Opinion

8 must-read books in early 2023

This year will be a great one for bookworms

Whether you've made a resolution to read more or just want to refresh your to-be-read, the new year is a great time to figure out your upcoming book schedule. Luckily, 2023 promises to be a fantastic year for book lovers, with plenty of new releases and highly anticipated returns to look forward to.

Here are a few options worth considering:

January:

Ghost Music by An Yu (Jan. 10)

If you enjoyed An Yu's enchanting debut novel Braised Pork, her follow-up should definitely be on your TBR. In Ghost Music, Yu tells a semi-surreal tale of music and mysterious mushrooms centered around Song Yan, a former concert pianist who longs to have children (unlike her husband). But as she deals with the rising tension in her home, Song Yan begins to have recurring dreams about mushrooms native to her mother-in-law's birthplace in China. Soon, a package of those same mushrooms leads Song to a mysterious house where she discovers a world-famous pianist who disappeared a decade ago. Kirkus Reviews says Yu's story "contrasts the immediacy of daily life in Beijing with a mesmerizing dreamscape." Pre-order here. 

Maame by Jessica George (Jan. 31)

Jessica George's forthcoming debut Maame has been generating buzz since 2021, when it was acquired in an eight-way auction. Bestselling author Celeste Ng calls it "an utterly charming and deeply moving portrait of the joys –– and the guilt –– of trying to find your own way in life." George's "pitch-perfect" novel follows Maddie, a Londoner of Ghanaian descent, as she tackles the complexities of modern life. Maddie is saddled with a dead-end job where she's often the only Black person in the room. She is also left to care for her sick father while her mother is away in Ghana for a year, all the while grappling with familial duty and struggling to find where she truly belongs. Maame has been described as "funny, heartbreaking, utterly relatable, and powerfully authentic," making it clear why it's one of the year's most anticipated releases. Pre-order here.

Other books to read in January: 

The Stolen Heir by Holly Black (Jan. 3); Spare by Prince Harry, the Duke of Sussex (Jan. 10); Hell Bent by Leigh Bardugo (Jan. 10); Really Good, Actually by Monica Heisey (Jan. 17); The Faraway World by Patricia Engel (Jan. 24); Love, Pamela by Pamela Anderson (Jan. 31)

February: 

Victory City by Salman Rushdie (Feb. 7)

Critically acclaimed author Salman Rushdie's 15th novel Victory City is set to come out in 2023, less than a year after he was viciously attacked during a lecture in New York. Rushdie has already proven himself of his generation's most adept literary stars, and his forthcoming epic fantasy novel promises to be one of the best releases of the year. Set in 14th-century India (and stylized to mimic a translation of an Indian epic myth), Victory City follows a young girl who becomes the earthly host body for a goddess following a divine encounter. Over the next 250 years, the girl builds a magical empire ... only for the city to eventually turn on her. Time Magazine calls Victory City an "awe-inspiring saga that looks at what it's really like to be the center of the universe." Pre-order here.

A Mystery of Mysteries: The Death and Life of Edgar Allan Poe by Mark Dawidziak (Feb. 14)

Framed as an exploration of the author's mystifying death, A Mystery of Mysteries will surely fascinate even the mildly-curious Edgar Allan Poe fan. Former film and T.V. critic Mark Dawidziak explores the rumored causes of Poe's demise and offers a poignant analysis of the writer's prolific work, even dispelling some myths about his subject. A Mystery of Mysteries has "revelations to spare," says Publisher's Weekly, thereby earning it a place on reader's bookshelves this year. Pre-order here.

Other books to read in February: 

When Trying to Return Home by Jennifer Maritza McCauley (Feb. 7); The Last Tale of the Flower Bride by Roshani Chokshi (Feb. 14); Sink: A Memoir by Joseph Earl Thomas (Feb. 21); I Have Some Questions for You by Rebecca Makkai (Feb. 21)

March: 

What Happened to Ruthy Ramirez by Claire Jimenez (March 7) 

This debut novel by newcomer Claire Jimenez has been named one of the most anticipated books of 2023 by Goodreads. What Happened to Ruthy Ramirez follows a Puerto Rican family in Staten Island struggling to cope after their fiercely-independent sister Ruthy disappears. But when a woman who looks a lot like Ruthy crops up in a reality TV show commercial, the family comes together to search for its long-lost member. Today calls What Happened to Ruthy Ramirez "a funny and heartbreaking examination of sisterhood, generational trauma, and the bonds that hold families together." Pre-order here.

Old Babes in the Wood by Margaret Atwood (March 7)

Internationally acclaimed author Margaret Atwood is releasing her first collection of short stories since 2014's Stone Collection. The fifteen short stories in Old Babes in the Wood, some of which appeared in The New Yorker, offer a fresh collection of tales inspired by the uncertainty of the pandemic era. Atwood's typical wit and creativity should be on full display in this collection; there's even a story where she imagines herself conversing with iconic sci-fi author George Orwell during a seance. Expect "seven extraordinary stories that follow a married couple across the decades, the moments big and small that make up a long life of uncommon love — and what comes after," per the book's blurb. Fans of the author of The Handmaid's Tale should pre-order this one before it's released in the spring. Pre-order here.

Other books to read in March: 

Who Gets Believed?: When the Truth Isn't Enough by Dina Nayeri (March 7); Hello Beautiful by Ann Napolitano (March 14); Birdgirl: Looking to the Skies in Search of a Better Future by Mya-Rose Craig (March 28); Evil Eye by Etaf Rum (March 28); The Human Origins of Beatrice Porter and Other Essential Ghosts by Soraya Palmer (March 28); Above Ground by Clint Smith (March 28)

April: 

Chain Gang All Stars by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah (April 4)

This next release should pique your interest if titles like Octavia Butler's Parable of the Sower and Atwood's Handmaid's Tale are more your vibe. Chain Gang All Stars is the highly anticipated debut novel from Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah, the author of the New York Times-bestselling story collection, Friday Black. Adjei-Brenyah's new book depicts a dystopian future where female prisoners fight in gladiator-style battles for a chance to be free. Goodreads calls it "a ferocious attack on America's for-profit prison systems," a description echoed by the book's back-cover blurb: "a kaleidoscopic, excoriating look at the American prison system's unholy alliance of systemic racism, unchecked capitalism, and mass incarceration." Pre-order here.

A Living Remedy: A Memoir by Nicole Chung (April 4)

Nicole Chung is back with a follow-up to her 2018 memoir All You Can Ever Know, a touching ode to her experiences growing up as Korean American adopted by a white family. Chung's newest project, A Living Remedy: A Memoir, chronicles the heartbreaking loss of her adoptive parents to a broken healthcare system, following the author as she navigates her grief and contemplates American inequality. "In this country, unless you attain extraordinary wealth, you will likely be unable to help your loved ones in all the ways you'd hoped. You will learn to live with the specific, hollow guilt of those who leave hardship behind, yet are unable to bring anyone else with them," Chung writes, per a snippet on the book's back cover. Pre-order here.

Other books to read in April: 

The People Who Report More Stress by Alejandro Valero (April 4); A Fever in the Heartland: The Ku Klux Klan's Plot to Take Over America, and the Woman Who Stopped Them by Timothy Egan (April 4); Homecoming by Kate Morton (April 4); Romantic Comedy by Curtis Sittenfeld (April 4); The Trackers by Charles Frazier (April 11); You Could Make This Place Beautiful by Maggie Smith (April 11); The Haunting of Alejandra by V. Castro (April 18)

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