It’s time to make a list so everyone knows what to get you, and for you to shop for people who refuse to give you a list. Well, of course, Susan’s lists, to give and receive, are nothing but books, so here’s how she efficiently tackles the process this time of year. And, we’ve tried to use gift links, so at least the first 10 non-subscribers should be able to access these.
100 Notable Books 2023
We raved about Eleanor Catton’s Birnam Wood this summer, always rave about Ann Patchett (2023’s Tom Lake is no surprise, and we’ve heard the audio book, read by Meryl Streep, is amazing, too.), and are currently partway through Naomi Klein’s Doppelgänger and loving it. Another half dozen of these are sitting on Susan’s bedside bookshelf and more will be added to her wish list after work today.
As a t-shirt on Etsy reads, “It’s not called hoarding when it’s books.” (BTW, Etsy is full of book lover merchandise.)
Books We Love 2023
This is the best thing on the internet for book lovers and the people who support their habit. Also, really the one recommendation we are making that helps with shopping for the younger, early school-age crowd. Although, we are going to rave about The Eyes and the Impossible by Dave Eggers—for all ages, but oh, to be a parent who gets to read this out loud. I envy you if that happens. (If you want to loan me a child, I’ll read it to them, if it’s not your thing!) The book itself is amazing—much of what McSweeney’s publishes is impossibly beautiful objects as well as great writing. So many great writers in this set of interactive picks. While we haven’t yet read these books, we can vouch for many of the writers: Daniel Mason, S.A. Crosby, Lauren Groff, Dennis Lehane, Colson Whitehead, Anne Enright, Sigrid Nunez, Idra Novey, Catherine Lacey, Zadie Smith, Dwyer Murphy, and James McBride.
10 Best Books of 2023
The idea that you can pick 10 and just say, “That’s it, these are the best.” well, it‘s a gutsy move (but one that no legal, medical, regulatory review team at our clients’ companies would ever okay). While a little shocked, we also respect the boldness. We’ll let the subscribers in the Comments section dispute the selections. We know some of these writers’s work, and it’s not surprising their newest books are making a list like this. So much so, that if hardcover prices are out of league for your Secret Santa, check out past works by Paul Murray and James McBride in paperback and you definitely won’t have supplied the white elephant gift no one wants.
Fifty Notable Nonfiction 2023
A little more helpful if you’re shopping, and if it happens to be a healthcare colleague, we particularly want to call out The People’s Hospital: Hope and Peril in American Medicine by Ricardo Nuila.
Fifty Notable Fiction 2023
Again, fifty is a little more helpful in building a wish or shopping list. Shocking not us, but it appears they’ve got some that NPR didn’t pick, despite no limits on their numbers. We’ll call out Jesmyn Ward’s Let Us Descend and Rafael Frumpkin’s Confidence as the ones that jumped out from our reading.
And, one more time, from our Summer 2023 recommendations, for the reader who has everything, and for whom you cannot ever possibly guess right, we’re confident we have a winner:
The English Understand Wool
by Helen DeWitt
If you’re really book nerd, you may know Helen DeWitt as the writer of cult favorite The Last Samurai—no relation to the Tom Cruise movie—(and currently part of Susan’s to-do stack as a result of this books charm). This little novella, really a long short story, has some wild twists and turns and is a complete delight. We know: The title is nothing, you’ve never heard of this writer, the binding looks like a Little Golden Book for a child. Every reason to skip it, but we strongly recommend you seek it out instead. Told by delightfully sophisticated seventeen-year-old Maguerite,—who is a little bit of a snob, very sure of herself and her maman’s teachings,—it’s a joyfully amoral story with a twist. Not to be missed, it’s quite literally laugh-out-loud funny, and despite being quite short, worth the price of hardcover admission. RIYL: James Thurber’s The Catbird Seat, The Sting, Gone Girl, a very good laugh, stories you can re-read regularly.
If buying a book for someone else scares you, consider this leather book weight for a reader of physical books. I read a lot of hardcovers, while also having something to eat or drink, so I use mine almost daily (not on early shoot days).