The Best Holiday Gifts for Book Lovers 2022 (including book recommendations)

Best Holiday Gifts for Book Lovers 2022


Welcome to my Best Holiday Gifts for Book Lovers 2022 guide!

Every year, I compile a list of the books I came across that year that I think make perfect holiday gifts plus some fabulous book subscription services!

If you can’t find anything on this year’s list that’s the right match for your friend or loved one, check out my previous lists (2021, 2020, 2019, 2018, 201720162015).

This year’s Holiday Guide has:

  • Printable Cheatsheet – the Holiday Gift Guide in quick recommendations in PDF format for easy printing (great for taking to the bookstore or library!). Download for free below!
  • #1 Picks for Each Category – I highlighted my very favorite book in each category in the Guide (Go-To Recommendations, Edgy Literary Fiction, Page Turners, Something Fun, and For the Hobbyist).

This post contains affiliate links (plus: here’s your Amazon Smile-specific affiliate link), through which I make a small commission when you make a purchase (at no cost to you!).

Go-To Recommendations

These books have broad appeal and are all-around great selections for most readers. And, honestly, it was VERY hard to choose just one top pick (as 4 of my top 10 books of 2022 are in this category).

My #1 Pick

The MeasureThe Measure by Nikki Erlick
Fiction – Literary / Sci-Fi (Release Date: June 28, 2022)
368 Pages
Buy from: Amazon | | (Audio)

Plot Summary: One morning, every human on earth above the age of 22 receives a box with a string representing the length of their lives. The story spins out the many implications of this scenario (reminiscent of John Marrs)…including exploring the question of whether you would want to know how many years you have left to live.

My Thoughts: This debut novel will absolutely be one of my favorites of 2022! It’s both otherworldly and very of our time in a symbolic way rather than a literal way. It felt a bit like an allegory of the COVID pandemic as it taps into the feelings it generated, but leaves you with a feeling of peace. Ultimately, it felt like a healing story. It’s perfectly balanced between plot and character (it goes down super easy while remaining incredibly thought-provoking!) and, though some readers might think the ending is too tidy, I delighted in the thoughtful way Erlick tied up even the smallest details.

Beautiful Little FoolsBeautiful Little Fools by Jillian Cantor
Historical Fiction (Released January 4, 2022)
368 Pages
Buy from: Amazon | | (Audio)

Plot Summary: Cantor re-interprets The Great Gatsby from the perspectives of three central female characters (Daisy Buchanan, her best friend Jordan Baker, and Myrtle Wilson’s sister, Catherine).

My Thoughts: I loved Cantor’s take about the power and control the men had over the women…and the women’s effort to take back that control. She puts forth an alternate theory of who killed Jay Gatsby that sometimes mind-tricked me into feeling like I was reading a behind-the-scenes account of something that really happened. I loved her feminist spin on things and the story she plotted is intricate and well-thought out. 

Bomb ShelterBomb Shelterby Mary Laura Philpott
Memoir (Release Date: April 12, 2022)
288 Pages
Buy from: Amazon | | (Audio)

Plot Summary: Philpott’s (author of I Miss You When I Blink) sophomore essay collection centers around a health crisis involving her son, raising teenagers and the prospect of her teens leaving the house, her own anxiety, and COVID.

My Thoughts: Philpott’s words about her son’s health crisis were a comfort to me during my own family’s health crisis (fortuitous timing) and Philpott’s stories about her family and her childhood wrapped up with astute life wisdom makes me (as a middle aged Mom) feel seen. The opening section alternates chapters about her son’s traumatic health crisis with lighter chapters about her own childhood, animals that live near their house, etc. This structure was compelling in a Friday Night Lights pilot episode kind of way. If you loved I Miss You When I Blink, you’ll love Bomb Shelter as well.

Carrie Soto is BackCarrie Soto is Back by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Fiction – Contemporary Sports (Release Date: August 30, 2022)
384 Pages
Buy from: Amazon | | (Audio)

Plot Summary: The fourth in Taylor Jenkins Reid’s The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo universe (but, you do not need to have read the previous 3 books to enjoy this one) Carrie Soto (who played a minor role in Malibu Rising) is 6 years into her retirement from her record breaking pro tennis career when she decides to return to the court to defend her record for most grand slams won in a career…and she’s be coached by her father, Javier.

My Thoughts: Like the rest of The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo universe, this one was 5 stars for me! Reid is a master at writing books that go down easy, but that have lots of substance. This story is a celebration of a woman choosing to play, while risking failure, rather than retreating to the sidelines. Reid nailed the sports psychology and all the emotions that go along with being an elite athlete. And, I love that she avoided the stereotype of the terrible sports Dad with Javier. One of the best in the badass female athlete micro genre, but you don’t have to be a tennis or even a sports fan to love it!

Lessons in ChemistryLessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus
Historical Fiction (Release Date: April 5, 2022)
368 Pages
Buy from: Amazon | | (Audio)

Plot Summary: Elizabeth Zott, a chemist in 1960’s California with an all male team, eventually finds herself a single mother and the reluctant host of a cooking show on TV. But, she’s teaching more than just cooking.

My Thoughts: This delightful, unintentionally funny debut historical fiction novel is one of my favorite books of 2022 and left me wanting to go out and conquer the world! It’s fresh, unique, and actually lived up to its pre-publication hype. Elizabeth is one of the most memorable characters I’ve ever read…she’s a woman pushing against the constraints of her time and says things many women think, but may not say out loud. This story is a random collection of worlds thrown together (Rowing, chemistry, cooking, dogs)…yet, they feel seamless. This story is for dog lovers, lovable curmudgeon fans, and readers who love books about found family. And, it’s filled to the brim with meaning.

Love & SaffronLove & Saffron by Kim Fay
Fiction – Historical (Release Date: February 8, 2022)
208 Pages
Buy from: Amazon | | (Audio)

Plot Summary: Love & Saffron is a short, epistolary novel about two women in the 1960’s who begin writing to each other after “meeting” through one of their newspaper columns. Their correspondence progresses into intimate friendship as they hit milestones in their own lives and experience historical events.

My Thoughts: I likely would’ve rolled my eyes at this book a couple years ago, but it was a perfect palate cleanser between literary novels now that I’m more open to heart-warming books. I felt such a connection with these women and am astounded that Fay could build that in just over 200 pages. Their communications starts out more on the surface before they eventually share their deepest secrets with each other. They also awakened a thirst for discovery and new experiences and perspectives in each other. Food plays a big role in this story and adds to the overall comforting feeling. This feel-good book was fresh and unique.

Take My HandTake My Hand by Dolen Perkins-Valdez
Historical Fiction (Release Date: April 12, 2022)
360 Pages
Buy from: Amazon | | (Audio)

Plot Summary: Civil Townsend is a young, Black nurse at a family planning clinic in Montgomery, AL in the 1970’s and she’s horrified to discover that some of her first patients (two poor, Black sisters, ages 11 and 13) have been put on birth control. Civil digs deeper into what’s going on at the clinic..and grows close to the sisters and their family in the process.

My Thoughts: Perkins-Valdez based this novel on a true historical landmark in the battle for women’s rights. I recommend not Googling to find out the details of these historical events before reading the book, as part of the appeal for me was the suspense of what was going to unfold. This story is obviously about race, but it’s also about class as Civil is an upper class Black woman and she’s stepping in to “save” a very poor family. The writing style is accessible and eases the consumption of this heart-breaking story. This is one of my favorites of 2022.

Lunar HousewifeThe Lunar Housewife by Caroline Woods
Historical Fiction (Release Date: June 14, 2022)
320 Pages
Buy from: Amazon | | (Audio)

Plot Summary: Inspired by the real life story of the CIA’s involvement in publications like The Paris Review during the Cold War era 1950’s, an up and coming journalist at a trendy new literary magazine overhears some concerning conversations at work…involving bugs, death threats, and more. She starts to investigate and incorporates what she learns into her own novel she’s working on…titled “The Lunar Housewife” (which is included as a “book within a book”).

My Thoughts: I’m not a big historical fiction reader, but the Cold War era is a huge exception! I loved the mash-up of Cold War espionage and the 1950’s NYC literary scene. There are cameos from a number of real life luminaries: Truman Capote, James Baldwin, Ernest Hemingway, etc. And, this is feminist historical fiction where a woman is breaking the stereotypes of her time. Recommended for fans of The Secrets We Kept by Lara Prescott!

The MidcoastThe Midcoast by Adam White
Fiction – Literary (Release Date: February 9, 2021)
352 Pages
Buy from: Amazon | | (Audio)

Plot Summary: Set in a small town in Maine (Damariscotta), the story opens with a splashy party at the local bigwigs’ (the Thatches) house, during which a long line of police cars shows up looking for Ed Thatch.

My Thoughts: The Midcoast is a literary fiction story that goes down easy and would make a great summer read! The opening scene is a fantastic hook, but don’t let it fool you that this whole story is about a crime. It’s more of a small town story with a crime in the background. The residents of the town have a curious obsession with the Thatch family, giving the story a juicy, gossipy feel. And, it has a great balance between plot and character.

Violin ConspiracyThe Violin Conspiracy by Brendan Slocumb
Fiction – Literary (Release Date: February 1, 2022)
352 Pages
Buy from: Amazon | | (Audio)

Plot Summary: Ray MacMillian is a Black, classical violinist who is deep into his preparation for the international Tchaikovsky Competition (the Olympics of classical music). His violin, a family heirloom that turns out to be a Stradivarius worth millions, goes missing right before the competition.

My Thoughts: The heart of this “literary mystery” is Ray’s story rather than the mystery of who stole his violin, so make sure to set your expectations appropriately (i.e. it’s more literary fiction than mystery). Ray struggles to pursue violin in a family that doesn’t support his dreams and to rise to stardom in a world that doesn’t welcome him. The anticipation and drama surrounding the Tchaikovsky Competition gave this story a sports book vibe and Slocumb did a great job writing about classical music in a way that was understandable and interesting to a layperson. This was a standout debut for me!

Edgy Literary Fiction

These books are a bit darker, tackle more fraught issues, or have more aggressive language, etc. than my go-to literary fiction recommendations. Read the publishers’ summaries carefully before choosing one of them for your prim and proper grandmother!

My #1 Pick

More Than You'll Ever KnowMore Than You’ll Ever Know by Katie Gutierrez
Fiction – Contemporary (Release Date: June 7, 2022)
435 Pages
Buy from: Amazon | (Audio)

Plot Summary: In 1985, an international banker named Delores Rivera married Andres, who she met at a wedding in Mexico City. But, she already has a husband (Fabian) and 2 sons back home in Laredo, TX. After juggling her 2 marriages, she’s exposed and one husband murders the other one. Decades later, a true crime journalist sees a newspaper article about this story and decides to write a book about the woman behind this crime.

My Thoughts: This genre mash-up of a debut novel has been a bit misunderstood, but it’s a 5 star read for me! There’s a crime at the center of this story, but it’s not a thriller (as many readers expected). It’s a character study of the complex and fascinating (if not totally likable) woman behind a highly unusual crime (a woman living a double life that leads to a murder). This story is deeply layered, touching on the public’s fascination with true crime, gender, marriage, motherhood, and Mexican economic history and its interaction with the economies of Texas border towns. The ending is smart and surprising, yet felt 100% earned. This story felt fresh and would make a fantastic book club pick.

HonorHonorby Thrity Umrigar
Fiction – Literary (Release Date: January 4, 2022)
336 Pages
Affiliate Link: Amazon | (Audio)

Plot Summary: Smita, an Indian American journalist, is called back to her home country of India to cover the story of a Hindu woman (Meena) whose brothers murdered her Muslim husband in an honor killing.

My Thoughts: I knew going in that Honor would likely be tough, but excellent reading and it’s my first 5 star book of 2022. There are parts of this story that gave me a sick feeling in my stomach, but I also couldn’t look away. This is a story about religious extremism, women’s rights, religious identity, and a complicated relationship with your homeland. Though Smita is covering Meena’s story, the book is just as much about Smita’s story, why she has such a complicated relationship with her homeland, and how she’s coming to terms with that years later. Honor is a book you need to be emotionally ready for, but one you won’t easily be able to forget.

Now is Not the Time to PanicNow is Not the Time to Panicby Kevin Wilson
Fiction – Literary (Release Date: November 8, 2022)
256 Pages
Affiliate Link: Amazon | (Audio)

Plot Summary: This story centers around Two young teenagers, an artist and a writer, who meet in Coalfield, TN. They become romantically and artistically entangled and anonymously create a mysterious poster that takes on a life of its own. Twenty years later, a journalist starts nosing around, which threatens to bring up the past. Wilson noted this book is based on a college friendship of his and is “almost a memoir.”

My Thoughts: Kevin Wilson is fast becoming a favorite author for me. I loved his last book, Nothing to See Here, and this one was 5 stars for me! It’s full of 1990’s nostalgia, teenage boredom and the intensity of teenage relationships, quirkiness, chuckle funny humor, and most importantly, it’s grounded in heart. It’s weird, but not too weird. Just weird enough. The voice shines here and I flew through it in two days.

Olga Dies DreamingOlga Dies Dreaming by Xochitl Gonzalez
Fiction – Contemporary (Released January 4, 2022)
384 Pages
Buy from: Amazon | | (Audio)

Plot Summary: Olga, a Puerto Rican wedding planner to the rich and famous and her extended family in Brooklyn, NY delve into family secrets and face their own personal journeys.

My Thoughts: I went into this debut novel fairly blind and I was pleasantly surprised by this story. It’s hard to categorize…it’s a mash-up of a family story, a political story, a grandmother / granddaughter story, a bit of romance, and social commentary on the wealthy. It’s smart and has much more depth than you would expect. Olga is a strong, snarky woman and I was rooting for her (though she may read as dislikable to some). And, I learned an incredible amount about Puerto Rican history and politics in a way that felt seamless with Olga’s story.

People PersonPeople Person by Candice Carty-Williams
Fiction – Literary (Release Date: September 13, 2022)
336 Pages
Buy from: Amazon | (Audio)

Plot Summary: People Person is the story of a father and his 5 children who were conceived with 4 different mothers in a series of one night stands. After having been estranged for years, they finally meet at a park only to become estranged yet again. Years later, when 2 of his daughters are 30, the 5 siblings are brought together again through an unfortunate event.

My Thoughts: This successful sophomore novel is hard to talk about because so much of what I loved about it was in the surprise of the plot…none of which is mentioned in the publisher’s synopsis. The writing made this book for me. Carty-Williams writes about serious issues in a lighthearted way that’s full of dry humor. The crux of this story is five half siblings who do not know each other, but are thrust into a situation that immediately bonds them. For better or for worse. The story explores questions of obligation to family, especially family you were not previously close to.

The DisplacementsThe Displacements by Bruce Holsinger
Fiction – Contemporary (Release Date: July 5, 2022)
448 Pages
Buy from: Amazon | | (Audio)

Plot Summary: Set in a near future when massive weather disasters are happening with increasing frequency, Hurricane Luna (a Category 6 hurricane) hits Miami with little warning. A wealthy family (Daphne Larsen-Hall, her 2 children, and her college age step-son) is forced to evacuate without their husband / Dad and a series of events during the evacuation force them to relocate to a FEMA mega-shelter in Oklahoma City.

My Thoughts: Though climate / disaster fiction isn’t my usual jam, this story is propulsive and feels like a less literary, more page turner version of Station Eleven with a bit of Fantasticland by Mike Bockoven (minus the horror) thrown in. It’s a story of resilience and re-examining your life when put in perspective in a massive way. There is hope despite all the devastation. It’s almost 450 pages, but I didn’t feel the length. 

Tomorrow and Tomorrow and TomorrowTomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin
Fiction – Literary (Release Date: July 5, 2022)
416 Pages
Buy from: Amazon | (Audio)

Plot Summary: Sam and Sadie met as young kids and bonded over video games. Years later, they run into each other in a subway station in Boston, and from that meeting, a legendary collaboration is born.

My Thoughts: Despite the hype, I was averse to trying this book because it’s about video games, which are the #1 source of arguments in my house. But, I’m eating my words because most of the video game focus is on making the games rather than just playing them. That made it feel a bit more like a story about creating art and running a business than playing video games. Another way Zevin gets around the gaming is that this story is all about the creative process…they could’ve been writing a book together. She captured the group dynamics of working with your friends…the immense love and collaboration that feels like a symphony, but you also get simmering resentment, and jealousy. Like many of my favorite books of 2022, this one felt fresh, creative, and unique.

Unlikely AnimalsUnlikely Animalsby Annie Hartnett
Literary Fiction (Release Date: April 12, 2022)
368 Pages
Buy from: Amazon | | (Audio)

Plot Summary: Emma Starling is a med school dropout and “natural born healer” who returns to her small New Hampshire hometown to care for her dying father. She confronts family issues, a crime in her hometown, and the fact that her father is hallucinating small animals and seeing the ghost of a famous naturalist.

My Thoughts: This quirky story contains multiple elements I usually detest in my reading (ghosts and magic), but I trusted Annie Hartnett based on her debut novel, Rabbit Cake. And, she delivered a delightful 5 star book! This is a story about serious issues (addiction, illness, and grief), told in a joyful, light-hearted way. Hartnett handled the supernatural elements lightly and, even the Greek chorus narrator of the bodies in the town graveyard was delightful in a “town gossip” way. But, the number one thing I loved about this book is the voice…it’s morbidly funny and tongue in cheek and it absolutely made this story for me.

Page Turners


My #1 Pick

Wrong Place Wrong TimeWrong Place, Wrong Time by Gillian McAllister
Fiction – Thriller (Release Date: August 2, 2022)
416 Pages
Buy from: Amazon | (Audio)

Plot Summary: As McAllister put it in her Author’s Note, Wrong Place Wrong Time is “a crime novel where you must stop the ending, told backwards.” While waiting up for her teenage son, Todd, his mother (Jen) sees him commit a crime out the front window. The next morning, Jen wakes up and it is the day before the crime…and it happens again and again.

My Thoughts: Time travel is usually a dicey prospect in my reading, but the time travel element felt like a supremely interesting structure in this mystery / thriller (it also helped that Jen, the main character, is also skeptical of what is happening to her). This is just as much a family story (with lots of commentary on motherhood and marriage) as it is a crime novel. It’s super intricately plotted and the story grew on me with each new layer that was revealed. This story felt like Catherine Ryan Howard at her best and it’s my favorite thriller of 2022!

All Her Little SecretsAll Her Little Secrets by Wanda M. Morris
Fiction – Thriller (Released November 2, 2021)
384 Pages
Buy from: Amazon | | (Audio)

Plot Summary: Ellice is a successful Black, female attorney who works in the legal department of a Transportation company. She’s having an affair with her white boss when she arrives at the office to meet him for an early meeting…only to find him dead of a gunshot in his office.

My Thoughts: All Her Little Secrets is a debut thriller that brings something more to the table…exactly what I’m always looking for in my thrillers. It’s a “workplace thriller / drama” in the vein of The Boys’ Club and Imposter Syndrome, but leans more heavily towards thriller than either of those books. It addresses race and gender in the workplace, being “othered” in your environment, and long buried family secrets. I don’t usually notice the writing in thrillers, but Morris’s writing stood out to me as exceptionally good.

BreathlessBreathless by Amy McCulloch
Fiction – Thriller (Released May 3, 2022)
352 Pages
Buy from: Amazon | | (Audio)

Plot Summary: Journalist and alpinist Cecily Wong is offered a career changing opportunity. After publishing an article about failing to “summit” multiple times, legendary alpinist Charles McVeigh offers her an exclusive interview with him upon his completion of summiting all 14 peaks over 8000 meters without supplementary oxygen…on the condition that she makes summit too. But, bodies start turning up on the mountain.

My Thoughts: I like my thrillers to have “something more” to them than just the mystery at hand and the extreme mountaineering setting made this story. I loved learning about the mountaineering culture and the psychology of those that participate. Plus, the top of one of the tallest and most dangerous peaks in the world (Manaslu in Nepal) is the perfect place to commit murder.

The LocalThe Local by Joey Hartstone
Fiction – Legal Thriller (Release Date: June 14, 2022)
320 Pages
Affiliate Link: Amazon | (Audio)

Plot Summary: A Marshall, TX patent lawyer decides to take on his first ever criminal case when one of his patent clients is accused of murdering the Federal judge who presided over his initial patent eligibility hearing.

My Thoughts: Patent law might sound boring, but the patent law landscape in Marshall, TX (it’s a hotbed for patent law) is not. The history behind this unlikely phenomenon gives this story the “something more” element I always crave in my thrillers. I also love when my legal thrillers give good insight into legal and trial strategy and Hartstone reminds me of Steve Cavanagh (Thirteen) in that way. A great pick if you’re looking for something fast-paced that will easily keep your attention.

The OneThe One by John Marrs
Fiction – Speculative Thriller (Release Date: February 20, 2018)
291 Pages
Affiliate Link: Amazon | 

Plot Summary: Scientists have discovered a gene that pairs every person with their one true soulmate. A company called Match Your DNA has monetized this in a way that resembles The One follows 5 people as they navigate finding their Match…playing out all the implications of this new technology.

My Thoughts: This genre mash-up (Speculative Fiction / Sci-Fi / Romance) was so unexpected, so surprisingly twisty, and thought-provoking at the same time! It felt fresh and unique even though it came out a couple years ago. The One has a Love, Actually vibe, but these stories can only be called love stories in the most untraditional sense. Every single one of these 5 people’s stories went in directions I never imagined…I said “holy sh*t” out loud multiple times. It also raised fascinating questions about soulmates (Are they good or bad? Would you want to know if you had one?, etc) that make this an excellent book club pick. 5 resounding stars!

UpgradeUpgrade by Blake Crouch
Fiction – Sci-Fi (Release Date: July 12, 2022)
352 Pages
Buy from: Amazon | | (Audio)

Plot Summary: In the near future following a Great Starvation, Logan Ramsay, son of legendary geneticist Miriam Ramsay, feels himself changing…his mind and body becoming a bit sharper. He realizes his genes have been chemically altered and that it’s part of a much bigger and more insidious plan. Of course, he has to stop the plan to save humankind.

My Thoughts: Blake Crouch is the only reliable Sci-Fi author for me and I loved Dark Matter and Recursion. Crouch is a master at making nerdy science and apocalyptic projections incredibly propulsive. The stakes are incredibly high…of the “save the world and humanity” variety and I haven’t turned the pages this fast in awhile. This is also a family dynamics book and might be the first Sci-Fi action thriller I’ve ever called heart-warming. 

Something Fun

These books are your brain candy. They read easy, but their stories still have great depth.

My #1 Pick

DilettanteDilettanteby Dana Brown
Nonfiction – Memoir (Released March 22, 2022)
288 Pages
Buy from: Amazon | | (Audio)

Plot Summary: Dana Brown was Graydon Carter’s (the longtime former Editor in Chief of Vanity Fair) Assistant at Vanity Fair magazine in the late 90’s and 2000’s and eventually rose to Editor. Dilettante is about New York City from the gritty 1990’s to the spit-polished 2000’s, Brown’s experience working for Graydon Carter, the rise and fall of the era of glamorous magazines (it’s a bit of a business book in this way), and juicy gossip about industry insiders and the celebrities VF covered.

My Thoughts: What a FUN book that took me back to my time living in New York City in my 20’s and early 30’s, during which I regularly read Vanity Fair magazine and the NY Post’s Page Six gossip column. This book is juicy, scandalous, honest, and self-deprecating. His writing style is brash and thoroughly entertaining…and it’s great on audio (narrated by Brown himself).

FakeFake by Erica Katz
Brain Candy, Released February 22, 2022
320 Pages
Buy from: Amazon | | (Audio)

Plot Summary: Professional art forger (for museums and wealthy art patrons), Emma, gets an invitation from a wealthy oligarch that might be the solution she’s been looking for (money to care for her mother, a new life path), but this invitation has strings attached.

My Thoughts: This elevated Brain Candy (i.e. Brain Candy with substance) gives readers a look behind the curtain of the art world (which I’m not particularly interested in, but did find fascinating in this book) and has a suspenseful plot thread. Katz portrays the art world as one that takes itself seriously, but is often a mirage. Like she did in The Boys’ Club, Katz captures what it’s like to be thrust into a glamorous life, get caught up in it, and get burned and it reminded me of The Devil Wears Prada in this way. 

How to Fake it in HollywoodHow to Fake it in Hollywood by Ava Wilder
Fiction – Romance, Released June 14, 2022
368 Pages
Buy from: Amazon | | (Audio)

Plot Summary: In this fake relationship story, a young Hollywood actress (Grey) who is coming off a role in a successful, long-running teen soap opera is set up with an A-List actor (Ethan) who is coming off a divorce and the death of a close friend and business partner.

My Thoughts: This debut romance wasn’t incredibly unique, but it was super addictive and was the perfect vacation read for me when nothing else was holding my attention. There is depth to this story in the form of commentary on addiction, grief, social media culture, and gender dynamics in Hollywood. I was invested in Ethan and Grey working through their issues. A solid romance for when you need something easy on your brain!

Killers of a Certain AgeKillers of a Certain Age by Deanna Raybourn
Fiction – Thriller, Released September 6, 2022
368 Pages
Buy from: Amazon | | (Audio)

Plot Summary: Four women in their 60’s have worked for an elite International organization of assassins called The Museum for decades. They go on a retirement trip only to find out someone from inside The Museum is targeting them.

My Thoughts: This story is FUN! One Goodreads reviewer described this book as “if The Golden Girls were trained assassins” and I can’t say it any better than that. This is very much a girl power book (or should I say “ladies of a certain age” power book?) and includes excellent commentary about how society treats older women. I loved the tongue in cheek tone, the action / adventure feel, and the spycraft (these women are creative in how they kill people!). If you can overlook some plot holes, this is a fresh palate cleanser and would make a great gift for Moms and Grandmothers!

Charm OffensiveThe Charm Offensive by Alison Cochrun
Romance – Debut (Release Date: September 7, 2021)
361 Pages
Buy from: Amazon | | (Audio)

Plot Summary: The Charm Offensive (an LGBTQ romance) is set on the reality dating show Ever After (i.e. The Bachelor with a fairytale theme). Charlie, the show’s star, is only on the show to repair his reputation in the tech world and suffers from OCD and anxiety. Dev is assigned to be his producer and help him get comfortable in front of the cameras.

My Thoughts: Romance novels set in The Bachelor world (also One to Watch) seems to be a quickly rising trend in my reading. This story explores two things I’ve always wondered about The Bachelor: how a socially awkward introvert would fare on this show and what happens when a lead (or a contestant) falls for a producer. I also loved how it showed how good a show like this could be, if they chose to air the truly real and compelling scenes rather than silly drama. Both Charlie and Dev went through personal growth journeys and Perfect for fans of One to Watch and Red, White, and Royal Blue. 

Roughest DraftThe Roughest Draft by Emily Wibberley and Austin Seigemund-Broka  
Romance (Release Date: January 25, 2022)
336 Pages
Buy from: Amazon | | (Audio)

Plot Summary: Two co-writers (Katrina and Nathan) met at a Writers’ Program and became best friends. Their sophomore romance novel was a breakout hit…and, once they finished the novel, they dissolved their partnership amid a cloud of rumors. BUT…they have one more book in their contract and they’re forced to reunite at the Florida Keys beach house where they wrote their last novel to knock out one more book.

My Thoughts: Romance is a genre I used to avoid like the plague, but I’m now finding my footing and figuring out some types of romances that are likely to work for me. One of those types is romances that are set in worlds I’m interested in…and we get lots of behind the scenes of the publishing world in this story. Nathan and Katrina’s relationship is messy and intriguing and I would be fascinated to read a real life version of the fictional book they’re writing and to extrapolate the story of the authors behind it. The married co-authors of The Roughest Draft use their own story to inspire their writing…even more intriguing! 

For the Hobbyist

Books for people that are into specific things…in this case, true crime, food / restaurants, therapy, and friendship.

My #1 Pick

Bad CityBad City: Peril and Power in the City of Angels by Paul Pringle
Nonfiction – Investigative Journalism (Release Date: July 19, 2022)
304 Pages
Affiliate Link: Amazon | (Audio)

Plot Summary: A young girl in her 20’s overdosed in a fancy LA hotel room…and Dr. Carmen Puliafito, Dean of the USC Medical School, was at the scene. LA Times reporter Paul Pringle received this tip, started digging, and found much more than he’d anticipated…including a cozy relationship between his employer and USC.

My Thoughts: This mind-blowing story is investigative journalism at its page turning best! Bad City is a mash-up of multiple other nonfiction books I’ve loved: We Keep the Dead Close by Becky Cooper (the culture of silence and cover-ups at a prestigious academic institution), Catch & Kill by Ronan Farrow (behind the scenes of breaking a major news story amid intentional sabotage from your own news organization), and I think it’s the kind of story Dominick Dunne would’ve loved.

Bully MarketBully Market by Jamie Fiore Higgins
Nonfiction – Workplace Memoir (Released August 30, 2022)
320 Pages
Buy from: Amazon | (Audio)

Plot Summary: Author Jamie Fiore Higgins is a former Managing Director for Goldman Sachs and was the highest ranking woman in her department. In Bully Market, she shares her experience in the toxic work environment at Goldman.

My Thoughts: I was completely engrossed in Bully Market on audio! Higgins covers sexual harassment, office politics manipulation, intolerance of family and motherhood, and work / life balance…and this book is sad and maddening. It reminded me of a mash-up of Smacked by Eilene Zimmerman, From the Corner of the Oval by Beck Dorey-Stein, and The Boys Club by Erica Katz. Warning: there is a massive trigger in this book, so please do your research or DM me if you want specifics.

Don't Know ToughDon’t Know Tough by Eli Cranor
Crime Fiction (Release Date: March 22, 2022)
336 Pages
Buy from: Amazon | | (Audio)

Plot Summary: The story of a volatile high school running back from a poor white family with a tumultuous home life (Billy Lowe) and his idealistic coach, Trent Powers, who has just moved to Arkansas from California and takes Billy under his wing. And, of course, there’s a crime.

My Thoughts: Slow Burn Crime Suspense with football? Yes, please! Don’t Know Tough totally surprised me! It’s a bit literary, but not overly so and is a lot more plot driven than I expected. The vibe of the Arkansas town is very Friday Night Lights, but darker, and the story also reminded me of a grittier version of The Bright Lands, minus the supernatural horror. It’s about abuse, poverty, and the power of sports to lift people up. Yet, it also addresses the dark side of football.

Finding FreedomFinding Freedom by Erin French
Memoir – Cooking / Restaurants (Released April 6, 2021)
304 Pages
Buy from: Amazon | | (Audio)

Plot Summary: All I knew going in was this was about a woman who started a now famous (but, tiny) restaurant in Maine. And, that’s all the plot I’m going to give you because I loved the unexpected turns this story took.

My Thoughts: This memoir completely took me by surprise and I loved that reading experience. This book was a total sh*t-storm booked-ended by calm and peace. Erin overcomes obstacles in her life by finding her passion and doing it for her family. I was inspired by her, enraged by some of the things that happened to her, and calmed by her ability to fight and even thrive.

Finding MeFinding Me by Viola Davis
Memoir – Celebrity (Released April 26, 2022)
304 Pages
Buy from: Amazon | | (Audio)

Plot Summary: Actress Viola Davis’ memoir is not a Hollywood tell-all, rather it’s the story of how she finally decided to stop running from her traumatic past. 

My Thoughts: High quality celebrity memoirs are becoming more and more frequent and I’m here for it! Actress Viola Davis’ memoir is the best audiobook I’ve listened to in 2022 and I can’t imagine consuming it in any other format. It might be the best narration I’ve ever listened to in my life. She’s raw and intense, yet soothing at times too. I could listen to her talk forever. Her childhood story is full of multiple types of trauma, but I couldn’t look away. The way she wrote (and spoke) about it was riveting, heartfelt, and emotional. It was the best part of the book for me. 

Friends Lovers and the Big Terrible ThingFriends, Lovers, and the Big, Terrible Thing by Matthew Perry
Memoir – Celebrity (Released November 1, 2022)
272 Pages
Buy from: Amazon | | (Audio)

Plot Summary: Perry (Chandler Bing on Friends) shares his experience with addiction while starring on one of the most successful TV series of all time.

My Thoughts: Perry’s memoir is not a Friends tell-all. It’s a raw, intense, visceral, heart-breaking, maddening story of addiction. It takes you into the brain of an addict and shines a light on how bad off Matthew Perry actually was. This book may make you like him a bit less than you did going in (addicts tend to be a-holes at least part of the time), but he’s brave to share his story in such frank detail. 

Tell Me EverythingTell Me Everything by Erika Krouse
Nonfiction – True Crime / Memoir (Released March 15, 2022)
288 Pages
Buy from: Amazon | | (Audio)

Plot Summary: A part true crime / part memoir about a series of sexual assaults involving a major University’s (it’s clear which University this is about, yet Krouse doesn’t name it) football program.

My Thoughts: Tell Me Everything is a more personal, less “reporting” version of Missoula by Jon Krakauer. Krouse tells this story from her perspective as a private investigator working for the plaintiff’s attorney on the case and her traumatic past resurfaces. She explores big time football culture and how it plays into the tacit acceptance of sexual harassment and assault. Also, cover-ups and money. And, she talks a lot about the psychology of listening and getting people to open up. Despite the heaviness of the topic, I was engrossed and read it in 2 days.

Forever WitnessThe Forever Witness: How Genetic Genealogy Solved a Cold Case Double Murder by Edward Humes
Nonfiction – True Crime / Memoir (Released March 15, 2022)
288 Pages
Buy from: Amazon | | (Audio)

Plot Summary: The 1980’s murders of Tanya Van Cuylenborg and Jay Cook in the Seattle area were solved right after the GSK case in the same way. Detective Jim Sharf teamed up with genetic genealogist CeCe Moore to solve the 30 year old cold case and Humes shares the broader story of how genetic genealogy (using a crime scene’s DNA sample to trace a family tree backwards using online commercial DNA databases) came to be used to solve crimes.

My Thoughts: Genetic genealogy is the new hot topic in solving crimes (especially cold cases). If you were interested in how it was used to solve the Golden State Killer case, this book is for you! This feels different than your average true crime book…there’s more to it. The first part reads like true crime, the second part focuses on the science behind genetic genealogy, and the third part reads like a courtroom drama. Also fascinating were the ethical issues with using genetic genealogy to solve crimes.

Think AgainThink Againby Adam Grant
Nonfiction – Business Psychology (Release Date: February 1, 2021)
320 Pages
Buy from: Amazon | | (Audio)

Plot Summary: Organizational psychologist Adam Grant’s latest book uses case studies to examine the benefits of always rethinking your opinions and positions both in the workplace and in personal life.

My Thoughts: Grant is one of my favorite social science gurus and he covers how healthy disagreement can work well in business and the importance of working in an environment that fosters psychological safety (my beloved Dr. Pippa Grange would agree!). This is a book I feel the professional media as well as regular people on social media need to read and internalize in today’s climate. It teaches you how to question yourself, to understand opinions of others that are different than yours, and to see the nuance in everything. P.S. – Grant did an excellent job with the audio narration.

UnmaskedUnmasked: My Life Solving America’s Cold Cases by Paul Holes
Nonfiction – True Crime / Memoir (Release Date: April 26, 2022)
288 Pages
Buy from: Amazon | | (Audio)

Plot Summary: Paul Holes is a detective, formerly of the Contra Costa County (CA) police, who specialized in cold cases and serial killers. AND…he’s the one who solved the Golden State Killer cases (from I’ll Be Gone in the Dark). He tells the story of this and other cases (including Laci Peterson and Jaycee Dugard) along with the impact his career choice had on his personal life.

My Thoughts: If you loved I’ll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara, this true crime / memoir mash-up is the perfect companion read. It was fascinating to hear about the hunt for the Golden State Killer from the official law enforcement perspective and about his informal working relationship with Michelle McNamara. And, his mental health problems including how his job impacts his ability to have meaningful personal relationships was heart-breaking. 

Working StiffWorking Stiff: Two Years, 262 Bodies, and the Making of a Medical Examiner by Judy Melinek and T.J. Mitchell
Nonfiction – Medical Memoir (Release Date: August 12, 2014)
288 Pages
Buy from: Amazon | | (Audio)

Plot Summary: Melinek shares her experience during her first two years training as an NYC forensic pathologist, including how she works with police, “speaks for the victims” in court, helps determine cause and manner of death, and her role in identifying remains on 9/11 (a particularly poignant part of the book).

My Thoughts: I never thought I’d describe a book about dead bodies as delightful (as long as gross body talk doesn’t bother you), but that’s what this was. Similar to Mary Roach, Melinek uses dark, morbid humor and a happy-go-lucky tone to talk about really grim stuff. If you like legal dramas or crime fiction, I think you’ll be fascinated by what you learn in this book. Warning: she does talk about her father’s suicide and shares what I think is a controversial viewpoint on suicide.

A “Gift-y” Book

What Color is GoodnessWhat Color is Goodness? by Emily Morrison
Illustrated Poetry
Buy from: Amazon |

Emily Morrison was inspired to write the poem in this book when her 5 year old niece asked her “what color is goodness?”. This adorable book is one much needed hopeful, uplifting poem set among beautiful illustrations. It’s meant to be a coffee table book and would make an excellent house-warming or Mother-in-Law gift. 

Book Subscriptions

Hard Copy Book Subscriptions

Book of the Month
Affiliate Link: Purchase
The gift that keeps on giving for book lovers! On the first of every month, members get to choose one of five books selected by Book of the Month’s panel of judges (including a surprise guest judge). You also have the option to purchase additional books for $9.99 each and to skip a month if you want. Book of the Month will mail your chosen hardcover book (along with any extras you ordered) to your house for free. 

The Storybound Society (from Fabled Bookshop, an independent bookstore in Waco, TX)
Discount Code: Use SARAHSBOOKSHELVES for 20% off your first shipment
Elizabeth Barnhill (guest on Ep. 89 of Sarah’s Bookshelves Live) is the book buyer at Fabled Bookshop and is one of my very best book recommendation sources, especially for literary mysteries and thrillers. For the The Storybound Society, your gift recipient will choose the “character” (ex: Guardian, Pioneer, Storyteller, Explorer, Sage, Everyman) that best matches their reading taste. Some “characters” are backlist focused (you’ll receive a paperback book) and some are focused on new releases (you’ll receive a hardcover book)…and, each “character” is priced accordingly. And, you get one surprise book in the mail each month!

Shelf Subscription (from The Bookshelf, an independent bookstore in Thomasville, GA)
Annie Jones, the owner of The Bookshelf, is also the co-host of From the Front Porch podcast and one of my very best book recommendation sources. For the Shelf Subscription, you choose The Bookshelf staffer whose taste best matches yours (there’s descriptions and a fun quiz on the website to help you!) and you get a surprise hardcover in the mail every month. You don’t have the choice of Book of the Month, but I love The Bookshelf staffers taste (PS – if you like my reading taste, you probably want to choose Annie Jones as your staffer)! Perfect for readers interested in supporting independent bookstores!

Audiobook Subscriptions (audiobook service benefitting independent bookstores)
Affiliate Link: Gift or Purchase a Credit Bundle and Get 1 Free Seasonal Audiobook for Yourself
For about $15 per month, you can get a 1, 3, 6, or 12 month subscription that includes one audiobook per month. The big difference between from Audible is, with, you select which independent bookstore you’d like to purchase from. So, you can support your favorite independent bookstore even when you’re buying audiobooks! Just like with Audible, make sure to tell your gift recipient to download the app on their smartphone.

Audible (Amazon’s audiobook service)
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
For $14.95 per month, members get one audiobook and two Audible Originals each month. Members get discounts on audiobooks you purchase above the credits that come with your plan. You can also upgrade your subscription to get more than one audiobook a month. Make sure to tell your gift recipient to download the Audible app on their smartphone.

Happy Holidays!

Pin this post…

Best Holiday Gifts for Book Lovers 2022


Get Weekly Email Updates!

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Get Weekly Email Updates!

Join our mailing list to receive all new blog posts in one weekly email. Plus, news of special updates and offers!

You have Successfully Subscribed!