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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