Books possess the ability to unfold narratives that enthrall the mind, evoke profound emotions, and ignite the imagination, all at once. That's why we've curated the finest literary works of 2023 for you. From compelling novels to insightful memoirs, this list guarantees a diverse and captivating literary journey.
'Land of Milk and Honey: A Novel'
In a secluded enclave at the top of a mountain, a chef who became disillusioned with her profession and the world’s slow decline suddenly finds a new appetite in every sense of the word. She has mysterious, wealthy benefactors and a garden of rich ingredients unavailable in the dystopia below the mountain to thank—but all is not what it seems. C Pam Zhang’s speculative tale of the pursuit of pleasure is thrilling to the last drop.
'The Museum of Failures: A Novel'
Every family has its secrets. In The Museum of Failures, a young man learns just how much his mother has been hiding, on the eve of becoming a father himself, with emotional repercussions.
'A Haunting on the Hill: A Novel'
Hill House, the estate at the heart of Shirley Jackson’s chilling Gothic novel, has new residents alive and dead in Elizabeth Hand’s latest. But this isn’t a cut-and-paste remake of a horror classic with modern adjustments. Populating Hill House with a struggling playwright, a troupe of creatives, and spirits that defy definition invites all sorts of unexpected scares, written in Hand’s evocative, eerie prose. Read this one with the lights on.
'How to Say Babylon: A Memoir'
Safiya Sinclair grew up in a home that sought to silence her. Sinclair’s father, a musician and strict follower of a Rastafarian sect, set abusively puritanical standards under which “obedient” was the most a woman could and should be. But Sinclair had bigger dreams for her life, and her riveting, poetic memoir shows how, in the end, no one could forbid her from using her voice to its fullest potential.
Jhumpa Lahiri’s collection of short stories is as riveting for its contents—nine interconnected tales about Italy’s Eternal City—as for the way the stories were produced. Lahiri wrote each vignette in her adopted language, Italian, and then translated it to English with assistance from editor, Todd Portnowitz. The collection shows an author at the height of her powers; she works hard at storytelling, but her words float off the page.
'Black Friend: Essays'
At her Harper’s Bazaar Icons photoshoot in 2022, comedian and writer Ziwe said she couldn’t think of a time when she felt like she’d “made it”. The publication of her first essay collection could be that moment. With her inimitable voice and sense of humour, Ziwe invites readers into the real stories that informed her breakout sketches and talk show. The result is, dare we say it, iconic.
'Let Us Descend: A Novel'
This title may invoke Dante’s Inferno, but the voice is wholly and uniquely Jesmyn Ward’s. The novel follows Annis, an enslaved girl, on a descent into the underworld of the antebellum South. Haunting and epic in scale and tone, Let Us Descend sets a new standard for literary fiction of the American South.
'The Woman in Me'
Calling Britney Spears’s memoir, The Woman in Me, one of the most anticipated books of 2023 is an understatement. The moving read allows the Princess of Pop to finally reflect not just on her life and incomparable career, but also, of course, the 13-year conservatorship that ultimately stole her autonomy as a star and as a human.
'The Berry Pickers: A Novel'
Amanda Peters pays tribute to her First Nations lineage in this stunning debut. In 1962, a young Mi’kmaq girl goes missing while picking berries in Maine with her family. Years later, the only child of a wealthy clan unravels a family secret tying her to the abduction.
'Class: A Memoir of Motherhood, Hunger, and Higher Education'
With Class, Stephanie Land picks up where Maid left off. She details with unflinching honesty her path to finishing her college degree in her mid-30 and pursuing a writing career—all while parenting her young daughter, and without the financial resources and safe place to land that wealthier, younger, and more privileged students had. Land’s setbacks and risks can be excruciating to read, and almost all the odds are not in her favor. But in the end, she triumphs.
'The Vulnerables: A Novel'
The COVID-19 pandemic sets The Vulnerables in motion, but The Vulnerables is not your typical pandemic novel. Grounded in an unexpected friendship between an abandoned bird and a lonely, older novelist, the story finds new ways to expound on themes of community, companionship, and finding hope in seemingly hopeless situations.
'My Name Is Barbra'
Fans, critics, and casual moviegoers all think they know the legend who is Barbra Streisand. Now, the superstar tells everyone exactly who she is and reflect on her illustrious career in one of 2023’s most anticipated celebrity memoirs.
'Day: A Novel'
In Michael Cunningham’s hands, everyday life is the source of extraordinary yet quietly devastating revelations. He works another small miracle in Day, a novel telling the story of a young family’s rupture on the same day, three years in a row. Readers last read Cunningham’s fluid, achingly resonant prose 10 years ago, in the Pulitzer Prize–winning Virginia Woolf adaptation, The Hours; a decade later, it’s even more refreshing to return to his voice in the form of a totally original story.
'Endgame: Inside the Royal Family and the Monarchy’s Fight for Survival'
Royal correspondent and Harper’s Bazaar contributor, Omid Scobie gathers more than a decade of behind-the-scenes palace reporting to deliver an unprecedented portrait of the British royal family today. Scobie’s level of access gives readers the clearest insight yet into the fate of the British monarchy in a world that no longer bows down to the royals.
'Songs on Endless Repeat: Essays and Outtakes'
Anthony Veasna So was one of the literary scene’s most promising new authors, as proven by his posthumous short story collection Afterparties. In Songs on Endless Repeat, So’s best essays and previously unpublished stories are gathered in a single, luminary volume.
This piece originally appeared in Harper's Bazaar USA.
Also read: Unputdownable books of 2023 you must add to your shelf: Part one
Also read: Unputdownable books of 2023 you must add to your shelf: Part two