My favourite reads of 2022
*Not necessarily published in 2022
In The Dreamhouse — Carmen Maria Machado
There was zero chance of me not absolutely loving this book. A formally creative, yet completely accessible memoir of an abusive queer relationship which merges memory, folklore, films and horror. Everything feels real and recognisable, from the longing and second-guessing to the fears around the burden of representation. Despite the grim subject it was one of those books which I powered through very quickly. To use an unforgiveable cliche, I couldn't put it down.
Cleanness — Garth Greenwell
I'd been wanted to read Garth Greenwell's novel in short stories for a long time. It's told from the eyes of a gay American teacher living in Bulgaria. Its beautiful prose get deep down to the complex and intertwined subjects of desire and shame, simmering with both sexual tension and anxiety.
100 Queer Poems — edited by Mary Jean Chan and Andrew McMillan
A brilliant and diverse anthology of queer poems both past and present, leaning on the contemporary side. I can't read anthologies like regular books, but I keep coming back to this one every day or so — always finding a new poem that plays on my mind, delights me, or haunts me. Too many highlights to choose from but Langston Hughes's show-stopping collection ender, 'Final Curve', Kay Ryan's compelling queer anxiety poem 'Invisible Ladder', Jay Bernard's devastating 'Hiss', Golnoosh Nour's vivid poem of migration, longing and displacement, 'Hiraeth' and Colin Herd's cheekily suggestive 'Hint Hint' are the ones currently singing in my ears.
Keeper — Mícheál McCann
I've loved Mícheál McCann's poems since I saw him do a lockdown zoom reading in 2020 and I was very excited when the consistently brilliant queer poetry publisher 14 Poems brought out his first pamphlet. 'Keeper' is beautiful and tender and sometimes bleak, tackling subjects such as depression and suicide, but it always shimmers with hope. My favourite poem is 'Big City Types' where the speaker mocks the patronising way in which rural dwellers —perhaps especially the young and queer ones— are often viewed by said big city types.
Notes from the North — Suji Kwock Kim
Suiji Kwock Kim's family are divided between North and South Korea, those in the north she has no contact with and does not know what happened to. 'Notes from the North' reimagines the stories of the poet's family in the north (particularly her grandparents), it utilises testimonies both real and imagined, fragments of subverted North Korean propaganda, history known and unknown, and the poet's flair for language, to create a stunning, vital and heart wrenching pamphlet.
Bad Gays: A Homosexual History — Huw Lemmy and Ben Miller
If you haven't listened to the podcast Bad Gays I thoroughly recommend it. You are in for a treat! In each episode hosts Huw Lemmy and Ben Miller take a different homosexual (or occasionally otherwise queer or trans person) from history and outline their life story including their sins (and not the fun, sexy ones although they do often tell us about those too!) The focus is particularly on those gays who have been seduced by oppressive power structures. History gays Ben and Huw provide a meticulously researched, fascinating, funny and very queer show that challenges the binary of good/bad, gay/straight and a lot of other things, whilst often still profiling some undeniably terrible people. As someone who's listened to the entire show I wasn't sure I needed to read the book as well and may not have bought it had I not gone to their talk and wanted them to sign something but! I am so glad I did, even for someone who's listened to every episode of the podcast I still devoured this book, which is a fascinating read, told with thought, humour and hope.
Also read and loved: Rocksong — Golnoosh Nour, At Least This I Know — Andrés N. Ordorica, Limbic — Peter Scalpello, Dancer from the Dance — Andrew Holleran, Modern Nature — Derek Jarman, Some Integrity — Padraig Regan