Blood, Sweat, and Chrome
2022, Kyle Buchanan
An oral history of Mad Max: Fury Road—my favorite movie of all time? There was no way this wasn’t going to be one of my favorite books this year. Fury Road is known for its years-long preparation process and intense and dramatic production, and Blood, Sweat, and Chrome has a fascinating collection of stories with details that will surprise even fans who followed this closely over the years.
Buchanan gets the behind-the-scenes scoops from everyone — from big names like George Miller, Charlize Theron, and Tom Hardy to the less well known geniuses behind the stunts, costumes, and sets that give the movie its magic and depth. Whether it’s the explanation of how a failed attempt at a television show turned into the idea for the movie, the stuntmen forming an impromptu cult, various on set relationships, to the THOUSANDS of storyboards Miller used instead of a screenplay, I wanted to hear about everything this book dug up.
If you’re a fan of Fury Road, or interested in how movies get made, I definitely recommend checking this out!
The Ghost That Ate Us
2022, Daniel Kraus
A take on true crime nonfiction mixed with a small town ghost story, The Ghost That Ate Us stayed in my mind for a long time after I finished it— unlike the fast food central to the story.
This book documents the author’s attempts to investigate a haunting that took place at a fast food restaurant, and the horrific killings that followed it. He combs through the employees’ online documentation of the haunting, looks into legal documents related to the events, and interviews law enforcement, restaurant patrons, former employees, and survivors of the horrible events at Burger City.
It is a pitch perfect rendition of the true crime genre, with characters that all felt like real people— every interview draws you deeper into these people’s lives, and Kraus really paints a picture of what being haunted would do to a person and a community.
(You can also check out the author’s Gatecrashers interview here! It’s what inspired me to check out the book.)
2022, Peng Shepherd
I never think about maps. I don’t think I’ve ever used a physical one, and I just rely on my phone’s GPS for any journey I’m not 100% familiar with. Those people who can get sent somewhere random in Google Maps and tell you what country they’re in are exercising some sort of mutant power, as far as I’m concerned.
Somehow, The Cartographers made me think about maps as tools, as art, and as symbols— and love it. This novel follows Nell Young as her estranged father’s murder brings her into a world of high stakes map thefts and magic. In this world, maps don’t just describe places, but create and destroy our access to them.
I thought this book was a great balance between solving the present day mystery that Nell finds herself in, and showing us the original academic discovery and research that her parents worked on when she was a baby. Seeing the characters as young people, full of excitement and hope contrasted with where they ended up, was really cool, and I liked how each of their trajectories brought them back into the mystery.
Nona the Ninth
2022, Tamsyn Muir
The third entry in The Locked Tomb series absolutely blew my mind. Nona continued the series’ tradition of being absolutely confusing until the end (while still being compelling the whole way through), but breaks with tradition by having a protagonist I would describe as “sweet” and “nice”. I was constantly swinging from cackling at a meme reference to being over emotional about the things that happened mere paragraphs or pages later.
As the pieces all fell into place and earlier hints and clues started to make sense, the finale of Nona had me freaking out about everything the characters had done, and where they’ll be going next. I cannot wait for the next book to come out, and to reread Nona in conjunction with it.
If you liked the first two books in the series, I’m sure you didn’t need to be told to read this one. If you haven’t read Gideon the Ninth or Harrow the Ninth, you should get on it— it’s a fun mix of fantasy and sci-fi, in a world of space travel and necromancy, and the characters are a delight to love or to hate.
Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow
2022, Gabrielle Zevin
Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow is the best book I read this year, hands down, and I can not stop telling people to read this book.
It’s the story of two childhood friends who reconnect as adults and start their own video game company. There’s love, loss, betrayal, and a lot of growing up, and we get to see all of it. Different chapters have different points of view, and some have really interesting ways of getting the story across—parts of interviews, for example, or video game logs. Zevin is really great at describing and showing how her characters feel, and by the end of the novel I had such a deep understanding of these people that I felt as if I truly knew them.
I don’t want to talk too in detail about what happens, because experiencing all of this for the first time was part of the beauty of it for me. Suffice to say, I laughed, I cried, and I reread it immediately.
Honorable mentions (because it’s too hard to pick just five!):
- A Lady for a Duke, by Alexis Hall
- Legends and Lattes, by Travis Baldree
- The Light Pirate, by Lily Brooks-Dalton (check out my review here!)
- Night Watch, by Terry Pratchett (an annual reread for me)
- The Annotated Persuasion, by Jane Austen annotated and edited by David M. Shapard (a great way to revisit a classic favorite)