Reader’s Advisory Experts Announce 2022 Notable Books List

CHICAGO—The Notable Books Council, first established in 1944, has announced the 2022 selections of the Notable Books List, an annual best-of list composed of 25 titles written for adult readers and published in the US including fiction, nonfiction and poetry. The list was announced today during the Reference & User Services Book & Media Awards Virtual Ceremony.

The 2022 selections are:


“Afterparties” by Anthony Veasna So (Ecco, an imprint of HarperCollins)

A rich collection of unique, vivid, and expertly written characters from the Cambodian diaspora in America.

“Cloud Cuckoo Land” by Anthony Doerr (Schribner, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, Inc.)

A celebration of the power of the written word echoing through time, space, and lived experiences. 

“Gordo” by Jaime Cortez (Black Cat, an imprint of Grove Atlantic)

Linked stories told by a fat, queer kid in a 1970s migrant workers’ camp open doors to a world of heartache and humor.

“Hell of a Book” by Jason Mott (Dutton, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC)

Metafictional musing on racial justice, fear, and grief in America relayed through a humorous cross-country publicity tour.

“Klara and the Sun” by Kazuo Ishiguro (A Borzoi book published by Alfred A. Knopf)

The lives of a family in the near future are examined through the eyes of an artificial friend.

“Matrix” by Lauren Groff (Riverhead Books, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC)

The transportive story of a woman cast out by medieval society claiming leadership inside the walls of a convent.

“Painting Time” by Maylis de Kerangal (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

In this captivating, heady, warm translation, a decorative artist in Brussels develops her creative identity through trompe l’oeil.

“The Five Wounds” by Kirstin Valdez Quade (W. W. Norton & Company)

Five generations of a New Mexico family grapple with many questions, including “what is redemption?”

“The Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois” by Honorée Fanonne Jeffers (Harper, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers)

The recovered history of one woman’s family exposes a legacy of stolen land, abuse, and personal ties in the American South.

“The Wrong End of the Telescope” by Rabih Alameddine (Grove Press, an imprint of Grove Atlantic)

Daily life and mortality in a refugee camp in Lesbos prompts a trans woman physician to revisit memories of her childhood in Lebanon.

“When We Cease to Understand the World” by Benjamín Labatut (New York Review Books published by The New York Review of Books)

A feverish exploration of the moral consequences of scientific discovery, told through an inventive blend of fact and fiction.


“A Little Devil in America: Notes in Praise of Black Performance” by Hanif Abdurraqib (Random House, an imprint and division of Penguin Random House LLC)

From Josephine Baker to Beyonce, this vibrant fusion of essays, memoir, and poetry is a deeply personal dive into Black artists’ vital contribution to modern culture.

“A World on the Wing: The Global Odyssey of Migratory Birds” by Scott Weidensaul (W.W. Norton & Company)

Despite the increasing dangers that flocks encounter during their arduous journeys, their innate adaptability and conservation interventions offer hope for survival.

“Beyond: The Astonishing Story of the First Human to Leave Our Planet and Journey into Space” by Stephen Walker (Harper, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers)

New research recreates the drama of the race into orbit between the United States and the Soviet Union during the Cold War. 

“Chasing Me to My Grave: An Artist’s Memoir of the Jim Crow South” by Winfred Rembert as told to Erin I. Kelly (Bloomsbury Publishing)

In words and painted leatherwork, a Black man shares his story of trauma, survival, and claiming agency through creative expression.

“Empire of Pain: The Secret History of the Sackler Dynasty” by Patrick Radden Keefe (Doubleday, a division of Penguin Random House LLC)

An investigation of the mega-rich family behind Purdue Pharma, the producer of OxyContin, and their denial of responsibility for the opioid epidemic. 

“Four Hundred Souls: A Community History of African America, 1619-2019” Edited by Ibram X. Kendi and Keisha N. Blain (One World, an imprint of Random House, a division of Penguin Random House LLC)

Ninety different Black authors lift their voices in this expansive anthology, using a variety of forms to speak to centuries of heritage.

“How the Word Is Passed: A Reckoning with the History of Slavery Across America” by Clint Smith (Little, Brown and Company, a division of Hachette Book Group, Inc.)

With thoughtfulness and nuance, a poet interrogates places tied to the transatlantic slave trade and calls upon us to engage with our shared responsibility for the past.

“Pastoral Song: A Farmer’s Journey” by James Rebanks (Custom House, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers)

An elegy for what has been lost from the English agricultural landscape, and what can be regained, through the lens of one family’s experience.     

“People Love Dead Jews: Reports From a Haunted Present” by Dara Horn (W.W. Norton & Company)

Blistering fury and intense love create fireworks in this collection of provocative essays that challenge the way the world sees Jewish people.

“Poet Warrior” by Joy Harjo (W.W. Norton & Company)

In a generous act of verse and prose, an author offers a spiritually layered and fearless memoir of her Muscogee (Creek) heritage, family, and grief.

“The Hospital: Life, Death, and Dollars in a Small American Town” by Brian Alexander (St. Martin’s Press, an imprint of St. Martin’s Publishing Group)

One community medical center serves as a microcosm for national problems, fighting to prioritize patient care in a corporate landscape.


“Playlist for the Apocalypse” by Rita Dove (W.W. Norton & Company)

Creating a rich range of voices, the poet orchestrates themes of mortality and politics in an examination of American humanity across time.

“The Renunciations” by Donika Kelly (Graywolf Press)

Family trauma, its aftermath, and the process of burning it all down to start anew.

“Winter Recipes from the Collective” by Louise Glück (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)

Cool and spare, these poems contain an undercurrent of despair while germinating seeds of hope. Could this be a message for our (post?) pandemic world?

The winners were selected by the Notable Books Council whose members include expert readers’ advisory and collection development librarians. The Council considers titles based on stellar reviews published in standard library reviewing sources and other authoritative sources.

The Council includes Hana Zittel, Denver Public Library, chair; Allison Espoto, The Center for Fiction, vice-chair; Lillian Dabney, Seattle Athenaeum; Sara Duff, University of Central Florida; Gwen Glazer, Croton Free Library; Edward Kownslar, Stephen F. Austin State University; Rochelle Lundy, Seattle University; Meredith Mann, The New York Public Library; Eve Alison Nyren, Placer County Library (retired); Katharine Phenix, BookGive Advisory Council; Jo Schofield, Stark County District Library; Nonny Schlotzhauer, Penn State University.

The Reference and User Services Association (RUSA), a division of the American Library Association, represents librarians and library staff in the fields of reference, specialized reference, collection development, readers’ advisory and resource sharing. RUSA is the foremost organization of reference and information professionals who make the connections between people and the information sources, services, and collection materials they need. Learn more at

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