The arrival of the New Year brings many things – new habits, new mentalities, fresh diary pages, and a lot of rain. Most excitingly, though, the first day of January heralds the start of a whole year of new books. One of my favourite moments as an avid book-lover is sitting down with a cup of tea and compiling a list of all the new releases I’m most eagerly anticipating over the coming months, throwing a few too many pre-orders into my Waterstones basket, and making a brand new Goodreads shelf which I know will become a reliable pick-me-up in those moments in the depths of summative season despair when it feels like there’s nothing to look forward to anymore. On that note, here are just a few of the books that I can’t wait to get my hands on in 2023.
First up, released on 23 February, is I Have Some Questions for You by Rebecca Makkai. The Great Believers– a generation-spanning novel centred around the 1980s AIDs epidemic – was one of my favourite books of last year, and this new literary crime release takes Makkai’s writing in a completely different direction. The pitch for I Have Some Questions for You is very familiar: a murder mystery at a prestigious boarding school in New England, with a misfit protagonist committed to forgetting their traumas. It is undoubtedly an overused formula by this point, and I’m not sure my heart can handle yet another The Secret History rewrite, but it’s the social justice dimension to this one which intrigues me. I’ve heard that explorations of issues such as femicide and cancel culture are crucial to the novel, and if Makkai articulates her ideas half as well as she did in The Great Believers, it’s sure to be breathtaking. I have a lot of faith this will be a gripping page-turner with exceptional prose, sharply drawn characters and great emotional complexity.
Next, we have Yellowface by R.F. Kuang, released on 25 May. Described as outrageous, shocking and deeply satirical, this novel is not being released for another five months yet has already received hugely polarising reviews, which makes me all the more intrigued to read it. The premise is intriguing: a white author secretly rebrands herself as Asian-American in order to plagiarise the unfinished book of an envied fellow author. Kuang has certainly honed her craft writing morally grey characters in The Poppy War trilogy and Babel, and I can’t wait to see her transition from historical fantasy into the realm of contemporary thriller. I’m hoping Yellowface will be an insightful and certainly provocative novel with an execution as good as its premise, exploring racism and cultural appropriation in the publishing industry and, in doing so, reflecting more broadly on how Asian-American voices are consistently erased within Western white society.
Brandon Taylor’s The Late Americans comes out on 22 June and will certainly be a book that accompanies me on my summer holidays. In his Booker-shortlisted novel Real Life, Taylor has proved himself to be a dab hand at writing young adult characters who are at a crossroads in their lives and don’t really know where to go next, so my expectations are high for his new contemporary fiction release. While Real Life was a focused character study of one man’s experience at university, The Late Americans centres around a loose, eccentric circle of friends and lovers in Iowa City who are each struggling in distinct yet overlapping ways with how to reckon with themselves and the uncertainty of their futures. I love a multi-perspective book with a big cast of complex characters, and I’m excited to see how Taylor continues to explore themes of race, sex, class and relationships through his electrifying prose.
Finally, on 18 May comes The Guest by Emma Cline, a very eagerly anticipated release from the author of The Girls. In this novel, we spend a week in the life of a young woman and pathological liar named Alex, who finds herself unexpectedly homeless in a wealthy neighbourhood, and we follow her as she moves from place to place desperately deceiving everyone she encounters in order to survive. Cline’s writing has a distinctively dream-like, mesmerising quality that I hope will make this novel just as addictive as The Girls, and its setting at the end of summer on Long Island is sure to make this the perfect read for sun-drenched post-exam afternoons. Like all of the other books on this list, this is definitely not one to miss.
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