Salon's favorite books of 2022 — fiction and nonfiction

From memoirs about movies and difficult moms to dark academia novels, here are this year's favorite reads

Salon's Favorite Books of 2022 (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images/Harper Collins/Penguin Random House/Simon & Schuster/Stanford University Press)
Salon's Favorite Books of 2022 (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images/Harper Collins/Penguin Random House/Simon & Schuster/Stanford University Press)

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We write about books pretty extensively here at Salon. Rather than have one section for books, our coverage extends through all verticals, often through in-depth interviews with authors ranging from bestsellers like Adam Hochschild for "American Midnight: The Great War, a Violent Peace, and Democracy's Forgotten Crisis" and well-known artists like "SNL" star Kevin Nealon for "I Exaggerate: My Brushes with Fame" to food personalities like Andrew Zimmern for "Family Dinner" and university press authors like Neema Avashia for "Another Appalachia," her memoir about growing up queer and Indian in West Virginia. We publish recommendation round-ups like "A bolder than 'Bridgerton' reading list: Regency books with a twist Eloise would love" and "Books for hard-to-shop-for tweens and teens, from Star Wars and Harley Quinn to gothic horror," and mourn authors we've lost like Julie Powell of "Julie and Julia" fame.

It was a productive year for Salon authors, too. 2022 saw new books published from editor at large D. Watkins ("Black Boy Smile: A Memoir in Moments" and "The Wire: The Complete Visual History"), editor in chief Erin Keane ("Runaway: Notes on the Myths That Made Me"), nights and weekends editor Kelly McClure ("Something Is Always Happening Somewhere"), frequent music contributor Annie Zaleski ("Lady Gaga: Applause") and new in paperback, culture writer Alison Stine's "Trashlands."

Every year we see so many excellent books cross our desks, and 2022 was no exception. And like all passionate readers, when we find a book we love, we want everyone else to love it too. Here, in no fixed order, are 14 nonfiction books and 10 novels published in 2022 that stood out as favorites of Salon writers and editors. 

NONFICTION

Sickening: How Big Pharma Broke American Health Care and How We Can Repair It by John Abramson (Courtesy of Mariner Books/Harper Collins)
Here's a snapshot of what I said when I reviewed this book back in March: "Compared to other high-income countries, the fitness of Americans is in dismal shape — and has been declining for decades. According to John Abramson, a health care policy lecturer at Harvard Medical School, the sap of this poisoned tree is so-called Big Pharma, the coalition of drug companies that have structured American health care into a money-generating machine. In 'Sickening: How Big Pharma Broke American Health Care and How We Can Repair It,' Abramson sets out to answer the 'paradox of American health care,' building his case using the testimony of patients and former drug executives. In the book, Abramson reveals how doctors are regularly duped into prescribing expensive drugs with extreme side effects while major pharmaceutical companies rake in record profits. Yet recent research suggests that 46 million Americans can't afford health care. According to a 2020 survey, two-thirds of consumers live in fear of medical bills. The book is a crash course in the profit-driven systems built by Big Pharma that dominate the U.S. health care industry and how they can cause undue suffering, starting with several recent pharmaceutical scandals that have cost the lives of thousands of Americans while enriching major corporations." [Read the full review.] — Troy Farah, reporter, science & health
The Method: How the Twentieth Century Learned to Act by Isaac Butler (Courtesy of Bloomsbury Publishing)

Full disclosure: Isaac is a personal friend of mine. It's always more fraught reading a friend's book since there's always the risk that it's dull. Luckily, Butler knows how to liven up history by focusing on human personalities and foibles. Even as he writes about the various legends who sculpted modern acting, he never fails to find the humor and humanity in his subjects. Seminal acting gurus like Konstantin Stanislavski and Stella Adler are giants, but Butler never loses sight of the fact that they were also goofy theater kids

 

Crucially, however, this book succeeds at its main mission, which is persuading often skeptical American audiences that acting — just like writing, directing or composing — is an art, not just a set of technical skills. In our data-centric world where much of life gets reduced to pseudo-objective statistics, it's a real pleasure to sink yourself into the story of people who gave their lives to upholding the ineffable but still-necessary subjective power of art. Also, Isaac has done his share of acting, so his reading of the audiobook is great fun. — Amanda Marcotte, senior politics writer

A Waiter in Paris: Adventures in the Dark Heart of the City by Edward Chisholm (Courtesy of Pegasus Books/Simon & Schuster)

From FX's "The Bear" to Mark Mylod's "The Menu," this has been the year prestige entertainment has mined professional kitchens for all their inherent dramatic potential. If, after watching those works, you're still hungry for more — and you've already read Bourdain's seminal dispatch "Kitchen Confidential" — try Chisholm's "A Waiter in Paris." (Read an excerpt on Salon.)

 

"As a waiter," he writes, "you quickly get used to the fact that people believe they can talk to you like a lower species." 

 

Chisholm moved from London to Paris in 2011 and, despite having very little knowledge of the French language or culture, he quickly fell in with a ragtag group of cigarette-fueled waiters at a fine dining restaurant. Through Chisholm's punchy prose, readers will be taken through his whirlwind career filled with angry knife-wielding chefs, demanding customers, squalid living conditions and panic attacks in the Pass. — Ashlie Stevens, deputy food editor

California Soul: An American Epic of Cooking and Survival by Keith Corbin (Courtesy of Penguin Random House)

Did you ever hear the story about the former gang member who was so good at cooking crack he was flown around the world to teach other gang members, before going to prison, then coming home and working his way up the ranks in professional kitchens by developing an impeccable style, helping to launch a successful restaurant bringing high-end cuisine to the most vulnerable people in his food-desert neighborhood of Watts? And after being nominated for a James Beard Award, launched his own establishment that quickly became a hot spot for Black celebrities like Issa Rae, Tracee Ellis Ross and too many others to name? I hadn't either until I read Alta Adams chef and owner Keith Corbin's memoir.

 

The beauty of this book is that every time you think the story is over Corbin slaps you with another problem, another issue, another feat he must overcome. And he does. It feels just like real life — and unlike many books on the urban experience, where our hero's only goal is to make it out, Corbin reaches above and beyond, changing to imagine success at the highest level. The book deals with passion, purpose and redemption in the most beautiful way &mdash by not telling, but showing us that it's not how you start, but truly, how you finish. — D. Watkins, editor at large

How to Read Now: Essays by Elaine Castillo (Courtesy of Penguin Random House)

Once in a while, a book comes along that lands like a well-timed shake of your shoulders, a persuasive, invigorating invitation to try harder and do better. That's exactly what Elaine Castillo's "How to Read Now," the most entertaining case for critical thinking I've enjoyed in ages, feels like.

 

Castillo, author of the 2019 breakthrough novel "America Is Not the Heart," is not arguing against the power of literature to expand your worldview. What she takes issue with is the performative empathy of reading about the experiences of others merely to, as she told Salon earlier this year, "justify the presence of these writers on our bookshelves." And she challenges the cowardly fiction that art ever is apolitical. Castillo doesn't want to wrest us away from the so-called classics. Instead, she suggests we can — and should — read our Austen with eyes open.

 

The highest praise I can give of Castillo's book is that it truly has changed how I read now. Months after I put "How to Read Now" down, I still feel it with me in my other reading, peeking over my shoulder, asking questions. It's made me a more ambitious, active, curious book lover, whether I'm engaging with Madame Bovary or Carrie Soto. It'll do the same for you. [Read my interview with Castillo.] — Mary Elizabeth Williams, senior writer

Dear Damage by Ashley Marie Farmer (Courtesy of Sarabande Books)
Ashley Marie Farmer's debut collection of essays opens with an act of violence in her immediate family that shocked the community: "On January 19, 2014, my grandfather Bill walked into my grandmother Frances's hospital room with a loaded gun he'd purchased that morning." In what was meant to be a final act of love, Bill shot his paralyzed wife in her hospital bed, then tried to shoot himself, but the gun broke, and he was arrested. It was deemed a "mercy killing," with all the sensationalized press coverage and impassioned public debate a case like that tends to spark. This cataclysmic event — a very public story collides with a family's specific, private loss — is the axis around which Farmer's meditations and explorations of guilt, place, grief and violence revolve, in memorable essays that take both traditional and experimental forms. Interspersed throughout are fascinating transcripts of interviews she recorded earlier with both grandparents, allowing them to be known on the page as the dynamic, loving couple they were. [Read my interview with Farmer from April.] — Erin Keane, editor in chief
Inciting Joy by Ross Gay (Courtesy of Algonquin Books)

 

Ross Gay follows "The Book of Delights" with another dazzling collection of lyric essays. Who writes about joy in a time like this, doubting voices ask him? This book answers: Someone with a keen understanding of sorrow, and how to embrace it. His incitement-of-joy subjects vary from gardening to skateboarding to the cover song, but grief and loss are never far behind. This is by design. As he points out in his introduction, "it is a kid's fantasy … to imagine any emotion discreet from another."

 

Gay, an acclaimed poet, infuses his sentences with a wild abandon — so appropriate to channeling wild emotional takeovers — that sometimes threaten to careen out of control, but that's an illusion, one so enjoyable it thrilled me every time a long passage took me for a ride to somewhere I couldn't previously imagine. Just as satisfying are his footnotes, some of which contain entire sub-essays tucked away at the bottom of the pages, like treasures waiting to be discovered.— Erin Keane, editor in chief 

I'm Glad My Mom Died by Jenette McCurdy (Courtesy of Simon & Schuster)

Jennette McCurdy cracked something open in the world with that confetti-filled urn of hers. In the title of her hilarious and frequently devastating memoir, the former "iCarly" and "Sam & Cat" star admitted bluntly that "I'm Glad My Mom Died" — and at least a portion of the grateful readers who catapulted the book to the bestseller list nodded back a collective, "Girl, same."

 

McCurdy no doubt had a built-in readership thanks to her teen stardom, and her candor in revealing the unhealthy alchemy of a toxic industry and an emotionally abusive parent. But the deeper resonance of the book was in its clear-eyed understanding that although "Moms are so romanticized," reality is a lot more complicated. And by finally acknowledging who her mother truly was, McCurdy was better able to confront her own demons, and arrive at something resembling forgiveness. 

 

McCurdy's memoir providentially came along shortly after both my mother and mother-in-law died within weeks of each other. At the time, I was barraged on all sides with well-meaning condolences, even while my own primary emotion was one of profound, silent relief. Now, because of this book and its runaway success, the conversation around grief is expanding, revealing the spectrum of emotions possible in the aftermath of death. And if I can say today without shame that I'm glad both my moms died, it's because McCurdy eloquently paved the way. [Watch my interview with McCurdy.] — Mary Elizabeth Williams, senior writer

Predator by Ander Monson (Courtesy of Graywolf Press)

I love an intricate and highly personal immersion into a pop culture obsession. In Ander Monson's eighth book — and his first memoir — he takes us, frame by frame, through a meticulous close reading of the original 1987 "Predator" movie in all its violent spectacle and Schwarzenegger glory. "I believe that if you look hard and long enough at what you loved best at fourteen and how you lived then and what you saw in the world, it will reveal both the world and you," Monson writes. Mission accomplished.

 

Indeed, what Monson reveals about violence, death and America through his obsession with "Predator" goes deeper than special effects and cinematic suspense — internal tension between his attraction to and rejection of destruction; grief over the loss of his mother; the murder of his childhood babysitter; gun culture, male friendship and male anger; the shooting of his congresswoman, Gabrielle Giffords; and perhaps surprisingly, the life and writings of poet, memoirist and gay rights activist Paul Monette, who wrote the movie tie-in novelization of "Predator" while his partner Rog was dying of AIDS. Monette, who died in 1995, haunts the pages of Monson's "Predator," another writer doing his best to make something new and worthy out of someone else's images. Fair warning for 2023: If I run into you and I know you like movies, I'm going to ask you if you've read this brilliant book. If not? Get to the choppa already! [Read Alison Stine's interview with Monson.] — Erin Keane, editor in chief

We Don't Know Ourselves by Fintan O'Toole (Courtesy of Liveright Publishing)
Many Irish or Irish-affiliated readers may be exasperated by Fintan O'Toole's alternately tragic, comic, wistful, profoundly observant and ultimately optimistic memoir, which as his subtitle tells us, is also a history of that rain-drenched island nation's social and cultural transformation since his 1960s childhood. But we will be exasperated because we are a nation (or, as in my case, a national diaspora) of begrudgers, belittlers and grandiose self-dramatizers, and O'Toole is having none of that. How exactly did a poor, backward, profoundly conservative and inward-looking Catholic nation become a generally tolerant multi-ethnic global crossroads within the last half-century? What was lost, what was gained and how much did "Riverdance" have to do with it? No two Irish people will agree on answers to those questions, but O'Toole — for much of his journalistic career a scathing critic of Irish, British and American politics — offers the story of his own life as a corrective to the built-up mythologies that surround Ireland and Irish identity. [Read my interview with O'Toole.] — Andrew O'Hehir, executive editor
Reader's Block: A History of Reading Differences by Matthew Rubery (Courtesy of Stanford University Press)

There is a psychological pressure attached to reading that doesn't exist for most other forms of entertainment. People aren't shamed for not watching a movie, listening to a song or observing a painting in "the right way," yet how often is a reader told they're reading a book "wrong"? In Rubery's light-hearted yet monumental text, he deconstructs the psychology of how people process information while reading. In the process, he proves that there is no "right" way to read a book. A human being can "get" a book's content, and interact with it in a meaningful way, even if they do not read it in the "normal" manner. Unsurprisingly, Rubery unpacks troubling deeper prejudices behind the assumptions that there is a "right way" and a "wrong way" to read. For centuries, people with learning disabilities like dyslexia and autism have been mischaracterized as lazy and stupid simply because their brains process information differently. By its very nature, "Reader's Block" is designed for casual reading — and particularly for people interested in science, history, literature and neurodiversity. [Read my interview with Rubery.] — Matthew Rozsa, staff writer

I Want to Die but I Want to Eat Tteokbokki by Baek Sehee (Courtesy of Bloomsbury Publishing)
I've never read a food book quite like South Korean author Baek Sehee's debut "I Want to Die but I Want to Eat Tteokbokki." On the surface, it's a therapy memoir. Despite having a successful job working as a social media director at a publishing house, Sehee is depressed and anxious and has this exhaustion building inside her that is becoming harder and harder to ignore, so she begins to see a therapist and records their sessions. But woven throughout Sehee's notes on self-doubt and burnout, is an engaging love letter for her favorite street food, the hot, spicy rice cake, tteokbokki. It's a short, meditative book that will cause readers — myself included — to really consider what's at the root of the little comforts that bring us joy. — Ashlie Stevens, deputy food editor
Our Fermented Lives: A History of How Fermented Foods Have Shaped Cultures and Communities by Julia Skinner (Courtesy of Storey Publishing/Hachette Book Group)
Fermentation has been a hot topic in artisan food circles for years, but Julia Skinner's "Our Fermented Lives" breaks down the ways that fermentation itself and its products — including kimchi, coffee, cheese, bread starter and craft beer — have literally shifted the ways societies (and our individual gut microbiomes) operate. Both history nerds and home cooks will appreciate this book, which comes with 42 supplemental recipes for items like sauerkraut, pickles, vinegars and soy sauce. — Ashlie Stevens, deputy food editor
It Was All a Dream: Biggie and the World That Made Him by Justin Tinsley (Courtesy of Henry N. Abrams)

We lost the Notorious B.I.G 25 years ago, and he is still named by many as one of the best hip hop artists to ever touch a mic. Fans remember his smooth flow, the legendary poeticism intertwined with some of the most graphic lyrics in the history of the genre that made up those vivid tales, entire novels being recited over beats: That was Biggie's gift to us, that's who he was as an artist. But who was Biggie the person? Reporter Justin Tinsley took a deep dive into the parts of Biggie the public never really got to know by interviewing those who had the luxury of spending time with the late rapper. We knew Biggie sang about going to North Carolina to push weight on multiple songs, and Tinsley takes us to the location where the rapper was arrested for it — and would hop on stage at a nightclub for one of his very first performances. Tinsley also introduced us to Biggie the momma's boy, the family man, the jazz connoisseur, the mixologist (yes — Biggie loved to cook up a fancy cocktail and gained joy when others expressed how good his concoctions were) and one of the funniest people from his Brooklyn neighborhood. We knew Biggie had a talent for making us laugh with the punchlines in his rhymes; but the people who knew Biggle from the old Brooklyn say he could have chosen stand-up comedian as a profession instead of rap and would have been just as successful. Think you know Biggie Smalls? Until you read this book, you have no idea. — D. Watkins, editor at large

FICTION

More Than You'll Ever Know by Katie Gutierrez (Courtesy of William Morrow/Harper Collins)
Every now and then a bestselling novel lives up to the hype. "More Than You'll Ever Know" is that lovely novel. First-time novelist Katie Gutierrez balances an alternating timeline, the late 1980s and 2017, to tell the story of Lore Rivera, a woman who has two husbands: one in Mexico City and one in Laredo, Texas, with whom she has twin sons. It's even more complicated than that, as struggling true crime writer Cassie Bowman is about to discover when she stumbles upon Lore's story and thinks it might be a book. The tangled intricacies of love, motherhood, duty and sacrifice are cracked open in this novel, whose most compelling scenes are rich descriptions of a historic Mexico City. — Alison Stine, staff writer, culture
The Work Wife by Alison B. Hart (Courtesy of Graydon House/Harper Collins)
I like to learn a little when I read, even fiction. I especially like to be transported to a new or different world, and "The Work Wife" does that in spades. Alison B. Hart's novel is about the personal assistant to a Hollywood mogul, a George Lucas-type figure who lives with his family on a sprawling compound. Also on the estate are a series of buildings where a stable of employees, like Zanne Klein, work to make sure everything runs smoothly behind the scenes. Though she never intended to be an assistant for so long, putting aside her own dreams, Zanne does it all, from updating her employer on personal space flight to organizing a huge fundraising event at his estate. But the powerful, eccentric genius who happens to be her boss has secrets, like what happened to his former business partner Phoebe, a woman in a field dominated by men. The novel shifts perspectives from Zanne to Phoebe to Zanne's boss's wife, Holly, in order to paint a riveting, nuanced picture of being a woman in Hollywood. — Alison Stine, staff writer, culture
The Cloisters by Katy Hays (Courtesy of Atria Books/Simon & Schuster)
Katy Hays' smoldering debut novel "The Cloisters," a museum thriller set at the eponymous New York institution, is an engrossing read for fans of secret rituals, shady antiquities types, and the dark academic trait of securing first author position by any means necessary. Ann, brimming with talent but lacking in pedigree and wealth, scores a coveted summer curatorial assistantship at the Met but finds herself reassigned uptown to The Cloisters, where the tapestried walls and grounds, tended by a punk-rock gardener, hold more mysteries than even Patrick, her elegant, enigmatic new mentor, knows. Fellow research assistant Rachel, who has everything Ann doesn't, takes her under her wing like "the poor relation in an Edith Wharton novel" as they become obsessed with unlocking the hidden potential of a 15th-century deck of tarot cards before anyone else can. The men in "The Cloisters" are consequential to the story but not the point of it, thankfully: That's reserved for the intricately wrought friendship between Ann and Rachel and their internal struggles between ambition and the need for chosen family. —Erin Keane, editor in chief 
A Ghost of Caribou by Alice Henderson (Courtesy of William Morrow/Harper Collins)
You've heard of cozy mysteries, that crime fiction subgenre with an amateur sleuth as the lead, and where sex and violence take a backseat to the mystery solved in a small community. What about nature cozies? The highest praise I can give this novel is that I was barely a few pages in before I immediately went and bought everything else Alice Henderson has published. Her book "A Ghost of Caribou" is the third in a trilogy about Alex Carter, a wildlife biologist whose solitary and awesome job — conducting field observations of the likes of polar bears and wolverines in places such as the Canadian arctic and remote Montana — keeps bringing her into contact with bodies and bad guys. And a man from her past, who goes to radical lengths for his environmental idealism. Think "The Shining" but with realistic suspense, gorgeous prose and small, meaningful lessons about the natural world sprinkled like breadcrumbs in the snow. Get the whole trilogy. Henderson's books and her relatable, likable protagonist will help you make it through the winter. — Alison Stine, staff writer, culture
Lark Ascending by Silas House (Courtesy of Algonquin Books)
Our world is burning, but for a time at least, young Lark has grown up in wilderness seclusion, with his family and just one other, relatively protected from the theocratic government and climate disasters that have overtaken the United States. After a grueling trip to Ireland, the last country they hear is taking in refugees, Lark has to survive alone in a strange land. With the help of a good dog and a woman he's not sure he should trust, Lark needs to stay alive in a hostile landscape long enough to see if his destination is truly the salvation he's living for. House's powerful novel asks necessary questions against the backdrop of a speculative near-future that feels more realistic with every passing day: How do we retain our humanity in a degraded, dangerous world, and what keeps us moving forward when all appears to be lost? [Read Alison Stine's interview with House.] — Erin Keane, editor in chief
Babel: Or the Necessity of Violence: An Arcane History of the Oxford Translators' Revolution by R.F. Kuang (Courtesy of Harper Voyager/Harper Collins)

"Welp," was my first thought in disappointment — not in the book, but in myself for not being able to conceive such an imaginative, ambitious and well-researched novel. R.F. Kuang's follow-up to her sprawling grimdark fantasy "Poppy War" trilogy leaves the martial behind for a different type of battle in dark academia. In this alternate history set in 1840s Oxford, orphan Robin Swift is taken from his home in China and raised by Professor Lowell, who gives his ward a foundation in various foreign and classical languages. All the better for when Robin lands a spot in Oxford University's prestigious Royal Institute of Translation, aka Babel, which is the center of translation — of words, and by extension, the mysterious and magical silver bars that are the source of power upon which the British Empire is built. In some respects, this is the ultimate story for lovers of language, knowledge and their power – while also interrogating the history of what that entails, which naturally includes colonialism. This novel has been divisive among fans of the fantasy genre, mainly because of its rather didactic nature, which frankly fits within Kuang's unique approach. She fills the novel with epigrams, allusions and footnotes from actual texts and literature, ranging from "The Wealth of Nations" and "The Wretched of the Earth" to Wordsworth and nursery rhymes. (There are also two maps, which are essential to all fantasy novels.) As a student of Oxford herself, Kuang made a deliberate choice to set this in the 19th century with its dark academia aesthetic that has been criticized for its Eurocentrism, exactly what she has Robin grapple with here. Kuang once again crafts a unique Bildungsroman that doesn't fulfill the usual expectations for what fantasy is or perhaps, what a Western fantasy is expected to be — and that is its most profound strength.  — Hanh Nguyen, senior editor, culture

All I Should Not Tell by Brian Leung (Courtesy of C&R Press)

It's the 1980s and Conner, 14, is stuck in a muddy little Ohio River town outside of Louisville, Kentucky, with an abusive stepfather, unstable mother, innocent little brother and a secret love for his best friend Mark. One day his hated stepfather disappears, igniting a series of events that tear Mark and Conner apart, and leaving Mark to question what he thought he saw, and who else might know. Twenty years after the fateful day, the past comes back to town, and Conner — now grown, with a wife and a boyfriend — has to face his life's biggest unknowns and solve the mysteries that have haunted him all those years. "All I Should Not Tell" is both a page-turner of a crime novel and a sensitive family drama, offering a compelling portrait of queer late-Gen X small-town life, when "It Gets Better" was more a survival mantra than a sure thing. — Erin Keane, editor in chief

Lapvona by Otessa Moshfegh (Courtesy of Penguin Press/Penguin Random House)

Since the release of her 2015 debut novel, "Eileen," I've been obsessed with the writing of Ottessa Moshfegh and her sharp, unique ability to craft narratives that go from horrifying to hilarious to moving, sometimes all in the same chapter. After my intro to her writing with "Eileen," I quickly moved through the rest of her releases, keeping a close eye out for news on the release of anything new. Thankfully in 2022, a year that made it somewhat difficult to find joy in much of anything, we got a new full-length novel from Moshfegh which added itself to the whole vibe of the year perfectly, "Lapvona." Not a feel-good story by any means, but a wonderful one nonetheless, "Lapvona" centers on the unlikeable character Marek as he shuffles through the dirt-poor eponymous village in misery, until one day when a dreadful act changes his life for what should seem like the better, but actually lands him in more dire straits than where he started. It's disgusting, brutal and vaguely medieval. Basically perfect.— Kelly McClure, nights & weekends editor

Daughters of the New Year by E.M. Tran (Courtesy of Hanover Square Press/Harper Collins)
The only thing better than a good story might be multiple stories in one. Beautiful and heartbreaking, "Daughters of the New Year" is a tale of survival, focused on the women in a Vietnamese immigrant family. The novel moves backward through time, starting with the present-day in New Orleans and reaching back to wartime Vietnam, French colonial rule and even 40 A.D. Each leap is rich with strong, warrior women. The story-within-a-story format of E.M. Tran's debut novel, which the New York Times called "daring," helps readers better to understand generational trauma, family and the heavy legacy of time. It's also a gorgeous, transporting read. — Alison Stine, staff writer, culture
The Department of Truth by James Tynion	(Courtesy of Image Comics)

James Tynion IV's (and artist Martin Simmonds') graphic novel/comic book series "The Department of Truth" is captivating from the first page of the first issue. America, Europe and many other parts of the world are now in thrall to conspiracy theories and the larger disimagination machine. This war on reality is one of the primary weapons that fascism and other forms of authoritarianism and societal evil have used to conquer the hearts and minds of many millions of people around the world. "The Department of Truth" is a tour of this alternate reality and the idea of "conspiracism" – a meta construct where the idea of the conspiracy itself defines our understandings of reality and truth. It would be unfair to describe "The Department of Truth" as a more "literate" version of the X- Files or Kolchak: The Night Stalker or The Outer Limits. It is so much more. Tynion has created a very humane and subversively entertaining story that also functions as a powerful sociological document for understanding the Age of Trump and the rise of the global right and the chaos and other dark forces they have empowered and unleashed. Tynion and Simmonds are unapologetically committed to their vision. "The Department of Truth" is a rare achievement in graphic novels and comic books, and literature more broadly. The bound series is up to Volume 3, with Volume 4 shipping December 20. — Chauncey DeVega, senior politics writer


By Erin Keane

Erin Keane is Salon's Editor in Chief. She is also on faculty at the Naslund-Mann Graduate School of Writing at Spalding University and her memoir in essays, "Runaway: Notes on the Myths That Made Me," was named one of NPR's Books We Loved In 2022.

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By Troy Farah

Troy Farah is a science and public health journalist whose reporting has appeared in Scientific American, STAT News, Undark, VICE, and others. He co-hosts the drug policy and science podcast Narcotica. His website is troyfarah.com and can be found on Twitter at @filth_filler

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By Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a professional writer whose work has appeared in multiple national media outlets since 2012 and exclusively at Salon since 2016. His diverse interests are reflected in his interview, including: President Jimmy Carter (1977-1981), Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak (1999-2001), animal scientist and autism activist Temple Grandin, inventor Ernő Rubik, comedian Bill Burr ("F Is for Family"), novelist James Patterson ("The President's Daughter"), epidemiologist Monica Gandhi, theoretical cosmologist Janna Levin, voice actor Rob Paulsen ("Animaniacs"), mRNA vaccine pioneer Katalin Karikó, philosopher of science Vinciane Despret, actor George Takei ("Star Trek"), climatologist Michael E. Mann, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (2013-present), dog cognition researcher Alexandra Horowitz, Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson (2012, 2016), comedian and writer Larry Charles ("Seinfeld"), Democratic vice presidential nominee Joe Lieberman (2000), Ambassador Michael McFaul (2012-2014), economist Richard Wolff, director Kevin Greutert ("Saw VI"), model Liskula Cohen, actor Rodger Bumpass ("SpongeBob Squarepants"), Senator John Hickenlooper (2021-present), Senator Martin Heinrich (2013-present), Egyptologist Richard Parkinson, Rep. Eric Swalwell (2013-present), media entrepreneur Dan Abrams, actor R. J. Mitte ("Breaking Bad"), theoretical physicist Avi Loeb, biologist and genomics entrepreneur William Haseltine, comedian David Cross ("Scary Movie 2"), linguistics consultant Paul Frommer ("Avatar"), Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley (2007-2015), computer engineer and Internet co-inventor Leonard Kleinrock and right-wing insurrectionist Roger Stone.

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By Ashlie D. Stevens

Ashlie D. Stevens is Salon's deputy food editor.

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By Mary Elizabeth Williams

Mary Elizabeth Williams is a senior writer for Salon and author of "A Series of Catastrophes & Miracles."

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By Amanda Marcotte

Amanda Marcotte is a senior politics writer at Salon and the author of "Troll Nation: How The Right Became Trump-Worshipping Monsters Set On Rat-F*cking Liberals, America, and Truth Itself." Follow her on Twitter @AmandaMarcotte and sign up for her biweekly politics newsletter, Standing Room Only.

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By D. Watkins

D. Watkins is an Editor at Large for Salon. He is also a writer on the HBO limited series "We Own This City" and a professor at the University of Baltimore. Watkins is the author of the award-winning, New York Times best-selling memoirs “The Beast Side: Living  (and Dying) While Black in America”, "The Cook Up: A Crack Rock Memoir," "Where Tomorrows Aren't Promised: A Memoir of Survival and Hope" as well as "We Speak For Ourselves: How Woke Culture Prohibits Progress." His new books, "Black Boy Smile: A Memoir in Moments," and "The Wire: A Complete Visual History" are out now.

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By Kelly McClure

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Alison Stine is a staff writer at Salon. She is the author of the novels "Trashlands" and "Road Out of Winter," winner of the 2021 Philip K. Dick Award. A recipient of an Individual Artist Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), she has written for The New York Times, The Guardian, and others.

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