Mercury’s Favorite Books 2022

If you, like many literary lovers, want to get started on your reading stats for 2023 (looking at you moms who chewed through 150 novels in 2022), here are some suggestions from our team of book-loving writers. This list is not exhaustive, but these were our favorite books of 2022.


A boy with a bird in his chestEmma Lund

What’s better than queer subtext? Queer Open Text. And best of all? A book that has both queer subtext through magical realism and actual queer characters and plot. Portland’s Emme Lund achieves it all A boy with a bird in his chest, a lovely, brooding coming-of-age novel set in the dewy, punk Pacific Northwest. This book also introduces us to the Army of Acronyms: a network of doctors, cops, bureaucrats and academics furious at capturing and suppressing people like Owen, the titular boy with the bird in his chest. In our strange new age of LGBTQ+ people being pathologized and criminalized with Internet-fueled fervor, naming such an army is a wonderful “screw you” for the fake intellectuals joining the witch hunt. BLAIR STENVICK


DenialJon Raymond

Does the daily barrage of dire climate news, global pandemics and crumbling democracies leave you feeling powerless and insignificant, like a passive bystander? Sometimes I just want simple confirmation that what we’re seeing is really happening – not a sensationalized bummerfest or an uplifting affirmation, something closer to reality. Jon Raymond Denial delivers a climate apocalypse story without the drama. The danger of an escaped climate criminal unfolds like an obligatory dinner at a relative’s house, torrential street flooding is just the backdrop for thinking about a pretty good match, a character tries on glasses frames with the help of augmented reality technology (and ends up choosing the same pair as always). Denial forms a persistent ordinariness. It alludes to global crises that would be major events in other books, but DenialHis characters remain calm and humbled, even in the face of certain death. The narrative arc falls with a shrug and a sigh. Although I wouldn’t call it comforting, Denial it feels like an opportunity to think about a complicated and disturbing world in a way that doesn’t bombard the reader with glowing frames and sputtering catastrophes—instead of letting the hyperobject of climate change simmer ominously, just below the surface. MARTHA DAGHLIAN


Notes from the sick bedTessa Brunton

It seems like such a paradox that cartoonist Tessa Brunton lives with the chronic condition of myalgic encephalomyelitis, commonly called chronic fatigue syndrome. One look at any of Brunton’s richly illustrated pages shows her insatiable desire to create painstaking works of art. Fans of her 2011 coming-of-age memoir comic Passage I can recall her stunning cuts and attention to detail on era-appropriate band tees. IN Notes from the sick bed, Brunton designs a four-sided overlay of his dream house: a lighthouse with movie projections on the roof, a spa in the basement, a tree growing through the center, a water slide for someone in bed, and cats offering hot chocolate everywhere. However, she also draws the living room six times from the same angle, moving details such as cats, snacks and stray laundry to convey what it’s like to be bedridden for long periods of time. Sickbed tries to explain the time in Brunton’s life, before she was diagnosed, when she was constantly thinking of ways to keep doing what she loved. In the book, she estimates that it takes her two weeks to finish each page of the comic. We can guess from the present 150 pages Sickbed it took her five years to draw. Although the topic sounds scary, Sickbed is a dense, creative read—full of Brunton’s unruly, imaginative chaos. The forward seems to suggest that things have improved with the diagnosis – if perhaps not medically, at least morally. Professional advice: We suggest you read this digitally. Brunton’s world is so finely rendered that the ability to zoom in brings rewards. SUZETTE SMITH

I’m glad my mom died by Jeanette McCurdy

In her shockingly titled memoir, actress and writer Jeanette McCurdy recounts her mother’s suffocating abuse, her experiences with the rampant toxicity of the Hollywood industry, and the survival methods that got her through both dire climates—which formed the backdrop of her childhood. Hoarding is not McCurdy’s primary focus, and not all hoarders are the same, but her mother’s disorder underlies many of the obsessive, controlling, and unbridled outbursts the author describes. McCurdy rose to fame as a teen star on the Nickelodeon sitcom iCarly, and she recounts the distance of Nickelodeon’s work culture in a voice that neither seeks nor expects sympathy. The layout of her truth is so far removed from many lived experiences that it may startle some readers, but McCurdy writes with the tender directness of a healing adult now in touch with her wise inner child. The book is an act of courage. ANDREW JANKOWSKI


High desertJames Spooner

Plenty of excellent musical and cultural memoirs put you in the middle of the action, at the right time and place for the birth or climax of a scene. Which is so charming and instructive about James Spooner’s graphic novel High desert is that Spooner wasn’t in the right place at the right time to experience the ’90s punk scene in his youth—he was in a small nothingness, enveloped in the vast nothingness of the California desert. To make matters worse for him, he was a black kid in a very white town, and half the punks he knew were Nazi skinheads. I don’t know much about punk music or what it’s like to be a Black face in a white space, but I’ve learned a lot from reading High desert. Spooner’s moody meditation on living on the fringes of culture and creating your own should be a fun read for anyone who remembers what it was like to be a teenager. BS


Sea of ​​Tranquility Emily Saint John Mandel

The sixth novel by Emily St. John Mandel, Sea of ​​peace stands out – both in terms of his work and in terms of science fiction literature. With determination and grace, he takes on the foundations of the narrative itself, building a time-travel story that spans centuries of interwoven vignettes. The elements of science fiction come second to the deep sadness that we are on the edge of the end of the world. Yes, this is another (at least partially) pandemic story about the stories we tell ourselves à la Mandel’s Station eleven. But while that novel is a marvel that spawned a spectacular television adaptation (also released this year), Sea of ​​peace is deeper. It is a painful and poetic encapsulation of what it means to be alive in turbulent times. CHASE HUTCHINSON

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