As if I need any more reasons to buy books, I have been consulting many “new fall 2023 book releases” lists at publications like Literary Hub, Time, Entertainment Weekly, Bookbub, and more.
I hereby present five (ok, six, since there's a bonus rec) books in five different genres to get excited about curling up with this season.
What to read in fall 2023
The Fraud, by Zadie Smith (historical fiction)
This historical novel is on every list I encountered as I prepared my own, and for good reason. Inspired by the Tichborne Trials, a legal controversy in Victorian England about an Australian immigrant who claimed to be part of an aristocratic family, Smith’s novel tells the story by examining the fringe or secondary characters and, according to Time, “shows how complicated the truth can be.” In an interview with NPR, Smith said, “What we’re here to do is to interrogate history together,” and that’s what this novel does. Smith completed and sold her first novel, White Teeth, before she’d even graduated Cambridge University, and has gone on to win the Orange Prize for Fiction, become a Radcliffe fellow at Harvard, and teach at Columbia and NYU. Her work regularly explores race and religion while also being humorous.
Opinions, by Roxane Gay (nonfiction)
Roxane Gay is one of our most prolific and respected cultural commentators, and her latest is a collection of essays spanning 10 years’ worth of that commentary. And if you haven’t been paying attention, some stuff has happened in the last 10 years. EW says this collection spans “everything from the Fast and The Furious franchise to Trump to Janelle Monae,” but she also tackles mass shootings, online disinformation, and what it means to be a woman in America without reproductive freedom. The book came out Oct. 10 and is already receiving positive reviews all over the place, from The Guardian to Kirkus Reviews, which called the essays “fierce and informed riffs on current events and enduring challenges.” Gay’s is an important voice not to be missed.
My 11-year-old son insisted I include this book on my list when I asked what he’s most excited about reading right now. The latest in this wildly popular series comes out today (we pre-ordered), and if you don’t have a young person in your life who is reading them, then you probably don’t have a young person in your life. I thought these books were just silly graphic novels following the life of a middle-schooler named Greg Heffley through adolescent antics and adults whose most oppressive and out-of-touch qualities the author exaggerates in hilarious fashion. But Greg writes and illustrates stories about his life, which inspires my kiddo to do the same. My son was also impressed to learn that, like him, Kinney has ADHD, and it doesn’t stop him from doing great things. Anything that gets the tweens to put down the Xbox controller and pick up a book feels worthy of inclusion on this list!
Calling all fans of Shakespeare, or of old stories reimagined new: Isabella Schuler has written a novel that gives the infamous Lady Macbeth a feminist reclamation I didn’t even know I wanted until I learned about Queen Hereafter. Still set in medieval Scotland, the story centers Lady Macbeth’s character as Gruoc, descended from Druids, who is on the run and, according to EW, “must choose a life in the shadows or seek vengeance as a path to her destiny,” which is to be the Queen of Alba. I’m in.
This poet’s debut collection is not a new release; it was published late in 2021. I include it here because her poem “The Hill We Climb,” which she read at the presidential inauguration nearly three years ago, was banned and removed from a Florida school, and I can’t imagine why a poem with such a positive and inspired message would be less appropriate in schools than guns. Gorman’s poetry explores where we are in history through a lens of hope, even amid a global pandemic and a racial reckoning that deepen the party-line divisions and keep us from remembering our shared values and rediscovering our common ground. We need more poets like Gorman, not fewer. All the more remarkable is the fact that this Harvard graduate and first-ever National Youth Poet Laureate is only 25 years old.
Bonus: The Book of (More) Delights, by Ross Gay (short essays)
Ross Gay wrote a poem I think of as the quietest gut punch I’ve ever felt, “A Small, Needful Fact,” and I’ve been a fan ever since. His The Book of Delights, an experiment he undertook to write brief essays about things that delight him every day for a year, is on my bedside table and might never leave. Because we could all use more joy and delight in our lives, he recently published this second installment, and I can’t wait to bask in it. You should, too.
What did you think of this list of must-reads for fall ’23? What did I miss? Will you read, or have you already read, any of these? Share with us in the comments.
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