Best of 2023: Fiction & Literature

Updated: January 17, 2024

The best books of the year, as selected by Los Angeles Public Library staff. Perfect for holiday gift-giving! For more adults book lists and featured book reviews, check LAPL Reads.

Book cover of Bloom
Dawson, Delilah S.

An absorbing novella about a young woman, Rosemary, who meets beautiful and mysterious Ash, who sells food and more at the farmer's market. Obsession takes hold, but not everything is as it seems.

Book cover of Bookshops & bonedust
Bookshops & bonedust
Baldree, Travis, 1977-

A prequel to Legends & Lattes, where we learn about Viv’s past. The characters that we meet in this prequel explain how Viv met a future adventurer.  She learns to be patient with herself and realizes that ego can be your downfall if you allow it to rule. Also Viv is recovering from a sword wound. There is a 20-year gap between Legends & Lattes and Bookshops & Bonedust.

Book cover of Burn the negative
Burn the Negative
Winning, Joshua

Like his earlier novel The Shadow Glass, this novel is an homage to earlier works and a new classic in the making. Josh Winning plays with established horror film tropes about cursed films while also paying homage to their sources. The characters are marvelous and there is an undeniable cinematic quality to the book that would transfer seamlessly to the big or small screen.

Book cover of Camp Damascus
Camp Damascus
Tingle, Chuck

In his first traditionally published novel, Chuck Tingle walks the razor thin line of highlighting many of the horrors experienced by members of the LGBTQIA community in the name of the gods of any number of religious belief systems, while simultaneously illustrating the breadth and depth of the diversity that exists amongst “true believers” and how supportive and engaging those communities can be when not actively enforcing a strict standard of “approved” ways of being on others.

Book cover of The carnivale of curiosities
The Carnivale of Curiosities
Gibbs, Amiee

This debut novel is set in an odd, atmospheric travelling show based in Victorian London. Aurelius Ashe, the show’s proprietor and host, is rumored to do real magic, and watching his show filled with seemingly impossible beings able to perform unbelievable feats, it is not hard to believe. Magic comes with a price, and sometimes the most valuable thing one can own is the love and protection of those who care for them. This is a tale filled with mystery, magic, friendship, and family all set in a gloriously described Victorian London! 


Book cover of The Centre
The Centre
Manazir Siddiqi, Ayesha

In this twisting, immersive read, Anisa wants nothing more than to be a translator of great literature, but instead works on subtitles for Bollywood films. In meeting Adam, she learns of a place where you immerse yourself in a language and become a master of it. Perhaps this will be the answer to her dreams.

Book cover of The circumference of the world
The circumference of the world
Tidhar, Lavie
Call Number: SF

This novel is an homage to the golden age of science fiction; the authors who provided the genesis of the genre; and the fans who turned their love of the literature into a sub-culture. The author weaves rational thought, a bit of fanaticism, madness and mysticism into a tapestry that will fascinate contemporary readers and would have made the writers who came before him proud. 

Book cover of Daughters of Latin America : an international anthology of writing by Latine women
Daughters of Latin America : an international anthology of writing by Latine women
Call Number: 808.8 D2385-2

A monumental collection of writing by women, the author designates as Latine, the gender-inclusive form of “Latino” and “Latina.”  Included are “140 Daughters of Latin America, recent and past, from 50 nations."

Book cover of A dictator calls : a novel
A dictator calls : a novel
Kadare, Ismail

Culling historical political and literary figures from the dark days of Stalin’s dictatorship, Ismail Kadare creates a mystery about the abuse of power that takes place in plain sight.


Book cover of Emily Wilde's encyclopaedia of faeries
Emily Wilde's encyclopaedia of faeries
Fawcett, Heather

Emily is a prickly fairy researcher and Wendell is an aristocratic and popular fairy researcher. They don’t get on. So of course, they are forced to join forces to save an isolated town from fairies.


Book cover of Evergreen
Hirahara, Naomi

The sequel to Clark & Division continues the story of the Ito family, their struggles as they return to Los Angeles from Manzanar, and their attempt to build back their lives in a racist and corrupt post-WWII Los Angeles. Told in the first person viewpoint of a young newlywed nurse's aide, Aki Ito Nakamura, this is an engaging, rich historical novel with strong details. The fascinating views of parts of Los Angeles that are no more: Little Tokyo when it was known as Bronzeville; the melting pot neighborhood of Boyle Heights; and the Japanese American resettlement camps of Burbank.

Book cover of Fourth wing
Fourth wing
Yarros, Rebecca

Twenty-year-old Violet Sorrengail is smart and feisty and she is ready to be part of the Navarre elite known as dragon riders. This is a whirlwind story with a very strong female character.


Book cover of The foxglove king
The foxglove king
Whitten, Hannah

A novel that creates great suspense. When Lore describes her life growing up in the catacombs we able to understand the darkness of the city and the character. The comment about being used so often that a person didn’t even realize it because it was their normal state of affairs  sums up the characters who are good or bad. When it appears that the "light" triumphs over the "dark", it is not necessarily so. 

Book cover of Good night, Irene
Good night, Irene
Urrea, Luis Alberto

Based on his mother’s Red Cross service during World War II, Urrea portrays the lives of women who volunteered to be of service at the frontlines of the war, and brings to light the untold bravery, camaraderie and assistance of those who served.


Book cover for Hell Bent
Hell Bent
Bardugo, Leigh

Leigh Bardugo takes readers back to Yale as they follow Alex Stern through her Sophomore year. Like its predecessor, Ninth House, this novel is terrifying, challenging, funny, and provocative. And the ending strongly implies that we haven’t seen the end of Galaxy Stern.

Book cover of A house with good bones
A house with good bones
Kingfisher, T.

This is a wonderful book about how old family secrets can haunt the next generation. Let's face it. Every family has its bad apples, some of which are more spectacular than others.

Book cover of The housekeepers : a novel
The Housekeepers: A Novel
Hay, Alex

This adventurous debut novel is about a woman recently fired from her position working in an Edwardian manor-house in Mayfair. As revenge for being sacked and possibly a wee bit more, Mrs. King has plotted a way to strip the house of everything of value. And, it will happen during one of the grandest balls of the year!  Alex Hay provides readers with a heist that could holds its own against any Ocean’s movie franchise (regardless of the associated number)!! 

Book cover of How to sell a haunted house
How to sell a haunted house
Hendrix, Grady

Hendrix tells the story of Louise and Mark, estranged siblings tasked with clearing their childhood home after their parents passed. Unlike most homes, however, this house is packed wall-to-wall with possessed puppets who will do anything to stop the siblings. Through Mark and Louise, Hendrix creates a story that is genuinely terrifying, hysterically funny, and deeply emotional.

Book cover of I'll stop the world : a novel
I'll stop the world : a novel
Thoman, Lauren

In this time-travel novel of discovery a young man must try to figure out how he traveled from 2023 back to 1985, and why he is there and is there is a way back. The novel shines with the diverse group of people in both time periods. The author does a marvelous job laying out the breadcrumbs necessary for readers to solve the mystery of the fire, along with the characters, while also defying readers’ expected outcome at the end of the novel


Book cover of Kairos
Erpenbeck, Jenny, 1967-

A bittersweet love story that takes place before and during the collapse of a divided Berlin, and the collapse of a dictatorial regime that changed the normal behavior of average citizens.


Book cover of Lady Tan's circle of women
Lady Tan's Circle of Women
See, Lisa

Book cover of Let us descend : a novel
Let us descend : a novel
Ward, Jesmyn

In lyrical, elegiac prose, Jesmyn Ward writes hauntingly about the inner power achieved by a teenage slave, Annis, whose parents were a Black mother and the white man who enslaved them. 

Book cover of The London Séance Society
The London Séance Society
Penner, Sarah

Set in Victorian London this is a story of murder, obsession, and secrets, both kept and revealed. During this time period, there was a fascination with the paranormal and how it was often subverted and weaponized. The mysteries of two murders are a marvelous framework for all of this, and culminate in a series of revelations and confrontations that are fantastic.

Book cover of Lone women
Lone women
LaValle, Victor, 1972-

Adelaide needs to start over. It's 1915 and she appears in Montana with a locked steamer trunk to redeem the government's offer of free land to those who can work it. She comes with a horrifying secret that may cost her a new friendsip. A novel that blends horror, westerns and the power of strong women.

Book cover of Maame
George, Jessica, 1994-

Maddie's family life is complicated. With her mother constantly away in Ghana yet still keeping tabs on her, and a brother who disappears at the slightest bit of conflict, her life has been put on hold while she cares for her ailing father. When she gets the chance to finally live her life, will she do it? Part family drama, part coming-of-age tale which proves "it's never too late to begin," Maame is a heartbreaking yet beautiful look at one young woman's life.

Book cover of The magician's daughter
The magician's daughter
Parry, H. G.

Biddy, the heroine is full of spice and intelligence and takes risks when necessary, but not foolish ones in this winner of a book.

Book cover of Mammoths at the Gates
Mammoths at the Gates
Vo, Nghi

This is the 4th book in the award winning Singing Hills Cycle series. The wandering cleric, Chih, returns to the Singing Hills Monastery and must deal with both threats from outside and the reality that things changed inside their home. Sometimes the stories we tell ourselves about home, our foundational stories, have to change, and that can be difficult.

Book cover of The mimicking of known successes
The mimicking of known successes
Older, Malka, 1977-
Call Number: SF

On a remote colony on Jupiter, a man goes missing off an isolated railway and Investigator Mossa is sent to investigate. Teaming up with her ex-girlfriend, she soon discovers there's more at play than a simple missing person's case. This is a cozy space noir novella and a fun new take on the classic Holmesian murder mystery. 

Book cover of Mister Magic : a novel
Mister Magic : a novel
White, Kiersten

Mister Magic is a subtle, but terrifying, novel. Kiersten White maintains a sense of unease throughout that builds to a disturbing conclusion, and she proves that sometimes the scariest monsters are those hiding in plain sight

Book cover of The Mitford affair : a novel
The Mitford affair : a novel
Benedict, Marie

This is a well-researched historical novel about the lives of the famous and notorious Mitford sisters.

Book cover for The motion picture teller
The Motion Picture Teller
Cotterill, Colin

A tale of dreams inspired by movies and, sometimes, fulfilled by them as well. A charming novel about hopes, dreams and having the courage to find the place where you’re meant to be.


Book cover of Now you are a missing person : a memoir in poems, stories, & fragments
Now you are a missing person : a memoir in poems, stories, & fragments
Hayden, Susan.
Call Number: 811 H4155

Susan Hayden, L.A. poet and creator of the long-running spoken word series "Library Girl," has written an exceptionally literate, poignant, and wryly humorous memoir in poetry and prose, spanning her Jewish upbringing in the Valley, early romances and relationships in and around Hollywood, and marriage and motherhood on the Westside. The story then shifts as Hayden suffers profound grief following the unexpected deaths of her childhood best friend, her father, and her husband. We journey alongside her through touch-and-go efforts to find a way forward, embracing new love while honoring her past. Hayden’s wonderful book is a revelation.

Book cover of The postcard
The Postcard
Berest, Anne

In 2003, a mystery is created when an unsigned postcard, possibly from the 1940s, arrives with the current mail. It is left to Anne to dig into her family’s past, questioning her mother, family members, friends, and associates, and seeking the help of a private detective, a graphologist, and many others to unravel this. Her quest will take her back to the history of the Rabinovitch family and their flight from Russia after the revolution.

Book cover of Quietly hostile : essays
Quietly hostile : essays
Irby, Samantha
Call Number: 817 I65-3

Another excellent collection of essays from Irby. Pain and the laughter will be had as readers delve into stomach issues, Sex and the City and more.

Book cover of The road to Roswell : a novel
The Road to Roswell
Willis, Connie
Call Number: SF

Destination weddings are frequently a trial. But throw in an alien abduction, a handsome grifter, a UFO truther, a kindly casino maven, extraterrestrial misunderstandings, and a man with an enormous collection of Westerns on DVD, and you have the makings of an epic rom-com road trip.

Book cover of Silver nitrate
Silver nitrate
Moreno-Garcia, Silvia

An immersive historical fiction/horror novel about working in the film industry in Mexico City in the 1990s. Montserrat has often been pushed aside and left out even though she's a superb sound editor, but when her best friend,Tristán, meets his new neighbor, a cult horror director, a vortex of filmmaking, Nazis, and magic converge.

Book cover for The Spite House
The Spite House
Compton, Johnny

A superb horror novel about a man and his two daughters trying to start over as he become a caretaker for a supposedly haunted house. What happens when the past, love, grief and horror all converge?

Book cover of Starter villain
Starter Villain
Scalzi, John
Call Number: SF

Charlie, a substitute teacher on the brink of losing his home, never meant to be a nepo baby. But when it turns out his uncle was a James Bond style supervillain, someone has to step up and figure out how to deal with angry secret societies, assassinations, buried treasure, unionizing dolphins, and cat spies with real estate licenses.

Book cover of Tales of whimsy, verses of woe
Tales of whimsy, verses of woe
DeRoche, Tim
Call Number: 811 D4365

Tim DeRoche and Daniel González, author and illustrator, have joined forces for a lighthearted and irreverent collection of rhymes and illustrations encouraging adults to take time to delight in the playful exchange of words and images.


Book cover of Thornhedge
Kingfisher, T.

In a reimagining of Sleeping Beauty by a Hugo Award winning author, a beautiful girl lies sleeping in a tower, forgotten by time. Watching over the princess is the odd, shy, and kindly Toadling, who is willing to do whatever it takes to keep the princess sleeping. No monster is as dangerous as a beautiful monster.

Book cover of Translation state
Translation state
Leckie, Ann
Call Number: SF

This novel has wonderful and recognizable characters who are in truly alien civilizations. It deals with heavy topics like identity and assault, and doesn’t treat them lightly. But the characters in this book work to survive and find community, and if they can do it, maybe we can too?

Book cover of Two twisted crowns
Two twisted crowns
Gillig, Rachel

This sequel to One Dark Window is exceptionally good. The book expands upon the characters in ways that are totally unexpected. Evil Shepherd King is not the most loathsome character in the book. The secondary characters make the reader embrace them as much as Elspeth and Ravyn. The various storylines are intriguing, attention-grabbing, and wondefully woven together.

Book cover of Vampires of El Norte
Vampires of El Norte
Cañas, Isabel

This supernatural historical novel, set in 1840s Mexico, involves Nena, a daughter of a rancher who lived through a vampire attack when she was a teen and Néstor, who thought it was all his fault and ran away. They are reunited after nine years and must get over their hurt fellings in order to face what is coming in the future.

Book cover of Watch me disappear
Watch me disappear
Armstrong, Ross (Actor)

Tom is a community police service officer who has recently survived an incident with a bullet to his brain. He has returned to duty but the injury has left him in an entirely different frame of mind. He sets out to figure out what has happened to three missing local girls. The story is from Tom’s point of view which makes for an interesting if slightly disorienting read as Tom’s interactions with the world are filtered through his somewhat damaged brain. A fascinating, if vertiginous story results. 

Book cover of What you are looking for is in the library : a novel
What you are looking for is in the library : a novel
Aoyama, Michiko, 1970-

Translated from the Japanese, this book follows five different people who are feeling adrift in their lives. They live in the same area in Tokyo and find help in their local library where books are recommended by a mysterious librarian.  The books will influence their lives for the better. This book is the ultimate cozy and zen read that speaks to the power of books and libraries.