What will come in 2023 is as unknown as ever. But will there be new books? Absolutely yes! And many are coming out in the first three months of the year.
Will there be new memoirs, essay collections, short stories, juicy novels, and knife-sharp satires? All!
Kelly Link has a new short story collection (uncanny as ever), Tsitsi Dangarembga has an extended essay (urgent, powerful, and precise), Jen Beagin has a new novel (so funny it’s excruciating), and Alison Mills Newman’s Francisco is being rereleased in a new edition with a foreword by Saidiya Hartman. We are a lucky bunch of readers.
But, you may ask, will some of these new books feature
younger princes, teen troublemakers, incendiaries, scam artists, addicts, lovers, feminist economists, apocalypse preppers, reality stars, and literal wolves? Yes! There are plenty of friends, lovers, and animals too — keep an eye out for a fantastic social and cultural history of the American wolf — and, according to my calculations, at least three books about scoundrels.
But wait! You’re still curious to know if there are stories about the long con, the price of fame, family curses, broken friendships, and hot star-crossed love? All those and more. Below, you can find your favorites.
1 Age of Vice by Deepti Kapoor Jan. 3 Age of Vice is a nearly 600-page novel, but it runs at a sprinter’s pace. The story begins in New Delhi at 3 a.m., when a Mercedes belonging to a rich playboy skips the curb, killing five people. It unspools from there, pulling together the complexities of power, attraction, complicity, and desire. 2 The Survivalists by Kashana Cauley Jan. 10
This novel opens with a circumspect Aretha plotting for a first date — choosing exactly which outfit this unpromising man deserves, which bar has the best floor plan for a quick escape. The guy turns out to be very lovable, but Aretha’s calculated planning foreshadows the world her new boyfriend will pull her into: a community of young, apocalypse-wary preppers.
3 Spare by Prince Harry Jan. 10
When shall the appetite for tales from the ex-pat royals be satisfied? Certainly not until there’s a version of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s saga in every media format! After opening up in a streaming docuseries, and on broadcast television, Prince Harry finally lets his story spill over some dry pages.
4 The Shards by Bret Easton Ellis Jan. 17
Bret Easton Ellis’ first novel in 12 years begins — a bit pissily — with the dedication, “For no one.” From there, a narrator named Bret explains why he’s reviving a project he started at 19, about a new student who came to his elite L.A. high school and a serial killer who once hunted local youths.
The Shards assesses what from the past is nostalgia and what is haunting, while clearing plenty of room for Ellis’ signature garnishes (many drugs, remote women, and a thousand mixtapes’ worth of songs). 5 Black and Female by Tsitsi Dangarembga Jan. 17
Here, Dangarembga — winner of the Royal Society of Literature’s International Writers Program — writes against the legacy of colonialism, in defiance of the Zimbabwean government’s continued attempts to silence her. As always, Dangarembga offers visions of what could be possible, woven together with historical analysis and precise, clear-eyed criticism.
Black and Female is as slim and sharp as a knife. 6 Vintage Contemporaries by Dan Kois Jan. 17
See-sawing between the early ‘90s and the mid-2000s, this tender-hearted novel examines one woman’s faltering friendships with two fascinating women. The characters are connected by art, by a desire to lead a creative life, and by an ability to keep challenging one another.
Vintage Contemporaries has a sensitive eye for details from the recent past (couples with matching buzz cuts! Moviefone!) and the fickle, sweet impulses that drive us. 7 After Sappho by Selby Wynn Schwartz Jan. 24
Long-listed for the 2022 Booker Prize, this time-leaping novel connects a pantheon of queer literary titans — Sappho! Oscar Wilde! Virginia Woolf and Vita Sackville-West! — with one muse. This book reads as if it’s skipping: full of movement, lightness, and whimsical defiance.
8 The Guest Lecture by Martin Riker Jan. 24
This propulsive, brainy novel spans just one sleepless night, as a wry academic prepares for her swan song: a lecture on the economist John Maynard Keynes.
The Guest Lecture presents lots of ideas about feminist economics and the biography of a pre-WWII intellectual, but it’s also very, very funny. It’s a true gift to step inside the protagonist’s unusual, playful mind. 9 Love, Pamela by Pamela Anderson Jan. 31
Pamela Anderson has
emphasized repeatedly that this is her project. She didn’t work with a co-writer, only an editor, creating what she proudly calls an “unpolished attempt” at autobiography. If you still aren’t sold: Love, Pamela also features her original poetry! 10 Central Places by Delia Cai Jan. 31
A meet-the-parents comedy of manners! A town-mouse-country-mouse premise! A well-observed study of a provincial Manhattanite!
Central Places has it all. The novel centers on a newly engaged couple — Audrey and Ben — who journey to small-town Illinois to meet Audrey’s parents. It brims with charm, zippy observations, and the troublesome task of squaring who you are with who you were and who you want to be. 11 I Have Some Questions for You by Rebecca Makkai Feb. 1
The author of
The Great Believers, a Pulitzer and National Book Award finalist, returns with I Have Some Questions for You. In this new novel, a woman returns to her boarding school to teach a class — only to find herself subsumed again by the story she’s long tried to forget (her roommate’s murder). 12 Big Swiss by Jen Beagin Feb. 7
In this fantastic, weird-as-hell, super funny novel, Greta works as a transcriber in Hudson for a sex therapist and becomes infatuated with the voice of a client she calls the Big Swiss. After they meet by chance at the dog park, a pseudo-Shakespearean affair begins, as Greta pretends not to know way too much about her new crush. In addition to this twisty premise,
Big Swiss is also a superb skewering of Hudson. 13 Brutes by Dizz Tate Feb. 7 Brutes begins with a missing girl and sprawls out into a narrative of obsession. In the oppressive, sticky sunshine of Florida, in the shadow of an enormous theme park, a gang of 13-year-olds become fixated on the town preacher’s daughter. Narrated by an intense voice — the crowded “we”— Brutes uses an imagistic, unnerving language to tell the story of these girls and their young, “hatching hearts.” 14 The Applicant by Nazli Koca Feb. 14
Leyla, a Turkish 20-something working as a hostel maid after losing her student visa, chronicles her days in a journal, taking the reader with her to an
Alice in Wonderland-themed hostel and the shadowy underbelly of Berlin nightlife. 15 The Shamshine Blind by Paz Pardo Feb. 14
You might get dizzy trying to keep up with
The Shamshine Blind, but that’s part of the fun. The story is set in an alternate 2009, where chemical weapons called “psychopigments” can induce human emotions on contact. An agent from the Psychopigment Enforcement bureau becomes obsessed with an ambitious case. 16 Dyscalculia: A Love Story of Epic Miscalculation by Camonghne Felix Feb. 14
As if almost daring a right-brained reader to back away, Felix divides her enchanting book about heartbreak into three sections titled “Fractals,” “To Square,” and “The Final Value,” respectively. Leaping seamlessly between the abstraction of formulas and the honest, verbose mess of a break-up,
Dyscalculia pushes the metaphor of loss as a math problem in imaginative new directions. 17 Wolfish: Wolf, Self, and the Stories We Tell About Fear by Erica Berry Feb. 28
the meme goes, “inside you there are two wolves.” This is a part of Berry’s thesis: There is the real animal in the American wilderness, and there is the wolf in the American imagination. Part nature essays, part cultural symbolism analysis, Wolfish is captivating all the way through, exploring fear, myth, meaning, and our relationship to nature. 18 The Unfortunates by J. K. Chukwu Feb. 28
Oh, to spend time with the protagonist of this satire: sharp, brave, funny, and daring Sahara. She’s a queer, half-Nigerian sophomore at a prestigious university, who notices that her fellow Black undergrads are starting to disappear. Naturally, Sahara chooses to protest through her thesis. The entire format of the book, in fact, is in the style of a thesis, complete with diagrams, primary sources, and footnotes (where the best jokes are buried).
The Unfortunates is a testimony both to the necessary power of documentation and the delicious, frivolous thrill of writing a screw-you letter. 19 Your Driver Is Waiting by Priya Guns Feb. 28
It’s the adaptation you didn’t know you were waiting for: Priya Guns reimagines Martin Scorsese’s disaffected protagonist from
Taxi Driver as Damni, a queer, single Tamil in her 30s who drives for a predatory ride-share app. Damani is an unsteady guide on the book’s ride through the activist scene and the precarious gig economy. 20 Pineapple Street by Jenny Jackson Mar. 7
A novel about inheritance and the cultural inanities of the American WASP, set in a maximalist mansion? Don’t mind if I do.
Pineapple Street is more than a field report on the WASPs and their shabby-sweater super-wealth, of course — it’s about class difference and the taxations of love. Three roving narrators lead the reader through passages about nautical decor, monogrammed napkins, and the bodily humiliation of blushing. 21 Thirst for Salt by Madelaine Lucas Mar. 7 Thirst for Salt paints a mesmerizing portrait of a romance with graceful, seductive writing. In remote, coastal Australia, a woman looks back on a love affair she had just after college, with a man 20 years her senior. This novel has a sea glass quality — time-worn, beautiful, worth holding onto. 22 Francisco by Alison Mills Newman Mar. 7
This stylish 1974 novel, set during the 1970s Black Arts Movement, is back on bookstore shelves in a new edition with a loving foreword by Saidiya Hartman!
Francisco dances around a love affair between an actor-musician and a filmmaker (the eponymous Francisco). The creative pair travels up and down the California coast, mixing and talking and dancing. 23 What Happened to Ruthy Ramirez by Claire Jimenez Mar. 7
When Ruthy — the middle sister of three — disappears, the remaining Ramirezes are devastated. Years later, Ruthy appears suddenly: alive, well, strutting on a reality TV show, and going by a similar but shinier name: Ruby.
24 Saving Time: Discovering a Life Beyond the Clock by Jenny Odell Mar. 7
Jenny Odell, the author of
How to Do Nothing and America’s mentor for disengaging with intention, returns with a follow-up about time. She asks provocative, trippy questions (a chapter titled “Can There Be Leisure?” for example) about the way we order our lives, and why. Saving Time reads like a companion piece to How to Do Nothing, and achieves a similar, salutary effect. Reading Odell’s books feels like living up to their lessons. 25 Confidence by Rafael Frumkin Mar. 7
Confidence, two young scammers, Orson and Ezra, meet at a proto-juvenile detention summer camp — already destined for a life of fraud. They spend the next decades developing increasingly high-stakes scams and an increasingly twisty queer romance. When they create a neurological device that promises instant, lasting mental satisfaction, the con might finally outpace the con artists. 26 Brother & Sister Enter the Forest: A Novel by Richard Mirabella Mar. 14
Told with an incredibly steady hand, this novel dissects a tense sibling relationship. Carefully detangling life-shattering events from the pair’s past, the book manages to look straight at its characters and show the shadows behind them. Like the careful dioramas that the sister makes in her spare time, this book is an exquisite creation, made carefully and precisely.
27 In Search of a Beautiful Freedom by Farah Jasmine Griffin Mar. 28
This essay collection gathers Griffin’s essays on literature, the pandemic, Black feminism, music, and art in one cohesive set. Each subject Griffin tackles is more compelling than the last, from the banning of Toni Morrison’s
Beloved in the U.S., to Malcom X as seen through the lens of Black feminism, to a Black women’s literary renaissance. 28 White Cat, Black Dog by Kelly Link Mar. 28
The maestro fantasist of short fiction brings us more mystical stories — of animals, human and not, and the unattainable desires that make up all our lives. Each story reworks a folk tale, sourced from the Brothers Grimm, Scottish ballads, and beyond, then sprints off in surprising new directions. The collection contains all the good stuff: doppelgängers right and left, puppies that might be foxes, foxes that might be embroidery, and divine swimming sessions in a dinky hotel pool.
29 Evil Eye by Etaf Rum Mar. 28
New York Times best-selling author of A Woman is No Man focuses this novel on a curse that connects three generations of Palestinian American women. Yara believes she’s found some distance from her conservative family by moving to the suburbs, marrying a kind man, raising two daughters, and working at a local college. When she finds herself embroiled in a campus scandal, though, her mother blames the family curse — and Yara reevaluates the forces that guide her life. 30 The Great Reclamation by Rachel Heng Mar. 28
This lush epic is a story of a family, a love affair, and a rapidly changing landscape. The novel begins in Singapore in the 1940s, then an island of fishing villages and rubber plantations, ruled by a wavering British colonial government, soon to be overthrown by the Japanese. Amid this tumult, a young Ah Boon discovers a powerful insight about the land he was born on. Later, as Ah Boon, his long time sweetheart, and the country around them matures, they experience the troublesome nature of “progress.”
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