'I read 100 books a year. Here are my top 5 of 2022 so far.'

I love books. I adore them so much, in fact, that I did a bachelor’s degree in Literature and didn’t end up absolutely hating reading at the end of it (and that’s after three years of weekly fifty-page additional readings and endless required texts).

Each year, I set myself the goal to read at least 100 books from my local library, one of my favourite places to visit (I was once asked by a co-worker what my weekend plans were and I replied, "oooh I might go to the library!" with the same amount of zeal that someone might say "oooh, I’m going to meet Harry Styles!" And that, my friends, is why I will never be cool). 

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We’ve reached the midpoint of this year and I’ve read 59 novels, so it seemed a good time to do a rundown of my top five reads of this year so far and give you all the reasons you should add them to that already-large-to-be-read pile you have sitting next to your bed:

1. What a Shame by Abigail Bergstrom

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This novel follows Mathilda, who’s reeling from a break-up and the death of a loved one. Her friends are concerned that she isn’t coping and, amidst the worry, an unorthodox reason for her stagnancy is put forward. Mathilda, her friends unanimously seem to decide, is cursed. What follows is a series of "unconventional remedies" to remove the so-called "curse" from Mathilda that forces her to confront her past, her present and herself.


As someone who dabbles in spiritual practices to understand myself, the experiences of Mathilda felt very close to home. The novel delved into grief, trauma, the strength of female friendship, the reality of existing as a woman in the patriarchal world and how we take on the burden of men’s shame. Often reminiscent of Fleabag in its dark, acerbic humour, if you’ve ever turned to a psychic or tarot reading to sort through some shit, this book is for you. 

Note for this book: trigger warning: sexual assault. 

2. The Good Neighbours by Nina Allan

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The protagonist of this novel, Cath, is a freelance photographer who is working on a unique project – photographing murder houses. This project sees her return to the island where she grew up, to the house of her childhood best friend Shirley Craigie – who was murdered in a familicide by the father, John. Confronting her past and what happened that day sees Cath delve into the life of John Craigie, including his obsession with fairy folk and his upbringing. 

The book was not what I expected; I found it in the crime section of the library and expected it to be a standard murder mystery. What I found instead was a beautifully haunting book about memory, obsession, and childhood trauma, laced with intriguing fantastical elements throughout. What I enjoyed most about this book was how accurately it captured that human desire to know why – that burning need we have to find a justification for tragedies and our never-ending quest for closure.

3. Happy Never After: why the happiness fairy-tale is driving us mad by Jill Stark

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In this non-fiction novel, Jill Stark delves into the breakdown she experienced at what should have been the peak of her life. It was a breakdown that inspired her to ask the question; was it actually the pursuit of happiness that was making her miserable? Cue soul-searching, neuroscience, and road-testing the "maps to happiness."

This book came to me around the time that good things started happening to me and, instead of filling me with joy – they filled me with panic and with a subsequent question, "okay what next?" This is what Stark taps into – how we forever shift the goalposts in our relentless chase of happiness, ultimately making it unattainable. A definite read for an anxious mind!

4. What We Lose by Zinzi Clemmons

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This novel is a coming-of-age story that focuses on a young African American woman named Thandi, depicting how her life unfolds after she loses her mother to cancer. The novel is episodic and flits between before and after the loss, showing pivotal movements of Thandi’s life as she learns to live and love without her mother by her side. 


I love a complex and polarising character; protagonists that speak to the flawed nature of human beings are my jam, and this book has this is spades. In addition, how this book tackles the issues of racial identity and the feeling of not quite belonging were eye-opening and insightful. It tackled loss and the intricacy of grief, especially as it connects to family, in a way that had me blinking back tears. It’s not a beach-read (unless you enjoy crying on the beach which, if you do, power to you my friend), but it is a powerful, beautiful, and moving one.

5. The Book of M by Peng Shepherd

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Full disclosure: it’s hard for me to get into fantasy and sci-fi novels. It’s only been in recent years that I’ve been pushing myself to even dabble in this genre. So, I knew this fantasy novel was special when, despite it being lengthy, I finished it in just two days. 

Set in a dystopian future, the novel tells the story of a sudden phenomenon wherein people begin to lose their shadows and subsequently develop a strange new power – the catch? It comes at the cost of their memories. 

The strength of this book lies in its emotional core and its multi-faceted characters. There are moments of chilling familiarity as the “contagion” spreads and the story delves into subsequent quarantines and manic behaviour. Fair warning, the ending asks for a suspension of disbelief and might seem frustrating to some, but the journey to get there is so thoughtful and intimate, you can easily forgive it. 

For more from Shaeden Berry, you can find her on Instagram @berrywellthanks.

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