Books 2023 - Turn over a new leaf

Stuck for a new year read? Let Lucy Popescu guide you through what’s out there to tempt you in the first six months of 2023

Getting Better


• Pessimism is for Lightweights by Salena Godden (Rough Trade Books) began life as 13 pieces of courage and resistance. These are poems written for the women’s march, peaceful protest, poems on sexism and racism, class discrimination, poverty and homelessness, immigration and identity. This new edition reflects on our fast-changing world.

• Aidan Cottrell-Boyce’s debut novel The End of Nightwork (Granta) is set in Kilburn. Pol suffers from a rare hormonal disorder; when he was 13, his body aged 10 years overnight, and now in his early 30s, he has the outward appearance of a 23-year-old. But with the condition dormant, Pol and his wife Caroline try to live an ordinary life.

• Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett’s memoir, The Year of the Cat (Tinder Press), was written during lockdown. A kitten called Mackerel walks into Rhiannon’s north London home and teaches her how to face down her fears.


• In The Complete Guide to Memory (Penguin Life) Dr Richard Restak draws on cutting-edge neuroscience, case studies and famous anecdotes to offer tips to strengthen memory, protect against Alzheimer’s and think smarter.

• Emma Flint’s Other Women (Picador) opens six years after the end of the Great War. Beatrice Cade is unmarried and childless. Determined to carve out a fulfilling life for herself, Bea takes a room in a Bloomsbury ladies’ club and a job in the City. Then she falls in love. Kate Ryan is happily married with a daughter until two policemen knock on her door and threaten to destroy the facade she has created.

• In Getting Better: Life lessons on going under, getting over it, and getting through it (Penguin), Michael Rosen shares his story and the lessons he has learned along the way. Exploring past trauma and grief, Michael reveals his road to recovery.

• Fans of Sebastian Barry will be looking forward to his next novel, Old God’s Time (Faber). Recently retired policeman Tom Kettle is settling into the quiet of his new home overlooking the Irish Sea. When two former colleagues turn up at his door with questions about a decades-old case, he finds himself pulled into the darkest currents of his past.

• In The Earth Transformed: An Untold History (Bloomsbury), Peter Frankopan illustrates the importance of understanding how shifts in natural patterns have shaped history, and how our own species has affected terrestrial, marine and atmospheric conditions.

• Sam Miller’s book, Migrants (Abacus) cuts through the debates about migration and refugees to tell the collective stories of humankind’s urge to move. From the Neanderthals, Alexander the Great, Christopher Columbus and Pocahontas to the African slave trade, Fu Manchu, and Barack Obama, Miller shows us that only by understanding how migration has been viewed in the past, can we re-set the terms of the modern-day narrative.


• Liv Little’s debut Rosewater (Dialogue) is a queer love story about intergenerational trauma and class. When Elsie finds herself evicted from the first place that’s ever felt like home, there is the only person she can call – her best friend, Juliet. She’s under pressure to turn her poetry into a viable career and lack of money, crippling anxiety, and a string of hook-ups complicate her ability to discover both creativity and love where they have always been.

• Mister, Mister (Tinder Press) is Guy Gunaratne’s topical sophomore. Yahya Bas finds himself in a UK detention centre after fleeing the conflict in Syria. What was he doing in the desert? Why did he write the incendiary verses that turned him into an online sensation and a media pariah? Mister, his interrogator, wants to keep him locked up. So he decides to tell his life story. On his own terms.

• For centuries, black women have been written out of the dominant narrative, their stories untold, their art appropriated. This Thread of Gold by Cat White (Dialogue) attempts to correct the record and inspire the next generation of readers. Subjects include Chiara Vigo (who spins silk from the sea into gold), Diane Abbott (the longest serving MP in the House of Commons) and Negritude (a literary, cultural and intellectual movement).

• Joanne Harris’s first standalone novel in 15 years, Broken Light (Orion) explores women’s invisibility as they age and what happens when they take back control. Bernie Moon’s ambitions have been forgotten. At 19 she was full of promise Now 50 and menopausal, she’s a fading light. Until the murder of a woman in a local park unlocks a talent that she has hidden all her life.

• Deborah Levy’s August Blue (Penguin) focuses on Elsa M Anderson, a classical piano virtuoso. In a flea market in Athens, she watches a woman buy two mechanical dancing horses. Could the woman be her living double? The two women grapple with their preconceived conceptions of the world and each other, culminating in a final encounter in a summer rainstorm.


• Two local authors have books out this month. Michael Arditti’s The Choice (Arcadia) has a female priest at its heart and explores desire, sin and redemp­tion. Amanda Craig’s The Three Graces (Abacus) is set in Tuscany and follows the challenging choices faced by several charac­ters as they grapple with their past and with present dangers.

• And please, do support our local bookshops.

Originally published by Camden New Journal