Happy New Year everyone! 2022 is now a done deal; we have completed a journal of 365 pages but as they say, every ending is a new beginning. We have been given a fresh set of 365 blank pages which we can fill with good and lasting memories. While the previous years have been shrouded in uncertainties due to the pandemic, 2023 is shaping up to be a year of good tidings. I sure hope so – despite the ominous forecasts vis-a-vis the global economy – because hope is the only thing that springs eternal.
As has been the tradition in the past couple of years, I am kicking off the new year by looking back to the previous year, its hits, and of course, its mishits. It is also an opportunity to take a glimpse of how the coming year is going to shape up. This book wrap-up is a part of a mini-series that will feature the following:
- 2022 Top Ten Favorite Books
- 2022 Book Wrap Up
- 2022 20 Most Memorable Book Quotes (Part I)
- 2022 20 Most Memorable Book Quotes (Part II)
- 2022 New Favorite Authors
- 2023 Books I Look Forward To List
- 2023 Top 23 Reading List
This update, however, is forward-looking rather than a wrap-up. If my memory serves me right, it was in 2018 that I started churning out a list of new releases I am looking forward to; new being books that are going to be published in the current year. It was also an effort to explore new works; I am more of a backlist type of reader. Over the passage of time, it has also developed into an opportunity for me to explore writers whose works I haven’t explored before. As such, several of the books I have listed in the previous years are debut novels. Unfortunately, I failed in reading all the books I listed in my prior lists although I did come close in 2020 when I was one book short of ticking off all books on my list. I was two books shy of completing my 2022 list as well. These failures, however, are not precluding me from preparing yet another list of 10 books I am looking forward to in 2023. Hopefully, after these failed attempts, I will be able to complete this reading challenge. Without more ado, here are the 10 books I look forward to in 2023.
Age of Vice by Deepti Kapoor
Synopsis: This is the age of vice, where money, pleasure, and power are everything, and the family ties that bind can also kill.
New Delhi, 3 a.m. A speeding Mercedes jumps the curb and in the blink of an eye, five people are dead. It’s a rich man’s car, but when the dust settles there is no rich man at all, just a shell-shocked servant who cannot explain the strange series of events that led to this crime. Nor can he foresee the dark drama that is about to unfold.
Deftly shifting through time and perspective in contemporary India, Age of Vice is an epic, action-packed story propelled by the seductive wealth, startling corruption, and bloodthirsty violence of the Wadia family — loved by some, loathed by others, feared by all.
In the shadow of lavish estates, extravagant parties, predatory business deals and calculated political influence, three lives become dangerously intertwined: Ajay is the watchful servant, born into poverty, who rises through the family’s ranks. Sunny is the playboy heir who dreams of outshining his father, whatever the cost. And Neda is the curious journalist caught between morality and desire. Against a sweeping plot fueled by loss, pleasure, greed, yearning, violence and revenge, will these characters’ connections become a path to escape, or a trigger of further destruction?
Equal parts crime thriller and family saga, transporting readers from the dusty villages of Uttar Pradesh to the urban energy of New Delhi, Age of Vice is an intoxicating novel of gangsters and lovers, false friendships, forbidden romance, and the consequences of corruption. It is binge-worthy entertainment at its literary best.
Release date: January 3
The Guest Lecture by Martin Riker
Synopsis: With “a voice as clear, sincere, and wry as any I’ve read in current American fiction” (Joshua Cohen), Martin Riker’s poignant and startlingly original novel asks how to foster a brave mind in anxious times, following a newly jobless academic rehearsing a speech on John Maynard Keynes for a surprising audience
In a hotel room in the middle of the night, Abby, a young feminist economist, lies awake next to her sleeping husband and daughter. Anxious that she is grossly underprepared for a talk she is presenting tomorrow on optimism and John Maynard Keynes, she has resolved to practice by using an ancient rhetorical method of assigning parts of her speech to different rooms in her house and has brought along a comforting albeit imaginary companion to keep her on track—Keynes himself.
Yet as she wanders with increasing alarm through the rooms of her own consciousness, Abby finds herself straying from her prepared remarks on economic history, utopia, and Keynes’s pragmatic optimism. A lapsed optimist herself, she has been struggling under the burden of supporting a family in an increasingly hostile America after being denied tenure at the university where she teaches. Confronting her own future at a time of global darkness, Abby undertakes a hero’s quest through her memories to ideas hidden in the corners of her mind—a piecemeal intellectual history from Cicero to Lewis Carroll to Queen Latifah—as she asks what a better world would look like if we told our stories with more honest and more hopeful imaginations.
With warm intellect, playful curiosity, and an infectious voice, Martin Riker acutely animates the novel of ideas with a beating heart and turns one woman’s midnight crisis into the performance of a lifetime.
Release date: January 24
Maame by Jessica George
Synopsis: Maame (ma-meh) has many meanings in Twi but in my case, it means woman.
It’s fair to say that Maddie’s life in London is far from rewarding. With a mother who spends most of her time in Ghana (yet still somehow manages to be overbearing), Maddie is the primary caretaker for her father, who suffers from advanced stage Parkinson’s. At work, her boss is a nightmare and Maddie is tired of always being the only Black person in every meeting.
When her mum returns from her latest trip to Ghana, Maddie leaps at the chance to get out of the family home and finally start living. A self-acknowledged late bloomer, she’s ready to experience some important “firsts”: She finds a flat share, says yes to after-work drinks, pushes for more recognition in her career, and throws herself into the bewildering world of internet dating. But it’s not long before tragedy strikes, forcing Maddie to face the true nature of her unconventional family, and the perils––and rewards––of putting her heart on the line.
Smart, funny, and deeply affecting, Maame deals with the themes of our time with humor and poignancy: from familial duty and racism, to female pleasure, the complexity of love, and the life-saving power of friendship. Most important, it explores what it feels like to be torn between two homes and cultures―and it celebrates finally being able to find where you belong.
Release date: January 31
I Have Some Questions for You by Rebecca Makkai
Synopsis: In the riveting new novel from the author of the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award finalist The Great Believers, a woman must reckon with her past when new details surface about a tragedy at her elite New England boarding school
A fortysomething podcaster and mother of two, Bodie Kane is content to forget her past—the family history that marred her adolescence and the murder of one of her high school classmates, Thalia Keith. Though the circumstances surrounding Thalia’s death and the conviction of the school’s athletic trainer, Omar Evans, are the subject of intense fascination online, Bodie prefers—needs—to let sleeping dogs lie.
But when she’s invited back to Granby, the elite New England boarding school where she spent four largely miserable years, to teach a course, Bodie finds herself inexorably drawn to the case and its increasingly apparent flaws. In their rush to convict Omar, did the school and the police overlook other suspects? Is the real killer still out there? As she falls down the rabbit hole she was so determined to avoid, Bodie begins to wonder if she wasn’t as much of an outsider at Granby as she’d thought; if, perhaps, back in 1995, she knew something that might have held the key to solving the case.
One of the most acclaimed American writers working today, Makkai reinvents herself with each of her brilliant works of fiction. In I Have Some Questions for You, she has created an irresistible mash-up of a classic boarding school novel, a transfixing mystery, and a deeply felt examination of one woman’s reckoning with her past—how our perceptions of who we were shape who we are, and how we can learn to let go. Timely, hypnotic, and populated by a cast of unforgettable characters, it is her finest achievement yet.
Release date: February 21
Hello Beautiful by Ann Napolitano
Synopsis: From the New York Times bestselling author of Dear Edward comes an emotionally layered and engrossing story of a family that asks: Can love make a broken person whole?
William Waters grew up in a house silenced by tragedy, where his parents could hardly bear to look at him, much less love him. So it’s a relief when his skill on the basketball court earns him a scholarship to college, far away from his childhood home. He soon meets Julia Padavano, a spirited and ambitious young woman who surprises William with her appreciation of his quiet steadiness. With Julia comes her family; she is inseparable from her three younger sisters: Sylvie, the dreamer, is happiest with her nose in a book and imagines a future different from the expected path of wife and mother; Cecelia, the family’s artist; and Emeline, who patiently takes care of all of them. Happily, the Padavanos fold Julia’s new boyfriend into their loving, chaotic household.
But then darkness from William’s past surfaces, jeopardizing not only Julia’s carefully orchestrated plans for their future, but the sisters’ unshakeable loyalty to one another. The result is a catastrophic family rift that changes their lives for generations. Will the loyalty that once rooted them be strong enough to draw them back together when it matters most?
Vibrating with tenderness, Hello Beautiful is a gorgeous, profoundly moving portrait of what’s possible when we choose to love someone not in spite of who they are, but because of it.
Release date: March 28
The Human Origins of Beatrice Porter and Other Essential Ghosts by Soraya Palmer
Synopsis: Folktales and spirits animate this lively coming-of-age tale of two Jamaican-Trinidadian sisters in Brooklyn grappling with their mother’s illness, their father’s infidelity, and the truth of their family’s past
Sisters Zora and Sasha Porter are drifting apart. Bearing witness to their father’s violence and their mother’s worsening illness, an unsettled Zora escapes into her journal, dreaming of being a writer, while Sasha discovers sex and chest binding, spending more time with her new girlfriend than at home.
But the sisters, like their parents, must come together to answer to beings greater than themselves, and reckon with a family secret buried in the past. A tale told from the perspective of a mischievous narrator, featuring the Rolling Calf who haunts butchers, Mama Dglo who lives in the ocean, a vain tiger, and an outsmarted snake, The Human Origins of Beatrice Porter & Other Essential Ghosts is set in a world as alive and unpredictable as Helen Oyeyemi’s.
Telling of the love between sisters who don’t always see eye to eye, this extraordinary debut novel is a celebration of the power of stories, asking, what happens to us when our stories are erased? Do we disappear? Or do we come back haunting?
Release date: March 28
Chain-Gang All-Stars by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyan
Synopsis: The explosive, hotly-anticipated debut novel from the New York Times-bestselling author of Friday Black, about two top women gladiators fighting for their freedom within a depraved private prison system not so far-removed from America’s own. – “A new and necessary American voice.” –Tommy Orange, The New York Times Book Review
Loretta Thurwar and Hamara “Hurricane Staxxx” Stacker are the stars of Chain-Gang All-Stars, the cornerstone of CAPE, or Criminal Action Penal Entertainment, a highly-popular, highly-controversial, profit-raising program in America’s increasingly dominant private prison industry. It’s the return of the gladiators and prisoners are competing for the ultimate prize: their freedom.
In CAPE, prisoners travel as Links in Chain-Gangs, competing in death-matches for packed arenas with righteous protestors at the gates. Thurwar and Staxxx, both teammates and lovers, are the fan favorites. And if all goes well, Thurwar will be free in just a few matches, a fact she carries as heavily as her lethal hammer. As she prepares to leave her fellow Links, she considers how she might help preserve their humanity, in defiance of these so-called games, but CAPE’s corporate owners will stop at nothing to protect their status quo and the obstacles they lay in Thurwar’s path have devastating consequences.
Moving from the Links in the field to the protestors to the CAPE employees and beyond, Chain-Gang All-Stars is a kaleidoscopic, excoriating look at the American prison system’s unholy alliance of systemic racism, unchecked capitalism, and mass incarceration, and a clear-eyed reckoning with what freedom in this country really means from a “new and necessary American voice” (Tommy Orange, The New York Times Book Review).
Release date: April 4
The Covenant of Water by Abraham Verghese
Synopsis: From the New York Times–bestselling author of Cutting for Stone comes a stunning and magisterial new epic of love, faith, and medicine, set in Kerala and following three generations of a family seeking the answers to a strange secret
The Covenant of Water is the long-awaited new novel by Abraham Verghese, the author of Cutting for Stone. Published in 2009, Cutting for Stone became a literary phenomenon, selling over 1.5 million copies in the United States alone and remaining on the New York Times bestseller list for over two years.
Spanning the years 1900 to 1977, The Covenant of Water is set in Kerala, on South India’s Malabar Coast, and follows three generations of a family that suffers a peculiar affliction: in every generation, at least one person dies by drowning—and in Kerala, water is everywhere. The family is part of a Christian community that traces itself to the time of the apostles, but times are shifting, and the matriarch of this family, known as Big Ammachi—literally “Big Mother”—will witness unthinkable changes at home and at large over the span of her extraordinary life. All of Verghese’s great gifts are on display in this new work: there are astonishing scenes of medical ingenuity, fantastic moments of humor, a surprising and deeply moving story, and characters imbued with the essence of life.
A shimmering evocation of a lost India and of the passage of time itself, The Covenant of Water is a hymn to progress in medicine and to human understanding, and a humbling testament to the hardships undergone by past generations for the sake of those alive today. It is one of the most masterful literary novels published in recent years.
Release date: May 2
Yellowface by R.F. Kuang
Synopsis: What’s the harm in a pseudonym? New York Times bestselling sensation Juniper Song is not who she says she is, she didn’t write the book she claims she wrote, and she is most certainly not Asian American–in this chilling and hilariously cutting novel from R. F. Kuang in the vein of White Ivy and The Other Black Girl.
Authors June Hayward and Athena Liu were supposed to be twin rising stars: same year at Yale, same debut year in publishing. But Athena’s a cross-genre literary darling, and June didn’t even get a paperback release. Nobody wants stories about basic white girls, June thinks.
So when June witnesses Athena’s death in a freak accident, she acts on impulse: she steals Athena’s just-finished masterpiece, an experimental novel about the unsung contributions of Chinese laborers to the British and French war efforts during World War I.
So what if June edits Athena’s novel and sends it to her agent as her own work? So what if she lets her new publisher rebrand her as Juniper Song–complete with an ambiguously ethnic author photo? Doesn’t this piece of history deserve to be told, whoever the teller? That’s what June claims, and the New York Times bestseller list seems to agree.
But June can’t get away from Athena’s shadow, and emerging evidence threatens to bring June’s (stolen) success down around her. As June races to protect her secret, she discovers exactly how far she will go to keep what she thinks she deserves.
With its totally immersive first-person voice, Yellowface takes on questions of diversity, racism, and cultural appropriation not only in the publishing industry but the persistent erasure of Asian-American voices and history by Western white society. R. F. Kuang’s novel is timely, razor-sharp, and eminently readable.
Release date: May 16
Family Lore by Elizabeth Acevedo
Synopsis: From bestselling, National Book Award–winning author Elizabeth Acevedo comes her first novel for adults, the story of one Dominican-American family told through the voices of its women as they await a gathering that will forever change their lives.
Flor has a gift: she can predict, to the day, when someone will die. So when she decides she wants a living wake—a party to bring her family and community together to celebrate the long life she’s led—her sisters are surprised. Has Flor forseen her own death, or someone else’s? Does she have other motives? She refuses to tell her sisters, Matilde, Pastora, and Camila.
But Flor isn’t the only person with secrets. Matilde has tried for decades to cover the extent of her husband’s infidelity, but she must now confront the true state of her marriage. Pastora is typically the most reserved sister, but Flor’s wake motivates this driven woman to solve her sibling’s problems. Camila is the youngest sibling, and often the forgotten one, but she’s decided she no longer wants to be taken for granted.
And the next generation, cousins Ona and Yadi, face tumult of their own: Yadi is reuniting with her first love, who was imprisoned when they were both still kids; Ona is married for years and attempting to conceive. Ona must decide whether it’s worth it to keep trying—to have a child, and the anthropology research that’s begun to feel lackluster.
Spanning the three days prior to the wake, Family Lore traces the lives of each of the Marte women, weaving together past and present, Santo Domingo and New York City. Told with Elizabeth Acevedo’s inimitable and incandescent voice, this is an indelible portrait of sisters and cousins, aunts and nieces—one family’s journey through their history, helping them better navigate all that is to come.
Release date: August 1
On top of these ten books, I am also looking forward to the new releases of familiar names. Amongst these comeback works I am looking forward to in 2023 are the following:
- Victory City by Salman Rushdie – February 7
- Evil Eye by Etaf Rum – March 28
- The Trackers by Charles Frazier – April 11
- The Late Americans by Brandon Taylor – May 23
- Crook Manifesto by Colson Whitehead – July 18
I am fervently hoping that I get to finally complete all books on my yearly list. How about you fellow readers, what books do you look forward to in 2023? Please share them in the comment box or you can do your own list and tag me. It would be a pleasure to go through your own lists.