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5 Great Fiction Reads About Books and Booklovers in 2023

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Yellowface by R. F. Kuang

A Reese’s Book Club Pick

Authors June Hayward and Athena Liu were supposed to be twin rising stars. But Athena’s a literary darling. June Hayward is literally nobody who wants to tell stories about basic white girls. When June witnesses Athena’s death in a freak accident, she acts on impulse: she steals Athena’s just-finished masterpiece, an experimental novel about the unsung contributions of Chinese laborers during World War I.

So what if June edits Athena’s novel and sends it to her agent as her own work? So what if she lets her new publisher rebrand her as Juniper Song—complete with an ambiguously ethnic author photo? Doesn’t this piece of history deserve to be told, whoever the teller? That’s what June claims, and the New York Times bestseller list seems to agree.

But June can’t get away from Athena’s shadow, and emerging evidence threatens to bring June’s (stolen) success down around her. As June races to protect her secret, she discovers exactly how far she will go to keep what she thinks she deserves.

With its totally immersive first-person voice, Yellowface grapples with questions of diversity, racism, and cultural appropriation.

Days at the Morisaki Bookshop by Satoshi Yagisawa

Twenty-five-year-old Takako has enjoyed a relatively easy existence—until the day her boyfriend Hideaki, the man she expected to wed, casually announces he’s been cheating on her and is marrying the other woman. Suddenly, Takako’s life is in freefall. She loses her job, her friends, and her acquaintances, and spirals into a deep depression. In the depths of her despair, she receives a call from her distant uncle Satoru.

An unusual man who has always pursued something of an unconventional life, especially after his wife Momoko left him out of the blue five years earlier, Satoru runs a second-hand bookshop in Jimbocho, Tokyo’s famous book district. Takako once looked down upon Satoru’s life. Now, she reluctantly accepts his offer of the tiny room above the bookshop rent-free in exchange for helping out at the store. The move is temporary, until she can get back on her feet. But in the months that follow, Takako surprises herself when she develops a passion for Japanese literature, becomes a regular at a local coffee shop where she makes new friends, and eventually meets a young editor from a nearby publishing house who’s going through his own messy breakup.

But just as she begins to find joy again, Hideaki reappears, forcing Takako to rely once again on her uncle, whose own life has begun to unravel. Together, these seeming opposites work to understand each other and themselves as they continue to share the wisdom they’ve gained in the bookshop.

The Door-to-door Bookstore by Carsten Henn

Small-town German bookseller Carl Kollhoff delivers his books to special customers in the evening hours after closing time, walking through the picturesque alleys of the city. These people are almost like friends to him, and he is their most important connection to the world.

When Kollhoff unexpectedly loses his job, it takes the power of books and a nine-year-old girl to make them all find the courage to rebuild their bonds with each other.

A bestselling phenomenon internationally, Carsten Henn’s The Door-to-Door Bookstore is a feel-good novel about books and friendship.

The Librarianist by Patrick Dewitt

Bob Comet is a retired librarian passing his solitary days surrounded by books and small comforts in a mint-colored house in Portland, Oregon. One morning on his daily walk he encounters a confused elderly woman lost in a market and returns her to the senior center that is her home. Hoping to fill the void he’s known since retiring, he begins volunteering at the center. Here, as a community of strange peers gathers around Bob, and following a happenstance brush with a painful complication from his past, the events of his life and the details of his character are revealed.

Behind Bob Comet’s straight-man façade is the story of an unhappy child’s runaway adventure during the last days of the Second World War, of true love won and stolen away, of the purpose and pride found in the librarian’s vocation, and of the pleasures of a life lived to the side of the masses. Bob’s experiences are imbued with melancholy but also a bright, sustained comedy; he has a talent for locating bizarre and outsize players to welcome onto the stage of his life.

With his inimitable verve, skewed humor, and compassion for the outcast, Patrick deWitt has written a wide-ranging and ambitious document of the introvert’s condition. The Librarianist celebrates the extraordinary in the so-called ordinary life, and depicts beautifully the turbulence that sometimes exists beneath a surface of serenity.

The Book Woman’s Daughter by Kim Michele Richardson

In the ruggedness of the beautiful Kentucky mountains, Honey Lovett has always known that the old ways can make a hard life harder. As the daughter of the famed blue-skinned, Troublesome Creek packhorse librarian, Honey and her family have been hiding from the law all her life. But when her mother and father are imprisoned, Honey realizes she must fight to stay free, or risk being sent away for good.

Picking up her mother’s old packhorse library route, Honey begins to deliver books to the remote hollers of Appalachia. Honey is looking to prove that she doesn’t need anyone telling her how to survive. But the route can be treacherous, and some folks aren’t as keen to let a woman pave her own way.

If Honey wants to bring the freedom books provide to the families who need it most, she’s going to have to fight for her place, and along the way, learn that the extraordinary women who run the hills and hollers can make all the difference in the world.


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