2023 Staff Picks: Literary Fiction

By Skokie Staff Advisory Services

Our expert staff members look back at the year and share their favorite titles.

  • Shark Heart: A Love Story

    2023 by Habeck, Emily

    An unpredictable, heartfelt novel about disability, grief, love, and transformation. We were entranced by Emily Habeck's gorgeous writing and creative approach to exploring relationships and human nature. We never thought that a plot that involved shapeshifting would be so affecting. Suggested by Amber I., Elise, Sheena, and Susanne.

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  • Yellowface

    2023 by Kuang, R. F.

    We loved this fast-paced, darkly humorous, and sharp analysis of the publishing industry and the intersection of racial politics, the commentary on who gets to write what, and the definition of success. Most of the characters are hardly likeable, but there is so much intrigue and nuance that you still become extremely invested in their stories. We can't wait to see what she writes next! Suggested by Amy B., Megan, Rummanah, and Susanne.

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  • Love Buzz

    2023 by Alexander, Neely Tubati

    I loved this book; the author's writing style is engaging and descriptive without being overly done, and it was easy to be transported to the Pacific Northwest (Seattle) and immersed in its culture while the main character has her quarter-life crisis and navigates through career, grief, and romance in a very relatable way. Suggested by Erin.

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  • The Guest Lecture

    2023 by Riker, Martin

    This is one of those rare books that captures what it sounds like (in your head) to worry. Layers upon layers of worry propel this lively and all-too-real internal monologue that unfolds in real time during a sleepless night. Suggested by Adam.

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  • Demon Copperhead

    2022 by Kingsolver, Barbara

    This book was very nicely written. The narrator did a fantastic job portraying the character with his voice. It was an amazing read and I’ll be thinking about it for a long time. Suggested by Farishta.

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  • The Light at the End of the World

    2023 by Deb, Siddhartha

    I thought about Philip K. Dick a lot while reading these four bizarre and nightmarish interlocking novellas set at different points in India's past and future. There are notes of both science fiction and noir throughout. I couldn't help feeling that despite the author's refusal to let his readers get a grip on what was "real," he was trying to convey what he considers to be the most essential truths about his country. Suggested by Andrew.

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  • Maame

    2023 by George, Jessica

    I enjoyed this refreshing read about a young woman's journey of self-discovery. Although it was not an easy path, Jessica George highlights the importance of this necessary journey into adulthood. Suggested by Michelle.

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  • Girlfriend on Mars

    2023 by Willis, Deborah

    I enjoyed the premise of this near-future novel: reality competition to send the first humans to Mars. What I didn't expect, but totally loved, was the commentary on climate hope and nihilism. I'm still not sure how I feel about the ending! Suggested by Amy K.

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  • What Happened to Ruthy Ramirez

    2023 by Jimenez, Claire

    I enjoyed this character-driven, literary debut about a Puerto Rican family who reckons with the disappearance of a family member. There is a nice balance between humor and warmth while the family deals with loss. I would recommend it to fans of Elizabeth Acevedo and Erika L. Sanchez. Suggested by Rummanah.

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  • The Guest

    2023 by Cline, Emma

    I enjoyed this book due to the dramatic lens through which this story was told. The imagery and detail of the character's thoughts allowed me to feel as though I could understand the moving pieces within the story. Suggested by Luke.

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  • Banyan Moon

    2023 by Thai, Thao

    I enjoyed this multigenerational novel about complicated families set in Florida and Vietnam. Suggested by Brenna.

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  • Shy

    2023 by Porter, Max

    Narrated with great invention through the troubled consciousness of an English teenager, this book continues Porter’s streak of wildly inventive, poetic books where less is more and ambiguity gives way to startling clarity and profound compassion. Suggested by Chris.

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  • The Celebrants

    2023 by Rowley, Steven

    I love the author's sense of humor and how he used it to balance the pain and emotional turmoil that loss can inflict. I also enjoyed the way the characters used living funerals as ways to reconnect lifelong friendships and heal. Suggested by Susanne.

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  • The Rachel Incident

    2023 by O'Donoghue, Caroline

    I love an Irish novel, and I love when character dynamics propel a novel more than fantastical plot points. All vibes, no plot, great discussion! Suggested by Amy K.

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  • Sea Change

    2023 by Chung, Gina

    If you like Weike Wang's writing and her tone of "sharp weariness" as described by Roxane Gay, you will like this book. I certainly could not forget this sad, lovely, heartfelt story featuring a philosophical cephalopod character. Suggested by Megan.

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  • Commitment

    2023 by Simpson, Mona

    Spanning from the 1970s to the 1980s, Mona Simpson weaves a beautiful tapestry of the lives of survivors who keep going in the face of impossible odds. Middlemarch is one of my favorite books and echoes of it can be felt in this haunting, melancholic novel. I savored this gem of a family saga. Suggested by Lynnanne.

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  • Family Meal

    2023 by Washington, Bryan

    This book follows different characters--all gay or nonbinary, most connected by a bakery in a gentrifying Houston queer neighborhood--as they make mistakes, find reasons to keep going, reconcile with their families, and start new families, all under the author's nonjudgmental eye. "Life-affirming" in the best possible way. Suggested by Andrew.

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  • Really Good, Actually

    2023 by Heisey, Monica

    I enjoyed the way the author explored the emotional turmoil of and recovery from divorce with humor. Suggested by Susanne.

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  • Hello Beautiful

    2023 by Napolitano, Ann

    I enjoyed this book because the sisters are so different and yet similar in acknowledging the importance of their sisterhood in their lives. A family saga of four sisters whose interconnected lives bring joy and heartache throughout the years. Suggested by Michelle.

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  • Clytemnestra

    2023 by Casati, Costanza

    A feminist retelling of one of Greek myths' most infamous female "villains." I loved how the author does not reduce Clytmnestra to a villain or a heroine, but rather a fleshed-out, three-dimensional woman, and we are given context to her actions. I would highly recommended this book for fans of Madeline Miller, Natalie Hayes, and Claire Heywood. Suggested by Rummanah.

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  • Lost Believers

    2023 by Zhorov, Irina

    Tragedy is probably inevitable the day in 1973 when Galina and her fellow geologists land in the isolated (and iron-rich) Siberian valley Agafia's family retreated to before she was born. The two women have irreconcilable understandings of the world, but neither is fully in control of her destiny. Inspired by the stranger-than-fiction story of Agafia Lykova and by the growth of the environmental movement on both sides of the Iron Curtain during the 1970s. Suggested by Andrew.

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  • Big Swiss

    2023 by Beagin, Jen

    I loved the dark humor in this book and the diverse characters. It wasn't at all what I expected and was quite enjoyable. Suggested by Susanne.

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  • Cassandra in Reverse

    2023 by Smale, Holly

    The third-worst day of Cassandra Dankworth’s life is also the day she finds out she can (within certain parameters) alter the past, but the mythology loving oddball’s repeated attempts to salvage her job, relationship, and living situation merely drive home how ill-matched she is to all of them. Holly Smale has confirmed that this delightful and insightful comic fantasy was shaped by her own journey to getting an autism diagnosis in her 30s. Suggested by Andrew.

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  • Meredith, Alone

    2022 by Alexander, Claire

    I really loved this book. It is a story about a woman who has not left her house in 1,214 days. It is a book about overcoming trauma, human connection, and resilience. Your heart will break reading about Meredith, but you will find yourself rooting for her every step of the way. Suggested by Sheena.

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  • Case Study

    2022 by Burnet, Graeme Macrae

    Haunted by the suicide of her sister, a woman assumes a false identity to investigate the charismatic, decidedly unorthodox psychoanalysist who last treated her. This may sound like the premise for a thriller, but make no mistake, Graeme Macrae Burnet’s Case Study is a compulsively readable work of literary fiction that’s as playful as it is provocative. Suggested by Steven.

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  • Time Shelter

    2022 by Gospodinov, Georgi

    I loved the concept of this book, where a clinic opens to recreate a past where those experiencing dementia felt most safe. It turns out to be so popular that entire communities begin to selectively recreate real or imagined eras, where memory, nostalgia, and nationalism blend into illusion and wonderful storytelling. Suggested by Chris.

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  • The Light Pirate

    2022 by Brooks-Dalton, Lily

    As a fan of climate fiction, I devoured this book. I was on the edge of my seat from the beginning as a devastating hurricane tears through the Florida coast. As the state becomes more and more uninhabitable, main character Wanda finds a way to evolve and adapt to a rapidly changing world. Suggested by Brenna.

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