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2022: the year that trans writing blossomed on the book scene

2022 lacked blockbusters books, but fringe fiction flourished and works in translation soared. From trans writing to boundary-pushing themes, we look back at the main trends this year

By Barry Pierce

In many ways, 2022 felt like the year of the underdog in the book world. Although it lacked blockbusters, fringe fiction flourished and works in translation soared.

But which trends will we look back on from our lofty armchairs and think, ‘That was so 2022’?

Themes pushed boundaries

Fiction took a turn for the extreme. Ottessa Moshfegh gave us Lapvona, exploring rape, incest and cannibalism. Depending on the review, it was either a grungy, dirty romp or the most debased work this side of the Marquis de Sade. Sayaka Murata of Convenience Store Woman fame provided some competition with the moral code-breaking Life Ceremony, a collection of stories about cannibalism, humans being kept as pets and skin being worn as clothing. Chelsea G. Summers kept the cannibalism thread going with A Certain Hunger, a dark comedy about a food critic with a ravenous appetite. So much for an ‘easy read’.

Plot became replaced by ‘vibes’

Anyone who’s read a hyped literary release over the past few years (think minimalist covers, double-spaced text and a neat 210 pages) will have noticed that plot, the thing books used to have, has been surreptitiously replaced by characters just vibing it out. The ‘vibes’ novel came into its own this year, however, with the likes of Elif Batuman’s Either/Or (her sequel to trendsetting vibes novel, The Idiot), Sean Thor Conroe’s Fuccboi, Jessica Au’s Cold Enough for Snow, and Sarah Thankam Mathews’ All This Could Be Different. There was even a vibes short-story collection, Saba Sams’ brilliant Send Nudes.

The best new books… were the old ones

Reissues are (literally) nothing new, but they dominated 2022. This summer, all the hottest reads were 30 years old and many of their authors were long dead. People sat poolside with their Natalia Ginzburgs and their Annie Ernauxs. Cookie Mueller showed us how to party 33 years after her death. Jane Bowles’ Two Serious Ladies garnered brand-new reviews, on top of the ones it originally received from Truman Capote and Tennessee Williams. It makes you wonder why new authors bother…  

Trans writing hit the mainstream 

2022 will be remembered as an epochal year for trans writing. Picador pronounced Imogen Binnie’s Nevada a modern classic when it reissued the cult novel. Faber published You Made a Fool of Death with Your Beauty, the latest work by non-binary trans novelist Akwaeke Emezi. The paperback edition of Shon Faye’s The Transgender Issue topped the charts and has remained a bestseller. And that’s before we mention other new titles from 2022: Summer Fun by Jeanne Thornton, None of the Above by Travis Alabanza, Manhunt by Gretchen Felker-Martin, Please Miss by Grace Lavery, Morbid Obsessions by Frankie Miren and Alison Rumfitt… the list goes on.

Taken from the December/January 2023 issue of Rolling Stone UK. Read the rest of our essays reviewing 2022 here.