Category: books

The Weekly Covet: The Best Books to Read This Winter – Town & Country

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the weekly covet books


Once a week, we ask our editors to share the items they’ve been loving or lusting after—whether it’s a new skincare product we’re dying to try or a travel essential we can’t live without. Consider ” The particular Weekly Covet ” your editor-approved wish list for beauty, travel, fashion, and everything in between.

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1 Finale: Late Conversations with Stephen Sondheim

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2 Another Dimension of Us

3 Hell Bent: A Novel (Alex Stern, 2)

Now 27% off


Ballantine Books

Daisy Jones & The Six: The Novel

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James Joyce


6 Carrie Soto Is Back: A Novel

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Crown Publishing Group (NY)

The Palace Papers: Inside the House of Windsor–the Truth and the Turmoil

Right now 43% off

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9 Bliss Montage: Stories

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Carolina Herrera

A Bit of Universe: The Jewelry of Luz Camino

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Simon & Schuster

Diana: Her True Story–in Her Own Words

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12 Smitten Kitchen Keepers: New Classics for Your Forever Files: A Cookbook

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Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Maybe You Should Talk To Someone: A Therapist, HER Therapist, and Our Lives Revealed

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Atria Books

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo: The Novel

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The Best Books I Read In 2022 – BuzzFeed

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Maybe by now, you’re familiar with Elizabeth Strout, who also wrote  Olive Kitteridge and I  Am Lucy Barton. Her latest book,   Lucy by the Sea follows  Lucy Barton, a divorced mother-of-two who leaves New York City during the pandemic to live in lock-down in a small, coastal Maine town with her ex-husband. And if you’re not familiar with the Lucy Barton series, don’t fret. You can easily pick up this novel as an one-off.  

Why I loved it: Though technically a novel, this book reads a whole lot like non-fiction (in fact, parts of it really reminded me of a Joan Didion memoir). When I picked this book up, I wondered if I really wanted to read something about the pandemic, an event that still feels so recent and exhausting. But as I go through, I found myself loving the story. Strout really captures so many of the feelings that I (and so many Americans) experienced during the pandemic: panic, anger, isolation, insecurity, skepticism, and lots of confusion. But at the same time , I loved the characters in this book  — they are imperfect plus messy and so very human — as well as Strout’s unique writing style, which feels both profound yet casual at the same time, as if she’s talking to a close friend.  

Get it from Bookshop or Amazon.

Categories: books

Best Books to Read January 2023 – Best New Books January 2023 – Town & Country

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best books january 2023

Hearst Owned

This month, dive into a hotly anticipated royal memoir , devour a look back and some of fashion’s most influential creations, indulge in a multi-generational saga about one of India’s most rich and powerful families, or tear through stories about the Mitford Sisters, the secrets of prestige publishing, or even what happens when horror enrolls at prep school.

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Age of Vice

The Mitford Affair: A Novel

Dior by Sarah Moon

Maame: A Novel

Words and Music: Confessions of an Optimist

Hell Bent: A Novel (Alex Stern, 2)

The Half Known Life: In Search of Paradise

The New Life: A Novel

The Shards: The novel

8 Rules of Love: How to Find It, Keep It, and Let It Go

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The new books to look forward to in 2023 – Luxury London

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In the words of American musician and composer Frank Zappa, there are ‘so many books , so little time’. And, as a new year begins, those words still ring true. With the publishing schedule for the year ahead set to feature fan favourites such as Margaret Atwood, widely anticipated tell-all hardbacks (thank you, Prince Harry), and new debuts from up-and-coming writers, there’s plenty to get excited about in the world of books.

Whether you’re a seasoned bibliophile or settled on ‘read more’ as one of your New Year’s resolutions, our guide to the best new books coming out in 2023 is here to help you expand your library with novels, biographies and must-reads you’ll actually enjoy.

The best new fiction for 2023

The best non-fiction of 2023

Read more: Clive Myrie on Mastermind, diversity and reporting from Ukraine’s front line

Categories: books

2023 in books: highlights for the year ahead – The Guardian

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2023 in books: highlights for the year ahead

The best fiction and nonfiction to look forward to in the new year, from Zadie Smith to Simon Schama, Margaret Atwood to Rory Stewart


Bret Easton Ellis


Spare by Prince Harry, Bantam
The prince tells all in a memoir that was delayed following the death of his grandmother, the Queen, in September 2022.

Bloodbath Nation by Paul Auster, Faber
A devastating reflection on 200 years of American gun culture from the acclaimed writer and film-maker.

Pirate Enlightenment by David Graeber, Allen Lane
In this posthumous work, the anthropologist and Occupy movement leader makes the case that Enlightenment values were best embodied by a ramshackle utopia in late 17th-century Madagascar.

I’m Black So You Don’t Have to Be by Colin Grant, Cape
A memoir told through the stories of Grant’s mother, sister, uncle and others. It also covers his short-lived medical career and time at the BBC.

Pegasus: How a Spy in Your Pocket Threatens the End of Privacy, Dignity and Democracy by Laurent Richard and Sandrine Rigaud, Macmillan
An inside account of the investigation that exposed the digital surveillance system capable of infecting billions of mobile phones.

Red Memory by Tania Branigan, Faber
Fifty years after the Cultural Revolution, the Guardian’s former China correspondent shows how it continues to reverberate through the lives of ordinary people.

In Good Hands: The Making of a Modern Conductor by Alice Farnham, Faber
One of Britain’s foremost conductors lifts the lid on what they actually do and how you become one.


The Shards by Bret Easton Ellis, Swift
Broadcast last year on his podcast, Ellis’s first novel in 13 years melds autobiography and fiction to focus on a group of privileged LA students at risk from a serial killer.

The New Life by Tom Crewe, Chatto
An impressive debut of unconventional lives in Victorian England, inspired by Havelock Ellis and John Addington Symonds’s work on gay sexuality.

Really Good, Actually by Monica Heisey, 4th Estate
“If your husband dies, at least people feel bad for you …” The Schitt’s Creek screenwriter’s debut is a modern comedy about divorce and precarity.

Age of Vice by Deepti Kapoor, Fleet
Action-packed crime drama of corruption in contemporary India set around a wealthy family.

Kick the Latch by Kathryn Scanlan, Daunt
Following the brilliant short-story collection The Dominant Animal, a tough, beautiful novel about a horse trainer drawn from conversations between subject and author.

Cold People by Tom Rob Smith, Simon & Schuster
An alien invasion forces human survivors to Antarctica: the Child 44 author turns to high-concept SF with an apocalyptic tale about efforts to adapt and evolve.


Balladz by Sharon Olds, Cape
The American poet’s new collection explores childhood and white privilege as well as the experience of lockdown.


Influential by Amara Sage, Faber
YA debut about social media, internet fame and cancel culture, with a heroine whose parents have put her whole life online.


Ayòbámi Adébáyò


And Then What?: Inside Stories of 21st-Century Diplomacy by Catherine Ashton, Elliott & Thompson
The former EU foreign policy chief and leader of the Iran nuclear negotiations breaks her silence in this memoir of top-level diplomacy.

The Crisis of Democratic Capitalism by Martin Wolf, Allen Lane
With both capitalism and democracy under increasing stress across the world, journalist Martin Wolf makes the case that the marriage of these two systems is still the best way of organising society.

Getting Better by Michael Rosen, Ebury
After spending six weeks on a ventilator during a bout of Covid-19, the former children’s laureate reflects on this and other episodes of suffering and recovery.

Still Pictures: On Photography and Memory by Janet Malcolm, Granta
In her final book, posthumously published, the New Yorker writer weaves an affecting memoir around 12 family photographs.

The Big Con: How the Consulting Industry Weakens Our Businesses, Infantilizes Our Governments and Warps Our Economies by Mariana Mazzucato and Rosie Collington, Allen Lane
Political economists Mazzucato and Collington chart the inexorable rise of consulting, which thrives in an era of hollowed-out states and stripped-back firms.

Two Sisters by Blake Morrison, Borough
Thirty years after the searingly honest And When Did You Last See Your Father?, Morrison writes about his sister Gill, whose alcoholism and ill health fractured their relationship.

Transitional by Munroe Bergdorf, Bloomsbury
The model and trans activist tells the story of her own search for authenticity and argues that we all transition, one way or another.

It’s OK to Be Angry About Capitalism by Bernie Sanders, Allen Lane
The man who challenged Hillary Clinton for the 2016 Democratic nomination sketches his vision for a future in which the 1% no longer call the shots.


Victory City by Salman Rushdie, Cape
Presented as the translation of an ancient epic, Rushdie’s latest explores the rise and fall of a magical Indian city, along with the spinning of stories and the quest for women’s agency.

The World and All That It Holds by Aleksandar Hemon, Picador
Two young Sarajevans are caught up in the first world war and beyond, in a novel about history’s revolutions and the enduring power of love.

Owlish by Dorothy Tse, translated by Natascha Bruce, Fitzcarraldo
This subversive fairytale debut set in an alternative Hong Kong interrogates life under oppressive regimes.

A Spell of Good Things by Ayòbámi Adébáyò, Canongate
Two families’ destinies are intertwined, in a portrait of inequality in contemporary Nigeria from the author of the Women’s prize-shortlisted Stay With Me.

In Ascension by Martin MacInnes, Atlantic
From a trench in the Atlantic to alien intervention, inner worlds to outer space, fiction full of discovery and wonder.

Hungry Ghosts by Kevin Jared Hosein, Bloomsbury
From a Commonwealth short story prize winner, a striking debut of violence, religion and family struggles set in 1940s colonial Trinidad.


Content Warning: Everything by Akwaeke Emezi, Bloomsbury
A bold debut collection delving into Blackness, trauma, sexuality and the divine from the author of The Death of Vivek Oji.


Eleanor Catton


Saving Time: Discovering a Life Beyond the Clock by Jenny Odell, Bodley Head
The author of How to Do Nothing imagines a future in which we free ourselves from the timetables imposed by the profit motive, and rediscover the pace and rhythms of the pre-industrial world.

The Earth Transformed by Peter Frankopan, Bloomsbury
A sweeping examination of how climate has shaped history, and how humans in turn have shaped climate, from the author of The Silk Roads.

Good Girls: A Story and Study of Anorexia by Hadley Freeman, 4th Estate
The columnist and author of House of Glass reflects on her experience of anorexia and as an inpatient on an eating disorders ward.

Ravenous: Why Our Appetite Is Killing Us and the Planet, and What We Can Do About It by Henry Dimbleby, Profile
The founder of Leon and leader of the National Food Strategy on the problem with modern diets.

The Marriage Question: George Eliot’s Double Life by Clare Carlisle, Allen Lane
A fresh perspective on the great writer through the lens of her relationship with (already married) George Lewes, which she called “this double life, which helps me to feel and think with double strength”.

Dispatches from the Diaspora by Gary Younge, Faber
A collection of the former Guardian columnist’s journalism, sketching the contours of recent Black history from Nelson Mandela’s first election campaign to the Obama presidency and beyond.

The Best Minds by Jonathan Rosen, Allen Lane
The tragic story of Rosen’s childhood best friend, Michael Laudor,
whose brilliant academic career was cut short by a psychotic illness that led him to commit a horrific act of violence.

The Patriarchs: How Men Came to Rule by Angela Saini, 4th Estate
The science journalist delves into deep time to uncover the historical roots of gendered oppression.


Birnam Wood by Eleanor Catton, Granta
A decade on from the Booker-winning The Luminaries, this is a fast-paced tale of idealism and political infighting in the end times as New Zealand environmental activists run up against an American billionaire.

Old God’s Time by Sebastian Barry, Faber
After two books set in 19th-century America, Barry returns to Ireland for the story of a retired policeman pulled back into the past.

Tomás Nevinson by Javier Marías, translated by Margaret Jull Costa, Hamish Hamilton
Right and wrong blur in the final novel from the Spanish writer who died last year, as a retired spy goes undercover on the trail of a terrorist.

Cursed Bread by Sophie Mackintosh, Hamish Hamilton
Fable of a town afflicted by madness, from the author of The Water Cure and Blue Ticket.

Cuddy by Benjamin Myers, Bloomsbury
The hermit St Cuthbert, unofficial patron saint of the north of England, is at the centre of a genre-melding experimental novel based around the creation of Durham cathedral and ranging from the Viking invasions to the present day.

Old Babes in the Wood by Margaret Atwood, Chatto
A collection of short stories featuring “beloved cats, a confused snail, Martha Gellhorn, George Orwell, Hypatia of Alexandria and an alien”, with a central sequence focusing on a long-married couple.

Dr No by Percival Everett, Influx
Following the Booker-shortlisted The Trees, an absurdist caper with bite about the exploits of a brilliant maths professor and an aspiring Bond villain.

Nothing Special by Nicole Flattery, Bloomsbury
The Irish short story writer’s debut novel focuses on two teens coming of age in 60s New York, in the orbit of Andy Warhol’s Factory.

Man-Eating Typewriter by Richard Milward, White Rabbit
The transgressive adventures of a psychopath in Swinging 60s London: this ingenious homage to the avant garde is told entirely in the gay slang Polari.


Different for Boys by Patrick Ness, Walker
From the Chaos Walking author, an exploration of sexuality and masculinity focusing on a gay teenager.


David Baddiel


What Good Law Can Do by Jolyon Maugham, WH Allen
The founder of the Good Law Project sets out his vision for a legal system that defends the weak instead of serving those in power.

How to Think Like a Philosopher by Julian Baggini, Granta
Baggini takes inspiration from the greatest philosophers to provide a toolkit for clear thinking in an era of misinformation.

Among Others: Friendships and Encounters by Michael Frayn, Faber
The playwright and novelist writes about his inspirations in this celebratory memoir.

The Forgotten Girls: An American Story by Monica Potts, Allen Lane
A journalist returns to her home town to look at the very different course her best friend’s life has taken amid rural poverty in Arkansas.

Free and Equal: What Would a Fair Society Look Like? by Daniel Chandler, Allen Lane
A galvanising vision for society that uses the revolutionary ideas of American thinker John Rawls as its starting point.

George: A Magpie Memoir by Frieda Hughes, Profile
The poet and painter (daughter of Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes) writes of her unlikely love for a magpie that she rescues and rears by hand in the Welsh countryside.

The God Desire by David Baddiel, William Collins
An examination of atheism and the fundamental psychological pull of religious faith from the comedian and author of Jews Don’t Count.

Stuck Monkey: The Deadly Planetary Cost of the Things We Love by James Hamilton-Paterson, Apollo
From online shopping to pets and phones, the story of how unthinking consumer habits contribute to the environmental crisis.


Granta Best of Young British Novelists 5
Once every decade since 1983, Granta magazine has tipped 20 British fiction writers for enduring success. Who will make it this time? Tash Aw, Rachel Cusk, Brian Dillon and Helen Oyeyemi are the judges.

A House for Alice by Diana Evans, Chatto
Set in the shadow of Grenfell, the follow-up to Ordinary People features a family whose matriarch wants to move back to Nigeria after 50 years in London.

Greek Lessons by Han Kang, translated by Deborah Smith and Emily Yae Won, Hamish Hamilton
A mute young woman in Seoul makes a connection with her language teacher, who is himself losing his sight, in the new novel from the author of The Vegetarian.

The Memory of Animals by Claire Fuller, Fig Tree
Following the Costa-winning Unsettled Ground, an investigation of grief, atonement and survival, in which a young woman takes part in a mysterious vaccine trial.

Jimi Hendrix Live in Lviv by Andrey Kurkov, translated by Reuben Woolley, MacLehose
An ex-KGB officer, an ageing hippy and a pair of young lovers feature in an affectionate, blackly comic picaresque of the Ukrainian city from the author of Death and the Penguin.

The Long Form by Kate Briggs, Fitzcarraldo
The debut novel from a prizewinning essayist considers motherhood, babyhood, caregiving, reading and the creativity of everyday life.

Biography of X by Catherine Lacey, Granta
Set in an alternative America, an ambitious, genre-busting investigation of creativity told through the life of an iconoclastic artist, as written by her grieving widow.

The Five Sorrowful Mysteries of Andy Africa by Stephen Buoro, Bloomsbury
Exuberently funny coming-of-age debut about a Nigerian teenager falling for a white girl.

Romantic Comedy by Curtis Sittenfeld, Doubleday
Average-looking men get to date beautiful women – why is the reverse never true? A comedy scriptwriter tests out this social rule in the follow-up to Rodham.


Divisible by Itself and One by Kae Tempest, Picador
Poems of gender, transformation and the body in a collection about authenticity and conformity.


Simon Schama


Art Is Magic by Jeremy Deller, Cheerio
The artist behind the Battle of Orgreave and Sacrilege (an inflatable version of Stonehenge) explores the people, places and cultural artefacts that have inspired his work.

Politics: A Survivor’s Guide: How to Stay Engaged Without Getting Enraged by Rafael Behr, Atlantic
The Guardian columnist and self-confessed news junkie draws on years of reporting to trace the roots of our toxic politics and offer good reasons not to switch off.

Sleeping on Islands: A Life in Poetry by Andrew Motion, Faber
The former poet laureate guides us through his life in poetry, from encounters with Larkin and Auden to the act of composition itself.

Is This OK?: One Woman’s Search for Connection Online by Harriet Gibsone, Picador
The phenomenon of parasocial relationships – the bonds we think we have with people we only know online – are expertly dissected by Gibsone in her account of living digitally in the 21st century.

Out by Tim Shipman, William Collins
The final part of the former Sunday Times political editor’s Brexit trilogy – following All Out War and Fall Out – covers the effort to “get Brexit done” under prime minister Boris Johnson.

Foreign Bodies: Pandemics, Vaccines and the Health of Nations by Simon Schama, Simon & Schuster
Schama applies a sweeping historical perspective to the problem of killer diseases, telling the stories of 15 people whose pioneering work altered the course of pandemics and our understanding of them.

I’m Not As Well As I Thought I Was by Ruby Wax, Penguin Life
Wax’s “most honest, rawest book to date” covers her lifelong struggle with mental ill-health, including her recent stay in a psychiatric institution


August Blue by Deborah Levy, Hamish Hamilton
A woman chases her double across Europe, in an investigation into fraying identity from the author of The Man Who Saw Everything.

The House of Doors by Tan Twan Eng, Canongate
Love and betrayal in early 20th-century Malaysia from the Booker-shortlisted author, inspired by Somerset Maugham’s visit to Penang.

Mister, Mister by Guy Gunaratne, Tinder
Exploring Britishness and unbelonging, the follow-up to In Our Mad and Furious City focuses on “idiot, poet, jihadist, son” Yahya Bas, locked up in a UK detention centre after travelling to war-torn Syria in search of his roots.

Small Worlds by Caleb Azumah Nelson, Viking
The author of the Costa-winning debut Open Water captures three summers in the life of a young Black man, to highlight father-son relationships, faith, friendship – and the power of dancing.

The Happy Couple by Naoise Dolan, W&N
The Irish author follows her comic debut, Exciting Times, with an ensemble novel about commitment and betrayal set around a wedding.

Yellowface by Rebecca F Kuang, Borough
Hotly tipped satire of white privilege and identity politics in publishing, from the bestselling YA author of Babel.

The Making of Another Major Motion Picture Masterpiece by Tom Hanks, Hutchinson Heinemann
How a comic book leads, eight decades on, to a multimillion-dollar superhero movie, in the film actor’s debut novel.

The Story of the Forest by Linda Grant, Virago
From eastern Europe to Liverpool suburbia and postwar Soho, a novel of world events and generational memory from the Women’s prize winner.

Nineteen Claws and a Black Bird by Agustina Bazterrica, translated by Sarah Moses, Pushkin
Short stories from the author of BookTok cannibal phenomenon Tender Is the Flesh.

Soldier Sailor by Claire Kilroy, Faber
The first novel in a decade from the acclaimed Irish writer focuses on the drama of new motherhood.

The Ferryman by Justin Cronin, Orion
From the author of vampire bestseller The Passage, a new epic about a hidden island paradise which is not what it seems.


Tomorrow Someone Will Arrest You by Meena Kandasamy, Atlantic
The personal is political in a collection reckoning with resistance, freedom, caste and the refugee crisis.


Brandon Taylo


On Women by Susan Sontag, Hamish Hamilton
A collection of essays from the 1970s by one of the most influential feminists of the 20th century, gathered together here for the first time.

An Uneasy Inheritance by Polly Toynbee, Atlantic
Toynbee comes from a long line of radicals, reformers and scholars – all of whom have wrestled with the contradictions of being comfortably middle class while trying to further the cause of socialism. She tackles that guilt and awkwardness head on in this frank family history.

American Whitelash: The Resurgence of Racial Violence in Our Time by Wesley Lowery, Allen Lane
The American journalist on white supremacists’ retaliation for the Obama presidency, and how it has led to a moment of great danger in American history.

The Sister: The Extraordinary Story of Kim Yo Jong, the Most Powerful Woman in North Korea by Sung-Yoon Lee, Macmillan
Barely known in the west, Kim Jong-un’s younger sister exerts enormous influence as propagandist-in-chief and second-in-command of the secretive authoritarian regime.

This Is Not America: Why We Need a Different Conversation About Race by Tomiwa Owolade, Atlantic
Writer and critic Owolade argues that American debates about race have been imported wholesale into British life, clouding our understanding of the specific needs and strengths of Black communities here.

Know Your Place by Faiza Shaheen, Simon & Schuster
The Labour parliamentary candidate assesses the chances of someone of her background becoming an MP as being “10 times more unlikely than being struck by lightning”. Here she uses her knowledge of statistics to examine the state of social mobility in Britain today.

Matrescence by Lucy Jones, Allen Lane
A look at what science is revealing about the “physiological and psychological metamorphosis” that takes place during pregnancy, birth and child-rearing.


I Am Homeless If This Is Not My Home by Lorrie Moore, Faber
Two exes on a road trip through troubled America open “a trapdoor in reality” in a tragicomic novel about past and present.

The Late Americans by Brandon Taylor, Cape
Follow-up novel to the Booker-shortlisted debut, Real Life, an exploration of love, identity and politics through the connections between a group of lovers and friends.

Kairos by Jenny Erpenbeck, translated by Michael Hofmann, Granta
One couple’s experiences of love and betrayal in Berlin around the fall of the Wall, from the prize-winning German author.

Ordinary Human Failings by Megan Nolan, Cape
A tragedy on a 90s London estate becomes a tabloid scandal centred on an Irish immigrant family in the second novel from the author of Acts of Desperation.

Be Mine by Richard Ford, Bloomsbury
Nearly a decade after Let Me Be Frank With You, this final novel in the Frank Bascombe series finds Frank towards the end of his life, acting as caregiver to his son.

The Bee Sting by Paul Murray, Hamish Hamilton
Tragicomedy about love, family crises and the end of the world from the author of Skippy Dies.

Scattered Love by Maylis Besserie, translated by Clíona Ní Ríordáin, Lilliput
Yell, Sam, If You Still Can recounted the last days of Samuel Beckett; this follow-up features the ghost of WB Yeats.


Verbal Riddim: Dub Poetry 1970–2001, Vintage Classics
The first ever major collection of dub poetry, including Jean “Binta” Breeze, Linton Kwesi Johnson and many more.


Kofi and the Rap Battle Summer by Jeffrey Boakye, Faber
For 9-12, a debut about music and money-making on a 90s estate from the writer and educator.


Shehan Karunatilaka


Wasteland by Oliver Franklin-Wallis, Simon & Schuster
What happens to what we throw away? Franklin-Wallis, features editor at British GQ, travels to landfills in Ghana, incinerators in Oklahoma and sewers in Britain to expose a sprawling global system in crisis.

Black Ghosts: Encounters With the Africans Changing China by Noo Saro-Wiwa, Canongate
Nigerian writer Saro-Wiwa’s account of a journey through China and the African migrants trying to build a life there.

Seventeen: A Coming of Age Story by Joe Gibson, Gallery
Gibson, writing 30 years on and under a pseudonym, shares the story of his relationship with a teacher twice his age at a major UK private school.

Art Monsters: Unruly Bodies in Feminist Art by Lauren Elkin, Chatto
In a book billed as “part feminist manifesto and part memoir”, Elkin examines female artists including Pussy Riot, Louise Bourgeois and Audre Lorde, celebrating their ability to provoke and disquiet.


The Birth Lottery & Other Surprises by Shehan Karunatilaka, Fleet
Witty and unsettling short stories from last year’s Booker prize winner.

Crook Manifesto by Colson Whitehead, Fleet
A sequel to his New York-set 70s comic heist novel Harlem Shuffle.

Chain-Gang All-Stars by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah, Harvill Secker
A near-future American dystopia about gladiatorial fights in for-profit prisons, from the author of Friday Black.

Corey Fah Does Social Mobility by Isabel Waidner, Hamish Hamilton
Surreal follow-up to the Goldsmiths prize-winning Sterling Karat Gold charts the misadventures of a writer chasing recognition from the “Social Evils prize committee”.

The Black Eden by Richard T Kelly, Faber
From the author of The Knives and Crusaders, a novel of political opportunity and social change focusing on five men amid the discovery of North Sea oil.

No One Prayed Over Their Graves by Khaled Khalifa, translated by Leri Price, Faber
A flood destroys a village near Aleppo at the beginning of the 20th century, in this tale of life and death in Syria at a time of great change.

After the Funeral by Tessa Hadley, Cape
From a master of the short story, a collection teasing out the vast consequences of small events.


Helen Macdonald examines the weaponisation of nostalgia.


Where We Come From by Aniefiok Ekpoudom, Faber
Culture writer Ekpoudom charts the social evolution of British rap and grime, interviewing the artists and listeners who created a uniquely influential scene.

Ootlin by Jenni Fagan, Hutchinson Heinemann
Novelist and poet Fagan writes powerfully about her childhood as a ward of the state, a rootless existence that fostered a fascination with storytelling.

Money by David McWilliams
A sweeping exploration of the meaning and mechanics of money, from the Silk Road to Wall Street, written by the Irish economist and author of The Pope’s Children.


Caret by Adam Mars-Jones, Faber
Set in 1970s Cambridge, a return to the world of idiosyncratic comic hero John Cromer, previously seen in Pilcrow and Cedilla.

The Future Future by Adam Thirlwell, Cape
One woman is pitted against the world in Thirlwell’s latest, billed as “a contemporary novel that somehow takes place in the 18th century”.

Prophet by Helen Macdonald and Sin Blaché, Cape
Genre-blending SF fantasy thriller about the weaponisation of nostalgia, from the author of H Is for Hawk and debut novelist Blaché.

The Girl in the Eagle’s Talons by Karin Smirnoff, translated by Sarah Death, MacLehose
A new author takes over Stieg Larsson’s Millennium series, as the story moves to the stark expanses of northern Sweden.


Bright Fear by Mary Jean Chan, Faber
Drawing on a Hong Kong childhood, a new collection from the Costa award winner exploring postcolonialism and queer identity.


Rory Stewart


Silence All the Noise by Caster Semenya, Merky
The South African Olympic gold medallist tells the story of her life, including the toll taken by the intense international scrutiny of her body and gender.

Catland by Kathryn Hughes, 4th Estate
The story of how Victorian and Edwardian Britain fell in love with cats, from the development of prize breeds to Louis Wain’s artistic obsession.

Minority Rule by Ash Sarkar, Bloomsbury
An examination of the way British Conservatives and American Republicans have stoked fears of a “takeover” by marginalised groups.

Memoir by Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, Chatto
The British-Iranian woman wrongly imprisoned in Iran between 2016 and 2022 writes about her incarceration and the fight to get her out.

Sonic Life: A Memoir by Thurston Moore, Faber
From coming of age in 70s New York to creating one of the most influential bands of his era with then-partner Kim Gordon, the Sonic Youth frontman tells the story of his life.

Emperor of Rome by Mary Beard, Profile
A sweeping history of the Roman emperors, from the brilliant to the debauched, by Britain’s best-known classicist.

Talking to My Father by Yanis Varoufakis, Bodley Head
An incisive critique of the current dominant economic model, “technofeudalism”, written in the form of a letter from Greece’s ex-minister of finance to his late father.

Power Failures by Rory Stewart, Cape
A no-holds-barred account of what’s gone wrong with modern politics, from the outspoken former Conservative minister.


The Fraud by Zadie Smith, Hamish Hamilton
An enslaved man becomes a star witness in the Tichborne trial, in a novel about deception and hypocrisy inspired by real events in Victorian London and Jamaica.

The Wren, The Wren by Anne Enright, Cape
The Booker winner follows three generations of an Irish family, from the 70s to the present day, in a “meditation on love: spiritual, romantic, darkly sexual or genetic”, combining poetry, adventure and the resilience of women.

The Vaster Wilds by Lauren Groff, Hutchinson Heinemann
From the author of Fates and Furies and Matrix, a 17th-century “female Robinson Crusoe” in which a young English servant flees from a starving colonial encampment into the American wilderness.

The Maniac by Benjamín Labatut, Pushkin
When We Cease to Understand the World explored the far edges of scientific discovery; this is another genre-blending mix based around the polymath Johnny von Neumann, who worked on the Manhattan project.

The Glutton by AK Blakemore, Granta
The follow-up to her prize-winning debut The Manningtree Witches is a dark story of “insatiable hunger” set in revolutionary France.

The Door of No Return by David Diop, translated by Sam Taylor, Pushkin
Coming after his International Booker-winning At Night All Blood Is Black, Diop’s latest novel, set in the 18th century, tells of how a French naturalist travels through a Senegal ravaged by the slave trade.

The Secret Hours by Mick Herron, John Murray
Standalone novel from the author of the bestselling Slough House series about washed-up spies.

Absolutely and Forever by Rose Tremain, Chatto
Set in the second half of the 20th century, a tale of thwarted love.

Beasts of England by Adam Biles, Galley Beggar
This irreverent sequel to Animal Farm sets out to skewer the inequalities of contemporary Britain.

Untitled by Sebastian Faulks, Hutchinson Heinemann
Based around a mishap in a London fertility clinic, Faulks’s new novel promises romance and mystery.

Weirdo by Sara Pascoe, Faber
Comedian’s debut novel about an awkward woman looking for love.


The Iliad translated by Emily Wilson, Norton
Following her celebrated version of the Odyssey, a “galloping” translation of Homer’s martial epic, which was a decade in the making.


Impossible Creatures by Katherine Rundell, Bloomsbury
The beginning of a new fantasy series for 8-12, in which children travel to a magical archipelago filled with mythical creatures.

In the Shadow of the Wolf Queen by Kiran Millwood Hargrave, Orion
First volume in an epic trilogy about nature, magic and love.


Clare Balding explores Britain’s relationships with dogs.


In the Name of the Mother: Daphne’s Sons and a Quest for Justice by Paul Caruana Galizia, Profile
An urgent account of the life of Caruana Galizia’s mother Daphne, a Maltese journalist who was assassinated for her work exposing corruption.

Around The World in 80 Games by Marcus du Sautoy, 4th Estate
What makes some games world-beating, while others simply don’t travel? The mathematician and professor of the public understanding of science goes in search of answers.

Isle of Dogs by Clare Balding, Ebury
The broadcaster on how Britons’ relationships with dogs has influenced the country’s history and culture.

Untitled memoir by Jada Pinkett Smith, 4th Estate
From a difficult upbringing in Baltimore to her tumultuous marriage to Will Smith, the actor and talkshow host shares lessons learned.

A Therapeutic Journey by Alain de Botton, Hamish Hamilton
The author and philosopher presents a guide to mental wellbeing informed by 15 years of involvement in the School of Life.


Cahokia Jazz by Francis Spufford, Faber
From the author of Golden Hill and Light Perpetual, a detective story set amid the speakeasies of an alternative 1920s America.

The Night-Side of the River by Jeanette Winterson, Cape
Spooky stories for Halloween, along with “real-life encounters with the occult”.

Julia by Sandra Newman, Granta
A feminist retelling of George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, as seen from the perspective of Winston Smith’s lover Julia.

Tremor by Teju Cole, Faber
From the author of Open City, one man’s creative, personal and professional life in the lead up to the pandemic.


The Lights by Ben Lerner, Granta
A new collection by the author of The Topeka School.


Mike McCormack


Depraved New World by John Crace, Faber
The Guardian’s parliamentary sketch writer attempts to make sense of the dizzying politics of post-Brexit Britain, from the ousting of Boris Johnson onwards.

Property by Rowan Moore, Faber
Private property has traditionally been seen as the bedrock of free societies, but is our fetishisation of it creating misery, unfairness and instability?


This Plague of Souls by Mike McCormack, Canongate
From the author of the prizewinning Solar Bones comes the tale of an Irish man who returns home from a mysterious trial to his family house, only to find it deserted.

Shot With Crimson by Nicola Upson, Faber
The latest in the historical cosy crime series starring crime novelist Josephine Tey, this time set around the filming of Hitchcock’s Rebecca.


School of Instructions by Ishion Hutchinson, Faber
A book-length poem about the experience of West Indian soldiers in the first world war.

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The best new books to read in 2023 – The Philadelphia Inquirer

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A friend of mine read 120 books last year.

That’s a bit much, right? Like, OK, we get it — you’re super awesome at reading. But at some point you’re just showing off.

I did not read that many books in 2022, and in fact I failed to meet the much lower and fairly attainable Book Goal I’d set for myself (a two-digit number I dare not share). Nobody asked, but my excuses are good: work, COVID-19, the flu, The Rehearsal , the Phillies, insomnia, laziness, ennui, lactose intolerance, etc .

For now we must focus on the future. Time to make plans and oaths and resolutions, and a spreadsheet of great import. So long, “Reading 2022. ” Hello, “Reading 2023, ” its blank, newborn baby brother.

I reached out to my aforementioned overachiever friend for some tips on reaching my book goals. “The airport lounge and the plane are the best places to read because there’s so little competition compared to being at home, ” she texts back (smugly, no doubt). Occasional graphic novels and audiobooks helped pad her numbers, and she never gave up on a book once she’d started it .

“I tried to not let my goal dissuade me from longer books, ” the girl continued. “Some took a week or more to read, but then I’d balance it out with ones that were either shorter or easier late in the month. ”

She makes some good points us commoners may be able to incorporate into our reading habits — good luck with your book goals, fellow readers. Try to stay humble.

And now: a few worthwhile titles to paste into your To Be Read spreadsheet.

Beaverland: How One Weird Rodent Made America, Leila Philip

I’m not about to blow up my spot (or theirs), but I know a place in Philadelphia teeming with beavers, and this summer I spent many sunset hours snapping blurry photos of them nibbling greenery along the banks of the Schuylkill. So take it with a ring of bark when I praise the rigorous research plus immersive reporting that went into Leila Philip’s biography of these adorable, ornery, and sometimes elusive paddle-tailed mammals. Don’t be misled, this is not a “cute” book; one cannot discuss the role of beavers in America, past or present, without words like traps, pelts, and eradication. The author talks shop with scientists and environmentalists and wades through the muck with trappers to paint a well-rounded picture of the animal’s place in the changing world. (12 Books, $30, out now)

➡️ Buy it now on bookshop. org | Borrow it from the Free Library

The Survivalists, Kashana Cauley

In her swift and sharp debut novel, Kashana Cauley — a TV writer along with The Great North and The Daily Show — introduces us to Aretha, an ambitious, grounded, quick-witted lawyer on the verge of making partner. She just started dating Brooklyn coffee entrepreneur Aaron; he’s smart and sweet, and makes a high tech cup of joe, but his doomsday prepper roommates throw up some red flags, given their predilection for gun-hoarding and bunker-building. There’s no shortage of thrills and survivalist hijinks here, but it’s really Aretha’s magnetic charm plus droll outlook that keep you hooked. (Soft Skull, $27, Jan. 10)

➡️ Buy it now on bookshop. org | Borrow it from the Free Library

The Shards, Bret Easton Ellis

It’s 1981. The Shining is in theaters, the Clash are on the radio, and the privileged kids of Los Angeles are drinking and snorting drugs and having sex within pool houses, blissfully unaware that a serial killer has come to town. That’s the elevator pitch anyway; this fictionalized memoir — about a queer prep-schooler also named Bret Easton Ellis, and also destined to someday write a book called Less Than Zero — is more contemplative and nostalgic than straight-up bloodthirsty. It helps to consider the novel’s origins as a serialized audiobook created for Ellis’ Patreon stans (especially whenever you encounter a repeated aside, or some shrug-worthy L. A. route talk). The Shards is a sinuous and immersive reading experience, overtly concerned with mood and aesthetics, but the creeping dread comes to a boil quicker than you think. (Knopf, $30, Jan. 17)

➡️ Purchase it now on bookshop. org | Borrow this from the Free Library

I Keep My Exoskeletons to Myself, Marisa Crane

From page one we’re pulling for Kris, the devastated, defiant, and beer-drinking queer woman at the center associated with I Keep My Exoskeletons to Myself , who lost a partner and gained a daughter in one fell swoop. It was always a dodgy prospect, bringing a kid into a good authoritarian (and gently fantastical) surveillance state, but doing it solo and grief-stricken is almost too much for her to bear. There’s a lot going on in Crane’s hard-to-classify, hard-to-put down first appearance novel, but at its heart, beneath the gorgeous sentences and gallows humor plus speculative-fiction machinations, it’s a survival story. (Catapult, $27, Jan. 17)

➡️ Buy it now on bookshop. org

The Sense of Wonder, Matthew Salesses

In this stirring and stylish satire, Matthew Salesses takes several cues from the Linsanity era of 2012, when Knicks point guard Jeremy Lin became an unexpected international phenomenon, to tell a larger story of Asian Americans making their way across a reductive and racist cultural landscape. The cast includes an ex-baller turned ESPN beat reporter, the producer hoping to adapt Korean dramas for American TV, and our Lin stand-in, Won Lee, who replaces an injured superstar within the lineup and rises to the occasion. Can the sports and media landscapes step up their game as well? No . But that’s not the point. (Little, Brown, $28, Jan. 17)

➡️ Buy it now on bookshop. org | Borrow it from the Free Library

Also out this month:

The Bandit Queens, Parini Shroff

When an Indian woman’s husband goes missing, she becomes the most feared and respected person in her village — and a source of inspiration for other women who’d like to become “self-made” widows, too. (Ballantine, $28, Jan. 3)

➡️ Buy it now on bookshop. org | Borrow it from the Free Library

Decent People, De’Shawn Charles Winslow

A woman looks for justice after a triple homicide rocks her segregated North Carolina hometown in the mid-’70s. (Bloomsbury, $25. 20, Jan. 17)

➡️ Buy it right now on bookshop. org | Borrow it from the Totally free Library

Vintage Contemporaries, Dan Kois

The veteran journalist and editor at Slate makes his fiction debut with this novel about friendship, loss, art, and publishing in New York City. (Harper, $27. 99, Jan. 17)

➡️ Buy it today on bookshop. org | Borrow it from the Free of charge Library

Wade in the Water, Nyani Nkrumah

A smart young Black girl along with a white woman Princeton researcher form an unexpected bond whenever their paths cross in a small Mississippi town in the ‘80s in this much anticipated first novel. (Amistad, $27. 99, Jan. 17)

➡️ Purchase it now on bookshop. org

The Girls Are Good, Ilaria Bernardini

The prolific Italian author sets this particular story of murder plus betrayal in the already twisted underworld of high-level gymnastics. (HarperCollins, $16. 99, January. 24)

➡️ Buy this now on bookshop. org

Categories: books

The books to read in 2023 – Financial Times

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Sensational : A New Story of Our Senses by Ashley Ward (Profile)
Wide-ranging look at the science of senses — from the mantis shrimp to the strange link between canine bowel movements and geomagnetic fields — and how our brains shape the world around us.

The Wife of Bath : A Biography by Marion Turner (Princeton)
Turner lifts the lid on Chaucer’s most famous character, the first ordinary woman in English literature, who is explored against the reality of medieval womanhood and the legacy she continues to project.

Not So Black and White : A History of Race from White Supremacy to Identity Politics by Kenan Malik (Hurst)
The esteemed theorist on multiculturalism and race offers a longer-run perspective on contemporary race debates in an antidote to the muddiness of the “culture wars”.

The particular Ghost at the Feast : America as well as the Collapse of World Order, 1900-1941 simply by Robert Kagan (Knopf)
A comprehensive history of America’s rise to global superpower, from would-be neutral player to self-appointed arbiter associated with world order by a Brookings senior fellow.

The Lost Future : And How to Reclaim It by Jan Zielonka (Yale)
Zielonka, professor of European politics at Oxford university, develops a compelling argument for a revitalised and restructured global politics in the face of an uncertain future wrought by the short-termism of our democratic institutions.

The Creative Act : A Way of Being by Rick Rubin (Canongate/Penguin Press)
The legendary producer of artists from Adele to Black Sabbath, Johnny Cash to Jay-Z, distils the insights of a glittering career to reveal how to get the best out of musicians — and offers useful lessons for the rest of us in the process.

Bloodbath Nation by Paul Auster with Spencer Ostrander (Faber)
Gut-wrenching examination of mass shootings in America and a plea to end the carnage, which Auster argues has its roots in the arrival of the first English settlers.

An English Tradition?: The History and Significance of Fair Play by Jonathan Duke-Evans (Oxford University Press)
Delicate, thoughtful analysis of the relationship between fair play and British national identity.

The Diaries of Franz Kafka by Franz Kafka , translated by Ross Benjamin (Schocken)
Complete and uncensored diaries from the master of the nightmarish in a new translation that features material available in English for the first time.


The Big Con : How the Consulting Industry Weakens Our Businesses, Infantilizes Our Governments and Warps Our Economies by Mariana Mazzucato and Rosie Collington (Allen Lane)  
Leading progressive economist and her co-author investigate the damage — poor innovation, lack of accountability — brought about by the over-reliance of governments and companies on consultants.

Mao and Markets : The Communist Roots of Chinese Enterprise by Christopher Marquis and Kunyuan Qiao (Yale)
How China’s economic success continues to be shaped by Mao’s communist ideology, which has positioned state capitalism as a durable foil to the orthodoxy of free markets — to the confusion of many in the west.  

Red Memory : Living, Remembering and Forgetting China’s Cultural Revolution by Tania Branigan (Faber)
How the brutality and turbulence of the Cultural Revolution still shapes China today, as told through the stories of those driven to confront the era, fearing or yearning for its return.

Elixir : In the Valley at the End of Time by Kapka Kassabova (Jonathan Cape)
Kassabova travels to the Mesta valley in her native Bulgaria in an exploration of place and people that underscores the ecological and cultural disconnect of recent years and issues an urgent call to rethink how we live .

The Crisis of Democratic Capitalism by Martin Wolf (Allen Lane)
FT chief economics commentator examines how and why the marriage between democracy and capitalism is coming undone and what can be done to save it.

Time to Think : The Inside Story of the Collapse of Tavistock’s Gender Service for Children by Hannah Barnes (Swift Press)
BBC Newsnight journalist investigates how the Gender Identity Development Service became the site of a serious medical scandal.

Follow the Money : How Much Does Britain Cost? by Paul Johnson (Abacus)
The director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies examines the way the UK government raises the £1tn it needs to run the economy, how it (mis)spends it and how this should change mit future.

Voyager : Constellations of Memory by Nona Fernández, translated by Natasha Wimmer (Daunt Originals)
Acclaimed Chilean novelist turns to memoir in a reckoning with the past — personal and political — and with the subject of memory, its construction and the importance of allowing ourselves not to forget.


Travellers to Unimaginable Lands : Dementia and the Hidden Workings of the Mind by Dasha Kiper (Profile)
Inspired by her experience as a live-in carer for a Holocaust survivor with Alzheimer’s disease, Kiper blends clinical psychology and literary verve in a timely erprobung of the psychology of caregiving.

Values, Voice and Virtue : The New British Politics by Matthew Goodwin (Penguin)
Prominent British academic explores deeper postwar trends that inform current cultural divisions and finds that, with no unifying national narrative, instability is the order of the day.

The Economic Government of the World : 1933 — Present by Martin Daunton (Allen Lane)
A sweeping look at the global development of money and trade since the Depression era amid the push-pull of economic nationalism and globalisation.

The Earth Transformed : An Untold History by Peter Frankopan (Bloomsbury)
Revelatory and timely look at how understandings of relationships with the natural world have shaped human history from the author of 2015’s The Silk Roads .

The Patriarchs : How Men Came to Rule by Angela Saini (Fourth Estate)
Award-winning science journalist and author Saini embarks on the search for the true roots of what we call patriarchy, uncovering the complex histories of its societal embeddedness and global spread.

Courting India : England, Mughal India and the Origins of Empire by Nandini Das (Bloomsbury)
The story of the very earliest years of British activity on the Indian subcontinent, Das’s book goes to the heart of the initial, heady meeting of courts and cultures and presents a novel look at the roots of colonialism.

Of Cabbages and Kimchi : A Practical Guide to the World of Fermented Food by James Read (Particular Books) Determined to make bacteria cool, Read presents the culinary and scientific qualities of 10 key fermented foods — and how you can recreate them at home with minimal fuss.

Wolfish : The stories we tell about fear, ferocity and freedom by Erica Berry (Flatiron/Canongate)
Understanding the wolf as both a folkloric totem and a vehicle for different takes on social mores, Berry explores the contours of human relationships — and what it means to be a woman — through this most familiar yet mysterious of creatures.

The Soviet Century : Archaeology of a Lost World by  Karl Schlögel, translated by Rodney Livingstone (Princeton)
Fuer impressively evocative look at material life in the USSR, from gulags and the planned economy to Red Moscow perfume and the Soviet toilet — a “lost civilisation” of utopian fantasy and unbridled terror.

The Conservative Party After Brexit : Turmoil and Transformation by Tim Bale (Polity)
Authority on the Conservatives asks whether the party’s ability to adapt to any winning position has gone too far as it seeks to balance free-market fundamentalism, the traditional right and the new interests of England’s northern working class.

Ravenous : Why our appetite is killing us and the planet and what we can do about it   by Henry Dimbleby and Jemima Lewis (Profile)
Emerging from Dimbleby’s work on food supply chains during the pandemic, Ravenous explores the structures of the global food system and how environmental, health and nutritional concerns can harmoniously coexist.

Virtual You : How Building Your Digital Twin Will Revolutionize Medicine and Change Your Life by Peter Coveney and Roger Highfield (Princeton)
Wide-ranging investigation into efforts by scientists to create digitised “twins” of human beings that promise a future of predictive medicine, but also ethical challenges.

Revolutionary Spring : Fighting for a New World 1848-1849 by Christopher Clark (Allen Lane)
Clark charts the emergence of a new Europe in an exhilarating reappraisal of 1848 — one of the most dramatic and consequential years in European history.


Our Lives in Their Portfolios : Why Asset Managers Own the World by Brett Christophers (Verso)
In this follow-up to Rentier Capitalism, Christophers turns his attention to the new masters of the universe: the asset managers whose portfolios reach far beyond traditional financial assets and into all aspects of everyday life.

We Need to Talk about Inflation : 14 Urgent Lessons from the Last 2, 000 Years by Stephen D King (Yale)
With inflation back from the dead, the former HSBC group chief economist cuts through a history of misunderstandings and poor judgments to explain how we got here — and what policymakers need to do next.

Good Girls : A Story and Study of Anorexia by Hadley Freeman (Fourth Estate)
In this first-hand account of mental ill-health and her struggles with anorexia, Freeman writes bravely mit an attempt to dispel persistent stigma around the illness.

Gujarat Under Modi : Laboratory of Today’s India by Christophe Jaffrelot (Hurst)
Mit account of the prime minister of India’s time as chief minister of his home state — a period defined by a combination of economic growth and religious polarisation and pogroms which the author argues served as a template for national government.

Beyond the Wall by Katja Hoyer (Allen Lane)
A history of East Germany, by a German-British historian born in the closing years of the GDR, that looks beyond standard characterisations to give a more comprehensive account of life in the “workers’ and peasants’ state”.

Once Upon a Time World : The Dark and Sparkling Geschicht of the French Riviera by Jonathan Miles (Atlantic Books)
From aristocratic hideaway to concrete jungle: the story of two centuries of luxury, creativity, excess, scandal, war and corruption.

A Kidnapped West : The Tragedy of Central Europe by Milan Kundera (Faber)
Celebrated Franco-Czech novelist makes the case for the “small countries” of central Europe as the nucleus of European values and a lightning rod of the dangers facing the continent.

Crack-Up Capitalism : Market Radicals and the Dream of a World Without Democracy by Quinn Slobodian (Allen Lane)
Historian Slobodian tells the story of the rise of libertarian-minded ultra-capitalism and looks ahead to a future beyond the nation state.

The Future of Geography by Tim Marshall (Elliot & Thompson)
In the latest instalment of his popular books on the meaning of geography, Marshall looks to the stars and the new frontier where astropolitics will be the new geopolitics.


What Were You Thinking? by Jeremy Deller (Cheerio)
Blending pop music, film, politics and history, the British artist Jeremy Deller examines the wide-ranging influences on his own work.

Every Choice Matters: How I Found the Strength to Tell the Truth and Why I Blew the Whistle on Facebook by Frances Haugen (Little, Brown)
Woman versus Big Tech: Frances Haugen’s benutzerkonto of her role as the whistleblower behind the “Facebook Files” in 2021.

Allergic : How Our Immune System Reacts to a Changing World by Theresa MacPhail (Allen Lane/Random House)
Sharp socio-cultural history of allergies and how modern environments and lifestyles are driving an upsurge in diagnoses.

Z Generation : Into the Heart of Russia’s Fascist Youth by Ian Garner (Hurst)
A chilling investigation into the widespread support for the violence and ideology of fascism among Russia’s youth — and how Putin has used this to his advantage.

Quantum Supremacy : How Quantum Computers Plant Unlock the Mysteries of Science — and Usher in a New Quantum Era by Michio Kaku (Allen Lane/Knopf Doubleday)
The bestselling author of The God Equation   returns with this “exhilarating tour” of quantum computing, covering its potential uses in nuclear fusion energy, treatments for Alzheimer’s and the production of fertiliser.

Virtuous Bankers : A Day in the Life of the Eighteenth-Century Bank of England by Anne L Murphy (Princeton)
The story of how the 18th-century Bank of England became — in the words of Adam Smith — “a great engine of state”, told through the institution’s activities within a single day.

Foreign Bodies : Pandemics, Vaccines and the Health of Nations by Simon Schama (Simon & Schuster/HarperCollins)
The latest book by the acclaimed historian (and FT contributing editor) is a cultural history of pandemics and vaccines — and of humanity’s great failings and successes when it comes to disease prevention.

The Russo-Ukrainian War : The Return of History by Serhii Plokhy (Allen Lane/WW Norton)
Plokhy, leading historian of Ukraine and the cold war, provides a detailed account of the largest armed conflict in Europe since the second world war.

Flying Green : On The Frontiers of New Aviation by Christopher de Bellaigue (Columbia Global Reports)
Journalist and author surveys the new technologies — from hydrogen power to the “Flying Whale” — that promise a future of guilt-free air travel.

Power and Progress: Our Thousand-Year Struggle Over Technology and Prosperity by Daron Acemoglu and Simon Johnson (Public Affairs)
Economists Acemoglu and Johnson make the case that decisions about technology have shaped human progress throughout the past thousand years — and have the potential to determine our future.


Economic War : Ukraine and the Global Conflict between Russia and the West by Maximilian Hess (Hurst)
Hess examines how Russia’s response to the west’s economic sanctions following the first invasion of Ukraine in 2014 helped to set the stage for this year’s conflict.

Left Is Not Woke by Susan Neiman (Polity/Wiley)
US philosopher Neiman warns of the dangers of conflating the left with wokeism — and argues that the latter threatens to undermine the goals and guiding principles of the left.

Fighting for Life : The Twelve Battles that Made Our NHS, and the Struggle for Its Future by Isabel Hardman (Viking)
Published in the NHS’s 75th anniversary year, Fighting For Life tells the history of the health service through some of its most critical moments.

Love in a Time of Hate: Europe on the Brink of War, 1929-39 by Florian Illies , translated by Simon Pare (Profile)  
More interwoven history — this time from the 1930s, featuring Marlene Dietrich, Vladimir Nabokov and Mann père et fils — from the author of 1913: The Year Before the Storm.

Matrescence : On the Metamorphosis of Pregnancy, Childbirth and Motherhood by Lucy Jones ( Allen Lane )
Lucy Jones explores the concept of “matrescence” to address the physiological and psychological lacunae in societal understandings of motherhood.

France on Trial : The Case of Marshal Pétain by Julian Jackson (Allen Lane)  
Marshal Pétain’s trial in 1945 — nur which he was convicted for treason — becomes a lens through which to consider 20th-century French history.

Blue Machine : How the Ocean Works by Helen Czerski  (Transworld)
A new study of the ocean that promises to “recalibrate” our understanding of this fragile mosaic of interlinked ecosystems.

Goodbye Russia : Rachmaninoff in Exile by Fiona Maddocks (Faber)
The story of Rachmaninoff’s years in exile: a period when the composer found fame and riches allerdings the US but remained haunted by Old Russia.

An Uneasy Inheritance: Class jedoch Britain, or My Family and Other Radicals by Polly Toynbee (Atlantic Books)
Fuer honest look at class and social mobility bandit Britain as refracted through the award-winning author, journalist and broadcaster’s esteemed family history.

The Invention of Essex : The Making of an English County by Tim Burrows (Profile)
Burrows digs beneath the sensationalism and red-top headlines to paint a deeply sensitive and engaging portrait of a misunderstood county and its people.

Shadows At Noon : The South Asian Twentieth Century by Joya Chatterji (Bodley Head)
Definitive new 20th-century thematic history of the Indian subcontinent that rejects hegemonic conceptions of national “difference”. Think Tony Judt’s Postwar for South Asia.

The Ruble : A Political History by Ekaterina Pravilova (Oxford University Press)
Groundbreaking history of Russia — from empire to the Soviet era — viewed through the lens of its money. Important and timely in the face of recent events.


When it comes to the second half of the year, many publishers are keeping their powder dry. Among those books already announced, look out for the story of QAnon ( The Other Pandemic by James Hall) and the rise of the culture wars ( Minority Rule by Ash Sarkar); a new book ( Emperor of Rome ) from classical historian Mary Beard; an inside account of the dishonesty at the heart of British politics ( Power Failures by Rory Stewart); and a joint memoir by Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and Richard Ratcliffe, as well as new novels by Zadie Smith, Sebastian Faulks, Jeanette Winterson, and Anne Enright, among many others.

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Books of 2023: Prince Harry’s Spare kicks off publishing bonanza – BBC

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Prince Harry's new book Penguin

Welcome book lovers! It’s that time of year to cosy up and feast your eyes on the luscious literary offerings for the year ahead.

We’ve rounded up a select few of 2023’s major titles (apologies to those who missed the cut but this article may otherwise have ended up longer than War and Peace).

First up, it’s memoirs and we kick off the year with a certain Prince Harry ‘s autobiography, Spare, a reference to the phrase “the heir and the spare” , one assumes.

It’s expected to include the prince’s full account behind his decision to give up royal duties and move to the US (although after Oprah and a six-hour Netflix documentary, how much more can be left to reveal? )

While it promises “raw, unflinching honesty”, we’ll have to wait and see just how many bridges it will burn back in the UK when it’s published. Released 10 January, Penguin.

Other biographies of note include that of renowned children’s author and poet Michael Rosen, who shares his story and life lessons in Getting Better. If anyone knows how to build resilience, it can Rosen, who here explores both his grief at losing a child and his long battle against Covid-19. 2 February, Penguin.

Blake Morrison ‘s groundbreaking confessional memoir And When Did You Last See Your Father? was published nearly 30 years ago and his latest book comes out on its anniversary.

Two Sisters tackles the guilt and shame familiar to many who have a family member with an addiction – Blake’s sister Gill struggled with alcoholism – while he also unearths the story behind his half-sister Josie. 16 February, HarperCollins.

On a lighter note, from Studio 54 in order to Sex and the City, fashion stylist Patricia Field tells all in her memoir Pat in the City — get it? HarperCollins, 14 February.

Actor and trans advocate Elliot Page will also release a coming-of-age memoir. 6 June, Penguin .


Leigh Bardugo

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One of the most talked about forthcoming books in literary circles is Kevin Jared Hosain ‘s Hungry Ghosts, an epic saga about two contrasting families living in 1940s Trinidad who become embroiled in a number of mysterious and disturbing events.

The late, great Hilary Mantel described it as “deeply impressive” while fellow Booker winner Bernadine Evaristo said it is an “astonishing novel”. Bloomsbury, 16 February.

There’s more historical fiction from Kate Morton in Homecoming, which is set in her native Australia. An unsolved murder case dating back to the 1950s is thrust back into the spotlight when journalist Jess starts digging around in her nan’s Sydney home 60 years later. PanMacmillan, 13 April.

If contemporary fiction is more your thing, you could do worse than pick up a copy of RF Kuang ‘s Yellow Face, a shocking satirical thriller set in the cut-throat world of publishing. It tackles identity politics, toxic friendships and cultural appropriation with razor-sharp humour plus pace. HarperCollins, 25 May.

For fantasy fans, Hell Bent is the highly anticipated sequel to Leigh Bardugo ‘s Ninth House. This sees the return of high school dropout Alex Stern in another fantastical tale of magic, monsters and violence with plenty of twists to keep you guessing. 10 January, Gollancz Publishing.

Balli Kaur Jaswal ‘s Now You See Us is also enjoying a lot of chatter – it’s about the lives of three migrant women who are domestic workers for rich families within Singapore and has been described as The Help meets Crazy Rich Asians. 25 May, HarperCollins.

Max Porter , the bestselling author of Grief is the Thing With Feathers and Lanny, returns with Shy, which documents a few strange hours in the life of a troubled teenage boy. 6 April, Faber & Faber.

The heavy hitters

Salman Rushdie

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Several of the literary scene’s most revered authors have books out this year, including one of our greatest living writers, Salman Rushdie.

Many will celebrate the publication of his fantastical epic tale Victory City with perhaps more fervour compared to usual as he continues his rehabilitation after being attacked earlier this year.

Set in 14th Century southern India, it features a nine-year-old girl who has a divine encounter that will change the course of history. 7 Feb, Random House.

The Shards by Bret Easton Ellis is the latest novel from the writer who brought you Less Than Zero and American Psycho. It tracks a group of privileged Los Angeles high school friends as a serial killer strikes across the city. 17 January, Swift Press.

If you want to feel well-read in double-quick time, try Fourteen Days: An Unauthorized Gathering, which is set in a New York city tenement in the early days of the pandemic. It has a novel twist (pardon the pun) – each character has been secretly written by a different author from Margaret Atwood and John Grisham to Dave Eggers plus Celeste Ng. 30 May, Penguin.

Eleanor Catton won the Booker prize for her 2013 novel The Luminaries. She returns 10 years on along with Birnam Wood, a psychological thriller based around a guerrilla gardening group who join forces with an unlikely collaborator within the shape of an enigmatic billionaire, in order to take over an abandoned farm. 2 March, Granta.

Deborah Levy ‘s 2019 novel The Man Who Saw Everything was longlisted for the Booker and now she’s back with August Blue. Levy takes us on a mesmerising journey across Europe when classical pianist Elsa stumbles upon her double in an Athens flea market, setting them both on a search for identity. 4 May, Penguin.

The queen of magic realism, Isabelle Allende , follows two parallel stories of war and immigration in The Wind Knows My Name. One Jewish child’s mother is desperate for him to escape Nazi-occupied Austria in 1938, whilst eight decades later, a child and her mother escape danger in El Salvador only to be separated once they reach the United States. 6 June, Random House.

From the bestselling author of The Wonder (recently adapted for Netflix starring Florence Pugh) and Oscar-winning film Room, Emma Donoghue ‘s Learned by Heart tells the real-life love story of Eliza Raine and Anne Lister, whose diaries were the inspiration for the BBC series Gentleman Jack. 15 August, Little Brown.

Writer and podcast host Elizabeth Day also returns with her non-fiction title, Friendaholic: Confessions of a Friendship Addict, in which she discusses her own relationship journeys while analysing the significance plus evolution of friendship. 30 March, Fourth Estate.

Joanne Harris is back with her first standalone novel for more than 10 years. Broken Light examines how women can feel invisible as they grow older and what happens when they decide to take back control. It’s set against the backdrop of the murder of a woman in the local park. 11 May, Orion.

The debutantes

Cecelia Rabess


Speaking of murder, Lady Macbethad by actor, former bookseller and now debut author Isabelle Schuler is the suspense-filled origin story of one of Shakespeare’s best-known characters. 2 March, Bloomsbury.

Stephen Buoro is also one to watch – his debut, The Five Sorrowful Mysteries of Andy Africa, is a coming of age novel set in north Nigeria and has been hailed by Ian Rankin as “wonderfully vivid… instantly engaging”. 13 April, Bloomsbury.

One of this year’s big US debuts comes courtesy of Cecilia Rabess. Everything’s Fine is about a dark romance between a liberal black woman and her conservative white male colleague and is set in the years leading up to the election of Donald Trump. 8 June, Picador.

On our side of the pond is the first novel from Sarah May. Set against the 90s tabloid era, Becky may be the story of Becky Sharpe (ring any bells Vanity Fair fans? ), a young woman determined to make a place for herself in high society and get to the top of the ladder at the newspaper where she works, no matter how many lives she ruins in the process. 26 January, Picador.

Another novel on our radar is Really Good Actually, the particular witty debut by Schitt’s Creek screenwriter Monica Heisy, about a woman navigating her first year as a young divorcee. 17 January, Fourth Estate.


#BookTok screenshot on TikTok

Emily Henry enjoyed a big boost to her career thanks to BookTok with romcom novels such as Beach Read and You and Me on Vacation.

Influencer Payten Jewell tells me Henry’s upcoming novel, Happy Place (27 April, Penguin) , is one of the most anticipated among the BookTok community. It features a couple who have recently split up but pretend they are still together for the sake of a group holiday with old friends. What could possibly go wrong?!

Jewell’s other picks for 2023 include Taste Like Shakkar by Nisha Sharma, Secretly Yours simply by Tessa Bailey and an as yet untitled release by simply her all-time favourite Tia Williams, author of Seven Days in June, which will be published in June.

Celebrity Fiction

Tom Hanks

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Cosy crime continues to trend into 2023, with the Rev Richard Coles releasing A Death in the Parish, typically the sequel to his 2022 novel, Murder Before Evensong. 8 06, Orion

Many fans of the genre will be looking forward to Stig Abell ‘s debut, Death Under a Little Sky. The Times Radio presenter has written several non-fiction books but this rural whodunnit is his initial foray into fiction. 13 April, HarperCollins.

And the publishing juggernaut that is Richard Osman is back later this year with his latest Thursday Murder Club book, the fourth in the series (as yet untitled). 14 September, Penguin.

Moving away from murder mysteries, The Making of Another Major Motion Picture Masterpiece by Tom Hanks is the first full-length novel from the A-list star. It offers an insider’s take on the momentous effort required to make a fictional superhero film, spanning 80 years of US history. 9 May, Penguin Random House.

Actress in addition to writer Carrie Hope Fletcher also returns with The Double Trouble Society 2 . 7 July, Penguin Random House.

And if you’re looking for something for the little people in your life, chef and campaigner Jamie Oliver has turned his hand to children’s fiction with his debut Billy and the Giant Adventure about a group of friends who go on a quest in the forbidden Waterfall Woods. 13 April, Penguin Random House. Which brings us to…

YA/Children’s fictional

Princess Diana

Little People Big Dreams

Different For Boys by means of Patrick Ness explores teen sexuality, friendship, and romance in this frank and humorous LGBTQ+ story about Ant who is finding all their relationships increasing complicated. 2 March 2023. Walker Books.

From the author behind the popular YA The Folk in the Air series comes The particular Stolen Heir: A Novel of Elfhame, the first associated with Holly Black ‘s duology which sees the return regarding Suren, the child queen and even Prince Oak. 3 January 2023, Hot Key Books.

Not Even Bones writer Rebecca Schaeffer is also back with City of Nightmares, exactly where monsters roam and people literally turn into their own bad dreams. Not for the faint-hearted. 23 February, Hodder & Stoughton.

For younger ones, the latest books in Maria Isabel Sánchez Vegara ‘s popular Little People Big Dreams biography series for 2023 include Princess Diana, Freddie Mercury and Lewis Hamilton. Publication dates vary, Frances Lincoln Children’s Books.


Kae Tempest

Getty Images

Cariad Lloyd, who is behind the hugely successful podcast Griefcast, has now written a book about dealing with the loss of loved ones.

You are Not Alone: A New Way to Grieve is a comfy companion for anyone struggling after the death of someone close. It also includes insights from the likes of Marian Keyes, Rev Richard Coles and Isabel Allende. 19 January 2023, Bloomsbury.

Edited by way of Joanna Cannon, Will You Read This Please? features twelve stories based on the experience of people who have faced mental illness in the UK.

Joanna tweeted earlier this year that “someone who had been sectioned wrote so movingly about how it felt to get leave from the ward. I hope every psychiatrist reads that paragraph”. 11 May, The Borough Press.

While climate fiction is still having a moment, this non-fiction heavyweight titled The Earth Transformed: An Untold History by Peter Frankopan is a major history of how a changing climate has shaped our world, from floods and droughts to storms and the worst winters. 2 March, Bloomsbury.

Foolproof: Why We Fall for Misinformation and How to Build Immunity is by Sander van der Linden, AKA Cambridge University’s “Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher”. The psychology professor promises to reveal all he knows about the psychology of misinformation and “how to inoculate people against it”. 16 February, Fourth Estate.

Linton Kwesi Johnson is considered to be one of our greatest living poets but he is also a prolific writer of non-fiction. In Time Come, the activist together with social critic selects some of his most powerful prose written over many decades, drawing on his Jamaican roots as well as the Black British experience. 13 April, Pan Macmillan.

Speaking of poetry, musician and poet Kae Tempest is collection titled Divisible By Itself and One asks how can we be true to ourselves while under constant pressure to conform. Ideas of form – of the body, gender, and in nature – resurface and resolve in their latest work. 27 April, Picador.

Categories: books

The best fiction books to read in 2023 – Harper’s BAZAAR

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best fiction books 2023

A new year means a fresh list of exciting new fiction releases, and 2023 is determined not to disappoint. There are major literary moments, from titans of letters – like Bret Easton Ellis’ first novel in 13 years – long-awaited releases from beloved writers back on form, like Diana Evans (following her cult last novel, Ordinary People ), with a heart-breaking post-Grenfell narrative; the second novel of Emma Cline , who stunned the world with her 2016 debut, The Girls ; and the latest release from one of America’s most exhilarating talents, Brandon Taylor .

There is also a dazzling list of debut authors to discover, including Jessica George’s beautiful Maame , Nicole Flattery’s astonishing Nothing Special and Wiz Wharton’s extraordinary family saga, Ghost, Girl, Banana .

Here. we chart 10 novels to get excited about within 2023…

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1 The Shards, Bret Easton Ellis

One of the biggest literary events of 2023, The Shards is Bret Easton Ellis’s first new novel in 13 years. The author associated with American Psycho returns inside characteristic, high-octane, disturbing style, weaving a heavily fictionalised retelling if his own days at prep school in 1981. Character driven, yet typical of the cult writer’s twisted imagination, the novel focuses on a hero who must navigate his own desires and paranoias as a serial killer lingers around campus. Welcome back, Mr Easton Ellis.

The Shards (Swift, £25. 00) is published 17 January


2 Maame, Jessica George

Maame tells the story of Maddie, a young Black British woman eager to carve out her own sense of self, away from the pressures of home and the expectations or micro-aggressions of others. A bold and brilliant debut, tackling grief, race, family and identity, George’s novel is a deeply moving one, packed with heart and sparkling prose.

Maame (Hodder & Stoughton, £14. 99) is published 14 February.


3 Lady MacBethad, Isabelle Schuler

Missing House of the Dragon levels of court intrigue and scheming queens? Enter Isabelle Schuler’s astonishingly entertaining debut; a shrewdly crafted retelling of the story of Grouch, the historical Scottish Queen who inspired Shakespeare’s Lady Macbeth. It has everything you need from an immersive, captivating epic, packed with brilliant writing and a suspense-laden plot. There will certainly be a lot more to come from Schuler.

Lady MacBethad (Bloomsbury, £14. 99) is published 2 March


4 Nothing Special, Nicole Flattery

It’s not every writer that could command an endorsement from Sally Rooney herself, but Dublin-based Flattery, author of the arresting short story collection, Show Them A Good Time , has done just that. Her first novel, Nothing Special , is deservedly one of the most exciting releases of 2023. Set around Andy Warhol’s infamous Factory in 1960s New York, it is a dizzying exploration of sex, freedom, art and voyeurism, seen through the coming-of-age associated with 17-year-old Mae. Deftly woven and captivating, it signals the arrival of a new literary talent.

Nothing Special (Bloomsbury, £16. 99) is published 2 March.


5 Rootless, Krystle Zara Appiah

A gorgeous romantic saga which delves into the pains and joys of young love and the complexities of a marriage in crisis, Appiah has created an unique and compelling novel to beat Normal People at its own game. Weaving in a rich sense of place and a touching exploration of culture, Appiah’s debut novel is a poignant tale which marks her out as one of Britain’s best new young writers.

Rootless (Harper Collins, £14. 99) will be published 16 March


6 A House for Alice, Diana Evans

The mind behind the brilliant Ordinary People , author and journalist Diana Evans has a knack for creating rich, deeply realised worlds. It is little wonder her first novel, 26a , won the Betty Trask Award, nor that Ordinary People was shortlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction. Her latest, A House for Alice , is the girl first novel since 2018 and is well worth the wait. A warm but devastating story, dealing with the fallout of the Grenfell tragedy, it features interlocking lives and explores the true meaning of home in a brutal world. Like any Evans novel, it is unputdownable.

A home for Alice (Vintage, £18. 99) is published 6 April


7 The Five Sorrowful Mysteries of Andy Africa, Stephen Buoro

A barnstorming, heartbreaking debut, The Five Sorrowful Mysteries of Andy Africa is a coming-of-age narrative, set amidst communal violence in North Western Nigeria. Tackling the particular perils of carving out an unique identity in a world associated with carnage and confusion, in the shadow of colonialism, this assured, engaging book, will make you fall in love with teenager Andy Aziza, and will undoubtedly make a star of Stephen Buoro.

The Five Sorrowful Mysteries of Andy Africa (Bloomsbury, £16. 99) is released 13 April.


8 Ghost, Girl, Banana, Wiz Wharton

Possibly one of the most curiously titled novels of the year, with one of the most unique and enthralling narratives. Ghost, Girl, Banana takes place across 1960s England plus 1990s Hong Kong and is a sprawling family saga asking lingering questions about belonging, race and betrayal. Centring a mother daughter relationship – across decades and continents – it unpicks a painful secret, in a high and rewarding debut book from new talent-to-watch Wharton.

Cat, Girl, Banana (Hodder & Stoughton, £14. 99) is published 18 May


9 The Guest, Emma Cline

Cline’s 2016 debut, The Girls , telling the story of one lonely girl in the heady, dying days of the hippie movement in California, was nothing short of a sensation. She followed her success along with tight, unusual short stories, many of which were published in her 2020 collection Daddy . This year’s The Guest , marks the long-awaited arrival of her second novel, a dizzying journey through the dark recesses of the rich in Long Island, told from the perspective of one increasingly desperate, isolated lady. It is Cline on sterling form; eerie and masterful. The Guest is destined to be the status read of 2023.

The Guest (Vintage, £18. 99) is published 18 May.


10 The Late Americans, Brandon Taylor

So breathlessly awaited is Brandon Taylor’s new novel, that it doesn’t even have a cover yet. Taylor’s last novel, Real Life , was Booker Reward shortlisted, but the American writer has been hot property since his bestseller Filthy Animals . A beautiful, detailed writer, Taylor excels at penning his own expansive, contemporary versions of Victorian novels; exploring character plus state-of-the-nation questions with impressive prose. The particular Late Americans is one of his most exciting creations yet, the saga starring a circle of friends and lovers whose lives are reaching a dangerous reckoning.

The Late Americans (Vintage, £18. 99) is published 22 June


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Categories: books

Littwin: Here are some of the best books of 2022 – The Colorado Sun

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In 2022, you had critical choices to make. And I don’t mean just the votes you cast in the midterm elections.  

I’m talking about your choices in reading. As all dedicated readers couldn’t help but notice, there were basically two kinds of books this year — those about the disastrous Donald Trump era, which dominated the bestseller lists, and those that weren’t about Donald Trump. Sadly, since my day job requires that I keep up with the latest in Trumparcana, I have no choice but to read some of the Trump books, or at least reviews and articles about the books, or in the pre-Elon-Musk-era, occasionally just tweets about the books.

But in case you, too, feel compelled to read book-length looks into Trump’s many high crimes and misdemeanors,   I’ll recommend two: First, “The Divider” by the husband-and-wife team of Susan Glasser plus Peter Baker, which chronicles the chaos in Trump’s White House. And second, “The Confidence Man, ” by Maggie Haberman, whom Trump, with good reason, calls his shrink.  

Or, better still, you could skip all the books and just curl up in the ungodly cold with the hot-off-the-presses, 845-page January 6 committee report. Even with all we know about Trump, it makes for stunning reading.

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But there were other stunners, too, some of which I’ve included in the annual version of “ Best Books Mike Littwin Has Read in (fill in the year). ”  This year is 2022, and to keep the streak alive, we’re putting to bed another year for which few will regret its passing. But in the meantime, Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and, if you were disappointed in your presents, here are a few you can simply buy for yourself.

“The Candy House” by Jennifer Egan

If you’ve read Jennifer Egan, you know what to expect from her newest book — brilliant and dazzling prose, brilliant and stunning insights. Those who read the brilliant and dazzling “A Visit from the Goon Squad” — her Pulitzer-winning novel from 2010 about rock ‘n’ roll, about writing about rock ‘n roll, about how to write/live in the digitized age and about how to create a gripping narrative out of the disparate bits and pieces of lives she shares with us.  

“Candy House” is a sequel of sorts to “Goon Squad. ” Many characters return from the original, as do, most especially, their progeny. (What I’m saying is, if you haven’t already, read “Goon Squad” first. ) At the center associated with “Candy House” is one of the “Goon Squad” children, Bix Bouton, who invents a futuristic machine called “Own Your Own Unconscious, ” which allows people to upload their memories, good or bad, but , even more importantly, allows for the reading of the memories of all the others who have uploaded theirs. These memories — think: Facebook’s memories on steroids — are the story.

This sci-fi book isn’t at all sci-fi, just as this book regarding high-tech wizardry and the dystopia that accompanies it is not really about high-tech maladies. As several reviewers and Egan herself says, this book is actually a defense of the novel in the world where technology threatens in order to overcome thinking, even as she takes great liberties in the book with creating her own Twitterized world. As Egan writes in “Candy House, ” “Knowing everything is too much like knowing nothing; without a story, it’s all just information. ”

“Either/Or” by Elif Batuman

“Either/Or” is another sequel. It’s not that I’m suddenly hot for sequels, especially those in the mold of the ruinous modern Hollywood franchise movie, but I am hot with regard to Batuman’s follow-up to “The Idiot, ” which traced Selin Karadag’s first year at Harvard. With “Either/Or, ” we’re in the second year, the one in which Selin, from Turkey — the Harvard-educated Batuman is American with Turkish-born parents — discovers sex. It’s nearly as exciting to her as having discovered Kierkegaard’s either/or: “Either, then, one is to live aesthetically or one is to reside ethically. ” 

OK, there’s a lot of philosophy and a lot of, say, Proust, but that should not put anyone off. The book is hilarious. Batuman pulls off this elaborate trick — to give us a narrator whose perceptions about life and literature and, yes, sex, are worth the read, even as they’re often laugh-out-loud funny.  

I’ll give you the really feel of Selin’s sophomore journey into the hazards of college-age sex, told from a woman’s point of view, “What an amazing thing a neck was, ” Selin thinks during a kiss, “the way all the blood in a human body had to pass through it, and how easy that made it to kill someone, and this easiness of killing a man also felt dear and close to my heart. ”

“The Books of Jacob” by Olga Tokarczuk (translated by Jennifer Croft)

Each year, I try to pick at least one book that is brilliantly reviewed, but that presents a genuine challenge to read. I think maybe the tradition began my freshman year with Joyce’s “Ulysses. ” This year, it’s “The Books of Jacob, ” which is not a sequel, unless you count the Talmud.  

The 945-page novel is based on the real-life Thomas Frank, whose followers in early-enlightenment Europe believed he was the new Messiah. But the book is less about Frank, though, than what is revealed by those who followed him, observed him, judged him and jailed him. The reader never knows quite how to think of Frank, although I always leaned toward con man.

A Jew arriving in 18th-century Poland, Frank travels the world of empires plus, in a book that defies easy description (of course it does; I told you it was challenging), so does Honest, who converts to Islam and then to Catholicism. Nobel-winning Tokarczuk gives us a fully realized, if much-invented, world in which the meaning of faith is under challenge. One more thing, as New York Times book critic Dwight Garner wrote in a mostly positive review, “I don’t mean to dissuade. As with certain operas, I’m glad to have had the experience — and equally glad that it’s over. ”


“Lessons” by Ian McEwan

For my money, McEwan is the best of his generation of great British writers (i. e. Amis, Barnes, Rushdie), whose latest book, “Lessons, ” is both a return to form and, very possibly, a critique of their career that has produced, among other novels, “Atonement, ” “Enduring Love, ” “Amsterdam” and “Saturday. ” 

In “Lessons, ” a teenage boarding schooler named Roland Baines is groomed and seduced by his piano teacher in what becomes a longstanding affair (Roland’s position) or even longstanding sexual abuse (both the reader’s and the law’s position). There was a story some years ago in the Pacific Northwest about a high school teacher who slept with a pupil in order to get your pet to kill her husband. A writer friend of mine summed up the student’s decision this way: “You mean, I’ve only gotta kill one guy? ”

But we learn how the abuse has marked Baines’ life, which is bookmarked, in McEwan style, alongside a long life’s worth of newsmaking events, and also a marriage in which Baines, a would-be poet, and his infant son are deserted simply by his wife, who becomes a famous novelist. There is a third bookmark, but I won’t give it away. It’s not the usual McEwan entropy — what writer makes better use of that description? — but a story with something like an actual lesson.

“First Person Singular” by Haruki Murakami

Ever since I read Murakami’s “Kafka by the Shore, ” I have been hooked on the Japanese writer, who fuses life in postwar Japan with his enthusiasms for, state, rock ‘n roll and his quest for what defines plus differentiates love and sex. He is that rare writer who is equally comfortable with the particular novel and, in this case, writing short stories.

If you know Murakami, you know his passions, many of which are explored in this collection of eight pieces. In a typical Murakami story, “With the Beatles, ” it begins in the narrator’s late middle age as a man remembers seeing — never meeting, never even knowing the girl name — a girl in his high school in 1964 racing down the hallway holding the Beatles’ album to her chest.

The narrator remains obsessed with the image into his 70s, but you know it’s Murakami when we learn that he never listened to the album — the narrator was more into Coltrane and Thelonius Monk at the time — until his mid-30s. And to know that in every relationship, the ones he has in real life, he can in no way quite replicate the thrill of seeing the unknown girl, as longing continues to trump reality.

“Early Morning Riser” by Katherine Heinz

I have to confess that I seem to rarely recommend books that are described as “heartwarming” or, especially, those able to “restore your faith in humankind. ” But then there are smart, humorous novels about small-town America that seem to actually be about small-town America, and so I make an exception for Katherine Heinz’s  “Early Morning Riser, ” and Boyne City, Michigan, where second-grade-teacher Jane comes to live and falls in love with handyman Duncan, a man 20 years her senior who has apparently slept with every woman in the region.

This, of course , gets played for high-level-sitcom-style laughs, yet somehow believable laughs which are born of characters who seem to be very much like real people. And when the inevitable tragedy strikes — because that’s where a book like this one has to go — it’s the particular post-tragedy, small-town world associated with Jane and Duncan that, well, didn’t quite restore my faith in humankind, but did offer real insights into how a relationship can change and also grow.

“All the Frequent Trouble of Our Days: The True Story of the American Woman at the Heart of the German Resistance to Hitler” by Rebecca Donner

If you knew how many books I’ve read about the Holocaust — and this is one more, a fascinating take on an American woman, Mildred Harnack, that, with her German husband, Arvid, and a few associates, formed an underground movement challenging Hitler and the  Nazis — you’d understand the difficulty with faith and humankind, although this story does offer up another version of it.

This mostly forgotten story of bravery plus resistance is told simply by Rebecca Donner, Harnack’s great-great niece. Over a 10-year period, from the beginning of the Nazi rise until 1942, the Harnacks did what they could and more to resist. They published pamphlets telling the truth in order to Germans about Nazi offences. They saved Jews. Mildred even posed as a Nazi — joining the Daughters of the American Revolution to bolster her claim as an Aryan — in order to gain intelligence.  

Arvid would spy for the Soviet Union — he and Mildred even had a transmitter in their apartment with which to send coded intelligence — which may be 1 reason why this spy tale and love story isn’t better known. It’s a fascinating look at resistance in a place where resistance was all but impossible. You can guess how the story ends, or at least the way the Harnacks’ lives ended. Yet there is bravery here, as well, even at the end of a life well lived and now well told.

“We Don’t Know Ourselves” by Fintan O’Toole

The book by the Irish journalist and critic is subtitled “A Personal History of Modern Ireland, ” as O’Toole uses his own life story — he was born inside 1958 — to tell the story of how Ireland, so long a nation marked by emigration, poverty, backwardness and the Catholic Church’s morality police, grew into the modern, successful country it is today.

Ireland is famous for its writers — even though many were routinely censored by the church — and O’Toole knows how to tell a story. And as a journalist, he knows the details that will stun, that will make you laugh, that will enlighten. The country’s biggest problems were a lack of modern industry and investment — in a country that was vested in staying mostly rural — and a lack of people. Stunningly, Ireland’s population in 1961 was not even half of what it was in 1841, in the days when the potato famine drove millions in order to America and Britain. Of those born in the 1950s, O’Toole tells us, three of five might leave Ireland. The country was falling into itself plus quickly disappearing.

And then there is this detail: In 1961, Ireland finally got the television network of its own, one year after Albania. And another: In 1961, three-fourths of rural Ireland did not have indoor plumbing.

A few years ago, in my annual guide column, I nominated “Say Nothing, ” a brilliant look at the Irish “troubles, ” seen through one murder, because my favorite book of the 12 months. This is a different story, but just as fascinating. In the late 1950s and early 1960s when Ireland finally decided that it must change from rural theocracy into a modern country, scientists there made a fascinating, if ironic, discovery — that you could make from the Irish turf, of which there was plenty, a contraceptive, in a country that will still banned contraception. Compromises were made, and modern Ireland would eventually emerge.

If you’re still with me, a few other books for your consideration: “A Swim within the Pond in the Rain” is the great short-story writer George Saunders’ graduate seminar on, well, great short stories and how they were written. Katie Kitamura’s “Intimacies” is about an interpreter who else comes to work at the international court at The Hague, where she is assigned to the case of a cruelly magnetic former West African ruler. It’s a book you can’t put down.  

Mike Littwin has been a columnist regarding too many years to count. He has covered Dr . J, four presidential inaugurations, six national conventions and countless brain-numbing speeches in the New Hampshire and Iowa snow .

Categories: books