2023 Notable Books List Announced: Year’s Best in Fiction, Nonfiction and Poetry

NEW ORLEANS- The Notable Books Council, first established in 1944, has announced the 2023 selections of the Notable Books List, an annual best-of list composed of  titles written for adult readers and published in the US including fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. The list was announced today during the Reference & User Services Book & Media Awards Virtual Ceremony.

The 2023 selections are:

Fiction

“Elsewhere” by Alexis Schaitkin (Celadon books, a division of Macmillan Publishers)

A dreamlike allegory about home, identity, and disappearing mothers.

“The Haunting of Hajji Hotak: And Other Stories” by Jamil Jan Kochai (Viking, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC)

Life, death, rebirth, and the complex lives of Afghans and Afghan Americans are shared in a surreal collection.

“Horse” by Geraldine Brooks (Viking, an imprint of Penguin Random House, LLC)

An oil painting and an equine skeleton are clues to uncovering the history of antebellum racetracks and the enslaved trainers who worked them.

“Seeking Fortune Elsewhere” by Sindya Bhanoo (Catapult)

A glimpse into the lives of South Indian families, especially those of the women, at home and abroad.

“Stories From The Tenants Downstairs” by Sidik Fofana (Scribner, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, Inc.)

Residents of a Harlem on the brink of gentrification offer a snapshot of life within their shared apartment building.

“The Furrows” by Namwali Serpell (Hogarth, an imprint of Random House Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC)

The long tail of grief haunts Cassandra after she and her brother Wayne go swimming and only she returns.

“The Rabbit Hutch” by Tess Gunty (Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Penguin Random House, LLC)

The legacy of a medieval mystic and an unexpected sacrifice spark a young woman’s escape from her body and her Midwestern hometown.

“The Swimmers” by Julie Otsuka (Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Penguin Random House LLC)

An elegant meditation on loss, belonging, and the effects of dementia.

“Trust” by Hernan Diaz (Riverhead Books, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC)

The truth about an old New York family’s fortune is slippery in this experimental novel told in iterative perspectives. Which version is real?

“Vagabonds!” by Eloghosa Osunde (Riverhead Books, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC)

Shimmering characters from marginalized communities of a Nigerian metropolis are explored through a magical realist lens.

“What We Fed To The Manticore” by Talia Lakshmi Kolluri (Tin House)

Nine fables told by animals navigating a fraught world.

Nonfiction

“Also A Poet: Frank O’Hara, My Father, And Me” by Ada Calhoun (Grove Press, an imprint of Grove Atlantic)

A bittersweet quest to finish her father’s biography of their shared literary hero results in a daughter’s deeper understanding of their complicated relationship.

“An Immense World: How Animal Senses Reveal the Hidden Realms Around Us” by Ed Yong (Random House, an imprint and division of Penguin Random House LLC)

This thoroughly researched exploration of nonhuman perception uncovers the joys and challenges of attempting to understand our fellow creatures.

“Bitch: On The Female Of The Species” by Lucy Cooke (Basic books, an imprint of Perseus Books, LLC, a subsidiary of Hachette Book Group)

Irreverent and revelatory, a look at animal behavior that 19th-century gentlemen scientists couldn’t bring themselves to discuss.

“Easy Beauty” by Chloe Cooper Jones (Avid Reader Press, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, Inc.)

Raw and brutally honest, this multi-layered memoir examines life in a disabled body.

“The Escape Artist: The Man Who Broke Out Of Auschwitz To Warn The World” by Jonathan Freedland (Harper, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers)

Driven by a mission to alert others of the Nazi regime’s atrocities, Rudolf Vrba flees an extermination camp and encounters resistance to the truth.

“His Name Is George Floyd: One Man’s Life And The Struggle For Racial Justice” by Robert Samuels and Toluse Olorunnipa (Viking, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC)

Original research enriches this comprehensive biography of a big-hearted man, his legacy, and the Black Lives Matter movement catalyzed by his death.

“The Song of the Cell: An Exploration of Medicine and the New Human” by Siddhartha Mukherjee (Scribner, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, Inc.)

The mysteries of biology and the painstaking efforts of scientists attempting to solve them take center stage in this luminous guide to life’s building blocks.

“This Body I Wore: A Memoir” by Diana Goetsch (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

A candid, poetic account of the winding road to self-discovery and midlife gender transition.

“Under The Skin: The Hidden Toll of Racism on American Lives and the Health of Our Nation” by Linda Villarosa (Doubleday, an division of Penguin Random House, LLC)

Numerical data and personal accounts document how medical bias and systemic failures specifically threaten Black people in the United States.

“The Vortex: A True Story of History’s Deadliest Storm, An Unspeakable War and Liberation” by Scott Carney and Jason Miklian (Ecco, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers)

Resilience emerges in the wake of a massive cyclone and the political violence it provokes, prompting the birth of the nation of Bangladesh.

“We Are The Middle Of Forever: Indigenous Voices From Turtle Island on the Changing Earth” Edited by Dahr Jamail and Stan Rushworth (The New Press)

Intimate interviews expand the conversation about the global environmental crisis and inspire a hopeful vision of the future.

Poetry

“Alive At The End Of The World” by Saeed Jones (Coffee House Press)

A passionate and devastating examination of grieving and surviving the society we’ve created.

“Bless The Daughter Raised By A Voice In Her Head” by Warsan Shire (Random House, an imprint and division of Penguin Random House LLC)

Somali culture and lived experience are detailed in these heartbreaking, eloquent pieces.

“The Rupture Tense” by Jenny Xie (Graywolf Press)

Lingering reverberations of China’s Cultural Revolution and a sense of national disruption—past and present—permeate this collection.

“Your Emergency Contact Has Experienced An Emergency” by Chen Chen (BOA Editions, Ltd.)

Family and queer Asian identity depicted with vulnerability, humor, and tender playfulness.

The winners were selected by the Notable Books Council whose members include ten expert readers’ advisory and collection development librarians. The Council considers titles based on stellar reviews published in standard library reviewing sources and other authoritative sources. Derived from this list is the longlist for the Andrew Carnegie Medals for Excellence in Fiction and Nonfiction, ALA’s highest honor for books written for adults.

The Council includes Allison Escoto, The Center for Fiction, chair; Sara Duff, University of Central Florida, vice-chair; Kristen Allen-Vogel, Dayton Metro Library; Crystal Chen, The New York Public Library; Rochelle Lundy, Stanford University; Robyn Lupa, Jefferson County Public Library(CO); Amanie Mahmood, Denver Public Library; Katharine Phenix, Boulder Public Library; Jo Phillips, Stark County (OH) Public Library;   Marianne Ramirez, Sayville Library.

The Reference and User Services Association (RUSA), a division of the American Library Association, represents librarians and library staff in the fields of reference, specialized reference, collection development, readers’ advisory and resource sharing. RUSA is the foremost organization of reference and information professionals who make the connections between people and the information sources, services, and collection materials they need. Learn more at www.rusaupdate.org.


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