It happens every year. The decorations come down. The last of the Christmas leftovers have been eaten.
Errant bits of ripped wrapping are found and discarded. You have no more holiday candy or cookies, you look around at your empty hands, and you wonder now what?
Now it's time to settle in and read for the rest of the winter season. For your pleasure, here are the Top Five Bookworm Picks for the Best of 2022.
Lovers of fairy tales are in for a big surprise with "The Book Eaters" by Sunyi Dean (Tor, $26.99). It's a dark, dark legend filled with evil dragons that look like men, princesses that are worse than second-class citizens within their realms, and a chase that will chill you. Book lovers will adore this tale, especially if you don't necessarily need a happily-ever-after.
Pick up a copy of "Dot and Ralphie" by Amy Hoffman (University of Wisconsin Press, $16.95) and it doesn't look like much. But aren't you glad you don't judge a book by its cover? This is a sweet tale of two elderly women, partners in life and love, and aging. It's sweet and grumpy and charming, somewhat like a lesbian Honeymooners episode, only better.
Readers who are familiar with the thrillers that James Lee Burke writes will absolutely be stunned by "Every Cloak Rolled in Blood" (Simon & Schuster, $27.00) because, in this book, the thrill is secondary to the main plot. Here, retired detective Aaron Broussard has lost his beloved daughter and it's cut him to the core. Fiery, glass-sharp grief doesn't stop crime, though, and so he still has crime to solve – whether real or imagined. Read this book with an open heart and tissues at hand. It may be Burke's best.
Lovers of clever, clever stories will love "Sign Here" by Claudia Lux (Berkeley, $27.00). It's the tale of Peyote Trip, whose job on the Fifth Floor of Hell is to recruit new souls for eternity. But Pey has a plan to get out of his purgatory, which turns this funny, sharp-witted story into a shady mystery that will make you laugh a lot and squirm even more.
Here's a book that's absolutely not for everyone: "Manhunt" by Gretchen Felker-Martin (Macmillan Nightfire, $17.99) is a lesbian feminist dystopian thriller, which sounds like a lot and it is. A virus has hit every corner of the world, making men into wolf-like killing machines and sending women into hiding. When two young women – one of them, trans – learn that a "healer" might be able to save her from the inevitable, they head out to find the woman but a makeshift band of warrior women get in their way. Again, this isn't a book for everyone but if you're looking for something very, very different, this is it.
BONUS BOOK: "Things Past Telling" by Sheila Williams (Amistad, $25.99) is a novel about the memories of a 112-year-old former slave, who was also a pirate's woman, a healer, and someone reaching for things her soul needed. It's an adventurous book with the tiniest touch of fantasy and you shouldn't miss it.
You have questions. And "All the Living and the Dead" by Hayley Campbell (St. Martin's Press, $29.99) has answers. When someone dies, what happens next? A wide variety of things, that's what, and it's someone else's job to see that it's done right. This book is careful not to be (too) gruesome but it is compellingly fascinating.
"Charlie's Good Tonight" by Paul Sexton (Harper, $27.99) is on this list because it could be the biggest surprise of the year for readers. It's the story of the late Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts, a man who really never wanted fame and often actively shunned the limelight. If you think you know all about the debauchery of your favorite rock & roll band, think again and be totally charmed by one man's life.
There are two business books on this list because they don't at all read like business books; in fact, "Think Like a Horse" by Grant Golliher (Putnam, $28.00) and "Meet Me by the Fountain" by Alexandra Lange (Bloomsbury, $28.00) both seem more like snuggle-up-in-front-of-the-fire kinds of books. Golliher's book is pure cowboy – he was a rancher and worked extensively with horses – and there are western-novel tones in his book on getting the most out of people. Lange's book is a trip to the mall throughout history, including a good look at stores you may have visited through the years. These books are both great for the business-minded reader but could be enjoyed by anyone.
And finally, an obsession: "To Walk About in Freedom" by Carole Emberton (W.W. Norton, $28.95) is a jaw-dropping memoir that hides in a history book. In the earlier part of the last century, the government paid writers to interview people for a WPA project. One of the interviewees was a former slave woman who offers up not only her life but a real-life account of the end of slavery and how it impacted everyday, average people. This is a book you'll be talking about well into the new year.
If these 11 books don't fit your mood, then be sure to check with your favorite bookseller or librarian. When it comes to books, (s)he is a superhero.