As we look back on the literary landscape of 2023, it’s clear that readers have been treated to a wealth of captivating and thought-provoking books. From gripping memoirs to innovative fiction, the year has offered an array of unforgettable titles that will continue to resonate with readers well into 2024. Here, we present a list of ten must-read books from 2023 that you should add to your reading list for the coming year. Some books on the list are expected to hit in 2024, early in the year. So, be ready for the pre-order to wait with patience until you see the books in some online bookstores. And rest assured, you will absolutely love reading these books because many enjoy doing so. However, if you don’t get along with any of the books on the list, just move on and pick another.
- The Art Thief: A True Story of Love, Crime, and a Dangerous Obsession by Michael Finkel: This one, penned by Michael Finkel, chronicles the life of Stéphane Breitwieser, a notorious and prolific purloiner of artistic masterpieces. This authentic account of criminal exploits delves into the enigmatic drives behind his audacious acts of thievery and the extraordinary measures he undertook to amass a collection valued at an astounding $2 billion. Unlike his nefarious brethren, Breitwieser did not pilfer for financial gain; rather, he sought to possess beauty at any cost. The narrative weaves a captivating tale of love, transgression, and an insatiable yearning for artistic treasures, culminating in a stunning denouement that shall leave readers astonished.
- The Berry Pickers by Amanda Peters: The Berry Pickers, a poignant novel by Amanda Peters, follows the lives of two families connected by a tragic event that occurred in the blueberry fields of Maine in 1962. The story unfolds through the perspectives of Joe, a Mi’kmaq boy who witnesses the disappearance of his four-year-old sister, and Norma, a girl from an affluent family in Maine. As Joe grapples with the guilt and grief of losing his sister, Ruthie, he remains haunted by the memories of that fateful day. Meanwhile, Norma grows up with an overbearing mother and a distant father, plagued by dreams she doesn’t understand. Over the course of several decades, the two families’ paths intertwine in unexpected ways, revealing secrets and unravelling the mystery of Ruthie’s disappearance. As the truth is uncovered, the characters must confront their deepest pain and darkest secrets. The Berry Pickers is a beautifully written and emotionally charged debut novel that explores the complexities of family, loss, and the unbreakable bonds that connect us.
- Negras by Yolanda Arroyo Pizarro, translated by Alejandro Álvarez Nieves: Negras by Yolanda Arroyo Pizarro, translated by Alejandro Álvarez Nieves, is a collection of stories that delve deep into the lives of Puerto Rican slave women during the 19th century. Through a blend of research and fiction, the book brings to life the experiences of these women, who actively resist their condition as slaves and the Eurocentric identity imposed upon them. The protagonists, such as Wanwe, Ndizi, Tshanwe, and Petra, offer a unique perspective on the harsh realities of slavery, as well as the resilience and strength of the human spirit. By shining a light on the silenced voices in archival records, “Negras” challenges readers to confront the dark history of slavery and the ongoing struggle for identity and freedom.
- Rotten Evidence by Ahmed Naji, translated by Katharine Halls: Rotten Evidence, written by Ahmed Naji and translated by Katharine Halls, is an autobiographical account of Naji’s experience in an Egyptian prison. The book chronicles his ten months in Cairo’s Tora Prison in 2016 after being sentenced for “violating public decency” due to an excerpt from his novel, Using Life. Naji’s work offers a unique perspective on the mundane and grand questions he faced while incarcerated, such as securing a steady supply of fresh vegetables and negotiating with the chief of intelligence. Through his vivid storytelling and uncompromising approach, Rotten Evidence provides a rare insight into the world of Egyptian prison and the challenges faced by a writer under such circumstances.
- The Heaven & Earth Grocery Store by James McBride: In The Heaven & Earth Grocery Store, James McBride weaves a captivating tale of a 1920s Pennsylvania community where Jewish and Black families coexist in the Chicken Hill neighbourhood of Pottstown. The story follows the lives of various colourful characters as they navigate the challenges of their time, including the struggles of a 12-year-old deaf orphan named Dodo. As the plot unfolds, the characters work together to protect their vulnerable members and confront the racial tensions that arise in their community. With his signature blend of humour, vibrant dialogue, and rich historical detail, McBride offers a heartwarming and uplifting portrayal of love and community in the face of adversity.
- Holly by Stephen King: Holly by Stephen King is a gripping novel that follows the story of Holly Gibney, a character from King’s Bill Hodges trilogy. In this standalone sequel, Holly, now a private investigator, is called to investigate a mysterious letter written by a deceased friend. The letter leads her on a journey to a small town in Texas, where she discovers a dark and sinister secret that threatens to destroy the entire community. As she delves deeper into the mystery, Holly must confront her own fears and insecurities while facing off against powerful and dangerous forces. With its trademark blend of suspense, horror, and heart, “Holly” showcases King’s mastery of storytelling and his ability to create unforgettable characters.
- Alias Emma by Ava Glass: In the thrilling novel Alias Emma by Ava Glass, readers are introduced to Emma Makepeace, a newly minted British spy on her first major assignment. As Emma races against the clock to deliver her asset across London after a Russian hack compromises the city’s security cameras, she must navigate a world of danger and deception. With its high-octane, heart-pumping action and captivating characters, “Alias Emma” is an exhilarating read that will leave readers on the edge of their seats, eager to see if Emma can complete her mission without being spotted… or killed.
- Jaded by Ela Lee: Jaded by Ela Lee is a must-read novel for fans of Queenie and I May Destroy You. This gripping debut follows the story of Jade, a young lawyer who wakes up one morning with no memory of how she got home after a work event. As she tries to piece together what happened, she is caught between her parents, her boyfriend, and her job. Jaded explores themes of consent, race, and identity in a broken society, and will leave you questioning your own beliefs. Lee’s razor-sharp writing and dark humour make this a captivating read that will have you turning the pages until the very end.
- Spare by Prince Harry: For many, the most-read novel of 2023 is Spare by Prince Harry. This highly anticipated memoir offers a candid and intimate look into the life of Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex. In Spare, Prince Harry shares his personal journey, from his childhood to his time in the military, and ultimately, his decision to step back from his royal duties. The book provides a unique perspective on the British royal family, as well as the challenges and joys of growing up in the public eye.
- Late Americans by Brandon Taylor: One of the most-read novels of 2023, The Late Americans by Brandon Taylor, brings an exciting and interesting journey to the fore. This highly anticipated novel follows the lives of a group of friends in Iowa City as they navigate their relationships, ambitions, and the complexities of adulthood. The story explores themes of love, identity, and the search for meaning in a world that often feels overwhelming. With its vivid characters and sharp prose, “The Late Americans” is a captivating and thought-provoking read that has resonated with readers throughout the year.
These books, spanning various genres and styles, offer something for every reader. From the true story of an art thief’s dangerous obsession to the exploration of love and crime in “The Berry Pickers,” these titles have captivated readers in 2023 and will undoubtedly continue to do so in 2024. Whether you’re looking for a gripping memoir, an innovative work of fiction, or a thought-provoking exploration of the human condition, these ten books are sure to provide a rich and rewarding reading experience.
By Parmarth M for Indian Book Critics