News & Politics

Local Albums and Books Showing Up on Best-of-the-Year Lists

Picks include albums by Bartees Strange and Ari Lennox, and a novel about Jackie Kennedy

James Kirchick's novel "Secret City: The Hidden History of Gay Washington" was featured on the New York Times' 100 Notable Books of 2022 list. Photograph by Jeff Elkins

As the year comes to an end, media outlets are releasing their roundups of 2022’s best albums and books. And a number of the year’s top picks are by DC-area artists and authors. Here are ones we’ve spotted so far.

Best Albums of 2022

Photo courtesy of Bartees Strange.

Bartees Strange
Farm to Table 
(New York Times, Rolling Stone)

The indie singer-songwriter, who’s quickly moving up the ranks, continues to defy all genres on his second album. He wrote one of the tracks, “Hold the Line,” as a tribute to George Floyd’s daughter, who was only six-years-old when her dad’s murder was filmed and posted online.

Photo courtesy of GOOD Music/Def Jam Recordings.

Pusha T
It’s Almost Dry
(Rolling Stone, Billboard, Time)

An occasional Washingtonian, the rapper received great critical acclaim and a Grammy nomination for his fourth studio album. The album also features guest appearances from Ye, Jay-Z, Pharrell Williams, and other hip hop icons.

Photo courtesy of Dreamville/Interscope Records.

Ari Lennox
(The Ringer, Vulture)

Featuring R&B singers Jazmine Sullivan and Summer Walker, Ari Lennox’s soulful sophomore album dropped this fall. Her song, “Pressure,” became the DC native’s highest-charting solo single, peaking at 66 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.

Photo courtesy of Lost Kids/Venice/Stem.

Brent Faiyaz
(Complex, Billboard)

The Columbia, Maryland, native is now not just known for his vocals on GoldLink’s “Crew.” The singer finally secured his first-ever chart-topping album, with Wasteland debuting at No. 1 on Billboard’s Top R&B/Hip Hop Albums chart.

Best Books of 2023

Photo courtesy of April White.

April White
The Divorce Colony: How Women Revolutionized Marriage and Found Freedom in the American Frontier

The Atlas Obscura senior editor sheds light on the role of Sioux Falls, South Dakota, as a “divorce colony” through the stories of four 19th-century socialites who flocked to the remote town to take advantage of the state’s lax divorce laws. These women, along with thousands of other divorcees, would later transform the country’s attitude about divorce.

Photo courtesy of Louis Bayard.

Louis Bayard
Jackie and Me
(Washington Post)

Louis Bayard’s novel reimagines the courtship of a young Jackie Bouvier and Jack Kennedy through the lens of the former president’s best friend and confidant Lem Billings. As Jackie becomes disheartened by her emotionally unavailable and absent lover, Billings reflects on his role in the couple’s blossoming and troubling romance.

An Immense World by Ed Yong
Photo courtesy of Penguin Random House.

Ed Yong
An Immense World: How Animal Senses Reveal the Hidden Realms Around Us
(Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Time)

Humans may never fully understand the unusual sounds and motions that animals make, but there’s more to what we see and hear than we think. In his latest book, the  Atlantic staff writer takes readers on a deep dive into the concept of Umwelt, or the ways that animals perceive the world around them, whether it’s surface vibrations or smells and tastes. Along the way, he examines how these senses work together, as well as how humans have disrupted animals’ Umwelten through light and noise pollution.

His Name Is George Floyd by Robert Samuels and Toluse Olorunnipa
Photo courtesy of Penguin Random House.

Robert Samuels and Toluse Olorunnipa
His Name Is George Floyd: One Man’s Life and the Struggle for Racial Justice
(Time, Washington Post, Book Riot)

Before becoming the face of the today’s civil rights movement, George Floyd was just another man who wanted better for himself and his family. While rampant misinformation has tried to hide that narrative, Washington Post reporters Robert Samuels and Toluse Olorunnipa dig deep into Floyd’s life and death to examine the inequality and bigotry that still plagues the United States—and most importantly, to humanize him.

Photo courtesy of Macmillan Publishers.

James Kirchick
Secret City: The Hidden History of Gay Washington
(New York Times)

A gay Washingtonian himself, journalist and Atlantic Council nonresident senior fellow James Kirchick chronicles the homophobia that riddled the federal government throughout the 20th century, while bringing attention to the hidden stories of the gay men and women who suffered from it.

Think we missed a top book or album with a local tie? Email and we’ll add it to the list.

Damare Baker
Research Editor

Before becoming Research Editor, Damare Baker was an Editorial Fellow and Assistant Editor for Washingtonian. She has previously written for Voice of America and The Hill. She is a graduate of Georgetown University, where she studied international relations, Korean, and journalism.