When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, reading suddenly became something I couldn’t enjoy. I haven’t always been a reader—someone who reads for enjoyment and willingly chooses to spend their free time reading. While I was still in school, I only read for school. And, even then, I didn’t even always do the reading (who actually did?) On the rare occasion I read for enjoyment, the content had to be adjacent to basketball. Once I graduated from college, though, my relationship with reading shifted.
Suddenly, I was willing to read. I wanted to read books. Now that I no longer had obligations to read, I could fully find enjoyment in it. Most of the time, I would read at home, splayed out on my bed as I consumed whatever story was before me. I think that’s what made reading something I couldn’t enjoy when the pandemic lockdown began.
Reading was something I did at home to provide refuge from work and just being outside. I’m a homebody, so being at home is generally comforting for me. With COVID and having no choice but to be inside, being at home wasn’t uncomfortable. But it did feel different. And it also made reading feel different. I didn’t like it anymore.
2022 is the second year in which I’ve gotten back into reading since the pandemic began. Last year, I eased back into reading for enjoyment with the help of comic books. They’re such a creative method of storytelling and a form of reading material that provided a different way for me to consume a narrative. Before, I mostly read young adult fiction novels. Now, I primarily read comic books.
Of the 160-plus books I’ve read this year, these are my favorites (in no particular order beyond the top spot):
1. Captain America: Sentinel of Liberty (2022) by Collin Kelly and Jackson Lanzing with art by Carmen Carnero and colors by Nolan Woodard
This, in a way, is cheating, because it encompasses seven different single-issue comic books. How is that different than reading a trade paperback that collects several single-issue comic books? For one, I didn’t read any of these consecutively in a way I could when reading a trade paperback. I read every single issue of Captain America: Sentinel of Liberty on its own as a single part of a larger story. Regardless, I have absolutely loved every single issue of this ongoing series. They are, without question, my favorite reads for the year.
If you’re familiar with my Marvel fandom, then you probably know that Captain America is my favorite. So this series being at the top of my list isn’t much of a surprise. My decision to highlight the run as a whole (so far) is a copout for me to not choose which single issue is my favorite. But part of what makes this run the phenomenal media it is, is the way Kelly and Lanzing write Steve Rogers.
Captain America: Sentinel of Liberty is a masterful character study that showcases how the heart of Captain America’s heroism comes from Steve Rogers the everyman. Without him, Steve Rogers the super soldier wouldn’t exist. When I think of who Steve Rogers is, how he views the world, how he goes about his life and purpose, I think of the Steve Rogers that Kelly and Lanzing have written in this series.
2. In Waves by AJ Dungo
I came across this book while scrolling through TikTok in October, also known as Filipino American History Month. The occasion recognizes the contributions that Filipinos have made to American history and honors the first recorded presence of Filipinos in the United States. It’s often confused to be Filipino American Heritage Month.
This graphic novel was featured in a video in honor of FAHM, and I instantly added it to my to-be-read list. Soon after, I looked it up on Amazon, added it to my cart, let it sit there for a bit, and then returned to my cart to see the price jumped up. I bought it right away in fear that its cost would increase once again.
I can’t recall who recommended the book, and I don’t have the patience to scroll through my likes to figure it out. But, to whomever highlighted it, maraming salamat! In Waves is a beautifully told (and illustrated) narrative that details the history of surfing and the water sport’s relation and importance to the author/illustrator’s life and love. It’s thought-provoking, heartfelt, and heartbreaking story with a color palette and artwork that complements the words tremendously.
3. We Were Dreamers: An Immigrant Superhero Origin Story by Simu Liu
If you want to know why this is among my favorite reads of 2022, then all you really need to do is read my review of the book. I promise the reasoning has nothing to do with the fact that Simu Liu, someone who portrays a Marvel superhero, wrote the book. However, the reasoning does have to do with the fact that Simu Liu, a fellow Millennial who is a child of Asian immigrants, wrote the book.
While reading the memoir, I felt seen, and I felt heard. I cried tears of sad relatability and laughed heartily. (But I did cry more when I saw he shared my review of his book on his Facebook, calling it “one of his favorite(s).”) It made me realize that there are stories out there that can be meant for me. It made me reexamine my own life and demeanor as a Millennial child of Asian immigrants.
4. Edge of Spider-Verse (2022) #4 – “Once Upon a Spider: The Spinstress Princess” by David Hein with illustrations by Luciano Vecchio and colors by Brian Reber
Edge of Spider-Verse (2022) is a fun limited series whose single issues include a number of smaller stories featuring differ spider-powered heroes who are not the primary Spider-Man, Peter Parker. This issue, as a whole, wasn’t my favorite of the run, but the origin story for the new superhero Spinstress was easily my favorite out of any in the series.
This is another title that I wrote a review for, so I don’t want to regurgitate what I’ve already written. But all you need to know is that “Once Upon a Spider: The Spinstress Princess” is the Spider-Hero and Disney Princess crossover you never knew you needed but instantly loved—especially if you’re like me and also a fan of Marvel and musicals. It’s fun and exciting, and I hope there’s more Spinstress to come.
5. Arsenic and Adobo by Mia P. Manansala
I’m not usually one for mystery reads. However, if a book is written by a fellow Filipino, then chances are I’ll immediately add it to my to-be-read list. Even better this story is by a fellow Chicago-area Filipino!
Arsenic and Adobo is a Filipino story, so it was interesting—and heartwarming—to read the book and recognize that much of what I found familiar about it was the Filipino elements. It featured some Tagalog and, as noted in the title itself, a vast array of delicious Filipino dishes. Manansala wove Filipino culture into a narrative about coming home and reconnecting with people from your past with the mysterious twist of being accused for poisoning your ex.
6. Paper Girls by Cliff Chiang with illustrations by Cliff Chiang
I first heard about Paper Girls last summer. I was at a bookstore with my brother, and it was on display. 2021 was the year I first started reading comic books, and he pointed Paper Girls out to me and let me know he’d heard good things about it. It’d been on my mental TBR list since then. In June, I was at my cousin’s house and found out he had read Paper Girls, offering another reminder that I needed to read it. But, later that month, I learned about the then-upcoming Paper Girls series on Prime Video. The comic book series jumped to the top of my list.
I’m absolutely one of those people who wants to read the source material for movies and TV shows (Marvel being an exception of sorts), so I bought the deluxe editions of the series and read them promptly. I also reviewed the streaming series for Fangirlish, so I wanted to make sure I was familiar with its basis.
This was the rare occasion when I enjoyed the show more than the (comic) book(s). But this series was still a favorite for the year. Having 12-year-old girls be the badass heroes at the center of the narrative was awesome, and it was a different and intriguing take on a time travel narrative.
7. Infinity Gauntlet (1991) by Jim Starlin
As someone whose interest in Marvel began with the movies and led to a desire to read the comics they were based on, Infinity Gauntlet has been high on my list of comics to read. I finally got around to it this year and enjoyed discovering the
8. The Comfort Book by Matt Haig
I am absolutely one of those people who consume media for comfort. It’s why I can be found watching Marvel movies and/or TV shows every week. But I don’t usually find comfort in books. Matt Haig’s The Comfort Book, however, is quite literally meant to provide comfort, and it did so successfully. Much like Haig’s Reasons to Stay Alive, the content is emotional, heartfelt, and honest. The book is also easy to consume, which I find to be especially crucial if a book is meant to be comforting and not overwhelming.
For whatever reason, I decided to read this after reading the actual Secret Invasion main event. I’m not sure whether that affected how much I liked the collection of issues in this trade paperback. But I ended up enjoying the lead-up stories detailing how the Skrulls infiltrated people’s lives and began their invasion more than the Secret Invasion itself. Nevertheless, I wanted to read this soon with the upcoming Marvel Disney+ series of the same name coming up in 2023. But I also wanted to read it before starting the ongoing Secret Invasion (2022) comic series as well.
10. LVOE: Poems, Epigrams, Aphorisms by Atticus
As I’ve ventured more into writing for myself and using writing as a way to work through my feelings and life in general, I’ve also tried my hand at poetry and shorter-form pieces. Coming from a journalism background with a preference for detail, condensing my words can be difficult. But, sometimes, short and simple is more than enough and also more effective. And one of the best ways to become a better writer is to read.
Atticus is a poet whose work I’ve continually read over the years, and his latest book lives up to what makes his writing a hit. The themes are evident, and the poetry captures emotion in a way that makes understanding the feelings behind the words easy to understand—even if you can’t relate to them yourself.
11. Captain America: The First Avenger by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely
This one is kind of cheating, but I did read this, so it counts. *shrugs* It’s the screenplay for my favorite movie—Marvel or otherwise—so I already knew what I was getting into with this. But Markus and McFeely do a great job crafting a full narrative that aptly captures the classic comic book essence you’d want from a comic book movie. There’s heart (and heartbreak), passion and purpose, and just the right amount of humor.
12. If You Feel Too Much: Thoughts on Thoughts on Things Found and Lost and Hoped For by Jamie Tworkowski
Seeing as I’ve reread this book at least once a year since it was published in 2015 (or the Expanded Edition of it since it was published in 2016), I really shouldn’t include this. But, seeing as this is the just the second time I’ve done a “Favorite Reads of the Year” list, I’m going to allow it. The last time was in 2015, and seven years is a long time.
That said, I won’t say too much about If You Feel Too Much. It is, however, incredibly telling that I read it as often as I do. After all, it’s my favorite book! But no one’s words have ever resonated with me in the way the Jamie Tworkowski‘s has. His words are heartfelt and honest, emotional and everlasting. They are an open invitation to embrace your feelings.
I’ve had the pleasure of getting to meet him a couple of times, and his words are just as powerful to hear in person. I’ve also gifted his book so many times that I’ve lost count. I take pride in being a phenomenal gift giver—this is not simply my ego talking. Friends and family have praised my gift-giving skills. Some have even cried tears of joy because of how good of a gift I’ve given them. That said, I wouldn’t gift a book as a present if I didn’t think it was not only great but also something they could take something away from.