the ten best books of 2022 (so far)

Statue Nastia Cistakova

The cliché says that September is the best month of the year for books, but the first half of this year has already produced a lot of great things. And while 2022 is not at all the year of resurrection as far as books are concerned, unlike other art disciplines; writers wrote schompes during corona, and readers read more than in previous years. In short, the book does well.

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To Paradise (Fiction)

Hanya Yanagihara

The literary year 2022 immediately started nicely with the new novels of Hanya Yanagihara and Michel Houellebecq, two authors who (briefly) question the state of their country. Yanagihara broke through internationally in 2015 with A little life and To paradise was also received with applause, also in our Volkskrant Reading Club. To To paradise ending up in an America ravaged by epidemics has nothing to do with covid-19: Yanagihara’s father was an oncologist, she herself was seriously ill as a child, diseases simply interest her. The main point she wanted to make with her book is that progress is no guarantee of enlightenment: “A certain state of enlightenment can easily be reversed and destroyed.”

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Anéantir (fiction)

Michel Houellebecq

As we speak sitting in the sweet Burgundian town of Autun Martin de Haan toils with the Dutch translation of Houellebecq’s perhaps most loving, touching and intimate novel to date, although one might not expect it from a book of this title (anéantir means ‘to destroy’). Against Le Monde Houellebecq said in January that “making people laugh and cry” is always his underlying goal: “If I can’t do that, I’m not happy.” Four more months of patience.

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Worm Moon (fiction)

Mariken Heitman

‘We categorize eyes as blue or brown, a rough classification because we know that each pair of eyes is unique. Blue is an approach that a woman should be.’ Two key phrases in worm moon, that may date from 2021, but as biologist and author Mariken Heitman was awarded the Libris Literature Prize 2022 for this spring. The narrator is a woman whose identity is constantly questioned by the outside world because she does not dress or behave as ‘one’ expects of women. Intelligent, topical and beautifully written novel about who we are and the fallacy of the answers usually given to that question.

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Lucky Guys (Fiction)

Luigi Pirandello

New anthology of the stories of the Italian Nobel laureate Luigi Pirandello (1867-1936), which a century after they were written still teach us a lot about human problems, in a way that you would call humorous if it were not such an inadequate word. First sentence of the first story: “It is an old custom of mine to give audiences to the characters of my future stories every Sunday morning.” Great translation by Yond Boeke and Patty Krone too.

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The beginning of everything. A New History of Humanity (non-fiction)

David Graeber and David Wengrow

Anthropologist and anarchist David Graeber and archaeologist David Wengrow began everything as a search for the origins of social inequality. During the ten years that Graeber and Wengrow worked on it—Graeber died three weeks after its completion—they became more ambitious and decided to rewrite the entire history of mankind at once. It didn’t quite work out; however, the duo dispels countless myths about our distant past and for that reason alone, The Beginning of Everything is a celebration. Yuval Noah Harari, but better.

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The Song of the Stork and the Dromedary (fiction)

Anjet Daanje

Anjet Daanje is a real scientist, and if her mother hadn’t said she had a flair for language, she might never have started writing – long live the mothers! A few years ago, she got her breakthrough with The Remembered Soldier, published by the small Groningen-based publisher Passage, after the publisher Thomas Rap told her that she no longer saw any bread in her work – long live Passage! She hates pretense (‘afterwards I think: what stupid things did I say?’) and that’s what makes her so funny. Long live Anjet Daanje!

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Where is the lamb? (poetry)

Mustafa Stitou

As a teenager, Mustafa Stitou came home after a soccer match with a strange, feverish feeling: the irresistible urge to write something down. So he did. Then poetry entered his life. His first love as a poet was Remco Campert, who died early in the summer, and Campert in turn welcomed the debuting Stitou in 1994 with a hearty ‘finally a poet again!’ His new bundle was released on April 1st. where is the lamb and that is to say, assessed our poetry critic Geertjan de Vugt, not just good, but shockingly good.

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Or else. Gender through the eyes of a primatologist (non-fiction)

Frans de Waal

What distinguishes humans from other animals? Primatologist Frans de Waal devotes his life to formulating answers to that question. IN sex he investigates male-female differences in great apes, which are not nearly as great as is often thought. Bonobos and chimpanzees also have queers, but unlike humans, these animals are not labeled, bullied, and certainly not left out.

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The politics of the lesser evil. A History of the Jewish Council for Amsterdam 1941-1943 (non-fiction)

Bart van der Boom

In January, Leiden historian Bart van der Boom dismissed the much-discussed investigation by a cold case team into the betrayal of Anne Frank. A nonsense story, he repeated three months later in his book about the Jewish Council. According to Van der Boom, it is not justified that the Council has been seen in a bad light for years. For a correct judgement, you don’t need hindsight, but you have to go back to the knowledge of the past.

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Chronicle of the Murdered House (fiction)

Lucio Cardoso

Published in 1959 and only now translated into Dutch, by Harrie Lemmens. When Chronicle of the Murdered House appeared, critics were shocked, not least because of the much-publicized sexual relationship between a mother and her 16-year-old son. But after his death, Cardoso’s novel would become a classic of modern Brazilian literature. And rightly so, wrote critic Maarten Steenmeijer: It is a crushing novel.

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