The New Yorker’s editors and critics considered hundreds of new books this year to select the best books of 2023. The magazine’s writers have also discovered many other new favorites—a classic they’re determined to finally tackle, memoirs and biographies they draw on in their writing, an art book that’s a beautiful object in its own right, a centuries-old poem collection, a guide to writing thrillers, and other overlooked gems. Their suggestions are as follows.
Spurred on by the delightful documentary “Turn Every Page,” I decided that in 2023 I would finally start reading Robert Caro’s biography of Lyndon B. Johnson, which is a book that people want to read and therefore must read, at some point, read. But what a pleasure it was to read it! I was warned that the lengthy description of the meadows of the Texas Hill Country that opens the first volume of the biography, “Paths of Power,” as if Caro’s rigorous attention to the landscape shaped Johnson’s childhood, might put me off. I got the good stuff. In fact, it blew my mind. “For these people, the grass is proof that their dreams will come true. In a country where grass grows like this, the cotton must grow tall, the cattle must be fat, and the people must be rich. They think that in a country where grass grows like this , anything will grow,” Caro wrote of Johnson’s ancestors, white settlers who believed that the unspoiled Hill Country held the key to their destiny. (Spoiler alert: They were wrong.) What I like here is Caro’s musical grasp of rhythm and repetition, and his use of short, blunt words; this is myth-writing for the sake of puncturing myth. His superb grasp of characters also benefits from a certain mythical understanding of human nature. Caro was a believer in nature as well as a nurturer of it; he shows us how Johnson was influenced by the place and the people he came from, and how determined he was to shape himself against them, but he does not underestimate how Johnson seemed to Innate ambition. Count me among the legions of people rooting for Carlo to complete his fifth and final volume. ——Alexandra Schwartz
Over the past few months, I have been reading and writing an article about marriage. My reading list was determined by friends, and I emailed them asking for their favorite “marriage story”: “A story,” I wrote, “that tells the truth about marriage, but that Importantly, it is not set in the context of courtship, adultery, divorce, or death.” Nearly everyone who responded found this to be a surprisingly challenging question. When they come, their answers run the gamut, from novels to stories to poetry, but Phyllis Ross’s Parallel Lives: Five Victorian Marriages, first published in 1983 and reissued in 2020, It remains the most companionable book on my list. Marriage, Roth writes, is “a struggle for imaginative dominance,” the smallest unit in which the freedom of fiction—the freedom to dream, to tell stories—is curtailed by an unequal distribution of power. The uneasy union of art and politics produces two plots, the plot of the conquering male and the plot of the suffering female, as Rose weaves her way through her investigation of the Dickens, the Carlyles, the Ruskins, the Mills and the happiest couples of them all. All, unmarried George Eliot and George Henry Lewis. Rose talks about her couple like they were friends. Alternately curious, tender, and skeptical, she was inspired by the high spirit of gossip, which she wanted to see as “the beginning of moral inquiry.” Thinking of the friends I’ve been chatting with recently, I wonder if Roth’s two plots have been succeeded by a third plot: the marriage of conquering women and frustrated men, as in “Fleshman in Trouble,” “Fair Play” ,” and “Anatomy of a Fall”—all stories featuring couples who understand the lessons of feminism but are unable to accept them peacefully or wistfully. ——Merve Emre
The symbols fade away, but the excitement is everlasting. So while we can only guess at what “Gecko” or “Jin Zheng” meant to ninth-century poet Li Shangyin – best known for his mystical verses about love – his inspired entanglements with everyday life in Tang Dynasty China Make it feel as up-to-date as a text from your wittiest friend. The Insanity of My Contemporaries, translated with wry brevity by Chloe Garcia Roberts, is his cynical masterpiece, a collection of silliness, annoyance, and misfortune that is also a decline A portrayal of society. The poems take the form of deadpan lists. “Definitely Won’t Come” begins with “A famous prostitute is summoned by a poor student,” while “Contradiction” asks us to imagine a “haggard official” and a “butcher reciting Buddhist scriptures.” Form is the perfect container for trouble, which seeps into the subconscious mind. Once, when I was suffering from insomnia, I went to my desk and accidentally wrote a tribute called “Sleep Disorders.”
Li, a scholar-bureaucrat with thwarted ambitions, vented his frustrations alternately with cordiality and comical elitism, ridiculing bullies, hypocrites, and posers, as well as those who committed such faux pas as “divination blocks.” The “vulgar” behavior of civilians was ridiculed. Riding a bull and playing the flute. (“Can’t Stand It” opens with “The fat man of summer / Entering the abode of the hateful wife.”) Yet the snobbish rage often succumbs to a more remorseful and brooding mode as Lee reflects on the waste and uselessness around him. . In the title poem, he painted an unforgettable picture of facing adversity and chaos: “Drunk and summoning ghosts and gods…”. . Enemy memories/Grown men flying kites. ” Behind the scoffers and mourners is a poet who delights in the absurd, observing that “nuns are like weasels in the depths,” or “officials are like winter melons, growing in the darkness.” His world is long gone, But the petty chaos—and the secret joy of noticing them—still stay with us.Julian Lucas
In 1984, a filmmaker and activist named Ben Caldwell established a community arts and media center in Leimert Park in South Central Los Angeles that would later be called Kaos network. His dream was to create a place for young African Americans to build sustainable, self-reliant systems to produce and disseminate their art. In the 1870s, Caldwell was part of a community of young black filmmakers in Los Angeles, a movement that included Charles Burnett and Julie Dash that came to be known as L.A. Rebellion,” who hopes to empower the next generation of kids with their own fashionable alternative to traditional media.he opened Kaos A network for everyone: a group of young rappers who came to be known as “Project Blowed”; videographers and aspiring journalists; Afrofuturist thinkers and writers; drag performers; and the Yoruba Christian Church, Theater companies, dancers and artists.Today, collaborators work Kaos Network is making games, augmented reality, and even self-driving cars. “Kaos “Theory: Ben Caldwell’s Afrocosmic Ark,” co-authored by Caldwell and USC professor Robertson Ty Fraser, is a fascinating book that chronicles the filmmaker’s Live and work. Caldwell’s restless spirit is emulated in the book’s elaborate, frenetic design.It’s one of the most beautiful things I’ve got in my hands this year, a coffee table book and a rigorous monograph filled with archival images, photos, flyers and documents that tell the story of Caldwell’s life, from His childhood in New Mexico, to his military service in Southeast Asia (where he first developed a keen interest in photography), to his arrival in Los Angeles in the seventies, all culminated in Kaos The Internet, and the world Caldwell helped to manifest. ——Hua Hsu
Little Things Like This by Claire Keegan is a slim novel that can be read in one sitting. I’ve been thinking about this book since I read it this summer, both because of Keegan’s bright prose and because of the crisis of conscience it unfolds. The novel is set in a working-class town in Ireland in 1985. The protagonist is Bill Furlong, a coal and timber businessman whose clients include a local convent that takes in “girls of poor conduct” and keeps them in Laundry job. There were rumors that girls in the laundries were brutally exploited. There were even rumors that the monastery made money by arranging for wealthy foreigners to adopt girls’ “illegitimate children” (babies born out of wedlock). Furlong is reluctant to believe this – he is determined to “keep his head down and be on the right side of people”, not least to provide for his wife and five daughters, who may wish to attend St. Margaret’s School somewhere. At some time it was affiliated with the monastery. But a few days before Christmas, he went to the monastery to deliver a load of logs and found a girl locked in the coal shed. She told him that her fourteen-year-old child had been taken from her.
As Keegan points out in the afterword, this was not uncommon in the Magdalene Laundries of Ireland, where tens of thousands of “fallen women” were forced to labor in squalid conditions and babies often died. (Historian Catherine Coles revealed that seven hundred and ninety-six children died in a mother and baby home in County Galway.) Furlong’s own mother may well have shared the same fate as these women, Because she had a Protestant widow who owned a large house, she did not agree to take her in after she gave birth to him when she was sixteen. The drama in Keegan’s book unfolds largely in Furlong’s mind after Keegan discovers the girl in the shed, as he struggles between taking no action – the prudent approach – or following his moral compass to rescue her . I can’t remember a novel that more powerfully captures this dilemma, reflecting both the cost of silence about a shameful public secret and the chance encounters that can inspire a flicker of conscience and lead to a cautious, Seemingly risk-averse people refuse to participate. ——eyal publishing house
Earlier this year, I posted a photo on Instagram that I took while rewatching my favorite Bravo reality show, Vanderpump Rules. This photo is taken from a scene in Season 2 in which diner server Kristen Doute breaks up with her bartender boyfriend Tom Sandoval and she comes to the place where they used to be The apartment they shared and where he still lives, allegedly went to buy some things. Mail, though her low-cut dress and carefully curled hair told a different story. Tom’s breakup with another bartender is met with a lukewarm response, and Kristen is frustrated by his indifference, which the audience has come to expect. I wrote in the title: “Kristen comes to pick up her mail, which is all dressed up by the aloof Sandoval, who has deep Anne Eno inferiority complexes.” Yes. , like many of my peers, I had been reading Ernault’s autobiographical novels and couldn’t get enough of them, especially books like Lost and Girls’ Stories that dealt with exactly what women might experience That humiliating low point. When in the grip of Christine-esque heartache. So when the writer Lucinda Rosenfield commented on this article and suggested that I try another similar novel (“Speaking of deep feelings of inferiority,” she wrote, “Have you read Lena Anderson’s “Deliberate Ignorance”?”), I jumped up.