Top Ten Tuesday: first encounters in 2022

Text only: top ten TUESDAY

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish, and is now hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. It’s all about books, lists and sharing the love we have of both with our bookish friends. This week is a freebie, so I’m catching up on last week’s topic and enthusing about the authors whose work I read for the first time in 2022.

My last few years have been rich in first-time reads and 2022 was no exception: as in 2021, I tried over 30 new authors (reading only 20 authors whose work I had explored previously) – and that’s without considering the writers whose work I encountered in anthologies and collaborative narratives (Orphan Black: The Next Chapter, The Dark Tome). Most were either introduced to me through Subjective Chaos or were established authors whose work I’d been meaning to try, with only a third of these fresh faces on debut. Happily, both established authors and debuts ended up well-represented in my top ten reads for the year, seven of which were written by new-to-me authors. For today, I’ll focus on some of the other authors I read for the first time in 2022.

Book cover: Inscape - Louise Carey

I read Louise Carey’s solo debut Inscape early in the year (she has previously co-written with her famous dad) while I caught up on 2021 SF. A glossy, fast-paced tech thriller of corporate control where loyalty is ruthlessly conditioned and rarely rewarded, this is an entertaining diversion with some suitably unsettling scenes.

In the wake of her brother’s suicide, griefstricken Kabi longs to change the past, reliving the many ways she and their parents failed him. Shingai Njeri Kagunda’s novella & This Is How To Stay Alive was one of the best I read last year, a literary gem that explores love and grief and memory.

Book cover: & This Is How To Stay Alive - Shingai Njeri Kagunda
Book cover: Several People Are Typing - Calvin Kalsuke

Winning the prize for absurdist romp of the year, Calvin Kasulke also won my heart by writing a perfect snapshot of my career. Sure, I’ve never had a spreadsheet upload me to Slack, but I’ve also rarely seen a client brief so I won’t rule it out. Several People Are Typing gets bonus points for ensuring I knew what I was looking at when a colleague emoted a dusty stick at me recently. Hilarious and unexpectedly sweet.

I don’t read a lot of epic fantasy these days, but Rebecca Zahabi’s debut caught me with her interesting web of cultures and magic systems. The Collarbound is a slow burn tale of personal stories and conflicted loyalties, carefully laying groundwork for future betrayals as simmering secrets begin to come to light.

Book cover: The Collarbound - Rebecca Zahabi
Book cover: The Knave of Secrets - Alex Livingston

A small gang of magic-wielding card sharps try to prevent a subversion of democracy in Alex Livingston’s fantasy debut The Knave of Secrets. I admired the well-managed world-building and the middle-aged disappointment of its cunning protagonists, although I feel it deserved less generic cover art given its flouncy flintlock aesthetic. Why yes, I do have a hopeless bias against Mysterious Hooded Characters on book covers, why do you ask?

Emmi Itäranta had been on my ‘must read’ list for years, and 2022 was the year I finally did something about it. The Moonday Letters is an epistolary account of an unlikely marriage and an impending apocalypse (of sorts). As delicate as it is tantalising, this slow meandering of love and rage and wandering souls left me deeply satisfied.

Book cover: The Moonday Letters- Emmi Itäranta
Book cover: No Gods No Monsters - Cadwell Turnbull (Titan UK edition)

Cadwell Turnbull’s No Gods, No Monsters is a character-driven triumph, giving urban fantasy a literary make-over and casually throwing in the multiverse to cap it off. Turnbull puts in the work to ensure his plethora of POVs (including a first person narrator-observer who takes a bit of getting your head around) are fully-realised characters, and I loved the focus on social justice and solidarity economics.

Past and present collide in Moresby Wood as a team of modern-day researchers go in search of its most famous casualties. Fiona Barnett’s debut was every bit as atmospheric as I expected, with its tangle of timelines and eerie evocation of ancient fears. My tip? Don’t read The Dark Between The Trees while actually in a forest.

Book cover: The Dark Between the Trees - Fiona Barnett
Book cover: Our Wives Under The Sea - Julia Armfield

Julia Armfield’s prose debut is a literary examination of a marriage going down the drain (sorry not sorry). Miri struggles to cope when her wife Leah becomes ill, reflecting on their relationship and their current difficulties while Leah recalls the unusual events that led to her sickness. I spent most of the book wondering whether to take it literally; it works as exquisitely told body horror or as a metaphor for grief and acceptance.

The Little Mermaid doesn’t sound like the obvious choice for a space opera make-over, but then that’s not really what Aimee Ogden does in Sun-Daughters, Sea-Daughters. Instead, she asked and then what and wrote a beguiling romance of abandonment, rage and enduring love with genetically engineered trans merfolk. Ogden’s bold world-building and raw characters have me keen to see more – I hope she gets to write a novel.

Book cover: Sun-Daughters, Sea-Daughters - Aimee Ogden

Of course, not all the 30 new faces were a hit – the figure excludes a couple whose work I DNFed, and several of the 30 contributed to some of my least appreciated reads of the year. Still, the success rate is remarkable so it’s perhaps no surprise that half my reads in 2023 so far are by authors whose work I’ve never read before. Will they make my favourites for the year? Well, one of them is certainly in with a chance…

What authors did you read for the first time in 2022?