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Let’s be real. A lot of bad things came out of 2023. I don’t need to list them; we were all there. (Does anybody remember that movie Ghosted with Ana de Armas and Chris Evans? Or the time they tried to turn Winnie the Pooh into a horror movie?) But there were some good things — like these books.
It’s not technically too late to fulfill your 2023 resolution of becoming a reading girlie, so add these 20 books to your list ASAP.
‘Perfectly Nice Neighbors’ by Kia Abdullah
When Salma, Bilal, and their son Zain move into a fancy all-white neighborhood, things seem off from the start. Soon, microaggressions and misunderstandings between them and the family next door spiral into an all-out war involving the entire neighborhood — and someone gets seriously hurt.
‘The Spare Room’ by Andrea Bartz
In Andrea Bartz’s latest twisty thriller, protagonist Kelly deals with a called-off engagement during the pandemic. She reunites with a friend from high school, goes to live with them, and pretty soon becomes involved in a throuple. It’s the perfect arrangement — until it isn’t. Pretty soon, Kelly starts realizing this too-good-to-be-true situation may be just that.
‘Homebodies’ by Tembe Denton-Hurst
Anyone drifting or unsure of themselves, pick up a copy of “Homebodies” immediately. It follows Mickey Hayward, an aspiring Black writer who loses her job in media and writes a scathing Twitter thread about the racism and microaggressions she faced at her job — but far from going viral, nobody reads it. So Mickey goes home to figure things out, where she runs into a former flame. Part skewering of media, part literary fiction, and part romance, Homebodies has something for everyone.
‘The Only One Left’ by Riley Sager
True crime fans will love this fictionalized telling of the Lizzie Borden story, with a few more twists and turns. Set in the present day, disgraced home care aide Kit gets an assignment to work for Lenora Hope, the woman who, as local legend has it, killed her entire family. As Kit starts communicating with Lenora, she learns what really happened that fateful night — and coming close to the truth puts her in danger.
‘Pineapple Street’ by Jenny Jackson
If you like stories about rich, white people being kind of shitty but not as bad as Succession, you’ll tear through this book about a family in Brooklyn. It’s told in multiple POVs: The two sisters of the Stockton family and Sasha, the sister-in-law/interloper. Each is dealing with their own shit, and yet, frustratingly, none of them talk to each other about their problems.
‘The September House’ by Carissa Orlando
This one is a slow burn that totally pays off. It starts in the middle of where most horror novels go: Margaret is alone in a house, the walls occasionally dripping with blood, and it’s filled with ghosts. But it doesn’t bother her. She’s learned to live with it. But when her daughter announces a surprise visit, Margaret realizes she might be unable to keep her living situation a secret anymore.
‘The Heaven & Earth Grocery Store’ by James McBride
This novel won the National Book Award and is also an Oprah’s Book Club pick, and Barack Obama loved it, so what more endorsement do you need? It takes place in Pottstown, Pennsylvania, 1972, when developers uncovered a skeleton at the bottom of a well. The identity of the deceased is a long-kept secret by the Jewish and African Americans who lived in the neighborhood.
‘Yellowface’ by R.F. Kuang
When rising literary star Athena Liu suddenly dies in an accident, aspiring writer (and current nobody) June Hayward steals her manuscript and publishes it under an ambiguous name. A meta-satire of publishing, it’s told through a combination of a first-person POV, Twitter threads, and Goodreads.
‘Happy Place’ by Emily Henry
If you haven’t read Emily Henry yet, WTF are you doing? Even if you’re completely dead inside, you’ll absolutely be charmed by her latest romance about a couple who broke up months ago, who’s pretending to still be together on a group vacation so they don’t make things awkward. Yeah, that’s not awkward at all.
‘The God of Good Looks’ by Breanne Mc Ivor
After her (unwitting) participation in a scandal casts Bianca out of Trinidadian society, she takes an offer to work for the notoriously mercurial beauty entrepreneur Obadiah Cortland to help him launch a magazine. As Bianca and Obadiah start working together, they realize that they may have judged certain people in their lives incorrectly — including each other — and the magazine’s release threatens to disrupt society.
‘The Daydreams’ by Laura Hankin
This fun read is perfect for millennials who won’t STFU about nostalgia. Thirteen years after their hit show ended in a spectacularly disastrous fashion, the cast of The Daydreams reunites for a reboot. A lot is riding on this reunion — and for protagonist Kat, a lot depends on her castmates not finding out about the role she played in the show’s cancellation.
‘Maame’ by Jessica George
Maddie lives in London and is the primary caretaker for her father, who has Parkinson’s. Her mom lives in Ghana but is still overly involved in her life, so when her mom returns from Ghana, Maddie finally jumps at the chance to move out. She finds a new job in publishing, a flat with roommates, and is doing pretty well until tragedy strikes, and she’s emotionally back at square one. Celeste Ng and Bonnie Garmus have both praised this moving coming-of-age story if you need more reasons to read it.
‘Nightbloom’ by Peace Adzo Media
From the author of “His Only Wife” (a Betches pick) comes a story of a female friendship tested throughout the years. Growing up in Ghana, Selasi and Akorfa are more like sisters than anything else until they drift over the years, culminating in Akorfa leaving to go to school in America. A loss brings them back together, and they’re forced to confront what’s left of their friendship and their role in drifting apart.
‘The House of Eve’ by Sadeqa Johnson
Like historical fiction, but can’t read another WWII story? The novel is set in 1950s Philly and Washington, D.C. It’s about two people whose lives intertwine: Ruby, who’s always dreamed of becoming the first person in her family to go to college until a scandalous relationship threatens her chances at an education, and Eleanor, who falls madly in love with a man from a wealthy Black family but finds it hard to fit in.
‘Counterfeit’ by Kirstin Chen
This fun read for fans of Inventing Anna is about Ava, a lawyer, wife, and mother who has always played by the rules. Behind closed doors, her life’s falling apart. So when she reconnects with her old college roommate, Winnie, who mysteriously dropped out — and has now resurfaced, dripping in designer goods — she’s intrigued. Winnie’s secret? All her stuff is fake, and she wants Ava to help her import her dupes.
‘Bright Young Women’ by Jessica Knoll
The author of the bestselling “Luckiest Girl Alive” tackles Ted Bundy, the true crime genre, and our culture’s fascination with serial killers in her latest novel. The difference is it focuses on the victims and not the killer. It starts at Florida State, 1978, where a serial killer targets a sorority house. One of the women who survives and a woman whose friend goes missing in Seattle find their stories become intertwined as they pursue the truth.
‘The Neighbor Favor’ by Kristina Forest
Imagine a world where people actually talk to their neighbors! Okay, so it’s not that far-fetched for anyone outside New York City. In any case, Lily Greene is a shy book editor who has a little secret: She’s struck up a virtual friendship with her favorite fantasy author. She’s crushed when he ghosts her without a word — until she meets her hot new neighbor, Nick Brown. Little does she know the fantasy author and her new neighbor are one and the same. Nick figures out who Lily is, but so as not to complicate their relationship, he sets her up with a friend — even though he can’t stop thinking about her.
‘Stone Cold Fox’ by Rachel Koller Croft
There’s no shortage of “Girl-from-a-rough-upbringing plots to nab Rich Husband while hiding her past” novels out there right now, but this one was one of my favorites. Raised by her con artist single mother to value wealth and beauty at all costs, Bea sets her sights on old-money-rich Collin Case, and their whirlwind romance soon turns into an engagement. The only problem? Colin’s homely best friend from childhood, Gale, can see through Bea’s facade — and she’s determined to expose Bea’s past.
‘The Leftover Woman’ by Jean Kwok
Fans of “Little Fires Everywhere” will love this evocative and emotional novel from NYT bestselling author Jean Kwok. Jasmine arrives in New York City after fleeing her village in rural China in search of her daughter. (After being forced to give her up for adoption due to China’s One Child Policy.) Uptown, Rebecca is a publishing executive who seems to have it all, including a sweet newborn baby she just adopted from China. But when Rebecca becomes embroiled in an industry scandal, it threatens not just her job but her marriage — and her and Jasmine’s lives will meet head-on.
‘Girls and Their Horses’ by Eliza Jane Brazier
Thoroughbreds meets Big Little Lies in this thriller about the cutthroat world of competitive show jumping in Rancho Santa Fe, California, told in multiple POVs. Heather and her two daughters, Piper and Maple, move from Texas to a wealthy area of California, where Heather pushes Maple into horseback riding (despite her fear of horses). As they become more entrenched in the cliques there, lies will turn lethal, and somebody will end up dead.