Happy’s 50 Best Books of 2022
Curated by the fine folk at Happy Mag, these are the best books that this year had to offer from Australia and around the world!
Curated by the fine folk at Happy Mag, these are the best books that this year had to offer from Australia and around the world!
For fans of cult classics, the long-awaited first work of non-fiction from the author of the #1 New York Times bestselling ‘Once Upon a Time in Hollywood’, his latest offering ‘Cinema Speculation’ (Hachette) is a deliriously entertaining, wickedly intelligent cinema book as unique and creative as anything by Quentin Tarantino.
‘The Philosophy of the Modern Song’ (Simon & Schuster) is the singer-songwriter’s personal love letter to music. Paying homage to the great musicians of the last 70 years, from Hank Williams, Little Richard, Allen Toussaint, Roy Orbison, and The Clash Dylan doesn’t hold back. Whether go hard copy, digital or audible, any Bob Dylan fan will cherish this. The audible version features chapters read by Helen Mirren, Jeff Bridges, Renée Zellweger, Rita Moreno and Sissy Spacek.
Jane Harper – Exiles
Exiles is Jane’s 5th novel and the 3rd featuring the now legendary detective Aaron Falk. The story unfolds at a busy festival site on a warm spring night, where a baby lies alone in her pram, and her mother vanishes into the crowds. A year on, Kim Gillespie’s disappearance can still be felt, as her friends and loved ones gather to welcome a new addition to the family. Joining the celebrations is Federal Investigator Aaron Falk. But as he soaks up life in the heart of the wine country, he begins to see that this tight-knit group may be more fractured than it seems.
Sloane Crosley – Cult Classic
Lola takes a journey through love via what appears to be chance encounters with lovers from her past. Its not always easy to find closure on relationships that didn’t work out for what may seem like a myriad of reasons, but Lola has been given the rare opportunity to do just that. Little does she know, that her best friend and her former boss – a magazine editor turned mystical guru – have been controlling these happenstance meetings, that force Lola to decide if she will surrender herself to the conspirings of what appears to be a very contemporary cult.
Lisa Taddeo – Ghost Lover
A stunning collection of shorts from one of America’s finest talents. From the CEO who surrounds herself with an army of cool and beautiful girls who manage the dating service Ghost Lover to a star-studded political fundraiser in a LA mansion, where a trio of women vie to win the heart of the guest of honour, Taddeo shines a bright light on fever, obsession, the blindness of love, and grief.
Rickie Lee Jones – Last Chance Texaco: Chronicles of an American Troubadour
Rickie Lee Jones shot to fame after an appearance on SNL in 1979, singing Chuck E’s in Love, and not long after was pronounced “Duchess of Coolsville” by TIME magazine. Last Chance Texaco is an open and candid account of the life of one of rock and rolls hardest-working women. Rickie Lee Jones shares her exceptional life, with tales of her nomadic childhood, her father’s abandonment, and her years as a teenage runaway, all the way to her beginnings at LA’s Troubadour club; and her relationship with Tom Waits.
Celeste Mountjoy – What the Fuck Is This
The perennially cool and talented Celeste Mountjoy, best known for her insta moniker ‘Filthyratbag’, has spent the last year working on a new book What the fuck is this (Pan Macmillan). What the fuck is this is a stunning and original collection of illustrations and observations on what it’s like to be young and female, and exploring all of the emotions of what it means to feel your way through being a twenty-something. Mountjoy is not afraid to share, and we love her for it.
Leila Mottley – Nightcrawling
Kiara and her brother are barely making ends meet in A dingy complex in East Oakland. Both have dreams, but both have had to drop out of high school to find jobs to survive. One night, one conversation changes everything. Kiara’s life gets turned upside down as her new job ‘nightcrawling’ leads her to be a key witness that involves a scandal within the Oakland PD. Mottley’s stunning debut novel shines a visceral light on the issues that have been left too long in the dark.
Hayley Scrivenor – Dirt Town
On a hot Friday afternoon in Durton, best friends Ronnie and Esther leave school together, only Esther never makes it home. Ronnie has a plan, and she is going to find her. Her friend can’t be gone, she refuses to believe it. Detective Sergeant Sarah Michaels can believe it, she has seen what people can do. She knows more than anyone how, in a moment of weakness, a person can be driven to do something they never thought possible. Original in its undertaking, Dirt town delivers a novel with breathtaking depth and sensitivity, showing just how much each person matters in a community that is at once falling apart and coming together.
Mawunyo Gbogbo – Hip Hop and Hymns
A memoir of working hard and loving harder, set to an incredible playlist. ‘Hip hop and hymns: the two would always go hand in hand for me. My life would always straddle both. The sacred and the profane, all living on the same block, all divine in the end.’ Mawunyo Gbogbo is a church-going African Australian girl growing up in the sleepy mining town of Muswellbrook, NSW. From a childhood of confronting bullies at primary school to reaching high school where she falls in love with two things that will change her life forever: hip hop music and bad boy Tyce Carrington. Hip Hop & Hymns is the story of searching for where you belong, a heartfelt memoir about daring to be who you are, and what it means to be Black in Australia.
Benjamin Myers – The Perfect Golden Circle
Set in 1989, England over a very hot summer, two very different men – embark on a secret project. Under cover of darkness, the two men secretly form crop circles in complex and mysterious patterns. Over the summer, their designs become increasingly ambitious, and the two men find that their work has become a cult international sensation. In a story that uses the symbolism of the circles, to depict the futility of war, the destruction of mother nature, and inequality. At its heart, The Perfect Golden Circle a beautiful story of male friendship.
Anthony Horowitz – With a Mind to Kill
Horowitz’s third installment in the Bond saga continues with M’s funeral, but one notable person of interest is missing. Bond, accused of M’s murder has vanished. Behind the Iron Curtain, a group of former Smersh agents wants to use Bond in an operation that will tip the balance of world power in their favour. Bond finds he has been smuggled into the lion’s den to follow orders, but whose orders? And will he obey them when the moment of truth arrives? With betrayal and mistrust all around him, and one false move means death, Bond wrestles with the darkest questions about himself. As he comes to terms with not even knowing what has happened to the man he used to be.
Yassmin Abdel-Magied – Talking about a Revolution
One of our brightest and most talked-about young thinkers, Yassmin Abdel- Magied’s new body of work is a deeply personal, and powerful series of essays on resistance, transformation, and revolution. After having started one of the more contentious conversations of 2017, after tweeting ‘Lest. We. Forget. (Manus, Nauru, Syria, Palestine)’ on ANZAC day, Yassmin Abdel-Magied is not afraid to keep the conversation going, and asks: how do we build a better world for us all?
Joel Meyerowitz – Redheads
Joel Meyerowitz’s Redheads was first published in 1990 to critical acclaim. This new edition features new and previously unseen portraits that explore the photographer’s fascination with the distinct hair colour, in an ode to redheaded people, young and old, male and female, in striking portraits set against the contrasting blue backdrop of Cape Cod in the late 70’s.
Bo Seo – Good Arguments
Seo teaches the art of debating and discussion. After finding his calling in year five, Seo has won two World Champion debates and gone on to coach the Australian National Debate Team. In his new book, Seo shares insights into strategy, structure, and history. Touching on everything from Malcolm X to AI, all the while teaching the power of a good argument.
Yorgos Lanthimos – The Lobster Screenplay Book
A24 films have published a stunning series of screenplay books, as a companion piece to their films. Book 008 in the Screenplay Collection includes a forward by Emma Stone, an essay by author Ottessa Moshfegh titled Blinded By Love, and behind-the-scenes set photography by Lanthimos. The photo’s of Rachel Weisz on set, and Farell smoking a ciggie on the window ledge is worth it in itself.
Mieko Kawakami – All the Lovers in the Night
Mieko Kawakami’s latest novel is sweet, and subtle, and leaves a lasting impact long after you’ve read the last page. Set in contemporary Tokyo, the story centers around Fuyuko, who lives alone and seems to like it that way. But deep down, she knows it’s not sustainable, and that in order to change things, she is going to have to step out of her comfort zones. Bravely, Fuyuko steps out, and it is on one of her outings that she has a chance encounter with a physics teacher, Mr. Mitstka, who befriends Fuyuko and gives her the opportunity to change her life.
Jay Bergen – Lennon, the Mobster & the Lawyer
A little-known court case between John Lennon and Morris Levy, the Mob-connected owner of Roulette Records. Jay Bergen, who was Lennon’s lawyer at the time, has collated over 5,000+ pages in all of the court records and has spent the last four years, transcribing, and recounting the trial as it happened. Filled with all the high drama in the courtroom, Lennon, the Mobster, and the Lawyer also captures Lennon’s life on the cusp of the birth of his second son.
Minnie Driver – Managing Expectations
Minnie Driver: A-list actor, mum, singer, and songwriter, explores in this tell-all/memoir shares tales of an extraordinary life. Honest and funny, Driver shares how the things that didn’t work out, so often worked out for the best, and how reaching for the dream is easily more interesting, expansive, sad, and funny than the dream itself coming true. Minnie states it best, ‘Now, though, I realize how apt that ambition was. It set up a template in my life of wanting something impossible to become true. How in trying to make something impossible happen, and failing repeatedly, other things happened. Things that became my life. A life I love, because it was made with so many holes that I enjoy filling in’.
Isobel Beech – Sunbathing
Melburnian writer Isoabel Beech’s debut novel, Sunbathing is a sweet, funny, and moving exploration of life, death, and the restorative power of friendship under the warm summer sun of Abruzzo. Invited to stay with friends Giulia and Fab in an old villa in the mountains of Abruzzo, three weeks shy of their wedding, traversing through loss, and wondering how to go on, or if she can. With great feeling, Beech explores the workings of the inner self in the wake of devastation and regret and reveals the many ways that the every day can offer healing and hope.
Wu Cheng’En – Monkey King
Monkey King is one of China’s all-time greatest fantasy novels. In this newly translated edition, we follow the classic tale of Sun Wukong, aka Monkey King, the shape-shifting trickster on his quest for eternal life. A master of subterfuge, Monkey can transform himself into who or whatever he wants. Accompanied by Pigsy, and Sandy, Monkey King undergoes eighty-one trials, battling along the way with Red Boy, Princess Jade-Face, and the Monstress Dowager. Neil Gaiman has said ‘Monkey King is in the DNA of 1.5 billion people” and he’s not wrong.
Ashley Goldberg – Abomination
An engrossing and warm-hearted debut novel about friendship, family, love, faith, and identity. Abomination follows the story of atheist Ezra and ultra-orthodox rabbi Yonatan’s friendship. Set in Melbourne, on the cusp of a new millennium their worlds are rocked by a scandal that throws them towards two very different paths. Twenty years later, they find one another again and find themselves facing the events of the past. ‘I couldnt stop turning the pages even though I needed to do other things. No idea whether or not Ashley lived in a tight-knit Jewish community his character occupies but it sure as hell vividly matches up to what I’ve seen and lived through’ John Safran
Akwaeke Emzi – You made a fool of death with your beauty
Named the Most Anticipated Book of 2022 by The Washington Post, and Oprah Daily, author Akwaeke Emezi brings us the vivid and passionate story of Feyi Adekola. Its been five years since the death of the love of her life, but Feyi is ready to learn how to love again. Prepared to dip her toe in as opposed to jumping in fully, she finds herself on a whirlwind adventure of rooftop parties and being schmoozed by a well-known art curator to be the next big thing. She’s even started dating someone that could turn into something more – if she can ever stop locking eyes with his handsome father. Emezi’s new novel explores the beautifully complicated world of possibility and healing, and love a second time around.
Elif Batuman – Either/Or
From the bestselling author of The Idiot, Either/Or continues Selin’s quest for self-knowledge, as she travels abroad in a quest to understand why her crush Ivan is so elusive, and why is it, that parties, alcohol, and sex are so important. Guided by her literature syllabus and her more worldly friends, the story follows Selin’s adventure filled with the propulsive logic and intensity of youth. Funny, engaging, and eye-opening, Batuman gifts the reader with her expressive, well-meaning, and witty micro-observations.
Hernan Diaz – Trust
Trust encapsulates money, power, intimacy, and perception in the roaring ’20s. The story follows a wall street tycoon and the daughter of an eccentric aristocrat. Together they are on top of the world, but at what cost? The mystery behind their meteoric rise in fame and fortune is investigated by one woman bent on separating fact from fiction. Intertwining their lives and the narrative in an exhilarating fashion, Trust engagingly confronts the deceptions that often live at the heart of personal relationships and the powers that can manipulate facts. Immersive, compelling, puzzling, and ultimately a quest for truth.
Vauhini Vara – The Immortal King Rao
The Immortal King Rao is a brilliant debut novel breaking down the boundaries between the past and the present, which questions where our actions, in particular, capitalism might take us next. Set in a future in which the world is run by the Board of Corporations, the King’s daughter, Athena, is bequeathed her father’s memories, among other contentious gifts as a part of her legacy. With climate change a pivotal focus, Athena sets out to tell the truth to the world’s Shareholders, in futuristic sensory detail, about King’s childhood on a South Indian coconut plantation; his migration to America, his marriage to the ambitious artist with whom he changed the world; and, ultimately, the most ambitious creation of his life – Athena herself.
Chloe Hooper – Bedtime Stories
A memoir/manual of the personal kind. When Chloe Hooper’s partner is diagnosed with a rare and aggressive illness, she sets out to find her own way to prepare their two young sons for loss. Turning to the bookshelf, she looks for the perfect story, hoping to find the right kind of practical literature perfect for her children. With the aid of innocent orphans and evil adults, magic, monsters, and anthropomorphic animals— Chloe finds a way to teach her children about grief and strength in real life. Beautifully illustrated by the New York Times award-winning Anna Walker, Bedtime Story is a profound and deeply moving exploration of storytelling.
Uncle Wes Marne – Through Old Eyes
Renowned elder and storyteller Uncle Wes may well be Australians oldest living poet, having only just recently received a letter from the Queen to mark his 100th birthday. A long-time champion of Aboriginal culture, and cultural advancement, Uncle Wes is not one to retire and has released a new poetry collection Through Old Eyes. At times wistful and melancholic but always poignant, Marnes poetry is a beautifully written tribute to the resilience of his culture and his people.
Mykaela Saunders – This all come back now
A first ever anthology of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander speculative fiction, written, curated, and designed by blackfellas, for blackfellas, and about blackfellas. Brilliant stories by Evelyn Araluen, Karen Wyld, Archie Weller, and many more, share stories of the future, and the past, in a dazzling imaginative, and at times unsettling manner. This all come back now is a love letter to kin and country, to memory and future thinking.
Brian Ferry – Lyrics
Bryan Ferry has put together a selection of his favourite lyrics of love and loss to mark the 5o year celebration of his impressive music legacy. A career that spans eight albums with Roxy Music, and sixteen solo albums, Ferry is regarded as one of the influential recording artists of all time. “The low points in life so often produce the most keenly felt songs, and it might be added, some of the best poetry” — Bryan Ferry.
Steve Toltz– Here Goes Nothing
Angus Mooney wasn’t a believer in the supernatural, until he died. “Nobody was ever thinking of me. Now that I am dead, I dwell on this kind of thing a lot.” Here Goes Nothing is a unique life after death story, darkly funny, perceptive, and original, safely placing Toltz among the best writers Australia has to offer.
George Haddad – Losing Face
An engrossing novel about three generations of a Lebanese Australian family living in Western Sydney. The story follows Joey, young, drifting, allowing life to take him where it will. Joey doesn’t know it, but he is about to unwittingly take part in a violent crime, that will force him to take responsibility for his aimless ways. Deeply engaging, and almost a little too real for comfort, Haddad is a remarkable storyteller.
Jonathan Bazzi – Fever
Fever is a bold, tender, and captivating multi-award-winning debut from Jonathan Bazzi. Jonathan is 31 years old and living in Milan with his partner. After a wave of illness hits him, he finally goes to the doctors, to be told the kind of news that will forever change his life. Jonathan is HIV positive. The story follows Jonathan as he comes to terms with his life-altering diagnosis, not only for what it means to him, but for his friends, family, and the future.
Martha Wainwright – Stories I Might Regret Telling You
Martha Wainwright exploded onto the music scene with her brutally honest hit, Bloody Mother F*cking Asshole, which the Sunday Times called one of the best songs of the year. This is Wainwright’s genuine and passionate memoir about what it was like to grow up in a bohemian musical family and shares her experiences with love, loss, motherhood, divorce, and the music industry. In Stories I Might Regret Telling You, Wainwright digs deep to express herself with the same emotional honesty that we have come to know her for.
Ocean Vuong – Time is a Mother
In this deeply intimate poetry collection, Vuong navigates his way beautifully through memory and loss. Written from the space that holds both grief and the desire to want to survive the impact of his mother’s death, Time is a Mother is about deep personal loss and the meaning of family. A vivid, courageous, and compelling collection, Vuong gives voice to the emotions that are at the centre of pain, and what it requires to come to terms with the process of healing.
Douglas Stuart – Young Mungo
Young Mungo is an exceptional follow-up to Douglas Stuart’s 2020 Booker Prize-winning novel Shuggie Bain. A dangerous love story between two young men, Mungo and James, it’s set in the violent world of Glasgow’s housing estates. Young Mungo is a gripping and honest story about masculinity, the invisible but tight constraints of the family unit, and the violence faced by so many queer people living within a sectarian environment.
Stephen Charles and Catherine Williams – Keeping them honest
Stephen Charles AO, QC, board member of the Accountable Round Table and the Centre for Public Integrity, has long been a tireless advocate for the creation of a federal anti-corruption watchdog. Keeping Them Honest brings forth a powerful and compelling case for the establishment of a strong national anti-corruption body at a Federal level in Australia that would expose and ultimately hold any wrongdoings of the public administration and government to account.
Tom Watson – Metronome
Metronome is an extraordinary debut novel that combines a survival story and the mistrust born from decisions made in the past. Imprisoned for a crime they committed together, Aina and Whitney have been in exile on an island for 12 years. On the day that they are to be paroled, they discover that something’s not right. Instead of the warden that is supposed to come to set them free, there’s a sheep. But sheep cant swim. Convinced they’ve been abandoned, Aina investigates ways she might escape.
John Darnielle – Devil House
From the New York Times bestselling author and Mountain Goats singer-songwriter John Darnielle comes an epic, gripping novel about murder, truth, and the dangers of storytelling. It follows the tale of Gage Chandler a true-crime writer with a patchy track record of success. When he’s offered a chance to move into a house where a pair of murders took place, it could be his big break.
Hannah Gadsby – Ten Steps to Nanette
Gadsby’s unforgettable standup show, Nanette, was a breakthrough in comedy. Both transfixing and transformative, it left us wanting more. In her memoir, Ten Steps to Nanette, Gadsby delivers again, sharing the journey from her early days of growing up queer in Tasmania, to the defining moments that led to the creation of her iconic Netflix special. Harrowing, hilarious, refreshing, and insightful, Gadbsy proves that she is a master of using laughter to get to the truth.
Björn Natthiko Lindeblad – I May be Wrong
With praise from His Holiness The Dalai Lama, I May Be Wrong from former forest monk Björn Natthiko Lindeblad contains deep and practical examples of wisdom. His method, however, is not didactic. Instead, it offers advice on how to approach challenging realities of modern existence, with a focus on the acceptance of spontaneous thoughts, whether they be negative or positive.
Becky Manawatu – Auē
Delivered in rapid-fire, punchy prose, Auē is the remarkably assured debut of Becky Manawatu. Tracing the story Taukiri, it’s a confronting portrait of his family life — one that has been devastated by gang violence. Brutal in its themes, but permeated by hope, it’s little wonder that it’s already resonated so strongly with critics and fans alike in Manawatu’s native New Zealand.
Lo Carmen – Lovers Dreamers Fighters
Lo Carmen is one of those artists who seems to have crammed several lifetimes in one. Bohemian to the core, she became an acclaimed actor in her teens, and a mum and a touring musician by her early 20s. This tour de force memoir also encompasses a who’s who of Australian female rock and pop pioneers like Chrissy Amphlett and Renee Geyer, resulting in a unique perspective on what it means to pursue art.
Omar Sakr – Son of Sin
Acclaimed poet Omar Sakr has turned his attention to prose in his debut novel, Son of Sin. His protagonist — a young queer Muslim named Jamal — is a product of his community. But as the weight of his memories and ghosts of his family’s past is brought to bear on him, he longs to escape. A kaleidoscopic novel in which Sakr uses his powers of poetic observation to their fullest extent.
Paul Callaghan – The Dreaming Path
The Dreaming Path: Indigenous Thinking to Change Your Life provides a unique window into Aboriginal spirituality. Paul Callaghan — an Aboriginal man who belongs to the Worimi people of coastal New South Wales — invites you to reflect on love, humility, leadership, resilience, and many other aspects of life that are key to human health and contentment. In other words, it shows you how to connect to The Dreaming Path.
Erin Osmon – John Prine
The latest in the seminal 33⅓ series, Erin Osmon creates the most complete portrait yet of John Prine’s self-titled debut yet. It explores Prine’s rural roots and his rise through the Chicago music scene, before successfully conquering Nashville. This is Osmon’s loving tribute to an album that left an indelible imprint on the American consciousness and an illumination of its creator’s formative years.
Michael Schur – How to Be Perfect
If you like your book titles provocative and your wisdom delivered with a dollop of laughter, Michael Schur’s How to Be Perfect is a no-brainer. The showrunner for the critically acclaimed and hilarious The Good Place and writer on The Office has crammed all he’s learned about being a top bloke within the covers of this book. Together with Professor Todd May, he’s examined ethical quandaries from a variety of perspectives to explain whether or not it really is okay to tell your friend that you like her ugly shirt, or help you navigate that morally questionable, yet delicious sandwich.
Xochitl Gonzales – Olga Dies Dreaming
Brimming with wit and wisdom, Olga Dies Dreaming weaves political threads into an intimate family tale. Olga and her congressman brother enjoy exciting, high-pressure professional lives in their native New York City, when destructive hurricane winds blow in from Puerto Rico, bringing with them Olga’s long-estranged mother.