Celeste’s 5 Star Reads of 2022 (January 1st – June 30th)

Celeste’s 5 Star Reads of 2022 (January 1st – June 30th)

I read 78 books in the first half of 2022. (Which is, I admit, excessive.) Of those, 23 of them have been 5 star reads. (Which is also excessive.) This is in part due to the fact that I’m ridiculously easy to please, but it’s also because I have found some truly phenomenal books (and even new-to-me authors) this year. I wanted to share these with you, in the order that I read them.

A few stipulations that I’ve put on this list first:

  • Only one book per author.
  • Rereads don’t count.
  • Books can have been published in any year; they just have to be new to me.

And so, without further ado, let’s dive into the books that have entranced me in 2022!

Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik
First published July 10, 2018 by Del Rey

I found Spinning Silver incredibly atmospheric and well-paced, thought-provoking and empowering and populated by fascinating characters and magic. I have not one single criticism to offer.

A Narrow Door by Joanne Harris
First published August 4, 2021 by Orion

A Narrow Door is a wonderful blending of a smart plot, impeccable writing, sympathetic characters, and a mystery that will keep you guessing. If you’re a fan of crime fiction, or dark academia, or novels with a strong voice that never grates on your nerves, you should give this one a go. Especially on audio.

A Court of Silver Flames by Sarah J. Maas
First published February 16, 2021 by Bloomsbury Publishing

A Court of Silver Flames was empowering, thought-provoking, and potentially even healing for someone who has yet to deal with some past trauma in their own life. And, beyond all that, it was just a gripping, really strong story that kept me enthralled from start to finish.

The Song of Achilles
by Madeline Miller

First published September 20, 2011 by Bloomsbury Publishing

Exquisite. That is the first word that comes to mind as I consider The Song of Achilles. It is a powerful, achingly beautiful retelling of one of our oldest stories. Miller’s take on this classic myth is lyrical, truly a song. Miller is one of the finest wordsmiths of our age, and I truly believe that both The Song of Achilles and Circe will be remembered and revered as classics throughout the annals of time.

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles
First published September 6, 2016 by Viking

A Gentleman in Moscow is a beautiful, moving, utterly charming story, with characters who won my heart completely and prose that I wanted to sink into and live inside forever.  The writing elicited a similar response in me as evoked by The Shadow of the Wind when I first read it: pure delight at the charm. For a novel so strongly based in a specific time and place, there’s a timeless element to the story that, when combined with Towles’s stellar prose and charming characters, gives it incredible staying power.

Fierce Fairytales: Poems and Stories to Stir Your Soul by Nikita Gill
First published September 11, 2018 by Hachette Books

Fierce Fairytales is the best poetry collection I’ve ever read. It has remarkable staying power, as well; I’ve thought of it incredibly often since reading it in February. There’s a truly unique balance of ferocity and innocence, soft sympathy and aggressive resolve in each of these poems and short stories. I found it thought-provoking and encouraging to the point of inspirational.

The People We Keep by Allison Larkin
First published August 3, 2021 by Gallery Books

The People We Keep is a heartbreakingly beautiful story that perfectly balances sorrow and joy. With a diverse cast of larger-than-life characters and a protagonist that I not only rooted for but wished I could pluck from the pages and adopt, this book filled my heart to the bursting point and gave me an even greater appreciation for all of the wonderful people in my own life. If I were asked to choose one book to serve as a perfect example of the found family trope, this would be the one I chose.

Razorblade Tears by S.A. Cosby
First published July 6, 2021 by Flatiron Books

Razorblade Tears broke my heart and kept me on the edge of my seat in equal measures. It’s a superb piece of crime fiction with powerful messages about racism, sexuality, and accepting your loved ones for who they are, no matter how different they might be, before you run out of chances.

Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend
First published October 31, 2017

Absolutely delightful. Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow is chockfull of magic, whimsy and, above all, joy. This is the kind of series I would have adored with every fiber of my being when I was in middle school. And I loved it almost as much as an adult.

The Winter of the Witch by Katherine Arden
First published January 8, 2019 by Del Rey

The Winter of the Witch is the kind of finale that retroactively improves the books that came before it, as you see all the ways those novels paved the way for this one. The trilogy might have started off a bit slow for me, but man, did it ever deliver in the end.

Castle in the Air by Diana Wynne Jones
First published 1990 by Methuen Publishing

Because I loved Howl’s Moving Castle so much, part of me wanted to treat it as a standalone. I’m so glad I didn’t, because Castle in the Air was just as magical and joyful as it predecessor. Wynne Jones did a brilliant job of capturing the feel of the Arabian Nights tales, taking bits and pieces of those stories, but still coming up with a wholly original tale of her own. One of the most unique elements of the book were the verbose, flamboyant appellations and honorifics, which never failed to make me laugh.

The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry
First published May 27, 2016 by Serpent’s Tail

The Essex Serpent is literary fiction of the highest order. What I mean is that the writing is not only beautiful, but is also beautifully wielded to paint a masterpiece of a story, which would never have worked without prose of this caliber. What could have been boring or plodding instead ended up being enchanting and transporting and purposefully meandering.

Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri
First published April 20, 1999 by Mariner Books

Interpreter of Maladies is a quiet collection, incredibly thoughtful without spelling anything out for the reader. Any conclusions we come to, any deep and philosophical concepts we pick up on, are ours; Lahiri merely facilitated without throwing out any of her own opinions. I love when an author can strike that balance, of provoking deep thought without planting it themselves. This was Lahiri’s debut, and it won her a Pulitzer. She earned it. 

Book Lovers
by Emily Henry

First published May 3, 2022 by Berkley

Book Lovers might have been a story I was afraid would let me down, but it taught me to trust that I’m in good hands when I pick up anything Henry writes. This was a beautiful book about family and finding yourself and opening yourself up to love along the way, and everything about it made my heart happy. It was a hug in book form.

Goodnight Beautiful by Aimee Molloy
First published October 13, 2020 by Harper

Goodnight Beautiful is a thriller unlike anything else I’ve ever read in the genre. It was incredibly clever, the characters were fascinating, the banter was always witty, and there were multiple twists that I didn’t see coming. It’s a short book that truly packs a punch.

The Dark Tower by Stephen King
First published September 21, 2004 by Scribner

My reading highlight of the year. After reading the final pages of The Dark Tower I can safely say that this is my favorite completed series of all time. I’ve never read anything else like it. My climb to the Tower has been a pretty incredible journey, and is certainly one that I’ll never forget. There are characters I grew to love along the way who I truly believe will always stay with me. This last installment in the series ran me through the gamut of emotions. I was amused, frightened, moved, enraged and devastated. I know the ending is highly controversial, and that many people despise it, but as I neared the final line I broke out in chills so strong they were painful. Was it a perfect ending? Of course not. But I do strongly believe that it was the right one.

And there you have it! If the back half of 2022 is anything like the first half, this this shaping up to be my best reading year since I first started reviewing books in 2016. What are some of your favorites of the year so far? Thanks for sticking around, and I hope you find a plethora of new favorite reads through the rest of 2022!

You can find full reviews for all of these on my Goodreads!

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