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Books We Love: Fiction recommendations from 2022

DANIEL ESTRIN, HOST:

There were a lot of great new books this year, too many to keep track of. But guess what? Our contributors and staff have got you covered. NPR's Books We Love has more than 400 reading recommendations for you. Right now, here are just a few.

JASON DEROSE, BYLINE: Hello. I'm Jason DeRose, the Western bureau chief for NPR News. I'm recommending the novel "Less Is Lost" by Andrew Sean Greer. It's the follow up to the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel "Less" from a few years ago. Arthur Less's losses are legion - his former lover, his current partner, his house, his self-confidence. So he takes to the road in a rented van with a borrowed pug to make some money and figure out if he still loves who and what he thinks he loves. Less is accused of being a bad gay for not taking up every single cutting-edge queer issue in his writing. And he wonders if he really might be guilty as charged. There's a passage about Less joining a gym that turned out to be a sex dungeon that is so funny, it had me laughing out loud. Less is a hapless Walloon, a possibly European man of letters and privilege who stumbles through mounting humiliations out of impending tragedies and into surprising success, yet his inability to recognize his luck as luck is why we love Less more and more.

DEBBIE ELLIOTT, BYLINE: Hi. It's NPR national correspondent Debbie Elliott. The novel I could not put down this year was "The Confessions Of Matthew Strong" by Ousmane K. Power-Greene. This novel is a terrifying page-turner. The protagonist is a philosophy professor, Allie Douglass. She's kidnapped by a white supremacist while she's back home in Alabama for her grandmother's funeral. And she discovers that this man has been abducting Black girls and women as part of some delusional plot to turn society back to the Antebellum South. And he has the help of local law enforcement officers and some powerful state politicians. The racial violence in the story is raw and unsettling. But Power-Greene, I think, is trying to scare us into taking radical ideology seriously.

ANDREW LIMBONG, BYLINE: I'm Andrew Limbong, host of NPR's Book Of The Day podcast and culture reporter at NPR. This year, I love Jonathan Escoffery's "If I Survive You." It's a short story collection that follows one Jamaican American family in Miami that endures a decent amount of tragedy and loss. You know, they really go through it. And the story is mostly told through the eyes of Trelwany. He's a young guy that's kind of a screw up, but he's really trying to make it in America. And while the book touches on the big heady topics like class and race and American imperialism, it's all focused on these characters who are so richly developed, you can't help but feel it when they make bad decisions.

LAUREN MIGAKI, BYLINE: Hi. I'm Lauren Migaki, senior producer here at NPR. And I am recommending the book "Thank You For Listening" by Julia Whelan. Full disclosure - if Julia Whelan read the dictionary aloud, I'd listen. The audiobook narrator is such a frequent companion on my walks, I sometimes forget I don't actually know her. Whelan takes on the role of author for this romance about - what else? - two audiobook narrators who fall in love. Meet Swanee Chester, whose acting career was cut short by a tragic accident. When she gets a lucrative offer to narrator romance novel alongside the sultry-voiced Brock McKnight, things heat up on and off mic. But if the real-life romance is going to work, Swanee has to decide whether to cling to her old dreams or make room for new ones. It probably goes without saying, but listen to the audiobook version of this one if you can.

ESTRIN: You heard about four books released this year - "Thank You For Listening," "If I Survive You," "The Confessions Of Matthew Strong" and "Less Is Lost." For even more reading suggestions, check out our Books We Love list at npr.org/bestbooks. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Jason DeRose is the Western Bureau Chief for NPR News, based at NPR West in Culver City. He edits news coverage from Member station reporters and freelancers in California, Washington, Oregon, Nevada, Alaska and Hawaii. DeRose also edits coverage of religion and LGBTQ issues for the National Desk.
NPR National Correspondent Debbie Elliott can be heard telling stories from her native South. She covers the latest news and politics, and is attuned to the region's rich culture and history.
Andrew Limbong is a reporter for NPR's Arts Desk, where he does pieces on anything remotely related to arts or culture, from streamers looking for mental health on Twitch to Britney Spears' fight over her conservatorship. He's also covered the near collapse of the live music industry during the coronavirus pandemic. He's the host of NPR's Book of the Day podcast and a frequent host on Life Kit.
Lauren Migaki is a senior producer with NPR's education desk. She helps tell stories about teacher strikes, college access and a new high school for young men in Washington D.C. She also produces and hosts NPR's podcast about the Student Podcast Challenge.