heroine having hauled her life back on track, only to suffer a spectacular setback when an old flame arrives in her life once more.
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After taking TikTok by storm with her heartbreaking tale of lost loves and second chances, Colleen Hoover invites the readers back into the world of It Ends with Us in this unputdownable new story.
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From the author of The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo and Daisy Jones and the Six comes another irresistible slice of escapist drama as a legendary tennis player steps out of retirement in a determined bid to reclaim her grand slam winning record.
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From the author of Never Greener and Us Three comes a heartwarming and compassionate novel of mothers, daughters and final chances as nonagenarian Grace seeks to heal a decades long family rift.
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The broadcaster and acclaimed author of Home Stretch returns with another nuanced, funny and emotionally uplifting novel probing unlikely relationships and meddlesome gossip in small-town Ireland.
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One of the great contemporary comic writers, Knight reimagines The Pursuit of Love with this side-splitting account of eccentric families, modern manners and frothy romance wrapped up in the tale of an aspiring model looking for love.
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The author of the former Waterstones Book of the Year shortlisted Love in Colour delivers a deliciously witty romantic comedy, packed full of memorable characters and relatable humour.
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A new triumph from the bestselling author of The Switch and The Flatshare, this immensely witty tale of three women and one triple-timing man marries clever plotting with sweeping romance and countless surprises.
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The much-loved author of So Lucky and The Cows spins the effortlessly witty and feelgood tale of the eponymous feline fan and the unseen depths that lurk beyond her much mocked exterior.
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Foreseeing the death of each person she kisses, Lorelai is faced with difficult choices when she meets the man of her dreams in this unforgettable love story from the bestselling author of All That She Can See.
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Following a thirty-one-year-old South-Londoner with a mother and an army of aunties way too concerned about her matrimonial prospects, Lizzie Damilola Blackburn’s uplifting debut weaves a hilarious and irresistibly witty narrative about love, family and self-acceptance.
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A decade after the phenomenal bestseller The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, Joyce resurrects the novel's beloved characters for another heartwarming journey of self-discovery, this time following Harold's socially awkward wife.

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From the author of the award-shortlisted The Death of Vivek Oji comes another novel rich in psychological insight and exquisitely crafted prose as Feyi prepares to open her heart to a wholly inadvisable suitor.
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The sequel to Greer's riotous, award-winning comic novel Less finds our hapless hero embark on a hilarious literary tour of the United States in the company of an ever-changing cast of colourful characters, a black pug called Dolly and a rusty camper van.
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Tackling themes of ethics, science and haunting family legacies, McCarthy's tour de force - the first of a hugely exciting literary duet - finds Bobby Western attempting to outrun shadowy organisations and the ghost of his atom bomb-inventing father in pursuit of the truth about a sunken jet and its missing passenger.
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Told through the transcripts of its central protagonist's psychiatric sessions, Stella Maris - the companion volume to The Passenger - is another bravura work from the author of Blood Meridian and No Country for Old Men, as Cormac McCarthy deftly unpicks Alicia's mental hinterland and her complex, enigmatic relationship with her brother Bobby in exquisitely-crafted prose.
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Smart, funny, joyous and powerful, Garmus' 60s set debut featuring an unconventional female scientist with a quiet game-plan to change the world has won the hearts and minds of our booksellers and is undoubtedly one of 2022's most gloriously enjoyable debuts.
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An epic tour de force that takes in the key political events of the postwar world, Lessons finds the masterful McEwan addressing the interconnectedness of personal motivation and the merciless onrush of the tide of history.
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Evoking the bohemian atmosphere of Jazz Age London and peppered with unforgettable larger-than-life characters, Shrines of Gaiety finds the award-winning author of Life After Life on peerless form as she recounts the spectacular story of Nellie Croker, queen of the capital's nightlife.
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From the author of the Booker-winning modern classic Shuggie Bain comes another emotionally powerful and compassionate portrayal of sexuality and community set in urban Glasgow, as two young men on either side of a sectarian divide start to develop feelings for each other.
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Mordantly funny and utterly unique, Karunatilaka’s maverick novel dissects the painful truths of a brutal and dark chapter in Sri Lanka’s recent history through the titular protagonist’s afterlife quest to find out who murdered him.
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From the author of the beloved The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry comes a heartwarming tale of human connection, creativity and collaboration as two children who meet in a hospital go on to pursue their dreams and identities through the production of video games.
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The Pulitzer Prize-winning, Booker Prize-shortlisted author of Redhead by the Side of the Road returns with a luminous new novel that paints a joyous and painfully truthful portrait of family life.
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Charting the story of three generations of women from a family in Memphis, Stringfellow‘s assured and evocative debut delivers an epic yet intimate history of black womanhood that is perfect for fans of The Vanishing Half and An American Marriage.
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A blistering account of encroaching violence and fractured loyalties in 1970's Belfast, Trespasses follows schoolteacher Cushla as she attempts to stay true to herself as her community crumbles around her.
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A ravishing coming-of-age story set in the shadow of an oncoming war, The Whalebone Theatre fizzes with invention and compassion as an 'unmarriageable' girl elects to defy convention and find her own path through life.
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Charting the story of a remarkable teacher through the recollections of a former student, this stunning novel from the Man Booker Prize-winning author of The Sense of an Ending is both a breathtaking testament to the power of human connection and a deeply-felt love letter to philosophy.
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Seventy-five years of postwar British history deftly interrogated through the fortunes of one Birmingham family in this wonderfully witty and insightful novel from the author of The Rotters' Club and Middle England.
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The adult sequel to Boyne's seminal YA novel of the holocaust The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, All the Broken Places finds an elderly woman reliving the horrors of her wartime childhood after an unexpected arrival in the block of London flats in which she now lives.
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Nineteen-year-old William’s decision to volunteer at the tragic scene of the 1966 Aberfan landslide transforms his life forever in this moving story about sacrifice and compassion.
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Sensual and resonant, Free Love's beautifully wrought tale of a suffocatingly conventional family's awakening during the Swinging Sixties confirms Hadley as one of our finest contemporary novelists.

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A monumental family saga from the revered author of The World According to Garp and The Cider House Rules, Irving's opus confronts ghosts both real and imagined as a ski instructor returns to Aspen seeking answers about his past.
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An encounter with an anarchic young artist changes the life of a revered Cambridge art historian – intellectually powerful but inexperienced in life and love – in this alluring and profoundly moving bildungsroman set against the backdrop of 1990s London.
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Telling the story of the most pivotal events of the last hundred years through the extraordinary life of one woman, Allende's sweeping epic of human resilience and social history ranks amongst her very finest works.
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A gleefully addictive postmodern puzzle from the author of In the Distance, Diaz's dazzling novel plays off competing versions of the truth about a fabulously wealthy 1920s couple to spectacular effect.
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James Watkins

Can we have a separate list of books by male authors for male readers. View more

James Watkins
20th November 2022
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Lydie L

Who doesn't love a little bit of provocation? Well done James.

Lydie L
20th December 2022
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