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12 Must-Read Books of January 2023

12 Must-Read Books of January 2023

  • Here are the new books you should read in January 2023.

The New Year is officially here and so are new 2023 releases!

This year is shaping up to be an incredible one for readers, and we’re starting off strong with a slate of January books. The early months of the New Year also bring us a large number of debuts, making it the perfect time to both set your reading goal, and discover fresh voices to fall in love with.

Here are 12 new releases that we’re looking forward to here at the Chicago Review of Books!

Fieldwork: A Forager’s Memoir
By Iliana Regan
Agate Midway

We’re eagerly anticipating the release of Fieldwork: A Forager’s Memoir, the latest from the 2019 CHIRBy Award winner Iliana Regan. In 2019, the Michelin star chef moved with her wife to Michigan’s remote Upper Peninsula to found the Milkweed Inn, a B&B in which almost all of the food served is foraged from the surrounding forest and river. In this memoir, Regan digs deep into her life and heritage as a forager, spanning her ancestry in Eastern Europe, her childhood in rural Indiana, and her new life after leaving her famed Chicago restaurant behind. Fieldwork is a stunningly beautiful reflection on finding peace with our family history and the land we inhabit.

Extended Stay 
By Juan Martinez
University of Arizona Press
January 17, 2023

Looking to start your New Year off with some horror? Chicago’s very own Juan Martinez is back with a gothic exploration of the complicated relationship between the Latinx undocumented experience and capitalism. Following a young man who finds himself as a line cook at a seedy hotel in Las Vegas after fleeing his home in Colombia, Extended Stay is a prime example of the power of horror as a genre that can provoke both spine-tingling frights and incredible insights on our current age. 

Moonrise Over New Jessup
By Jamila Minnicks
Algonquin Books

From the winner of the 2021 PEN/Bellwether Prize for Socially Engaged Fiction comes Moonrise Over New Jessup, an enchanting story about a Black woman doing whatever it takes to protect all she loves at the beginning of the civil rights movement in Alabama. When Alice Young moves to the all-Black town of New Jessup, where residents have largely rejected integration as the means for social advancement, she must balance her support for her lover Raymond’s clandestine work and her desire to protect her home from the upheaval that may come with it. Jamila Minnick has written an unforgettable debut, and announced herself as a writer to watch for years to come. 

The World and All That It Holds
By Aleksandar Hemon

Calling all history buffs! The World and All That It Holds follows Rafael Pinto, a pharmacist with a poet’s heart who finds himself embroiled in the trenches of World War I after the death of Archduke Franz Ferdinand throws the continent into chaos. Amid the bloodshed, Rafael falls in love with a fellow soldier named Osman, and the two make a plan to escape the violence at all costs. Spanning across mountains and deserts all the way to Shanghai, Hemon tells the heart wrenching story of how a love between two men transcended the violence of one of history’s most brutal wars. 

I Keep My Exoskeletons to Myself
By Marisa Crane

Set in a near future United States in which an unjust surveillance state has become our reality, a government organization called Department of Balance has created a new form of law enforcement: rather than incarceration, wrongdoers are given a second shadow as a reminder of their crime and a warning to those they encounter. I Keep My Exoskeletons to Myself follows Kris and her baby that was born with a second shadow of her own as the two try to make a new life for themselves under the oppressive eye of the department. This lyrical debut examines the long shadow of grief, the hard work of parenting, and the power of queer resistance. 

Deadpan: The Aesthetics of Black Inexpression
By Tina Post
New York University Press

In Deadpan, University of Chicago professor Tina Post traces the long history of art of purposeful withholding as a critical tool in the work of Black culture makers. While the term “deadpan” is often viewed today as the lack emotion, Post argues that this performance of expressionlessness serves as a powerful foil to the persistent framing of Blackness as “colorful, loud, humorous, and excessive.” Post’s work is a thoughtful study that seamlessly weaves art and life through the lens of an often under-appreciated aesthetic. 

Judas Goat
By Gabrielle Bates
Tin House Books

One of our favorite things about the New Year is seeing all the exciting new work from debut authors. In 2023, Gabrielle Bates’s Judas Goat is high on that list. Named for the animal used to lead sheep to slaughter while having its own life spared, these forty poems wrestle with the thorny themes of betrayal and forced obedience, violence and young womanhood, and the “forbidden felt language” of sexual and sacred love. Bates writes every line with fierceness and an unflinching eye for desire and risk, crafting a collection that never has to scream its most powerful lines to embed them in your mind for years to come.

The Faraway World
By Patricia Engel
Avid Reader Press / Simon & Schuster

See Also

Patricia Engel’s Infinite Country burst onto the scene as a New York Times bestseller and Reese’s Book Club pick, and her new short story collection is sure to make noise as well. These ten stories make for a haunting read, as her characters are forced to make moral compromises and sacrifices in their search for a better life in cities throughout the world. But no matter how far these stories travel, Engel infuses intimacy and care in every single life she writes. 

Drinking Games: A Memoir
By Sarah Levy
St. Martin’s Press

Part memoir and part social critique, Drinking Games explores the impact alcohol has on relationships and identity through the life of one woman in her late 20’s. In brave and insightful prose, Sarah Levy reflects on her toxic relationship with alcohol even as her professional and social lives were thriving. Alcohol can often be a difficult topic for us to discuss openly, which is why Drinking Games and the candidness that Levy writes with is such a welcome sight in 2023. 

The Sense of Wonder
By Matthew Salesses 
Little, Brown and Company

During the 2012 NBA season, point guard Jeremy Lin led the New York Knicks to a surprise turnaround and captivated the world in what eventually became known as “Linsanity.” Inspired by that global cultural phenomenon, The Sense of Wonder follows Won Lee, an Asian American basketball player who must navigate the thorny worlds of sports and entertainment when his spectacular play places himself and his entire identity on display on the world stage. PEN/Faulkner finalist Matthew Salesses strikes the perfect balance between humor and heart-wrenching insights on the limitations of our collective imagination, which makes his newest novel one of our early favorites of 2023. 

The Red Headed Pilgrim
By Kevin Maloney
Two Dollar Radio

The Red Headed Pilgrim is a fantastic addition to the “midlife woes” genre. Lost in the throes of an existential crisis, 42-year-old web developer Kevin Maloney reflects on where his life led him. After embarking on a cross-country trip that took him from the beaches of San Diego to a frontier-themed roadside attraction in Helena and beyond, his life is unsettled by the birth of his daughter, which brings about its own wonderful and terrifying realities. Kevin Maloney’s novel is a tragicomic misadventure about new beginnings that is in turns laugh out loud funny and painfully real. 

Ghost Season
By Fatin Abbas
W.W. Norton & Company

When a mysterious burnt corpse appears one morning in Saraaya, a remote border town between northern and southern Sudan, the news foreshadows trouble to come. From there, five strangers on an NGO compound find themselves tied together as cataclysm arrives. Ghost Season is a gripping debut from Fatin Abbas about the porous and perilous nature of human made borders.

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