The books I loved best in 2023
Books make great holiday gifts
I’m not saying there’s something here for everyone on your gift list, but these are the books I loved this year. (There are also so many books I wanted to read in 2023 and didn’t, because when I’m reading for a book review, I will spend a solid month or more with a single book. So many books! So little time! Story of my life.)
These links are all Bookshop.org links, but if you have a local indie bookstore, end of year is a great time to show them some love. ♥️
Seven books I loved this year
A book within a book, an alternate history of the United States, fictional characters who consort with real people, dead and alive: this is historiographic metafiction at its finest. Read my interview with Catherine Lacey from March.
This biography of Virginia and Leonard Woolf’s pet marmoset is incredibly charming. Best for Woolf fans, animal lovers, and Sigrid Nunez completists.
I think of this book as a sister to my own nonficton project, so it has a very special place in my heart. Zapata writes about her experience with IVF and pregnancy against the background of the death of her mother. It’s prose written by a poet. Read my review from May. (Side note: Robin Myers has her own fantastic poetry Substack, Poem Per Diem.)
An all-girls boarding school in the English countryside, a new young “matron” who doesn’t quite belong, a secret affair with the headmaster’s wife. I loved everything about this book. Read my review from June.
I’m going through a Ginzburg phase, and it was tough to choose just one favorite from this year, but I especially loved the drama of this one. It’s an epistolary novel set in Italy just before WWII. Goes great with Family Lexicon. (Okay, I had to get two Ginzburgs in.)
I raved about this one when I listened to it a few months back. It’s a campus novel that features a true crime podcast. The plot is propulsive, and Julia Whelan did such a great job with the audiobook. A good gift bet.
Another good gift bet. I love a point of telling in the future, with a narrator who can confidently disburse information at just the right time — and who’s good at keeping her own secrets when she has to. And Meryl Streep on audio is dreamy.
Also, what if we made gifting preorders a thing?
Preordering helps the author, and the gift would be a nice surprise in the mail in the new year. You could print and wrap a photo of the book, or better yet, pair it with a title from the author’s backlist. I might do this for a few people on my list…
Here are some early 2024 preorders I’m excited about:
This week in writing
I’m working on a book review of Beautyland that will probably take another week or so — I’m rereading Beautyland as well as all MHB’s backlist, which is a JOY — but then the plan is to shift back to the pond novel for the remainder of December.
Wishing you luck on whatever you’re trying to get across the finish line this month!