4 fiction releases you should read now — and 4 more to keep an eye out for in 2023

The covers of “Starling House” by Alix E. Harrow, “Yellowface” by R. F. Kuang and “A Study in Drowning” by Ava Reid. (Courtesy of Micaela Alcaino, William Morrow, HarperCollins/HarperTeen)
The covers of “Starling House” by Alix E. Harrow, “Yellowface” by R. F. Kuang and “A Study in Drowning” by Ava Reid. (Courtesy of Micaela Alcaino, William Morrow, HarperCollins/HarperTeen)

So far, 2023 has been flush with good books — and there are even more coming out later this year.  But if you’re feeling overwhelmed about where to start, don’t worry. Here’s a guide for you.

Here & Now associate producer and resident bookworm Kalyani Saxena rounded up four favorite reads this year that you can dig into right now. And if you like a little anticipation, she shares an additional four titles to add to your pre-order list.

Books that have hit the shelves in 2023:

When we meet June Hayward, she’s a floundering author intensely jealous of her friend and fellow author Athena Liu, the literary darling of the publishing world. But when June witnesses Athena’s sudden and shocking death, she seizes the opportunity to steal Athena’s last work and claim it as her own. As June success finally rises — built on the back of Athena’s words — she’ll do anything to keep her secret … and her moment in the spotlight.

A cutting critique packaged as a thriller, R. F. Kuang’s “Yellowface” tears open the publishing industry’s ugly underbelly. “Yellowface” is a gripping exploration of the power of one’s voice and an interrogation of how we decide who has the right to tell a story. As June goes to extremes to cover her tracks, you can’t help but root for her to get caught. This is one cat-and-mouse game you won’t want to miss.

Two magical typewriters. One love story in the midst of a war between gods. 

Rebecca Ross excels in writing quiet love stories with strong characters. This book has a lovely academic-rivals-to-lovers storyline and a unique setting reminiscent of World War I. It’s the kind of treat you want to curl up with on a rainy day.

Alice is the top agent at her spy agency — there’s no task she can’t handle with efficiency and razor-sharp focus. That is, except, teaming up with Daniel Bixby, another top agent and her biggest rival. The two must pretend to be married to save the Queen from pirates, witches and other shenanigans. 

India Holton never fails to take a bonkers-sounding premise and turn it into a delightful story. The writing style in this book is so witty and clever, chock full of humorous asides and characters that will have you snorting with laughter. The world is full of witches, pirates and flying houses. It may sound like a lot, but it’s actually the perfect combination of cozy and chaotic.

Felicity “Fizzy” Chen is a famous romance writer. There’s only one problem; she’s stopped believing she’ll ever find the love she writes about in her own life. That’s why she says yes to appearing on a reality dating show run by documentary filmmaker Connor Price. But Fizzy never imagined she’d feel more chemistry with the showrunner than the contestants she’s supposed to be dating.

If you’re looking for a romance novel that will give you butterflies, this one's for you. Christina Lauren — the pen name for the writing duo — always manages to take tired tropes and seemingly outlandish premises and turn them into fresh, grounded romances with characters you genuinely root for. Fizzy and Connor are wrapped in a romantic conundrum of their own making, yet the decisions they make — while flawed — still feel authentic and raw. Check this out for an abundance of swoon-worthy moments, longing glances and many meta references to romance as a genre.

Four forthcoming books to look forward to in 2023:

To everyone in Eden, Kentucky, Starling House is an ominous and creepy manor, better left alone. But Opal can’t stop dreaming about Starling House. And when Arthur, the house’s brooding caretaker, offers her an opportunity to earn money by cleaning the house, despite the danger, Opal gives into temptation and agrees.  

Starling House is a gothic fairytale with an atmosphere so vivid you can almost taste it. As the narrative unfolds, Alix E. Harrow slowly builds the backstory of her two characters Opal and Arthur. They’re two of the loneliest people you’ll read about and the way they grow to reach towards one another, despite all the reasons not to, is heart-wrenching in its loveliness.

There’s no question that this book will top many readers’ best books of 2023 lists.

In the walled city of Sa-Er, a dangerous game is afoot. Every year competitors across the city will fight to the death for unimaginable riches. Former princess Calla Touelmi has been in hiding since she killed her parents. But she’s not done with the royal family. And if she wants another shot at revenge, she’s going to have to win the games first. 

Chloe Gong, a rising star in young adult fantasy, knocks it out of the park with her adult debut “Immortal Longings.” Gong sets a frenetic pace that follows Calla and her rival Anton Makusa in an uneasy alliance through the games. You can’t look away from the story or the characters even as they slit the throats of those around them. It’s vicious, bloodthirsty and utterly unique.

Effy Sayre is an architecture student who has always believed in fairy tales. In fact, they’re the only thing keeping her aloft after a traumatic first semester in college. But when she wins a competition to redesign the house of her favorite author, she discovers that some stories are rotten to their core. 

Readers may pick up this book for its dark fairy tale vibes and gorgeous prose, but they’ll stay for the careful examination of trauma and what it means to be a survivor. Ava Reid handles Effy’s story with utmost care and prods us to think about the women buried underneath men’s famous words.

Mallory Greenleaf stopped playing chess four years ago when the sport destroyed her family. She’s tried to forget her love for the game ever since, but her desire to stay out of the spotlight comes to an abrupt end when she beats the world’s number-one chess player at a charity tournament. 

“Check & Mate” is for every person who watched “Queen’s Gambit” and thought, “Wow, I didn’t know chess could be sexy.” Move by move, Ali Hazelwood’s wry-yet-accessible writing style takes us through the riveting world of chess. And you’ll walk away from this book half in love with Nolan, Mallory’s only real chess rival. He’s a total dreamboat. Not just because he’s hot — which he is — but because he sees Mallory for who she is and wants her to succeed more than he wants his own glory and success.

(Note: Learning chess will not necessarily earn you your own dreamboat. But a girl can dream.)

Bonus: Hear from these 2023 authors featured on Here & Now:

Kalyani Saxena Associate Producer, Here & Now
Kalyani Saxena is an associate producer for Here & Now.



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