A new year means new beginnings. A clean planner (maybe planning for the first time or trying out a different system of organization), a fresh start. And a whole new crop of books to read.
Print books declined slightly in unit sales for the first part of 2022, a drop of 4.8%, but adult fiction remained solid all year with authors like Colleen Hoover, the self-published writer turned bestselling romance author turned thriller giant. Movies like "Where the Crawdads Sing" gave their original source material a bump. And readers still and always turned to nonfiction, like the hugely popular "Atomic Habits" by James Clear. What can we expect from 2023?
The year in books is already front-loaded with heavy hitters. Prince Harry's first memoir, the hilariously named "Spare," became an instant bestseller as soon as it was announced, and it's coming already the first week of January. Tom Hanks, yes that Tom Hanks, has a book of fiction out this year. So do literary powerhouses like Kelly Link, Rebecca Makkai and Brandon Taylor. On the nonfiction side, Elliot Page will tell his story, Nicole Chung explores family and socioeconomic class, and Malcolm Harris takes a magnifying glass to Silicon Valley.
From fairy tales to historical fiction, here are some of the books Salon is most looking forward to in 2023.
The Survivalists by Kashana Cauley (Soft Skull Press)
TV writer Kashana Cauley, who's made us laugh with "The Daily Show" and FOX's "The Great North," brings her penchant for humor in this sharp debut about Aretha, a single Black lawyer whose dream is to make partner, especially after her parents' deaths. But when she moves into the Brooklyn brownstone with her coffee entrepreneur boyfriend Aaron, he comes with gun-toting, doomsday prepper roommates. Soon, Aretha is sidetracked on her road to success, but is that the one she should've been taking anyway? – Hanh Nguyen
"Spare" by Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex (Random House, Jan. 10)
Spare by Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex (Random House)
While Netflix's "Harry & Meghan" docuseries ended up being somewhat disappointing in light of how much of the fairy tale romance was emphasized, the title of the Duke of Sussex's memoir is a promise of burn-it-all down juiciness that we hope makes the Firm clutch its collective pearls. Touted as an "unflinching" memoir, it apparently has already made plenty of people flinch judging by the review-bombing of the book before it's even been released. Harry is spilling the tea, and we're all invited. Dainty sandwiches and scones with clotted cream optional. – Hanh Nguyen
The Sense of Wonder by Matthew Salesses (Little, Brown & Company)
You get the feeling that PEN/Faulker finalist Matthew Salesses was made for this moment, for this particular story. Following his paradigm-shifting "Craft in the Real World," which challenged and reformulated the fiction workshop, we find the results of that in this novel that intertwines the stories of three Asian Americans: a basketball star, a reporter and a producer who wants to create her own style of K-dramas in the U.S. Each is trying to have some aspect of their stories told and be seen, yet are butting against a country that doesn't really know who they're looking at or where to place them. Coming off his own love of Linsanity and k-dramas – and written when his wife learned of her stage 4 stomach cancer – Salesses spins this tale of Won Lee, whose NBA winning streak earns him the nickname "The Wonder" to seek miracles and hope in storytelling. – Hanh Nguyen
"Palo Alto" by Malcolm Harris (Little, Brown & Company, Feb. 14)
Palo Alto by Malcolm Harris (Little, Brown & Company)
Malcolm Harris, author of "Kids These Days: the Making of Millennials" returns with "Palo Alto: A History of California, Capitalism, and the World." This doorstep sized tome explores the history of Silicon Valley and the town at its center, Palo Alto, California. Billed as the "first comprehensive, global history of Silicon Valley," Harris traces over a hundred years of colonialism to explore how this unlikely suburb became the mecca for the digital gold rush. This book's time is definitely now. As Harris wrote on Twitter, "I am very glad I priced in the fall of Tesla." – Alison Stine
Wolfish: Wolf, Self and the Stories We Tell About Fear by Erica Berry (Flatiron Books)
"My, grandma, what big eyes you have!"
We've been told to fear wolves since we were children, from Red Riding Hood to the Big Bad Wolf and beyond. But how do these stories inform how we fear and square with real canids? Erica Berry looks at the concept of the wolf, those we talk about and those that walk among us – such as Oregon's legendary OR-7. In following his path she interrogates femininity, our ideas of predator and prey, the bodies that carry our fear and the animals that never asked to have our grievances heaped upon them. – Hanh Nguyen
I Have Some Questions for You by Rebecca Makkai (Viking)
From Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award finalist for "The Great Believers" comes a riveting novel about a podcaster who, you guessed it, gets involved with a true crime story, one that ties to her own history. Bodie Kane, mother of two, would rather forget her miserable four years at the elite New England boarding school Granby, but when she returns to teach a course, the murder of one of her high school classmates is dredged back up. Although a man was convicted of the killing, other suspects may have been overlooked, with school and police possibly complicit. A reluctant Bodie gets pulled into reexamining the case, for which she may have had key information all along. – Hanh Nguyen
The latest from Kelly Link, a MacArthur genius fellowship recipient and finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, "White Cat, Black Dog" is a collection of seven short stories based on fairy tales, reinvented and shaped for the modern world. A billionaire is a king, a housesitting gig is a portal, and fans of "Station Eleven," speculative fiction or simply anyone who needs a brief escape from the hard, cold world will find the prose here magically transporting. Under Link's hand, the stories promise to be wild, wicked and utterly unforgettable. – Alison Stine
"Happily" by Sabrina Orah Mark (Random House, March 14)
Happily by Sabrina Orah Mark (Random House)
Author of the short story collection "Wild Milk," Sabrina Orah Mark's upcoming release is a memoir in essays, inspired by the writer's popular Paris Review column. Like Link, Mark organizes this book around the idea of fairy tales as format, unlocking a personal history set in a time of climate chaos, pandemic, social protest and deepening political unrest. In other words, right now. The "stories we tell ourselves to get by" are lovely, dark, difficult and worth exploring in all their stunning detail. – Alison Stine
Brother and Sister Enter the Forest by Richard Mirabella (Catapult)
The debut novel from Richard Mirabella, "Brother & Sister Enter the Forest" is a queer coming-of-age story. It explores the dynamics between two siblings: sister Willa, who's been a protector of her brother, and brother Justin, who struggles with substance abuse and appears on Willa's doorstep, years after absence, needing her help. In high school, Justin fell under the spell of an older boy, whose violent act changed both their lives forever. A novel of beauty, family, and violence, and the long threads of trauma, unwoven by love. – Alison Stine
With her first novel "The Mountains Sing," poet and journalist Nguyễn won acclaim and awards for her multigenerational story of a family decades before and though the Vietnam War. For her sophomore novel, she turns to the children of that war, specifically Amerasian children fathered and abandoned by the American occupying soldiers. Inspired by her research and reporting, Nguyễn creates multiple narratives that examine the women who turned to GIs for money during the war, the American veterans who return for the children they left behind, and those whose faces brand them as the "child of the enemy." – Hanh Nguyen
Poverty, by America by Matthew Desmond (Crown Publishing Group)
Matthew Desmond won the Pulitzer Prize for "Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City." With "Poverty, by America," the sociologist blends history, research and firsthand reporting to show how the wealthy punish the poor and keep people living in poverty, both purposefully and without realizing. Passionate and empathetic, Desmond's work promises not only to draw light to the problem of subsidizing wealth without eliminating poverty, but to offer potential solutions and a call to action. – Alison Stine
Victor LaValle is the author of six previous books of fiction. LaValle's work is always darkly magical, suspenseful and deeply compelling, from the journey of a new father, a book dealer, to track down his wife in an enchanted place after unthinkable violence, to the hero of "The Ballad of Black Tom," a con man who attracts the wrong kind of attention. In "Lone Women" LaValle tells the story of Adelaide, a homesteading woman in 1915 Montana with secrets – and a giant steamer trunk. Expect richness, surprise and beauty from this visionary new rendering of the historic American West. – Alison Stine
"All You Can Ever Know" was Nicole Chung's first memoir, about her adoption as a premature infant, who grew up in a white family in sheltered Oregon. The birth of the writer's own child prompted her to search for the birth parents who had given her up. Chung's latest memoir "A Living Remedy" explores Chung's adoptive family, and the life she knew struggling to maintain middle class, living paycheck to paycheck with never enough insurance or help. After her father dies prematurely, from diabetes and kidney disease, Chung's mother almost immediately faces a cancer diagnosis. And the two of them face a distance seemingly insurmountable due to the pandemic. – Alison Stine
Chain Gang All Stars by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah (Pantheon)
During the Roman Empire, criminals engaged in combat with gladiators for the chance at extending their life, commuting sentences and possibly obtaining glory. "Chain Gang All Stars" updates that concept to America's modern-day prison system, creating the Criminal Action Penal Entertainment program (CAPE), which is the vehicle for the ultimate capitalist exploitation of inmates. CAPE prisoners Loretta Thurwar and Hamara "Hurricane Staxxx" Stacker are fan-favorite teammates and lovers, who compete with their freedom on the line. The novel provides a clear-eyed critique of our country's prison system, along with the profit and racism inherent in them. – Hanh Nguyen
Better Living Through Birding: Notes from a Black Man in the Natural World by Christian Cooper (Random House)
In May 2020, birdwatcher Christian Cooper was shoved into the public eye thanks to his viral video of a racist confrontation with an angry dog walker in Central Park. In this memoir/travalogue, he takes the reader on a journey, building a captivating picture of how birding and the natural world gave him tools to navigate America as a gay Black man. From vigilant protest skills to self-acceptance, the lessons Cooper gleaned are ones that he conveys and invites the readers to discover themselves. Looking is just the first step. – Hanh Nguyen
The Making of Another Major Motion Picture Masterpiece by Tom Hanks (Knopf)
Oscar winner Tom Hanks has made the most of his downtime. The actor published a collection of short stories in 2017, and 2023 will see the publication of his first novel, which has been described (by its publisher, anyway) as "wildly ambitious." A historical novel with multiple timelines, "The Making of Another Major Motion Picture Masterpiece" tells the tale of filming a blockbuster superhero flick, along with the stories of the comic books that are the film's inspiration. With a cast of characters including a WWII hero, an "extremely difficult male" actor and bonus comic books created by Hanks and illustrated by R. Sikoryak, this promises to be a starry, nostalgic novel debut which harkens back to the heyday of Hollywood. – Alison Stine
"The Poppy War" trilogy and "Babel" author leaves historical fantasy behind for a contemporary tale that sets the world of publishing on fire: a white author who dares to masquerade as Asian. After witnessing the death of literary darling Athena Liu in an accident, struggling author June Hayward steals Athena's manuscript – about Chinese laborers who contributed to the WWI efforts of the British and French – to publish as her own. "Rebranding" herself as Juniper Song, finally June achieves her dream of hitting the New York Times bestseller list with this stolen narrative. Told in first person, the novel examines not just racism in publishing but lays bare how Asian Americans are often exploited and erased in the west. – Hanh Nguyen
Booker Prize finalist Brandon Taylor, author of "Real Life" and "Filthy Animals," is back with "The Late Americans," a contemporary and searing novel about chosen family. Set in the artistic, academic and food industry communities of Iowa City (a town perhaps best known for its bloodthirsty creative writing graduate program), the new novel follows a compelling group of friends who set off together to a cabin to say goodbye to their former lives. There will be one last, earth-shattering moment together before the friends face uncertain futures. – Alison Stine
"Juno" had put Elliot Page on the map, gaining attention and acclaim for a rising star in Hollywood. But that whole time he was wincing from that spotlight, uncomfortable with the role that he had to play in the public eye but unsure exactly why. In this highly anticipated memoir, Page uncovers his journey of uncertainty and pain of trying to fit into the mold of the binary until he finally came into his own in public in December 2020 as a queer transgender man. "The Umbrella Academy" star's fame and outspokenness has been a beacon of hope for so many queer and nonbinary people, and sharing the difficulties of his journey to eventual wholeness promises to broaden the world's understanding of gender and identity. – Hanh Nguyen
Maddalena and the Dark by Julia Fine (Flatiron Books)
Julia Fine's first novel "The Upstairs House" was like a shot in the arm to a literary establishment who has neglected the stories of women and motherhood for far too long. "The Upstairs House" was haunting and haunted with postpartum trauma, an unfinished dissertation, a woman left to parent alone and a ghost. "Maddalena and the Dark" takes readers on a different but no less absorbing and necessary ride. Velvet-rich, thick with scrumptious detail, the novel is set in 1717 Venice where two young girls, music students from unlikely and very different circumstances, find each other and find love. – Alison Stine
The two-time Pulitzer Prize winner of "The Underground Railroad" returns to the world of "Harlem Shuffle" with its sequel to continue the Carney family saga filled with heists and humor in New York City. Told in three chunks in the 1970s, the story moves from ex-fence Ray Carney slipping into his old ways to afford Jackson 5 tickets for his daughter, his partner-in-crime Pepper working security on a Blaxploitation film, and a fiery ending during the Bicentennial. Filled with mobsters, drug dealers, corrupt cops and our own crooked duo, "Crook Manifesto" evokes Harlem in all its glory while under siege. – Hanh Nguyen
Edan Lepucki's first novel "California," an apocalyptic tale of a couple, ignited a firestorm of discussion and book-buying after Stephen Colbert urged viewers to pre-order it in the midst of a dispute between the publisher and Amazon. "Time's Mouth," the next novel forthcoming from Lepucki, is set in the writer's beloved California. But this time, the Golden State is the place the main character, Ursa, escapes to in the 1950s, seeking to flee her hometown and join the exciting counterculture. Ursa has abilities beyond the ordinary, which end up drawing a cult of women around her. And like all gifts, Ursa's will come with a heavy price, which the next generation might pay. – Alison Stine
Alison Stine is a staff writer at Salon. She is the author of the novels "Trashlands" and "Road Out of Winter," winner of the 2021 Philip K. Dick Award. A recipient of an Individual Artist Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), she has written for The New York Times, The Guardian, and others.
Hanh Nguyen is the Senior Editor of Culture, which covers TV, movies, books, music, podcasts, art, and more. Her work has also appeared in IndieWire, TVGuide.com and The Hollywood Reporter. She co-hosts the "Good Pop Culture Club" podcast, which examines the good pop that gets us through our days, from an Asian American perspective. Follow her at Hanhonymous.