42 PRH NYTBR “100 Notable Books of 2023”
Of all the many major literary and cultural recognitions our authors’ and imprints’ books receive, none is as encompassing and as resonant as the New York Times Book Review editors’ annual picks of the year’s most “Notable” 100 titles.
Here are their 2023 selections: 16 Penguin Random House Fiction and Poetry and 26 Nonfiction and Memoirs.
The entire list is online now, and will be published in the December 3 print edition.
Next up, the 2023 “10 Best” list.
FICTION & POETRY
This satire — in which prison inmates duel on TV for a chance at freedom — makes readers complicit with the bloodthirsty fans sitting ringside. The fight scenes are so well written they demonstrate how easy it might be to accept a world this sick.
Returning to the world of his novel “Harlem Shuffle,” Whitehead again uses a crime story to illuminate a singular neighborhood at a tipping point — here, Harlem in the 1970s.
Based on a celebrated 19th-century trial in which the defendant was accused of impersonating a nobleman, Smith’s novel offers a vast panoply of London and the English countryside, and successfully locates the social controversies of an era in a handful of characters.
McBride’s latest, an intimate, big-hearted tale of community, opens with a human skeleton found in a well in the 1970s, and then flashes back to the past, to the ’20s and ’30s, to explore the town’s Black, Jewish and immigrant history.
In her radiant fourth novel, Napolitano puts a fresh spin on the classic tale of four sisters and the man who joins their family. Take “Little Women,” move it to modern-day Chicago, add more intrigue, lots of basketball and a different kind of boy next door and you’ve got the bones of this thoroughly original story.
This polyphonic novel traces one family’s reckoning after the patriarch dies in a fire, as his widow, a Nigerian immigrant, considers returning to her home country and the entire family re-examines the circumstances of their lives.
Zhang’s lush, keenly intelligent novel follows a chef who’s hired to cook for an “elite research community” in the Italian Alps, in a not-so-distant future where industrial-agricultural experiments in America’s heartland have blanketed the globe in a crop-smothering smog.
The year is 1915, and the narrator of LaValle’s horror-tinged western has arrived in Montana to cultivate an unforgiving homestead. She’s looking for a fresh start as a single Black woman in a sparsely populated state, but the locked trunk she has in stow holds a terrifying secret.
Mason’s novel looks at the occupants of a single house in Massachusetts over several centuries, from colonial times to present day. An apple farmer, an abolitionist, a wealthy manufacturer: The book follows these lives and many others, with detours into natural history and crime reportage.
“I used to be a translator and now I am a milk bar.” So begins Molnar’s brilliant novel about a new mother falling apart within the four walls of her apartment.
This dazzling, epic narrative, translated from the Spanish by Megan McDowell, is a bewitching brew of mystery and myth, peopled by mediums who can summon “the Darkness” for a secret society of wealthy occultists seeking to preserve consciousness after death.
Jackson’s smart, dishy debut novel embeds readers in an upper-crust Brooklyn Heights family — its real estate, its secrets, its just-like-you-and-me problems. Does money buy happiness? “Pineapple Street” asks a better question: Does it buy honesty?
Double agents, sinister corporations, slasher films, U.F.O.s — Park’s long-awaited second novel is packed to the gills with creative elements that enliven his acerbic, comedic and lyrical odyssey into Korean history and American paranoia.
This elegant novel resonates with implication beyond the taut contours of its central story line. In Novey’s deft hands, the complex relationship between a young woman and her former stepmother hints at the manifold divisions within America itself.
This novel follows three generations across time and place: a young mother trying to create a home for herself and her son in 1980s Philadelphia, and her mother, who is trying to save their Alabama hometown from white supremacists seeking to displace her from her land.
Rushdie’s new novel recounts the long life of Pampa Kampana, who creates an empire from magic seeds in 14th-century India. Her world is one of peace, where men and women are equal and all faiths welcome, but the story Rushdie tells is of a state that forever fails to live up to its ideals.
NONFICTION & MEMOIRS
Building on her groundbreaking work for The Times, Swarns fashions a complex portrait of 19th-century American Catholicism through the story of the nearly 300 people enslaved on Jesuit plantations who were sold in 1838 to save Georgetown University from ruin.
This fast paced, true-life adventure revives the headline-grabbing debate over which explorer reached the North Pole first — and which newspaper broke the news.
A literary and compassionate examination of the porous line between brilliance and insanity, this riveting memoir traces the author’s childhood friendship and sometime rivalry with a neighbor and Yale classmate who is now in prison for murdering his girlfriend.
Howley writes about the national security state and those who get entangled in it — fabulists, truth tellers, combatants, whistle-blowers. Like many of us, they have left traces of themselves in the digital ether by making a phone call, texting a friend, looking something up online.
This ambitious history, by a journalist based in Tulsa, provides an authoritative account of the prosperous Black neighborhood decimated by the city’s 1921 race massacre and a gripping portrait of the community resurrected in its aftermath.
The jazz artist Henry Threadgill’s ardent memoir ranges from his maddening wartime experiences in Vietnam to his boundary-pushing musical career.
This timely and riveting account of the 2016 McMurray wildfire explores not just that Canadian inferno but what it bodes for the future. Vaillant has a chillingly serious message: This is the inevitable result of climate change, and it will happen again and again.
In talking to people the world over about what paradise means to them, Iyer provides hours of thought-provoking meditations. “Paradise becomes something different in every neighbor’s head,” he says.
In earlier books, Bakewell has written about Montaigne and the existentialists; here, she manages to wrangle seven centuries of humanist thought into a brisk narrative with characteristic wit and clarity, resisting the traps of windy abstraction and glib oversimplification.
This comprehensive treatment of the prosecution of Japanese war crimes after World War II is an elegantly written and immersive account of a moment that shaped not just the politics of the region, but of the Cold War to come.
Published months before the Israel-Hamas war, this book by a longtime correspondent in Jerusalem presents a complicated portrait of the many communities and faiths that constitute Israel three-quarters of a century into its existence.
In 1990, Rivera Garza’s 20-year-old sister was murdered in Mexico. That case is the inspiration and launching point for this memoir, a personal and cultural look at femicide in Mexico.
“Everyone alive is either canceled or about to be canceled,” writes the author of this sometimes maddening, always challenging meditation on polarizing cultural figures (Nabokov, Polanski, et al.) and the struggle to reconcile great art with the misdeeds of its creators.
“I’m the greatest star!” the 21-year-old actress defiantly sang in Broadway’s 1964 hit “Funny Girl.” Nearly six decades later, over 992 pages, Streisand chronicles how she delivered on that promise, a rocket ride from Brooklyn to Malibu.
The central claim of this manifesto by the Princeton sociologist is that poverty in the United States is the product not only of larger economic shifts, but of choices and actions by more fortunate Americans.
Challenging, ambitious and elegant, this mind-expanding book explores nothing less than “the ultimate nature of reality” through the work of three figures: the Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges, the German quantum physicist Werner Heisenberg and the 18th-century German philosopher Immanuel Kant.
In powerful, gripping prose, a Philippine journalist recounts her investigation into the campaign of extrajudicial murders under former President Rodrigo Duterte.
Bennett’s engaging history of a literary and cultural movement that took hold in many realms — including music, theater, film, television and, of course, poetry — tracks its evolution from the earliest days of the Nuyorican Poets Cafe on the Lower East Side to the first iterations of slam poetry and beyond.
O’Connell brings literary flourish and a philosophical bent to this investigation of an infamous and confounding Irish murder case.
This cultural history takes up works by Schoenberg, Britten, Shostakovich and Richard Strauss that reflect on World War II and the Holocaust, urging listeners to consider the link between music and remembrance.
This jaw-dropping chronicle by two Times reporters of the final years of Sumner Redstone, the head of Paramount, is an epic tale of toxic wealth and greed populated by connivers and manipulators, not least Redstone himself.
Simmons’s evocative account of her remarkable trajectory from Jim Crow Texas, where she was the youngest of 12 children in a sharecropping family, to the presidencies of Smith College and Brown University shines with tenderness and dignity.
After the H.M.S. Wager was shipwrecked off the coast of Patagonia in 1742, surviving crew members returned to England with dramatic — and starkly conflicting — tales about what had transpired. Grann recreates the voyage in all its enthralling horror.
Offering a rare glimpse into the life and culture of China’s brutally persecuted Muslim Uyghur minority, this eloquent memoir by a poet who escaped with his family to the United States (and translated by Joshua L. Freeman) unfolds a horror story with calm restraint.
There are some 260 species of owls spread across every continent except Antarctica, and in this fascinating book, Ackerman explains why the birds are both naturally wondrous and culturally significant.
Even George Orwell, whose dealings with women were often problematic, admitted that he behaved badly toward his first wife, Eileen O’Shaughnessy. This book focuses on O’Shaughnessy, and combines her story with a bravura analysis of female invisibility.
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