best books to read in May 2022

Whether you’re keen on Japanese literature, Hollywood, new writers or a campus coming-of-age, there’s plenty to sink your teeth into in May.

Highlights include Tina Brown’s highly anticipated book about the royal family The Palace Papers and Australian writer Steve Toltz’s typically wry Here Goes Nothing.

Below we’ve collated a list of 10 books – spanning genres and styles – that should be on this month’s reading pile.

The Booklist is a weekly newsletter for book lovers from books editor Jason Steger. Get it delivered every Friday.


Either/Or, Elif Batuman

Jonathan Cape, $32.99, May 1

American writer Elif Batuman burst onto the literary scene with her debut novel The Idiot, which was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in 2018. The coming-of-age campus novel, inspired by Batuman’s own Ivy League experience, follows the bookish Selin, the daughter of Turkish immigrants, as she starts at Harvard University and teaches English in the Hungarian countryside during a summer in Europe. Either/Or is a sequel that picks up after that summer, with Selin returning to Harvard for her second year. This time she spends her university break in Turkey after taking a job working for a student-run guidebook.


The Palace Papers: Inside the House of Windsor, the Truth and the Turmoil, Tina Brown

Century, $35, May 3

Hate ’em or love ’em, journalist Tina Brown’s new book on the royal family is already causing a stir (in fact, Jezebel has declared that The Palace Papers is “proof the royal family needs a reality show”). The Daily Beast founder and Tatler, The New Yorker and Vanity Fair editor has form when it comes to wrangling royals, having written The Diana Chronicles and also a biography of Diana (her last book, The Vanity Fair Diaries: 1983-1992, was a delightful read). Brown’s trademark style sparkles as she follows the royal family after the death of Princess Diana, looking at the tumultuous relationship between members of the institution, and of course all the drama. It’s a big read, so will at least tide you over until the next season of The Crown later this year.


Here Goes Nothing, Steve Toltz

Hamish Hamilton, $32.99, May 3

The Booker-shortlisted author of A Fraction of the Whole and Quicksand returns with what he calls the third in his “trilogy of fear”. The Australian writer, who has garnered comparisons to David Foster Wallace and John Kennedy Toole with his dark humour, takes us into the afterlife in Here Goes Nothing. The novel is narrated from the perspective of the deceased Angus Mooney as he watches over the life he left behind. In an interview with Jane Sullivan, Toltz, who is living in LA while he is working on television projects, said he doesn’t see the darkness in his work and thinks of it all as “fairly light and amusing”. “I was influenced by Russian literature, full of murder and suicide and plots, so I think anything’s fair game,” he said. “I have a hard time with cruelty, I don’t think cruelty’s funny. But other than that – as dark as the human experience on its darkest day. We have to live through all these dark things and it’s right to laugh at them.”


This All Come Back Now: An Anthology of First Nations Speculative Fiction, edited by Mykaela Saunders

UQP, $32.99, May 3

Writer Mykaela Saunders edits the world’s first anthology of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander speculative fiction. The collection has been written, curated, edited and designed by First Nations people. Contributors include two-time Miles Franklin Award winner and master of the speculative fiction form Alexis Wright, this year’s Stella Prize winner Evelyn Araluen, Ellen van Neerven, Alison Whittaker and Age journalist Jack Latimore.


Heart Land, Jennifer Pinkerton

Allen & Unwin, $32.99, May 3

Drawing on interviews with more than 100 Australians under 40, writer Jennifer Pinkerton explores love, lust, sex and dating for millennials and Generation Z. Blending her personal story with research and reportage, Pinkerton examines the current era of human relationships including the role of dating apps, constant online connection and fluid sexual identities.


All the Lovers in the Night, Mieko Kawakami

Picador, $32.99, May 10

It seems we can’t get enough of Japanese literature in translation that features eccentric, usually socially withdrawn young women, often hampered by the pressures of routine or society. Kawakami has developed a cultish following and the author of the bestselling Breasts and Eggs (one of Time’s best 10 books of 2020) and Heaven returns with a novel about Tokyoite Fuyuko Irie, an isolated proofreader in her 30s whose one source of solace is light. She has a tradition of looking at the lights every Christmas Eve, and a chance encounter with a man sets the wheels in motion for change. Kawakami, who Haruki Murakami has called his favourite young writer, has been translated into more than 20 languages after making her literary debut with poetry in 2006.


Abomination by Ashley Goldberg

Vintage Australia, $32.99, May 3

On the new writing front, look out for Australian writer Ashley Goldberg whose novel follows two former best friends in Melbourne whose lives are changed when their ultra-Orthodox school is rocked by a sex abuse scandal. Twenty years later, the men are leading very different lives when they are reunited. The novel was shortlisted for the 2020 Kill Your Darlings Unpublished Manuscript Award.


The Murder Rule by Dervla McTiernan

HarperCollins, $32.99, May 4

We loved Cormac Reilly, the detective from McTiernan’s bestselling The Ruin, The Scholar and The Good Turn, but now the Western Australian-based writer has a new standalone crime novel. The Murder Rule is inspired by a true story and follows a law student determined to free an innocent man from death row. McTiernan, a former lawyer who was born in Ireland before moving to Australia, became a crime-writing force to be reckoned with when she released The Ruin in 2018, which won the Ned Kelly Award for Best First Fiction, and her novels have sold close to half a million copies in Australia and New Zealand.


His Name Is George Floyd: One Man’s Life and the Struggle for Racial Justice, Robert Samuels and Toluse Olorunnipa

Bantam Press, $35, May 17

Two Washington Post reporters are behind this biography of George Floyd, who was murdered by a police officer in Minneapolis in 2020 after being arrested on suspicion of using a counterfeit bill. Floyd’s death prompted protests against police brutality and racism with the Black Lives Matter movement going global. Placing his story in the context of America’s history of racial inequities, the biography features new reporting including interviews with the family and friends of Floyd.


Mean Baby: A Memoir of Growing Up, Selma Blair

Little Brown, $32.99, May 24

The Cruel Intentions, Legally Blonde and Hellboy actor bares all in a memoir that delves into her addictions, her troubled relationship with her mother and the highs and lows of Hollywood. Blair also writes about her multiple sclerosis diagnosis in 2018 and her advocacy for more awareness around the condition. “There’s a difference it can make to people,” she said in an interview with The New York Times last year. “I don’t mean it in a flaky, soft way. I mean, really make the time to go beyond because you never know what people are holding inside, and what a relief to know even adorable people like me are troubled by their own brains and bodies at times. That’s the comfort I wish I could give.”

The Booklist is a weekly newsletter for book lovers from books editor Jason Steger. Get it delivered every Friday.

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