100 Books Published in 2023 for Your TBR Pile

Top Books of 2023

A few weeks ago, I was looking at some early end-of-year lists as I was preparing to teach a class on free indirect style. I found myself looking at many samples of recently-published work and paying close attention to narrational style—specifically person and tense. So I started to compile a small table of the books I came across, and then, well, I went a little overboard. Below is the fruit of my labor.

I have not read every book on this list. I did look at reading samples of every book here, and made my assessment of person and tense from those pages, but I certainly may be off. Some books start in one narrational style and then switch it up. So if you see any errors here, let me know. Think of this as a work-in-progress.

I also made use of AI to compile some lists into table form, and occasionally to condense a book description. There are bound to be some small errors here and there. But take this for whatever it’s worth; it may help you find some good books to add to your To-Be-Read pile.

I tried to only included books published in 2023 here. I may be off with a couple of them. But there should be something here for everyone. Given the table format below, this may not come out great on small devices. Apologies.

TitleAuthorGenreDescriptionPerson and Tense
New York Times Best Fiction of 2023
After SapphoSelby Wynn SchwartzHistorical fictionInspired by Sappho’s work, Schwartz’s debut novel offers an alternate history of creativity at the turn of the 20th century, one that centers queer women artists, writers and intellectuals who refused to accept society’s boundaries.Third-person past tense with some fourth-person past tense interludes
All the Sinners BleedS.A. CosbySouthern thrillerIn his earlier thrillers, Cosby worked the outlaw side of the crime genre. In his new one — about a Black sheriff in a rural Southern town, searching for a serial killer who tortures Black children — he’s written a crackling good police procedural.Third-person past tense
The Bee StingPaul MurrayFamily sagaIn Murray’s boisterous tragicomic novel, a once wealthy Irish family struggles with both the aftermath of the 2008 financial crash and their own inner demons.Third-person past tense
Biography of XCatherine LaceyExperimental fictionLacey rewrites 20th-century U.S. history through the audacious fictional life story of X, a polarizing female performance artist who made her way from the South to New York City’s downtown art scene.First-person past tense
Birnam WoodEleanor CattonClimate fictionIn this action-packed novel from a Booker Prize winner, a collective of activist gardeners crosses paths with a billionaire doomsday prepper on land they each want for different purposes.Third-person past tense
BlackoutsJustin TorresExperimental fictionThis lyrical, genre-defying novel — winner of the 2023 National Book Award — explores what it means to be erased and how to persist after being wiped away.First-person past tense
Bright Young WomenJessica KnollThrillerIn her third and most assured novel, Knoll shifts readers’ attention away from a notorious serial killer, Ted Bundy, and onto the lives — and deaths — of the women he killed.First-person past tense (with some present-tense, too)
Chain-Gang All-StarsNana Kwame Adjei-BrenyahLiterary dystopiaThis satire — in which prison inmates duel on TV for a chance at freedom — makes readers complicit with the bloodthirsty fans sitting ringside. The fight scenes are so well written they demonstrate how easy it might be to accept a world this sick.Mixed. Mostly third-person past tense. Some first-person present tense.
The Covenant of WaterAbraham VergheseHistorical fiction/family sagaVerghese’s first novel since “Cutting for Stone” follows generations of a family across 77 years in southwestern India as they contend with political strife and other troubles — capped by a shocking discovery made by the matriarch’s granddaughter, a doctor.Third-person present tense
Crook ManifestoColson WhiteheadCrimeReturning to the world of his novel “Harlem Shuffle,” Whitehead again uses a crime story to illuminate a singular neighborhood at a tipping point — here, Harlem in the 1970s.Third-person past tense
The DelugeStephen MarkleyClimate fictionMarkley’s second novel confronts the scale and gravity of climate change, tracking a cadre of scientists and activists from the gathering storm of the Obama years to the super-typhoons of future decades.Third-person past tense
EastboundMaylis de KerangalPsychological fictionIn de Kerangal’s brief, lyrical novel, translated by Jessica Moore, a young Russian soldier on a trans-Siberian train decides to desert and turns to a civilian passenger, a Frenchwoman, for help.Third-person present tense
Emily Wilde’s Encyclopaedia of FaeriesHeather FawcettFantasy/romanceThe world-building in this tale of a woman documenting a new kind of faerie is exquisite, and the characters are just as textured and richly drawn. This is the kind of folkloric fantasy that remembers the old, blood-ribboned source material about sacrifices and stolen children, but adds a modern gloss.First-person past tense
Enter GhostIsabella HammadPsychological fictionIn Hammad’s second novel, a British Palestinian actor returns to her hometown in Israel to recover from a breakup and spend time with her family. Instead, she’s talked into joining a staging of “Hamlet” in the West Bank, where she has a political awakening.First-person past tense
Forbidden NotebookAlba de CéspedesHistorical fictionA best-selling novelist and prominent anti-Fascist in her native Italy, de Céspedes has lately fallen into unjust obscurity. Translated by Ann Goldstein, this elegant novel from the 1950s tells the story of a married mother, Valeria, whose life is transformed when she begins keeping a secret diary.First-person past tense
The FraudZadie SmithHistorical fictionBased on a celebrated 19th-century trial in which the defendant was accused of impersonating a nobleman, Smith’s novel offers a vast panoply of London and the English countryside, and successfully locates the social controversies of an era in a handful of characters.Third-person past tense
The Heaven & Earth Grocery StoreJames McBrideLiterary fiction/mysteryMcBride’s latest, an intimate, big-hearted tale of community, opens with a human skeleton found in a well in the 1970s, and then flashes back to the past, to the ’20s and ’30s, to explore the town’s Black, Jewish and immigrant history.Third-person past tense
Hello BeautifulAnn NapolitanoFamily sagaIn her radiant fourth novel, Napolitano puts a fresh spin on the classic tale of four sisters and the man who joins their family. Take “Little Women,” move it to modern-day Chicago, add more intrigue, lots of basketball and a different kind of boy next door and you’ve got the bones of this thoroughly original story.Third-person past tense
A History of BurningJanika OzaHistorical fictionThis remarkable debut novel tells the story of an extended Indo-Ugandan family that is displaced, settled and displaced again.Third-person past tense
HollyStephen KingHorrorThe scrappy private detective Holly Gibney (who appeared in “The Outsider” and several other novels) returns, this time taking on a missing-persons case that — in typical King fashion — unfolds into a tale of Dickensian proportions.Third-person past tense
A House for AliceDiana EvansFamily sagaThis polyphonic novel traces one family’s reckoning after the patriarch dies in a fire, as his widow, a Nigerian immigrant, considers returning to her home country and the entire family re-examines the circumstances of their lives.Third-person past tense
Ink Blood Sister ScribeEmma TörzsFantasyThe sisters in Törzs’s delightful debut have been raised to protect a collection of magic books that allow their keepers to do incredible things. Their story accelerates like a fugue, ably conducted to a tender conclusion.Third-person past tense
KairosJenny ErpenbeckHistorical fictionThis tale of a torrid, yearslong relationship between a young woman and a much older married man — translated from the German by Michael Hofmann — is both profound and moving.Third-person present tense
KantikaElizabeth GraverHistorical fictionInspired by the life of Graver’s maternal grandmother, this exquisitely imagined family saga spans cultures and continents as it traces the migrations of a Sephardic Jewish girl from turn-of-the-20th-century Constantinople to Barcelona, Havana and, finally, Queens, N.Y.Third-person present tense
Land of Milk and HoneyC Pam ZhangClimate fictionZhang’s lush, keenly intelligent novel follows a chef who’s hired to cook for an “elite research community” in the Italian Alps, in a not-so-distant future where industrial-agricultural experiments in America’s heartland have blanketed the globe in a crop-smothering smog.First-person past tense
Lone WomenVictor LaValleHorror/historical fictionThe year is 1915, and the narrator of LaValle’s horror-tinged western has arrived in Montana to cultivate an unforgiving homestead. She’s looking for a fresh start as a single Black woman in a sparsely populated state, but the locked trunk she has in stow holds a terrifying secret.Third-person past tense
The Most Secret Memory of MenMohamed Mbougar SarrMysteryBased on a true story and translated by Lara Vergnaud, Sarr’s novel — about a Senegalese writer brought low by a plagiarism scandal — asks sharp questions about the state of African literature in the West.First-person past tense
The New NaturalsGabriel BumpDystopia/satireIn Bump’s engrossing new novel, a young Black couple, mourning the loss of their newborn daughter and disillusioned with the world, start a utopian society — but tensions both internal and external soon threaten their dreams.Third-person past tense
North WoodsDaniel MasonHistorical fictionMason’s novel looks at the occupants of a single house in Massachusetts over several centuries, from colonial times to present day. An apple farmer, an abolitionist, a wealthy manufacturer: The book follows these lives and many others, with detours into natural history and crime reportage.Third-person past tense
Not Even the DeadJuan Gómez BárcenaHistorical fictionAn ex-conquistador in Spanish-ruled, 16th-century Mexico is asked to hunt down an Indigenous prophet in this novel by a leading writer in Spain, splendidly translated by Katie Whittemore. The epic search stretches across much of the continent and, as the author bends time and history, lasts centuries.Third-person present tense
The NurserySzilvia MolnarPsychological fiction“I used to be a translator and now I am a milk bar.” So begins Molnar’s brilliant novel about a new mother falling apart within the four walls of her apartment.First-person present tense
Our Share of NightMariana EnriquezHorrorThis dazzling, epic narrative, translated from the Spanish by Megan McDowell, is a bewitching brew of mystery and myth, peopled by mediums who can summon “the Darkness” for a secret society of wealthy occultists seeking to preserve consciousness after death.Third-person past tense
Pineapple StreetJenny JacksonFamily sagaJackson’s smart, dishy debut novel embeds readers in an upper-crust Brooklyn Heights family — its real estate, its secrets, its just-like-you-and-me problems. Does money buy happiness? “Pineapple Street” asks a better question: Does it buy honesty?Third-person past tense
The ReformatoryTananarive DueHorrorDue’s latest — about a Black boy, Robert, who is wrongfully sentenced to a fictionalized version of Florida’s infamous and brutal Dozier School — is both an incisive examination of the lingering traumas of racism and a gripping, ghost-filled horror novel. “The novel’s extended, layered denouement is so heart-smashingly good, it made me late for work,” Randy Boyagoda wrote in his review. “I couldn’t stop reading.”Third-person past tense
The Saint of Bright DoorsVajra ChandrasekeraFantasyTrained to kill by his mother and able to see demons, the protagonist of Chandrasekera’s stunning and lyrical novel flees his destiny as an assassin and winds up in a politically volatile metropolis.Third-person present tense
Same Bed Different DreamsEd ParkExperimental fictionDouble agents, sinister corporations, slasher films, U.F.O.s — Park’s long-awaited second novel is packed to the gills with creative elements that enliven his acerbic, comedic and lyrical odyssey into Korean history and American paranoia.First-person past tense (Third-person prologue; is this one mixed?)
Take What You NeedIdra NoveyPsychological fictionThis elegant novel resonates with implication beyond the taut contours of its central story line. In Novey’s deft hands, the complex relationship between a young woman and her former stepmother hints at the manifold divisions within America itself.First-person past tense
This Other EdenPaul HardingHistorical fictionIn his latest novel, inspired by the true story of a devastating 1912 eviction in Maine that displaced an entire mixed-race fishing community, Harding turns that history into a lyrical tale about the fictional Apple Island on the cusp of destruction.Third-person past tense
Tom LakeAnn PatchettFamily sagaLocked down on the family’s northern Michigan cherry orchard, three sisters and their mother, a former actress whose long-ago summer fling went on to become a movie star, reflect on love and regret in Patchett’s quiet and reassuring Chekhovian novel.Third-person alternating past and present
The UnsettledAyana MathisHistorical fictionThis novel follows three generations across time and place: a young mother trying to create a home for herself and her son in 1980s Philadelphia, and her mother, who is trying to save their Alabama hometown from white supremacists seeking to displace her from her land.Third-person past tense
Victory CitySalman RushdieHistorical fictionRushdie’s new novel recounts the long life of Pampa Kampana, who creates an empire from magic seeds in 14th-century India. Her world is one of peace, where men and women are equal and all faiths welcome, but the story Rushdie tells is of a state that forever fails to live up to its ideals.Third-person past tense
We Could Be So GoodCat SebastianRomanceThis queer midcentury romance — about reporters who meet at work, become friends, move in together and fall in love — lingers on small, everyday acts like bringing home flowers with the groceries, things that loom large because they’re how we connect with others.Third-person present tense
Western LaneChetna MarooComing of ageIn this polished and disciplined debut novel, an 11-year-old Jain girl in London who has just lost herFirst-person past tense (with present tense prologue; will those be interludes throughout?)
WitnessJamel BrinkleyShort storiesSet in Brooklyn, and featuring animal rescue workers, florists, volunteers, ghosts and UPS workers, Brinkley’s new collection meditates on what it means to see and be seen.Mixed (I assume)
Y/NEsther YiA story of obsessionIn this weird and wondrous novel, a bored young woman in thrall to a boy band buys a one-way ticket to Seoul.First-person past tense
YellowfaceR. F. KuangSatireKuang’s first foray outside of the fantasy genre is a breezy and propulsive tale about a white woman who achieves tremendous literary success by stealing a manuscript from a recently deceased Asian friend and passing it off as her own.First-person present tense
Booker/National Book Award Finalists Not Mentioned Elsewhere on This Page
Prophet SongPaul LynchLiterary dystopiaPaul Lynch’s fifth novel is the winner of the Booker Prize 2023. A mother faces a terrible choice, in his exhilarating, propulsive and confrontational portrait of a society on the brinkThird-person present tense
Study for ObedienceSarah BernsteinPsychological fictionIn her accomplished and unsettling second novel, Sarah Bernstein explores themes of prejudice, abuse and guilt through the eyes of a singularly unreliable narratorFirst-person past tense
Temple FolkAaliyah BilalShort StoriesAaliyah Bilal’s debut short story collection, Temple Folk, examines the diversity of the Black Muslim experience in America.Mixed (I assume)
Goodreads’ Most Popular Books Published in 2023
Fourth Wing (The Empyrean, #1)Rebecca YarrosFantasyEnter the brutal and elite world of a war college for dragon riders. Follow Violet Sorrengail’s journey as she navigates the challenges and secrets of Basgiath War College.First-person present tense
Happy PlaceEmily HenryRomanceJoin Harriet and Wyn in their annual weeklong vacation with friends, pretending to still be together after their breakup. A glittering and wise novel about love and friendship.First-person present tense
Things We Hide from the Light (Knockemout, #2)Lucy ScoreRomanceNash Morgan, chief of police, struggles with his past and panic attacks. His new neighbor, Lina, sees his shadows. As they explore a potentially incendiary connection, secrets threaten to unravel.First-person past tense
Iron Flame (The Empyrean, #2)Rebecca YarrosFantasyIn the sequel to Fourth Wing, Violet Sorrengail faces new challenges at Basgiath War College. With dragon riders making their own rules, she uncovers a centuries-old secret that may endanger them all.First-person present tense
The Housemaid’s Secret (The Housemaid, #2)Freida McFaddenMystery/ThrillerA housemaid takes a job with the Garricks, but secrets and ominous signs lead her to investigate. She makes a promise to protect Mrs. Garrick, but the truth may be more dangerous than she imagines.First-person present tense
None of This Is TrueLisa JewellPsychological ThrillerAlix Summers, a popular podcaster, becomes the subject of her own true crime podcast when a mysterious woman named Josie enters her life, bringing dark secrets and a terrifying legacy.Third-person present tense
Divine Rivals (Letters of Enchantment, #1)Rebecca RossFantasy/RomanceIris and Roman, rival journalists, find love through magical connections amid a war among gods. The enemies-to-lovers fantasy novel explores hope, heartbreak, and the power of love.Third-person past tense
Love, TheoreticallyAli HazelwoodRomanceElsie Hannaway, a theoretical physicist, navigates the challenges of academia and fake relationships with Jack Smith, the older brother of her academic nemesis. A story of love, science, and authenticity.First-person present tense
All the Dangerous ThingsStacy WillinghamPsychological ThrillerIsabelle Drake, haunted by her son’s disappearance, hasn’t slept in a year. As she investigates, she questions her own memories and faces the danger of uncovering dark secrets.First-person present tense
Final Offer (Dreamland Billionaires, #3)Lauren AsherRomanceCallahan Kane, a carefree trust fund brat, returns to Lake Wisteria and clashes with Alana, his childhood best friend. A story of inheritance, rivalry, and unexpected love.First-person present tense
Things We Left Behind (Knockemout, #3)Lucy ScoreRomanceLucian Rollins, a vengeance-seeking mogul, falls for Sloane Walton, a feisty librarian. Enemies-to-lovers, the story explores broken men, love, and the challenge of finding common ground.First-person past tense
Yours Truly (Part of Your World, #2)Abby JimenezRomanceDr. Briana Ortiz, a professor, and fake girlfriend to pop star Jacob Maddox navigate love, family, and kidney donations in a hilarious and heartwarming novel.First-person past tense
Meet Me at the LakeCarley FortuneRomanceFern Brookbanks’ life takes an unexpected turn when her best friend’s brother, NBA superstar Ryan Shay, moves in. The story explores love, family, and the complexities of relationships.First-person alternating present and past
The Only One LeftRiley SagerMystery/ThrillerLenora Hope, accused of murdering her family, now lives in seclusion. When her home-health aide Kit McDeere arrives, Lenora reveals secrets that challenge Kit’s perceptions of truth and danger.First-person present tense
Romantic ComedyCurtis SittenfeldRomance/ComedySally Milz, a comedy writer, and pop star Noah Brewster navigate the blurred lines of a fake relationship. The story explores love, comedy, and the social rituals of romance.First-person past tense
The Right Move (Windy City, #2)Liz TomfordeRomanceNBA Captain Ryan Shay and Indy Ivers, his sister’s best friend, embark on a fake dating arrangement. The story explores love, trust, and the challenges of navigating relationships.First-person present tense
What Lies in the WoodsKate Alice MarshallMystery/ThrillerNaomi Shaw, a survivor of a past attack, uncovers secrets when her friend wants to reveal the truth about the Goddess Game and the killer they sent to prison.First-person past tense
LitHub’s Staffers’ Picks for 2023
The Country of the Blind: A Memoir at the End of Sight (2023)Andrew LelandMemoirOne of my most recommended books of the year is Andrew Leland’s investigative memoir, The Country of the Blind. Since his teenage years, when he was diagnosed with a rare eye disease, Leland has watched his vision recede around the edges and waited for the moment when he’d officially be declared “blind.” But it turns out the borders between sightedness and blindness are more porous than that, and at middle age, he determines to learn everything he can about his changing condition and a community that he feels both welcomed by and estranged from… –Eliza Smith, special projects editorFirst-person past tense (with present tense prologue)
My Murder (2023)Katie WilliamsSci-Fi Murder MysteryWho wouldn’t want to read a speculative sci-fi murder mystery, featuring clones, a serial killer, and a real who done it? Well, me—I scare easily. But Williams’ novel is a layered portrayal of Lou, a new mother, navigating the realities of parenthood, female friendship, and marriage… –Emily Firetog, deputy editorFirst-person past tense
Emergency: Stories (2023)Kathleen AlcottShort StoriesBack in July, as part of our Most Anticipated Books of the Year preview, I wrote of Kathleen Alcott’s Emergency: “Each of these seven stories—about unmoored women dealing with crises of identity, creeping despair, and the psychic wounds left by corrosive men—is a small marvel: intense, cerebral, and tender.” Looking back, and having read the collection again, I think I undersold it… –Dan Sheehan, Book Marks editor-in-chiefMixed
Day (2023)Michael CunninghamFictionFew subjects are as daunting to me as a writer as the recent past. Now, in particular, writing about the last few years with anything like grace strikes me as almost impossible. Unsurprisingly, Michael Cunningham is up to the challenge… –Jessie Gaynor, senior editorThird-person present tense
Rouge (2023)Mona AwadFantasyIf I could sum up this book in a sentence, it would be: justice for the wicked step-queen! After all, the mother in Rouge may be exoticizing her daughter’s beauty, but she’s also not competing with it—she’s trying to save her daughter from the same toxic obsession with youth and beauty that has led to her own world narrowing, as the quest for youth replaced the will to live… –Molly Odintz, CrimeReads Managing EditorFirst-person present tense (second-person prologue)
To Name the Bigger Lie: A Memoir in Two Stories (2023)Sarah VirenMemoirChances are, a book based on a viral essay is not going to reproduce the same level of tension—more room to spread out isn’t always a net good. But Sarah Viren’s memoir, based on her 2020 essay for the New York Times Magazine about the false Title IX claims made against her wife, is an exception to the rule: I tore through this book greedily, as if I didn’t already know how the story ended… –Eliza Smith, special projects editorFirst-person past tense
I Am Homeless If This Is Not My Home (2023)Lorrie MooreFamily sagaLorrie Moore’s novel is a strange yet brilliant exploration of sibling love, death, and longing. Finn takes a road trip with his undead ex-girlfriend’s decomposing body, raising big questions with no answers.Third-person past tense (with first-person epistolary interludes)
The Latecomer (2022)Jean Hanff KorelitzFamily sagaKorelitz’s twisty family saga, The Latecomer, is both gossipy and substantial. An extremely fun read about an unforgettably unhappy family.Third-person past tense (but told from a retrospective first-person-plural perspective)
Big Swiss (2023)Jen BeaginLiterary love storyBig Swiss, a love story and reflection on modern intimacy, delivers laughs. A riotous tale of infatuation and relationships.Third-person past tense
Beware the Woman (2023)Megan AbbottThrillerMegan Abbott’s stylish thriller, Beware the Woman, unfolds like a fever dream with rich claustrophobia. A thrilling exploration of vulnerability and suspicion.First-person past tense
The Stolen Coast (2023)Dwyer MurphyMysteryDwyer Murphy’s whip-smart neo-noir, The Stolen Coast, is atmospheric and mysterious. A gloriously crafted original mystery with crackling sentences.First-person past tense
Mobility (2023)Lydia KieslingClimate fictionLydia Kiesling’s smart novel, Mobility, explores tragedy as comedy plus time. A cracking read about climate change, procrastination, and a future just past ours.Third-person past tense
The Rachel Incident (2023)Caroline O’DonoghueLiterary fictionThe Rachel Incident is a light, enjoyable, and well-written novel revolving around the friendship between two Irish twenty-somethings. A Fun Novel with depth and realness.First-person past tense (with present tense retrospective frame)
The Art Thief (2023)Michael FinkelTrue CrimeThe Art Thief is a beautifully detailed account of Stéphane Breitwieser, one of the most prolific and brazen art thieves. Alongside his girlfriend Anna-Katherine, Breitwieser carried out over 200 heists, refusing to sell his stolen treasures and storing them like a collector. A speedy and fun mix of art history and true crime.Third-person present tense
The Glow (2023)Jessie GaynorSatireJessie Gaynor’s The Glow takes on wellness culture with sharp satire. The story follows Jane, a PR gal, attempting to turn a yoga enthusiast into the next Gwyneth in pursuit of self-care. With raucous scenes of OM and a complex narrative, The Glow is a comedic take on the commoditization of self-improvement.Third-person past tense
Hugo Award Finalists
Legends & LattesTravis BaldreeFantasyAfter a lifetime of bounties and bloodshed, Viv is hanging up her sword for the last time.The battle-weary orc aims to start fresh, opening the first ever coffee shop in the city of Thune. But old and new rivals stand in the way of success — not to mention the fact that no one has the faintest idea what coffee actually is. If Viv wants to put the blade behind her and make her plans a reality, she won’t be able to go it alone.Third-person past tense
Nettle & BoneT. KingfisherFantasyMarra, a reserved third-born daughter raised in a convent, escapes the fate of a forced marriage for her parents’ throne. Witnessing her sister’s suffering at the hands of an abusive royal husband, Marra realizes she must be her sister’s savior. To acquire the necessary tools, Marra undertakes three impossible tasks offered by a witch, setting the stage for a captivating and magical journey to save her sister and challenge the oppressive throne.Third-person past tense
Nona the NinthTamsyn MuirScience FictionNona, living in a besieged city facing a zombie resurgence, desires a simple birthday celebration. Although she shares some commonalities with others, Nona is unique—she awoke in a stranger’s body six months ago. The city is crumbling, threatened by a monstrous blue sphere, and Blood of Eden forces seek Nona as a weapon against the Nine Houses. Despite longing for a normal life with loved ones, Nona recognizes the impermanence of things. Amidst chaos, she dreams of a woman with a skull-painted face every night.Third-person past tense
The Spare ManMary Robinette KowalScience FictionTesla Crane, a brilliant inventor and an heiress, is on her honeymoon on an interplanetary space liner, cruising between the Moon and Mars. She’s traveling incognito and is reveling in her anonymity. Then someone is murdered and the festering chowderheads who run security have the audacity to arrest her spouse. Armed with banter, martinis and her small service dog, Tesla is determined to solve the crime so that the newlyweds can get back to canoodling—and keep the real killer from striking again.Third-person past tense
The Daughter of Doctor MoreauSilvia Moreno-GarciaScience FictionCarlota Moreau, sheltered on a lush estate in the Yucatán, is the daughter of Dr. Moreau, a brilliant yet enigmatic researcher. Montgomery Laughton, a melancholic overseer with a haunting past, assists in Dr. Moreau’s experiments, funded by the wealthy Lizaldes. The hybrids, part-human and part-animal creations, obediently lurk in the shadows. Their tranquil world is disrupted when Eduardo Lizalde, the charismatic son of Dr. Moreau’s patron, unwittingly triggers a perilous chain of events.Third-person past tense
The Kaiju Preservation SocietyJohn ScalziScience FictionWhen COVID-19 sweeps through New York City, Jamie Gray is stuck as a dead-end driver for food delivery apps. That is, until Jamie makes a delivery to an old acquaintance, Tom, who gets Jamies a job at what he calls “an animal rights organization.” What Tom doesn’t tell Jamie is that the animals his team cares for are not here on Earth. Not our Earth, at least. In an alternate dimension, massive dinosaur-like creatures named Kaiju roam a warm, human-free world. They’re the universe’s largest and most dangerous panda and they’re in trouble.First-person past tense
Miscellaneous Critically Acclaimed (via Bookmarks)
TremorTeju ColeLiterary fictionTremor is a startling work of realism and invention that engages brilliantly with literature, music, race, and history as it examines the passage of time and how we mark it. It is a reckoning with human survival amidst “history’s own brutality, which refuses symmetries and seldom consoles,” but it is also a testament to the possibility of joy. Third-person present tense
Father and SonJonathan RabanMemoirIn June 2011, just before turning sixty-nine, Jonathan Raban suffered a massive hemorrhagic stroke, paralyzing his right side. His journey to recovery at a rehabilitation center unfolds alongside the poignant tale of his father’s experiences in World War II, revealed through intimate letters. This narrative weaves together two battles—one against physical limitations, the other in war—exploring human resilience, adaptation, and the enduring qualities of warmth, strength, and humor despite trauma. The result is “Father and Son,” a powerful story of mourning and resilience.First-person past tense
The Wren, The WrenAnn EnrightLiterary fictionThe Wren, the Wren brings to life three generations of McDaragh women who must contend with inheritances—of poetic wonder and of abandonment by a man who is lauded in public and carelessly selfish at home. Their other, stronger inheritance is a sustaining love that is “more than a strand of DNA, but a rope thrown from the past, a fat twisted rope, full of blood.” In sharp prose studded with crystalline poetry, Anne Enright masterfully braids a family story of longing, betrayal, and hope.First-person past tense
The EnchantersJames EllroyMysteryIn scorching August 1962 Los Angeles, a midsummer heat wave envelops the city. Marilyn Monroe overdoses, and a B-movie starlet is kidnapped, setting off a frenzied response from the LAPD. Seeking payback, Chief Bill Parker enlists the help of Freddy Otash—a tainted ex-cop, defrocked private eye, and freelance extortionist known for living by the maxim “Opportunity is love.” Freddy dives into the twisted puzzle of Monroe’s death and the kidnapped starlet, navigating the shadows of Jack and Bobby Kennedy’s Camelot. As he pursues the truth, confronts complicity, and grapples with his own madness, the Summer of ’62 unfolds, with Freddy O poised for a date with history in the turbulent Sixties. It’s just a shot away.First-person past tense
The VulnerablesSigrid NunezLiterary love storyThe Vulnerables offers a meditation on our contemporary era, as a solitary female narrator asks what it means to be alive at this complex moment in history and considers how our present reality affects the way a person looks back on her past. Humor, to be sure, is a priceless refuge. Equally vital is connection with others, who here include an adrift member of Gen Z and a spirited parrot named Eureka. The Vulnerables reveals what happens when strangers are willing to open their hearts to each other and how far even small acts of caring can go to ease another’s distress.First-person present tense
So Late in the DayClaire KeeganStoriesIn “So Late in the Day,” Cathal faces a long weekend as his mind agitates over a woman with whom he could have spent his life, had he behaved differently; in “The Long and Painful Death,” a writer’s arrival at the seaside home of Heinrich Böll for a residency is disrupted by an academic who imposes his presence and opinions; and in “Antarctica,” a married woman travels out of town to see what it’s like to sleep with another man and ends up in the grip of a possessive stranger. Third-person past tense (in all three stories?)
AbsolutionAlice McDermottHistorical fictionIn Absolution, American women, often overshadowed in Vietnam War literature, step into the spotlight. Tricia, a reserved newlywed, and Charlene, an adept corporate spouse, navigate the challenges of being “helpmeets” to their ambitious husbands in 1963 Saigon. Sixty years later, Charlene’s daughter connects with Tricia, reflecting on that pivotal year, Charlene’s altruistic endeavors, and the unintended consequences shaping their lives as women on the periphery of politics, history, war, and their husbands’ convictions.Third-person past tense
Death ValleyMelissa BroderMagical realismIn Melissa Broder’s profound novel, a woman seeks solace at a Best Western in the California desert, escaping the sorrow of her father’s ICU stay and her worsening husband’s illness. Instead of peace, she discovers a mystical path on a nearby hike, leading her to a peculiar, out-of-place cactus with a beckoning gash. Entering it sets her on a desolate yet rich, hilarious, and poignant journey.First-person present tense
Learned by Heart Emma DonaghueLiterary love story Learned by Heart is the long-buried love story of Eliza Raine, an orphan heiress banished from India to England at age six, and Anne Lister, a brilliant, troublesome tomboy, who meet at the Manor School for young ladies in York in 1805 when they are both fourteen.Third-person present tense
Terrace StoryHilary LeichterLiterary fictionAnnie, Edward, and their young daughter, Rose, live in a cramped apartment. One night, without warning, they find a beautiful terrace hidden in their closet. It wasn’t there before, and it seems to only appear when their friend Stephanie visits. A city dweller’s dream come true! But every extra bit of space has a hidden cost, and the terrace sets off a seismic chain of events, forever changing the shape of their tiny home, and the shape of the world.Third-person past tense
After the Funeral and Other StoriesTessa HadleyShort StoriesIn each of these twelve stories, small events have huge consequences. Heloise’s father died in a car crash when she was a little girl; at a dinner party in her forties, she meets someone connected to that long-ago tragedy. Two estranged sisters cross paths at a posh hotel and pretend not to recognize each other. Janie’s bohemian mother plans to marry a man close to Janie’s own age—everything changes when an accident interrupts the wedding party. A daughter caring for her elderly mother during the pandemic becomes obsessed with the woman next door; in the wake of his best friend’s death, a man must reassess his affair with the friend’s wife. Cecilia, a teenager, wakes one morning in Florence on vacation with her parents and sees them for the first time through disenchanted eyes.Mixed
How to Say BabylonSafiya SinclairMemoirHow to Say Babylon is Sinclair’s reckoning with the culture that initially nourished but ultimately sought to silence her; it is her reckoning with patriarchy and tradition, and the legacy of colonialism in Jamaica. Rich in lyricism and language only a poet could evoke, How to Say Babylon is both a universal story of a woman finding her own power and a unique glimpse into a rarefied world we may know how to name, Rastafari, but one we know little about.First-person past tense
August BlueDeborah LevyLiterary FictionRenowned pianist Elsa M. Anderson abruptly exits the stage in Vienna and finds herself in Athens, where she encounters a woman resembling her. Obsessed with mechanical dancing horses, Elsa embarks on a European journey, haunted by her doppelgänger and seeking reinvention. Deborah Levy’s August Blue uncovers the ways in which we attempt to revise our oldest stories and make ourselves anew.First-person past tense
*I avoided double-listing, so some of these lists may seem incomplete. The Bee Sting, for instance, was in the NY Times list of Best Books, a Booker finalist, and on the LitHub staffers’ list. I also left out poetry and graphic novels, simply because this began as an exploration of person and tense in popular or critically-acclaimed work, so I was looking storytelling.


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