In 2021, a year of great books helped readers escape (or, adversely, learn more about) our not-so-great current situation.
And while the first days of 2022 don’t look a whole heck of a lot better, it’s reassuring to see so many titles (particularly by women writers, it would seem) that should give readers cause for optimism going into the new year.
For fans of fiction, essays, memoirs, celebrity bios, poetry and more, here are 20 buzz-worthy titles to keep on your radar for early 2022…
By Noah Hawley
(Grand Central, Jan. 4)
American TV writer/producer/director (Fargo, Legion) has written a few books, most recently 2016’s Before the Fall. In Anthem, set in present-day America, an unlikely trio sets out to discover what’s happening to teenagers in the U.S., seemingly the result of a meme being spread throughout social media. Could The Wizard be at the centre of the plight plaguing America’s youth?
By Vivek Shraya
(Penguin, Jan. 4)
The Calgary author of I’m Afraid of Men and the forthcoming essay collection Next Time There’s a Pandemic offers a slim volume on the process of reinvention — what draws us to the changing of names, disciplines, titles and so forth — that offers insight into Shraya’s own transformation and also traces the notion of change back through history.
Rise: My Story
By Lindsay Vonn
(HarperCollins, Jan. 11)
In her memoir, the most decorated downhill skier of all time dishes on her decades in the sport before her 2019 retirement, her early years on the slopes and pushing herself to the limit — an undertaking set against years of depression and other mental-health challenges. Vonn offers insight into the roadblocks she faced and the ways in which she was able to overcome.
Lost and Found: A Memoir
By Kathryn Schulz
(Bond Street Books, Jan. 11)
Schulz, a Pulitzer Prize-winning writer for the New Yorker, weaves together the story of her father’s death and her having met Casey, the woman she would eventually marry. Split into three sections, Schulz’s memoir explores our notions of beauty, passion, family, suffering and more in the context of the overall human experience.
By John Darnielle
(Farrar, Straus and Giroux, Jan. 25)
The latest novel from the Mountain Goats singer/songwriter, who has also written novels Wolf in White Van and Universal Harvester, follows modestly successful true-crime writer Gage Chandler, who is offered the chance to move into a California house where a pair of murders took place. The former home of a childhood friend, Gage begins his research, with chilling, shocking results.
Manifesto: On Never Giving Up
By Bernardine Evaristo
(Grove/Atlantic, Jan. 18)
From the Booker Prize-winning author of Girl, Woman, Other comes a memoir detailing life as one of eight children, her mixed-race parents, helping spearhead the U.K.’s first Black women’s theatre company, her first forays into writing and the stories she wanted to tell in her work that were seemingly absent.
Bitcoin Widow: Love, Betrayal and the Missing Millions
By Jennifer Robertson with Stephen Kimber
(HarperCollins, Jan. 18)
Jennifer Robertson’s memoir recalls her emergence from a failed marriage to meet Gerry Cotton, a young, eccentric man who accrued great wealth though bitcoin. While on their honeymoon in India, Cotton fell ill and died, leaving Robertson to deal with his complicated estate, including the US$250 million he owed to customers and the account passwords he took to the grave.
The Betrayal of Anne Frank: A Cold Case Investigation
By Rosemary Sullivan
(HarperCollins, Jan. 18)
For decades the question of who betrayed Anne Frank and her family has persisted. In her new book, Sullivan chronicles recently discovered documents which have been unearthed, the personalities involved in the research and the cutting-edge investigative techniques employed to try and figure out who, inevitably, led the Nazis to the Frank family’s Amsterdam hideaway.
Things I Should Have Said
By Jamie Lynn Spears
(Worthy, Jan. 18)
The child actor (Zoey 101, All That), singer and younger sister of Britney Spears reflects on her tumultuous life in the spotlight as a kid, her pregnancy at age 16, finding her way as an adult and an entertainer, her faith, the mistakes she has made and the ways in which she has worked to heal, reevaluate and rebuild.
When We Lost Our Heads
By Heather O’Neill
(HarperCollins, Feb. 1)
The latest novel by the Quebec author of The Lonely Hearts Hotel and Lullabies for Little Criminals leaps back to late 19th-century Montreal to follow the unlikely friendship of Sadie Arnett and Marie Antoine, whose exploits go from childlike to dangerous. After taking wildly different paths, the pair are brought together by a singular event with devastating effects for them and their city.
Moon Witch, Spider King
By Marlon James
(Doubleday Canada, Feb. 15)
The sprawling second book of James’ Dark Star trilogy (the first was Black Leopard, Red Wolf) sees Sogolon, the titular Moon Witch, take centre stage, telling her story of what happened to the boy who disappeared in a mythical African landscape in book one. It also spans a century-long feud between Sogolon and the chancellor to the king.
The Next Age of Uncertainty: How the World Can Adapt to a Riskier Future
By Stephen Poloz
(Allen Lane, Feb. 22)
In an age of economic uncertainty, the former governor of the Bank of Canada looks at the ways in which an aging workforce, debt loads, income equality and more will impact our future. Poloz looks at previous crises through the centuries and what they can teach individuals, workforces, those who make policy and others going forward.
My Privilege, My Responsibility: A Memoir
By Sheila North
(Great Plains, February 24)
Originally from northern Manitoba’s Bunibonibee Cree Nation, North worked as a journalist in Manitoba before becoming Grand Chief of Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak (MKO) in 2015. In her memoir she chronicles her family history, how her formative years shaped her, moving to Winnipeg as a teen, running for the MKO Grand Chief position and more.
Burning Questions: Essays and Occasional Pieces, 2004-2021
By Margaret Atwood
(McClelland & Stewart, March 1)
Over 50 pieces by the Canadian literary icon are collected here, dealing with everything from the serious (climate crisis, financial crashes, the rise of Donald Trump) to the more lighthearted (how to define granola, insights on storytelling). As per usual, Atwood combines razor-sharp intellect, an endless curiosity and a touch of humour.
Stories I Might Regret Telling You: A Memoir
By Martha Wainwright
(Knopf, March 29)
The singer-songwriter, sister to Rufus Wainwright and daughter of Kate McGarrigle and Loudon Wainwright III, writes with her trademark emotional honesty about growing up in a musically infused bohemian family, the musical titans that she has met over the years, the loss of her mother, her career as an artist with children and more.
Sea of Tranquility
By Emily St. John Mandel
(HarperCollins, April 5)
The author of Station Eleven and The Glass Hotel returns with an ambitious time travel novel. Said time traveler jumps back and forth between past, present and future, meeting a wide cast of characters (including one, like Mandel, who wrote a pandemic novel) whose lives, however marginally, intersect through time and space.
Time is a Mother
By Ocean Vuong
(Penguin, April 5)
The second poetry collection by Vuong (On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous, Night Sky With Exit Wounds) attempts to grapple with the death of his mother. Notions of loss, family and grief flow through Vuong’s verses, which stretch the boundaries of poetic convention as he ponders his place in the American cultural landscape.
By Douglas Stuart
(Knopf, April 5)
Stuart’s debut novel, the 2020 Booker Prize-winning Shuggie Bain, established the Scottish-American author as one to watch. His second novel follows two young men — James, a Catholic, and Mungo, a Protestant — as they become friends and then fall in love before Mungo is sent on a fishing trip in Western Scotland with two unsavory types.
This is How We Love
By Lisa Moore
(House of Anansi, May 3)
After Xavier, a young man, is stabbed in the streets of St. John’s, Newfoundland, his distraught mother Jules must make her way through the streets of the town as it prepares for a massive snowstorm. After seeing video of the attack, she’s left to make sense of what happened and the circumstances and stories that culminated in the attack.
The Full Catastrophe
By Méira Cook
(House of Anansi, June 7)
In her new novel, the Winnipeg author of Once More With Feeling and Nightwatching tells the locally set story of Charlie, a 13-year-old boy with intersex traits, and his 90-year-old grandfather Oscar, a Holocaust survivor and Charlie’s best friend. Surrounded by his makeshift family, Charlie decides to arrange a bar mitzvah for both he and his grandfather.
Literary editor, drinks writer
Ben Sigurdson edits the Free Press books section, and also writes about wine, beer and spirits.