Check out the books that the staff readers of Capsule Stories are looking forward to this year! You can also view this list on Bookshop.
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The Late Americans by Brandon Taylor
Publisher: Riverhead Books
Publish Date: May 23, 2023
In the shared and private spaces of Iowa City, a loose circle of lovers and friends encounter, confront, and provoke one another in a volatile year of self-discovery. At the group’s center are Ivan, a dancer turned aspiring banker who dabbles in amateur pornography; Fatima, whose independence and work ethic complicates her relationships with friends and a trusted mentor; and Noah, who “didn’t seek sex out so much as it came up to him like an anxious dog in need of affection.” These three are buffeted by a cast of poets, artists, landlords, meat-packing workers, and mathematicians who populate the cafes, classrooms, and food-service kitchens of Iowa City, sometimes to violent and electrifying consequence. Finally, as each prepares for an uncertain future, the group heads to a cabin to bid goodbye to their former lives—a moment of reckoning that leaves each of them irrevocably altered.
A novel of intimacy and precarity, friendship and chosen family, The Late Americans is Brandon Taylor’s richest and most involving work of fiction to date, confirming his position as one of our most perceptive chroniclers of contemporary life.
I Have Some Questions for You by Rebecca Makkai
Publish Date: February 21, 2023
The riveting new novel from the author of the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award finalist The Great Believers.
A successful film professor and podcaster, Bodie Kane is content to forget her past–the family tragedy that marred her adolescence, her four largely miserable years at a New Hampshire boarding school, and the 1995 murder of a classmate, Thalia Keith. Though the circumstances surrounding Thalia’s death and the conviction of the school’s athletic trainer, Omar Evans, are the subject of intense fascination online, Bodie prefers–needs–to let sleeping dogs lie.
But when The Granby School invites her back to teach a two-week course, Bodie finds herself inexorably drawn to the case and its increasingly apparent flaws. In their rush to convict Omar, did the school and the police overlook other suspects? Is the real killer still out there? As she falls down the very rabbit hole she was so determined to avoid, Bodie begins to wonder if she wasn’t as much of an outsider at Granby as she’d thought–if, perhaps, back in 1995, she knew something that might have held the key to solving the case.
One of the most acclaimed contemporary American writers, Rebecca Makkai reinvents herself with each of her brilliant works of fiction. Both a transfixing mystery and a deeply felt examination of one woman’s reckoning with her past, I Have Some Questions for You is her finest achievement yet.
The Sense of Wonder by Matthew Salesses
Publisher: Little Brown and Company
Publish Date: January 17, 2023
From the author of PEN/Faulkner finalist Disappear Doppelgänger Disappear and Craft in the Real World comes a searing masterwork on the ways Asian Americans navigate the thorny worlds of sports and entertainment when everything is stacked against them.
An Asian American basketball star walks into a gym. No one recognizes him, but everyone stares anyway. It is the start of a joke but what is the punchline? When Won Lee, the first Asian American in the NBA, stuns the world in a seven-game winning streak, the global media audience dubs it “The Wonder”—much to Won’s chagrin. Meanwhile, Won struggles to get attention from his coach, his peers, his fans, and most importantly, his hero, Powerball!, who also happens to be Won’s teammate and the captain. Covering it all is sportswriter Robert Sung, who writes about Won’s stardom while grappling with his own missed hoops opportunities as well as his place as an Asian American in media. And to witness it all is Carrie Kang, a big studio producer, who juggles a newfound relationship with Won while attempting to bring K-drama to an industry not known to embrace anything new or different.
The Sense of Wonder follows Won and Carrie as they chronicle the human and professional tensions exacerbated by injustices and fight to be seen and heard on some of the world’s largest stages. An incredibly funny and heart-rending dive into race and our “collective imagination that lays bare our limitations before blasting joyfully past them” (Catherine Chung). This is the work of a gifted storyteller at the top of his game.
Happy Place by Emily Henry
Publisher: Berkley Books
Publish Date: April 25, 2023
A couple who broke up months ago pretend to still be together for their annual weeklong vacation with their best friends in this glittering and wise new novel from #1 New York Times bestselling author Emily Henry.
Harriet and Wyn have been the perfect couple since they met in college—they go together like salt and pepper, honey and tea, lobster and rolls. Except, now—for reasons they’re still not discussing—they don’t.
They broke up five months ago. And still haven’t told their best friends.
Which is how they find themselves sharing a bedroom at the Maine cottage that has been their friend group’s yearly getaway for the last decade. Their annual respite from the world, where for one vibrant, blissful week they leave behind their daily lives; have copious amounts of cheese, wine, and seafood; and soak up the salty coastal air with the people who understand them most.
Only this year, Harriet and Wyn are lying through their teeth while trying not to notice how desperately they still want each other. Because the cottage is for sale and this is the last week they’ll all have together in this place. They can’t stand to break their friends’ hearts, and so they’ll play their parts. Harriet will be the driven surgical resident who never starts a fight, and Wyn will be the laid-back charmer who never lets the cracks show. It’s a flawless plan (if you look at it from a great distance and through a pair of sunscreen-smeared sunglasses). After years of being in love, how hard can it be to fake it for one week…in front of those who know you best?
River Meets the Sea by Rachael Moorthy
Publisher: House of Anansi Press
Publish Date: May 30, 2023
A spellbinding, spirited tale of two men exploring masculinity, race, and belonging in a desperate search to feel at home in their own skins.
An enthralling nautical epic, River Meets the Sea traces the dual timelines of a white-passing Indigenous foster child in 1940s Vancouver and a teenage immigrant in the suburbs of Nanaimo in the 1970s.
A natural-born storyteller, Ronny is a left-handed “alley mutt” without a birth certificate who searches for his mother everywhere—most powerfully, he hears her voice in the surging Stó lō River. Born in the middle of the ocean on a merchant ship departing Sri Lanka, Chandra is a Tamil boy with “skin like a charred eggplant” who finds his haven from the pressure to assimilate by swimming and surfing in the Salish Sea.
Moving gracefully between these parallel stories like a wave, the novel traces the seemingly separate lives of these sensitive young men and their everlasting connections to water. When their troubled paths inevitably cross, they form a sacred bond based on the mutual understanding of what it means to be othered, illuminating the interconnectedness of humanity and our innate relationship with the natural world.
Needy: How to Advocate for Your Needs and Claim Your Sovereignty by Mara Glatzel
Publisher: Sounds True
Publish Date: February 28, 2023
Reclaim and reimagine self-care, on your terms.
You have needs—your needs matter. And yet, you’ve been taught that pushing your needs to the back burner is the only way to get things done, that your needs are an overwhelming burden, or that self-care is a luxury you can’t afford. But the presence of your needs is a fact and not a flaw. You can reclaim your energy and take up space in your own life.
In Needy, Mara Glatzel shares her unique approach to identifying, honoring, and advocating for the most tender and true parts of yourself that yearn to be acknowledged. She invites you to embody self-acceptance, which leads to meaningful growth in self-responsibility, self-care, self-trust, and self-love.
Woven with threads of timeless wisdom, honest assessments of our needs, and heartfelt personal stories of transformation, Needy illustrates a profound vision of what is possible when you listen to the stirrings of your heart and reclaim your undisputed sovereignty.
Through thought-provoking exercises, daily check-ins, and journal prompts, Glatzel shows us how to carve out a path to do things in our own way and on our own terms—even if that feels scary or impossible right now. In practicing this work, you will begin to see how to live your life with unshakable confidence, knowing that you can exist in all your humanity because you are enough exactly as you are. These powerful teachings will show you how to:
- Live your life, instead of allowing your life to live you
- Significantly improve your relationships with family, friends, and coworkers
- Speak, think, and listen in ways that honor your needs and boundaries
- Break patterns that lead to stress, resentment, guilt, and shame
- Release what no longer serves you, and heal the layers of hurt you’ve been carrying
Needy is a moving call to action that will awaken hearts, illuminate the path home to ourselves, and provide the tools to forge a life we love. Now is the time to bravely step into your next chapter, grounded in principles that last an eternity.
You Could Make This Place Beautiful: A Memoir by Maggie Smith
Publisher: Atria/One Signal Publishers
Publish Date: April 11, 2023
The bestselling poet and author of the “powerful” (People) and “luminous” (Newsweek) Keep Moving offers a lush and heartrending memoir exploring coming of age in your middle age.
“Life, like a poem, is a series of choices.”
In her memoir You Could Make This Place Beautiful, poet Maggie Smith explores the disintegration of her marriage and her renewed commitment to herself in lyrical vignettes that shine, hard and clear as jewels. The book begins with one woman’s personal, particular heartbreak, but its circles widen into a reckoning with contemporary womanhood, traditional gender roles, and the power dynamics that persist even in many progressive homes. With the spirit of self-inquiry and empathy she’s known for, Smith interweaves snapshots of a life with meditations on secrets, anger, forgiveness, and narrative itself. The power of these pieces is cumulative: page after page, they build into a larger interrogation of family, work, and patriarchy.
You Could Make This Place Beautiful, like the work of Deborah Levy, Rachel Cusk, and Gina Frangello, is an unflinching look at what it means to live and write our own lives. It is a story about a mother’s fierce and constant love for her children, and a woman’s love and regard for herself. Above all, this memoir is an argument for possibility. With a poet’s attention to language and an innovative approach to the genre, Smith reveals how, in the aftermath of loss, we can discover our power and make something new. Something beautiful.
The Faraway World: Stories by Patricia Engel
Publisher: Avid Reader Press / Simon & Schuster
Publish Date: January 24, 2023
From Patricia Engel, whose novel Infinite Country was a New York Times bestseller and a Reese’s Book Club pick, comes an exquisite collection of ten haunting, award-winning short stories set across the Americas and linked by themes of migration, sacrifice, and moral compromise.
Two Colombian expats meet as strangers on the rainy streets of New York City, both burdened with traumatic pasts. In Cuba, a woman discovers her deceased brother’s bones have been stolen, and the love of her life returns from Ecuador for a one-night visit. A cash-strapped couple hustles in Miami, to life-altering ends.
The Faraway World is a collection of arresting stories from the New York Times bestselling author of Infinite Country, Patricia Engel, “a gifted storyteller whose writing shines even in the darkest corners” (The Washington Post). Intimate and panoramic, these stories bring to life the liminality of regret, the vibrancy of community, and the epic deeds and quiet moments of love.
The Guest Lecture by Martin Riker
Publisher: Grove Press, Black Cat
Publish Date: January 24, 2023
With “a voice as clear, sincere, and wry as any I’ve read in current American fiction” (Joshua Cohen), Martin Riker’s poignant and startlingly original novel asks how to foster a brave mind in anxious times, following a newly jobless academic rehearsing a speech on John Maynard Keynes for a surprising audience.
In a hotel room in the middle of the night, Abby, a young feminist economist, lies awake next to her sleeping husband and daughter. Anxious that she is grossly underprepared for a talk she is presenting tomorrow on optimism and John Maynard Keynes, she has resolved to practice by using an ancient rhetorical method of assigning parts of her speech to different rooms in her house and has brought along a comforting albeit imaginary companion to keep her on track—Keynes himself.
Yet as she wanders with increasing alarm through the rooms of her own consciousness, Abby finds herself straying from her prepared remarks on economic history, utopia, and Keynes’s pragmatic optimism. A lapsed optimist herself, she has been struggling under the burden of supporting a family in an increasingly hostile America after being denied tenure at the university where she teaches. Confronting her own future at a time of global darkness, Abby undertakes a quest through her memories to ideas hidden in the corners of her mind—a piecemeal intellectual history from Cicero to Lewis Carroll to Queen Latifah—as she asks what a better world would look like if we told our stories with more honest and more hopeful imaginations.
With warm intellect, playful curiosity, and an infectious voice, Martin Riker acutely animates the novel of ideas with a beating heart and turns one woman’s midnight crisis into the performance of a lifetime.
The Briars by Stephanie Parent
Publisher: Cemetery Gates Media
Publish Date: May 2023
From an interview with Stephanie Parent: “This novel is set in a commercial BDSM dungeon like the one I worked in for six years, and it deals with themes of sadomasochism, misogyny, the challenges of being a sex worker and being judged by society, queer love, and more. This story comes from an extremely personal place to the point that some portions of the novel felt channeled, like I wasn’t completely in control of what I wrote. I’m really excited for people to read it and hopefully get the same emotion out of it that I put into it!”
Big Swiss by Jen Beagin
Publisher: Scribner Book Company
Publish Date: February 07, 2023
A brilliantly original and funny novel about a sex therapist’s transcriptionist who falls in love with a client while listening to her sessions. When they accidentally meet in real life, an explosive affair ensues.
Greta lives with her friend Sabine in an ancient Dutch farmhouse in Hudson, New York. The house, built in 1737, is unrenovated, uninsulated, and full of bees. Greta spends her days transcribing therapy sessions for a sex coach who calls himself Om. She becomes infatuated with his newest client, a repressed married woman she affectionately refers to as Big Swiss, since she’s tall, stoic, and originally from Switzerland. Greta is fascinated by Big Swiss’s refreshing attitude toward trauma. They both have dark histories, but Big Swiss chooses to remain unattached to her suffering while Greta continues to be tortured by her past.
One day, Greta recognizes Big Swiss’s voice at the dog park. In a panic, she introduces herself with a fake name and they quickly become enmeshed. Although Big Swiss is unaware of Greta’s true identity, Greta has never been more herself with anyone. Her attraction to Big Swiss overrides her guilt, and she’ll do anything to sustain the relationship…
Bold, outlandish, and filled with irresistible characters, Big Swiss is both a love story and also a deft examination of infidelity, mental health, sexual stereotypes, and more—from an amazingly talented, one-of-a-kind voice in contemporary fiction.
Spare by Prince Harry, the Duke of Sussex
Publisher: Random House
Publish Date: January 10, 2023
It was one of the most searing images of the twentieth century: two young boys, two princes, walking behind their mother’s coffin as the world watched in sorrow—and horror. As Diana, Princess of Wales, was laid to rest, billions wondered what the princes must be thinking and feeling—and how their lives would play out from that point on.
For Harry, this is that story at last.
With its raw, unflinching honesty, Spare is a landmark publication full of insight, revelation, self-examination, and hard-won wisdom about the eternal power of love over grief.
Maddalena and the Dark by Julia Fine
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Publish Date: June 13, 2023
What do you want most? What will you pay for it?
Venice, 1717. Before she meets Maddalena, fifteen-year-old Luisa has only wanted one thing: to be the best at violin. As a student at the Ospedale della Pietà, she hopes to join the highest ranks of its illustrious girls’ orchestra and be no longer just an orphan but a star, protégé of the great Antonio Vivaldi. Luisa is good at violin, but she is not the best. She has peers, but she does not have friends. Until Maddalena.
Sent to the Pietà to be reformed until the rumors about her noble family have passed, Maddalena is unlike anyone Luisa has met. Clever, reckless, and passionate, Maddalena can promise the world to Luisa, and when she does, their fates intertwine. But Maddalena has made a wager with something deep in the waters of Venice, and there will be a price to pay.
Heady, sumptuous, and utterly enthralling, Maddalena and the Dark is the love story between two girls and the boundless desires that might ruin them.
Our Bones Ache Together by Kendra Nuttall
Publisher: FlowerSong Press
Publish Date: January 17, 2023
2020 changed us. From a global pandemic that uprooted our lives and took the lives of countless loved ones, to cries for justice that rang out across the world, 2020 is a year that we cannot forget. It’s a year that we shouldn’t forget. Written almost entirely in isolation during the COVID-19 pandemic, Our Bones Ache Together is a journey of heartache, home, healing, and hope. Documenting the disappearance of the middle class, growing wealth disparity, and life during seemingly endless unprecedented times, these poems remind us of the pain we carry, but also of the hands we hold to keep moving. Life goes on, even when we don’t believe it can. From the coldest winter, spring blooms.
Night Wherever We Go by Tracey Rose Peyton
Publisher: Ecco Press
Publish Date: January 3, 2023
A gripping, radically intimate debut novel about a group of enslaved women staging a covert rebellion against their owners.
On a struggling Texas plantation, six enslaved women slip from their sleeping quarters and gather in the woods under the cover of night. The Lucys—as they call the plantation owners, after Lucifer himself—have decided to turn around the farm’s bleak financial prospects by making the women bear children. They have hired a “stockman” to impregnate them. But the women are determined to protect themselves.
Now each of the six faces a choice. Nan, the doctoring woman, has brought a sack of cotton root clippings that can stave off children when chewed daily. If they all take part, the Lucys may give up and send the stockman away. But a pregnancy for any of them will only encourage the Lucys further. And should their plan be discovered, the consequences will be severe.
Visceral and arresting, Night Wherever We Go illuminates each woman’s individual trials and desires while painting a subversive portrait of collective defiance. Unflinching in her portrayal of America’s gravest injustices, while also deeply attentive to the transcendence, love, and solidarity of women whose interior lives have been underexplored, Tracey Rose Peyton creates a story of unforgettable power.