james debate
james debate

Sunday 22 January 2023

Welcome back to The Ephemeric's 2023 Hot List. This week we will have a look at the most exciting new literature and novels you'll be reading in the coming year.

best anticipated new novels literature 2023 hot list
I'll be honest, compiling this list was more difficult this year than it has been recently. Some years are abundant with exciting new work, new voices, the latest from established legends of literature. 2023, at first blush, looks to be a year slightly bereft of originality. Far too many of the year's biggest releases fall into predictable niches. Most are topical fare or biographies exploring political and social issues, which is fine, but does every single book need to be about that these days? It makes me worried for the past-time of reading that so much of the industry seems to be about catering to outrage and grievance at the moment, at the expense of actual storytelling and creative new voices.

But if you look for it, there is interesting work out there. After a little more digging and some concerted exploration, I found them. So, for all my concerns, what follows is a list of 10 very exciting books that I will be looking out for in the year ahead. 

So here it is: your reading list for 2023, our list of the top 10 upcoming releases from the world of literature to keep an eye on this year, starting, as always, with number 10:

10. "Really Good, Actually" by Monica Heisey

best literature 2023 novel book really good actually monica heisey schitt creek
We start with something on the light and relatable side. Really Good, Actually is the debut novel by Monica Heisey, known for her work as a writer on the hit comedy series Schitt's Creek

Break ups are messy, everyone knows what that feels like and can relate. This is the premise behind Really Good, Actually, a story of break up filled with wit and humorous observations of the absurdities of social norms and our own flawed psyches.

There's nothing here that will break unprecedented ground or expand your greater understanding of the world, but Heisey's comedy bona fides as a writer make this a worthwhile proposition. 

9. "Palo Alto: A History of California, Capitalism, and the World" by Malcolm Harris

best literature 2023 novel book palo alto malcolm harris
Malcolm Harris is a journalist of some prominence. Editor of The New Inquiry, heavily involved in the Occupy Wall Street movement and considered a leading voice in millennial literature. 

His latest work, Palo Alto: A History of California, Capitalism, and the World, is a work of non-fiction that aims to be nothing less than the definitive treatise on the region, its transformation during the digital revolution, and the consequences for the wider world at large.

It's radical, ambitious stuff and a must read for anyone with an interest in the subject matter or the industry as a whole.

8. "The Making of Another Major Motion Picture Masterpiece" by Tom Hanks

best literature 2023 novel book tom hanks making another major motion picture masterpiece debut
It turns out that in addition to being a pretty good actor, Tom Hanks is a pretty good writer as well. His recent foray into short story writing was critically and commercially well received. He returns now with his debut novel.

The Making of Another Major Motion Picture Masterpiece sounds like something that should fit perfectly with Hanks' experience. A novel set across three decades about the making of a major superhero film and the comic books that inspired it.

This generational tale runs side by side with a tie-in comic strip, also created by Hanks, woven in with the novel's prose. For a first time author, Hanks is showing some impressive ambition in his use of the form here.

7. "Ascension" by Nicholas Binge

best literature 2023 novel book ascension nicholas binge
For this next one we break away from depictions of the real world for something a little bit different. 

Ascension is a speculative thriller, with events set into motion by the sudden appearance of a new mountain in the Pacific Ocean. Framed through the discovery of a series of letters depicting a team of scientists ascending its peak, hoping to uncover its mysteries. 

Binge has a track record when it comes to tales of the fascinating and strange. His latest will challenge the limitations of science and faith, and consider what it means to be human.

6.  "Biography of X" by Catherine Lacey

best literature 2023 novel book biography of x catherine lacey
Catherine Lacey's new novel Biography of X is a unique blending of fiction and biography depicting the life and times of X, recently deceased artist and iconoclast, one of the great creative forces of her time.

What follows is a tale that covers decades in an alternate America following X and their rise to prominence, from Europe to the ruins of America's divided territories, and through her collaborations and feuds with everyone from Bowie and Waits to Sontag and Acker. Written in the style of a biographical work composed by a grieving widow seeking to understand her deceased spouse, their work and the numerous mysteries and betrayals they carried.

The scope of this work is staggering. An alternative history that explores every part of this new world from the politics and social issues, to the cultural zeitgeists across decades of history. From a conceptual perspective, it's one of the more interesting pieces I've seen in recent years and is being tipped as one of the most hotly anticipated novels of 2023.

5. "Cuddy" by Benjamin Myers

best literature 2023 novel book cuddy benjamin myers
Benjamin Myers' last novel, Perfect Golden Circle, was one of the better reads of 2022, a true-to-form blend of wit, Britannic folklore and bucolic charm. 

Myers has shown himself to be adept at tracing the arc of history, how point A leads to point B, and weaving that into his immediate narrative. His latest, Cuddy, draws on similar themes and influences, but laid over a far more ambitious framework. A story that unfolds across centuries, consisting of multiple interwoven tales with an array of characters. Incorporating poetry, prose and real historical accounts in an ambitious retelling of the story of St. Cuthbert, unofficial patron saint of Northern England. 

It's a more experimental piece of work than what we have come to expect from his recent writing, typically noted for its simplicity and pared back form. I look forward to seeing how his style works with this more unusual narrative structure.

4. "The Ferryman" by Justin Cronin

best literature 2023 novel book ferryman justin cronin
The Ferryman sounds like a classic bit of Nolan or Bradbury-esque science fiction. Set in a seemingly idyllic island utopia where denizens have their health monitored at all time, "retiring" to a location known as the nursery when their vitals fall below a certain threshold, where they are renewed and restored to a fresh body with their memories wiped. 

You can probably see where this is going. All is not as it seems in this island paradise. What ensues is a suspenseful slice of dystopian fiction as our protagonist seeks to uncover the truth behind this mysterious society.

Best known for his acclaimed 2010 novel, The Passage, author Justin Cronin has been compared to the likes of Stephen King and Michael Crichton. It's easy to see their influence in what is sure to be one of the biggest novels of the summer.

3. "The Deep Sky" by Yume Kitasei

best literature 2023 novel book deep sky yume kitasei
This next pick takes us on a murder mystery adventure in deep space. The Deep Sky is a debut novel from author Yume Kitasei.

With Earth on the verge of environmental collapse, the planet's nations pool their resources to send a ship containing the best and brightest to a distant liveable planet. A last hope for the future of humanity. Part way through their journey, a bomb goes off. There is one prime suspect, and she must race against the clock to uncover the true culprit.

Whether you enjoy detective novels, space exploration, or the obvious parallels to videogame Among Us, this novel has a lot to be excited about and is being tipped as one of the most promising debuts of 2023.

2. "In Ascension" by Martin MacInnes

best literature 2023 novel book in ascension martin macinnesIt is unfortunate that we have two such similarly named books on this list, but the inclusion of In Ascension is more than justified. In his third novel, Martin MacInnes has crafted an irresistible mystery that has been likened to the movies Arrival and The Abyss, as well as the writings of Emily St. John Mandel.

In Ascension starts with a young researcher in the Netherlands with a fascination for the sea and the organisms that live there. What follows is a global adventure investigating a series of unexplained phenomena across the natural world that will confront the greatest questions of our existence.

It's a big step up in scope for MacInnes, whose previous work has clocked in around the 250 page mark, roughly half of In Ascension. It's certainly his most ambitious work to date, and if it works then it could be one of the most exciting reads of the year.

1. "Victory City" by Salman Rushdie

best literature 2023 novel book victory city salman rushdie
A new epic from Salman Rushdie is always going to be a major event in literature, more so this year given that this is the first work published since Rushdie suffered life changing injuries in last year's attack, which took place after this work was completed.

Victory City is an epic tale of a young girl in 14th Century India who, grief stricken by the death of her mother, is given the power to breathe an entire empire into existence, only to be consumed by it over the centuries. 

As with Rushdie's other novels, Victory City is an ambitious tale of magical realism, with allegories on religion and history woven throughout his work.

So there you have it folks: 2023 in literature. Tune in soon for our next instalment of the Hot List, covering the essential new theatre coming up in 2023!

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