Skip to content
Book Club

Book Club Recommends: 10 Favorite Titles from 2022-ish

A transatlantic exploration of gay bars, a book-length poem about touring, and a Y2K-heavy conspiracy-thriller topped my year-end list

Book Club is a monthly series from Speedy Ortiz’s Sadie Dupuis, exploring the literature that inspires some of our favorite musicians. Whether it’s a music biography that got them through the slog of touring, the poetry collection that eked into their most poignant lyrics, or the novel that sparked a rock opera, we’ll get to the bottom of it so you can add it to the top of your book stack. This month, we take a break from interviews and peek into our host’s year-end list of books. 

As the columnist behind SPIN’s Book Club, I’ve been compiling literary recommendations all year from beloved and well-read musicians. Damian Abraham gave his favorite zine anthologies, Santigold named some environmentally informed selections, Perfume Genius unveiled a covetable art book collection, and Open Mike Eagle revealed his most formative comics. Go catch up with them all here

But this month’s Book Club highlights my own recommendations for best of 2022, whittled down to ten selections from the 108 I finished this year. (Some context, perhaps unneeded: in 2016, I set a pointless annual goal to read one hundred books each year, an arbitrary total that was easy to hit when I sat in the back of a tour van most hours of the day. Now that I’m less on the road, I kept up with this self-assigned chore by reading for an hour each morning, and flipping through a couple pages before I go to bed at a proudly non-punk bedtime. Somehow it keeps adding up to triple digits. Also, my Letterboxd is barren.) For the ten favorites listed here, I’m excluding some of the really great books SPIN already featured in our Can’t-Put-Down Music Memoirs and Fail-Safe Gifts for the Music Fan Who Has Everything lists. I’m also omitting titles written by people I know personally, so none of them will kill me, and so you can’t/won’t call them nepo-books.

Multidisciplinary writers published most of my favorite titles this year: a couple poets debuted perfectly twisted first novels, a few art critics elegantly broached memoir, and a Chilean screenwriter crafts some of this decade’s most affecting prose, straddling documentary and fiction. More than any genre, I gravitated hard towards books that reminded me of the magic gifts of art and connection. As the live music industry continues to warm back up—or at least, as I very slowly warm back up to it, non-punk-bedtime notwithstanding—it’s been wonderful to escape into all of the nights out I’ve sorely missed.


Gay Bar: Why We Went Out (Back Bay Books)

By Jeremy Atherton Lin

In Gay Bar, Jeremy Atherton Lin charts the shifting fashions and stories of the clubs that helped him carve out his own gay identity in the ‘80s—and ultimately contends with his own need for queer nightlife today. Flitting between Los Angeles, San Francisco, and London in a time-jumping collage of places and people, Atherton Lin melds academic insight and criticism with orgiastic erotica, employing a playful sense of pop storytelling even when he’s scrutinously philosophical. He’s as careful at zooming in on the styles and politics of a city’s subculture as he is at narrating artfully raunchy exhibitionism, making for an illuminating memoir that’s as vibrant, urgent, and candid as the gay bars and patrons Atherton Lin recalls.


Darryl (Clash Books)

By Jackie Ess

Uniquely comic, the glossy lens of poet and author Jackie Ess captures the absurd with unabashed empathy. Darryl, her debut novel, is diaristically narrated by its titular protagonist, a proud Oregonian, wife guy, and cuckold (not necessarily in that order). Using the modest inheritance he lives off of to navigate tentacular Eugene subcultures, Darryl meanders through self-involved philosophizing about gender, love, drugs, queerness, kink, morality, psychology, and basketball, once in a while tripping into an astute truth. No contest, Darryl’s the funniest book I read this year, but the satire overflows with tenderness—even when Ess leans hard into the voice-driven caricatures she’s so adept at plotting.


The Twilight Zone (Graywolf Press)

By Nona Fernández

Chilean author Nona Fernández grew up alongside the violence of the Pinochet dictatorship, and the historical trauma and gaps in communal understanding left by that regime centrifugally guide her radical approach to fiction. Narrated by a television documentarian who’s spent a lifetime obsessed with taped testimony from the now-disappeared “man who tortured people,” The Twilight Zone uses an auto-fictional framing to purge collective memories of evil, and make sense of survivors’ need for remorse. Fernández—also an actor, and a soap opera script writer—incorporates poetry and reportage into her prose, intercutting journalistic passages with fragmented samples from the TV show from which her novel borrows its name. By transporting her readers into other dimensions, Fernández shrewdly helps us to imagine the unimaginable: magnitudinous pain that still needs reckoning. 


Be Here to Love Me at the End of the World (Melville House)

By Sasha Fletcher

Sasha Fletcher’s fiction unveils the implausible with style: a videogame populated by biblically accurate angels, rooms that are filled floor-to-ceiling with dogs, omnipresent secret police. But Be Here to Love Me at the End of the World is really a love story, following the lives of Sam and Eleanor as they entwine their dreams, debts, and days. Sam, a Brooklyn permalancer confined to unpaid invoice purgatory, cooks elaborate meals for Eleanor, the recipes for which Fletcher joyfully recounts. These moments of sweetness and devotion are counterweighted by historical anecdotes on labor and unions, fear of an impending doomsday and ludicrous government warmongering. These hairpin-turn plot leaps are navigated by Fletcher’s exploratory, ever buoyant riffing. Be Here to Love Me at the End of the World is a strange read, but so is the hellscape of contemporary America, and Fletcher pays a pitch-perfect tonal homage to the uncanny setting of this unconventional romance.


Good night the pleasure was ours (Duke University Press)

By David Grubbs

This is the third in a series of book-length poems exploring different facets of David Grubbs’s diverse career in music; since the ‘80s, he’s played with dozens of venerated acts including Squirrel Bait, Bastro, Gastr del Soul, and he now teaches sound art and experimental music. Good night the pleasure was ours reconfigures three decades of touring history into a kaleidoscope of blistering sound, communal warmth, and roadside ephemera. Published at the start of 2022, this road diary-of-sorts manages to capture the disorienting, ecstatic, fragmented, and surreal headspace of venue-to-venue living—an especially enrapturing read when so many musicians and showgoers (myself included) have yet to return to pre-pandemic levels of getting-to-the-gig. With dizzying impressionism, Good night the pleasure was ours is an enthralling portrayal of the delicate balance between performer, audience, and sound. 


Brown Neon (Coffee House) 

By Raquel Gutiérrez

In shapeshifting ekphrastic essays about collisions of fascism with aesthetics, Raquel Gutiérrez maps their own queer Latinx identity with intergenerational historicity, equal parts punk and poetic. A versatile political thinker whose twin backgrounds in arts criticism and zinesterism inform this blazing collection of prose, Gutiérrez shines bright light on the brutal injustice of borders, and elucidates the uncanny violence inherent to desert land art. Along the way, she considers her own Angeleno legacy, and the queer elders, activists, and partners who’ve colored her outlook. Brown Neon is dazzling, and as wide-reaching as the Southwest terrain that inspired Gutiérrez’s reflections. 


The Unwritten Book: An Investigation (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

By Samantha Hunt

Samantha Hunt’s eerie novels Mr. Splitfoot and The Dark Dark solidified her reputation as a contemporary master of thoughtful, postmodern creepiness. The Unwritten Book, her first longform work of nonfiction, grapples with ghosts of a less gothic sort—the uninvited stories that obsess us, the spooky connections that tie disparate imaginations, and the confounding isolation that accompanies motherhood. Buried in between Hunt’s vivid explorations are annotated passages of a partially completed manuscript she discovered in her father’s desk shortly after his death. Grappling with his unfinished business and the soaring intrigue of his plot, Hunt gains a more encompassing understanding of her family, herself, and the haunting literary tradition to which she and her stories belong. 


Magnolia, 木蘭 (Tin House)

By Nina Mingya Powles

In Magnolia, 木蘭, Nina Mingya Powles’s poems are evocative and considered, showcasing her graceful control of sensory nostalgia to explore identity and memory. Powles, who was raised in New Zealand by a Malaysian-Chinese mother and a white father, uses a variety of forms to chronicle her perspectives on heritage as a mixed-race woman: prose poems, longer ones split into fragments, interactive questionnaires. At times she turns to pop culture to expound upon her floating feelings of liminality: Mulan, Danez Smith, and cup noodles all serve as trampolines for her wistful leaps, which land on specks of detail with precision. Magnolia, 木蘭 is made even more visually intricate thanks to Powles’ keen eye for color, with lavishly textured scenery backdropping a collection of complex abundance. 


Who’s Your Daddy (Augury Books)

By Arisa White

In her work as a curator, collaborator, and writer, Oakland-based poet Arisa White prioritizes narratives that center queer people of color. In Who’s Your Daddy, the Cave Canem fellow’s first full-length book of nonfiction poetry, a quest to reunite with her biological father frames White’s lyrical coming of age. White uses her personal archives, generative mythology, and melodic logic to reflect on absentee figures as she negotiates a relationship with estranged family—and her relationship with herself as a queer, Black, Guyanese American woman. These piercing, memoir-driven lines are warped like rediscovered photographs: oddly gorgeous and altogether captivating.


Monarch (Soft Skull Press) 

By Candice Wuehle

Let me try to succinctly describe the zany clockwork mechanisms comprising Monarch’s dazzling plot: mother-daughter beauty pageants are revealed as sleeper-agent CIA training, ensnaring our narrator Jessica Clink in a conspiratorial web of government goons and obscure academicians (her father’s a doctor in the Pynchonesque field of Boredom Studies, to start). Jessica’s desperately dusting her suppressed memories to solve a murder that flashes back to her in photo fragments; meanwhile, millennial breadcrumbs guide our hero’s recollections of an eccentric childhood, with ubiquitous early internetisms and true crime cases planting us starkly in Y2K territory, even as the plot goes deliciously off the rails and into something more fantastical. Though this is her first novel, Iowan author Candice Wuehle’s published three collections of poetry before, and her writing explicitly focuses on, in her words, “the relationship between trauma, memory, and the occult.” It’s no wonder she’s able to polish this multifaceted tale into a glimmering jewel concerning those three subjects. It’s cut with witty focus, and sparkling with emotional payoff.


Sadie’s Entire 2022 Reading List


  1. The Letters of Mina Harker by Dodie Bellamy (semiotext(e))
  2. The Déjà Vu by Gabrielle Civil (Coffee House Press)
  3. The Twilight Zone by Nona Fernández (Graywolf Press)
  4. The Impudent Ones by Marguerite Duras (The New Press)
  5. Beating Heart Baby by Lio Min (Flatiron Books)
  6. Nina Simone’s Gum by Warren Ellis (Faber & Faber)
  7. People From My Neighborhood by Hiromi Kawakami (Soft Skull Press)
  8. The Tyranny of Algorithms by Miguel Benasayag (Europa Compass)
  9. Index Cards by Moyra Davey (New Directions)
  10. The Neon Hollywood Cowboy by Matt Mitchell (Big Lucks)
  11. No One is Talking About This by Patricia Lockwood (Riverhead Books)
  12. Unfollow Me by Jill Louise Busby (Bloomsbury Publishing)
  13. Ayoade on Top by Richard Ayoade (Faber & Faber)
  14. Indecency by Justin Phillip Reed (Coffee House Press)
  15. And Then the Grey Heaven by RE Katz (Dzanc Books)
  16. Colleen by Colleen Louise Barry (After Hours Editions)
  17. Prosopagnosia by Sònia Hernández (Scribe)
  18. The Freezer Door by Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore (semiotext(e))
  19. Runaway by Erin Keane (Belt Publishing)
  20. That Ex by Rachelle Toarmino (Big Lucks)
  21. The Membranes by Ta-Wei Chi (Columbia University Press)
  22. Having and Being Had by Eula Biss (Riverhead Books)
  23. Reel Bay by Jana Larson (Coffee House)
  24. Voices in the Evening by Natalia Ginzburg (New Directions)
  25. Be Here to Love Me at the End of the World by Sasha Fletcher (Melville House)
  26. Arena by Lauren Shapiro (CSU Poetry Center )
  27. I Love You but I’ve Chosen Darkness by Claire Vaye Watkins (Riverhead Books)
  28. Mutiny by Phillip B. Williams (Penguin)
  29. Work Won’t Love You Back by Sarah Jaffe (Bold Type Books)
  30. Pure Colour by Sheila Heti (Macmillan)
  31. In Memory of Memory by Maria Stepanova (New Directions)
  32. Time is a Mother by Ocean Vuong (Penguin Press)
  33. I Am Going to Steal the Declaration of Independence / My Heart is a Public Park by Orchid Cugini and Andy Powell (Big Lucks)
  34. Sixteen Rabbits by Maryan Nagy Captan (Host Publications)
  35. Eleanor, or the Rejection of the Progress of Love by Anna Moschovakis (Coffee House)
  36. Secret Identity by Alex Segura (Flatiron Books)
  37. Atlas of AI by Kate Crawford (Yale University Press)
  38. Fake Accounts by Lauren Oyler (Catapult Books)
  39. Devil House by John Darnielle (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)
  40. Hurricane Season by Fernanda Melchor (New Directions)
  41. Monarch by Candice Wuehle (Soft Skull Press)
  42. Who’s Your Daddy by Arisa White (Augury Books)
  43. Exposition by Nathalie Léger (Dorothy Project)
  44. We Want It All: An Anthology of Radical Trans Poetics by Andrea Abi-Karam & Kay Gabriel (Nightboat)
  45. 808s & Otherworlds by Sean Avery Medlin (Two Dollar Radio)
  46. The Voice in the Headphones by David Grubbs (Duke University Press)
  47. Good night the pleasure was ours by David Grubbs (Duke University Press)
  48. Radical Reproductive Justice by Loretta J. Ross, Lynn Roberts, Erika Derkas, Whitney Peoples and Pamela Bridgewater Toure (Feminist Press)
  49. Dog Flowers by Danielle Geller (One World)
  50. Written After a Massacre in the Year 2018 by Daniel Borzutzky (Coffee House Press)
  51. Black Country Music by Francesca Royster (University of Texas Press)
  52. Rooms: Women, Writing, Woolf by Sina Queyras (Coach House Books)
  53. Rip-Off Red, Girl Detective and The Burning Bombing of America by Kathy Acker (Grove Press)
  54. Cold Enough for Snow by Jessica Au (New Directions)
  55. Suite for Barbara Loden by Nathalie Léger (Dorothy Project)
  56. Now that the audience is assembled by David Grubbs (Duke University Press)
  57. Darryl by Jackie Ess (Clash)
  58. Brown Neon by Raquel Gutiérrez (Coffee House Press)
  59. After Kathy Acker by Chris Kraus (Semiotext(e))
  60. Weather by Jenny Offill (Knopf)
  61. Tacky by Rax King (Vintage)
  62. Orwell’s Roses by Rebecca Solnit (Viking)
  63. Nothing but the Music by Thulani Davis (Blank Forms Editions)
  64. Phone Bells Keep Ringing for Me by Choi Seungja (Action Books)
  65. Dear Memory by Victoria Chang (Milkweed Editions)
  66. I’ve Had to Think Up a Way to Survive by Lynn Melnick (University of Texas Press)
  67. Dark Traffic by Joan Naviyuk Kane (University of Pittsburgh Press)
  68. When the Sick Rule the World by Dodie Bellamy (Semiotext(e))
  69. Quotient by Felicia Zamora (Tinderbox Editions)
  70. The Color Pynk by Omise’eke Natasha Tinsley (University of Texas)
  71. The Unwritten Book by Samantha Hunt (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
  72. The Twenty-Ninth Year by Hala Alyan (Mariner)
  73. My Darling From the Lions by Rachel Long (Tin House)
  74. Algorithms of Oppression by Safiya Umoja Noble (NYU Press)
  75. Cult Classic by Sloan Crosley (MCD / Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
  76. Nevada by Imogen Binnie (MCD / Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
  77. Philosophers Know Nothing About Love by Alison Lubar (Thirty West)
  78. Tender Is the Flesh by Agustina Bazterrica (Scribner)
  79. Maybe We’ll Make It by Margo Price (University of Texas Press)
  80. Life in the Folds by Henri Michaux (Wakefield Press)
  81. Disability Visibility by Alice Wong (Vintage)
  82. Content Warning: Everything by Akwaeke Emezi (Copper Canyon Press)
  83. Mezzanine by Zoë Hitzig (Ecco)
  84. Birds of Maine by Michael DeForge (Drawn and Quarterly)
  85. Normal Distance by Elisa Gabbert (Soft Skull)
  86. Witch Wife by Kiki Petrosino (Sarabande Books)
  87. Black Under by Ashanti Anderson (Black Lawrence Press)
  88. There Are Trans People Here by H. Melt (Haymarket)
  89. It’s Not Nothing by Courtney Denelle (SFWP)
  90. Getting Lost by Annie Ernaux (Seven Stories Press)
  91. Except for Palestine by Marc Lamont and Mitchell Plitnick Hill (The New Press)
  92. Gay Bar by Jeremy Atherton Lin (Back Bay Books)
  93. Against Borders by Gracie Mae & Luke De Noronha Bradley (Verso)
  94. Magnolia by Nina Mingya Powles (Tin House)
  95. Hole Studies by Hilary Plum (Fonograf)
  96. Also a Poet by Ada Calhoun (Grove Press)
  97. Pacifique by Sarah L. Taggart (Coach House Books)
  98. New Animal by Ella Baxter (Two Dollar Radio)
  99. Art on My Mind by bell hooks (The New Press)
  100. Notes on Shapeshifting by Gabi Abrão (Not A Cult)
  101. Happening by Annie Ernaux (Seven Stories)
  102. The Lying Life of Adults by Elena Ferrante (Europa Editions)
  103. Fire Season by Gary Indiana (Seven Stories)
  104. The Plot by Jean Hanff Korelitz (Celadon Books)
  105. Saving Our Own Lives: A Liberatory Practice of Harm Reduction by Shira Hassan (Haymarket Books)
  106. Midwinter Day by Bernadette Mayer (New Directions)
  107. Unpayable Debt by Denise Ferreira da Silva (Sternberg Press)
  108. [To] the Last [Be] Human by Jorie Graham (Copper Canyon Press)

All products featured on SPIN are independently selected by our editors and writers. When you buy something through our retail links, we may earn an affiliate commission.