Essence magazine revealed its picks for the seven best novels of 2022, with titles by Akwaekae Emezi, Jendella Benson, and Jasmine Guillory all making the cut.

Journalist Mariette Williams picked Emezi’s You Made a Fool of Death With Your Beauty as the No. 1 book of the year, writing that the author’s “vibrant, deeply complex characters will challenge your ideas of what it means to find love and draw you into their messy pursuit of happiness.”

Benson’s Hope and Glory came in at No. 2; a critic for Kirkus wrote of the book, “Benson’s greatest success is her ability to write characters and family dynamics that feel deeply authentic.” At No. 3 was Guillory’s romance novel Drunk on Love, which Williams praised as an “entertaining love story about ditching plans and taking a chance on love.”

Shauna Robinson’s The Banned Bookshop of Maggie Banks was Williams’ No. 4 pick, followed by JJ Bola’s The Selfless Act of Breathing, which Williams selected for the author’s “tender, poetic prose.”

At No. 6 was Nikki May’s debut novel, Wahala; Williams said the novel was “full of twists and turns,” while a Kirkus reviewer called it “a fascinating look at the dark side of female friendship.”

Williams’ final pick was Jayne Allen’s Black Women Must Be Magic. “Filled with love and humor,” Williams wrote, the novel “explores the issues that modern Black women face trying to balance love, family, and career aspirations.”

Michael Schaub, a journalist and regular contributor to NPR, lives near Austin, Texas.