> Zed Book Club / Bookshelf / Novel Encounters / The Best Books to Read in January 2023

Photo: Medea83/Getty Images

> Novel Encounters

The Best Books to Read in January 2023

The month's 12 hot titles include the latest from Brett Easton Ellis, a new Rachael Hawkins and a supernatural horror story from Jessica Johns / BY Nathalie Atkinson / January 2nd, 2023


Literary Brat Packer Bret Easton Ellis is back with a gripping autobiographical thriller in our picks of the best fiction to read in January. Many of the novels are deeply personal, and inspired by history and true events, from the rise of fascism in Europe and an engrossing story about the fate of inhabitants of an isolated island (one of the first racially integrated communities in the northeastern U.S.) to the stylish world of post-war Paris couture and an unassuming heroine inspired by Olivia Colman.

Obsessive Book Buyers: Zoomer editors have carefully curated our book coverage to ensure you find the perfect read. We may earn a commission on books you buy by clicking on the cover image. 

1Age of Viceby Deepti Kapoor

There’s a touch of Crazy Rich Asian in this dark crime saga of the ultra-rich Wadia family (a book so buzzy it has its own teaser trailer) by way of The Godfather. The tale of a powerful New Delhi clan is also a portrait of contemporary India, with split timelines and plots about the innocent onlookers sucked into the family’s violent vortex. Greed, corruption and revenge are a great way to start the New Year. (Jan. 3)


2The Villaby Rachel Hawkins

For her latest suspense tale, the Alabama-based author of The Wife Upstairs was influenced by Fleetwood Mac, the Manson murders and – unexpectedly – the Lake Geneva summer holiday of 1816 that inspired Mary Shelley to write Frankenstein. It all unfolds at a high-end Italian villa in Orvieto that once served as the 1970s refuge of a rock star, where, in the present day, two friends stumble across something sinister as they’re reconnecting on a girls’ trip. I can’t get enough of novels like this that are animated by the cultural zeitgeist of the past. (Jan. 3)


3The New Lifeby Tom Crewe

The London Review of Books editor makes his debut with this “visceral novel about love, sex and the struggle for a better world,” with Crewe being likened to Allan Hollinghurst and Colm Toibin. Two men in late-Victorian England collaborate on a book defending inversion (a.k.a homosexuality, which at the time was a crime) — risking their well-ordered marriages and lives in the process. The insightful story begins around the time of Oscar Wildes arrest for gross indecency, and the characters are based on real-life figures John Addington Symonds and Havelock Ellis, who published the 1911 essay, “Love and the New Morality.” (Jan. 3)


4The Three Lives of Alix St. Pierreby Natasha Lester

A Second World War spy becomes a doyenne in the glam world of Paris couture when she joins the House of Dior just as it launches. Insider knowledge of the Parisian post-war fashion landscape comes across on the page in this intriguing historical novel, in part because the international bestselling Australian author (The Paris Orphan) was a marketing executive with cosmetics giant L’Oreal before she became a writer. (Jan. 10)


5Bad Creeby Jessica Johns

Johns is a Nehiyaw aunty with English-Irish ancestry and a member of Sucker Creek First Nation in Treaty 8 territory in Northern Alberta. Her debut novel about a Vancouver millennial that discovers she has the ability to take items to and from the dream world is expanded from her short story by the same name, which won the 2020 Writers’ Trust Journey Prize. It’s a mystical story about the relationship between memory and grief, and the urban Indigenous experience, that the jury called “the kind of story that wakes you up in the middle of the night, purposefully and uncomfortably. Not with a question, but with an answer.” (Jan. 10)


6The Night Travelersby Armando Lucas Correa

With Correa’s historical fiction – such as his first novel, the international hit The German Girl – the Cuban-born, New York-based journalist (and, until recently, longtime editor-in-chief of People en Español) likes to uncover untold stories that ring true across borders and cultures. This stunning saga about motherhood, racism and what shapes identity and memory charts the fortunes of four generations of women from the rise of fascism in Germany and the Cuban Revolution to the present. (Jan. 10)


7The Shardsby Bret Easton Ellis

The provocative American Psycho author’s first novel in 13 years, initially serialized on his podcast, revisits the Los Angeles terrain covered in his 1985 breakout, Less Than Zero, with a group of drug-fuelled rich kids behaving badly. Set in 1981, it’s more than a little autobiographical: “everyone is real and everything happened,” Ellis claimed on the podcast. The 17-year-old hero, named Bret, attends the same exclusive prep school as the literary Brat Packer, now 58. Add to that his trademark immersive descriptions and the tinge of horror as a serial killer strikes across the city. The coming-of-age tale Ellis says he’s been trying to write for most of his career is an eerie and gripping read. (Jan. 17)


8Better the Bloodby Michael Bennett

Hana, an Auckland detective and single parent, is investigating a grisly homicide that she eventually links to a historic crime 160 years prior, when a group of soldiers executed a Maori chief during the British colonization of New Zealand. Bennett, a Maori filmmaker, makes his fiction debut in a compulsively readable procedural that probes the systemic injustices faced by the Indigenous people of New Zealand. (Jan. 20)


9Burial of Ghostsby Ann Cleeves

This stand-alone psychological thriller from the creator of the popular Vera, Shetland and Two Rivers series was published in the U.K. more than a decade ago, but is only now being released in Canada. It’s about a 20-something woman who has a holiday affair with a charismatic fellow tourist in Morocco; later, and unexpectedly, he leaves her a legacy in his will. Naturally, it comes with a few unusual conditions. (Jan. 24)


10This Other Edenby Paul Harding

The Pulitzer Prize-winning Long Island writer (Tinkers) reimagines the true story of Malaga Island, an isolated island off the coast of Maine that became one of the first racially integrated communities in the northeast (it lasted for a century). As white people arrive in the early 20th century to clear the area, the Black inhabitants are about to be evicted and forcibly resettled by the state.  Harding fleshes out a character that appears in his previous novel, and the story is shaped through a Black painter (based on Charles Ethan Porter) who can pass as white and struggles with his sense of displacement. (Jan. 24)


11The Keeper of Storiesby Sally Page

Olivia Colman’s 2019 Oscar acceptance speech, where she recalled her days as a cleaner, inspired Page, a former English floral shop owner, to write this novel. Janice, a 40-something house cleaner in a quiet British village, collects the tales she overhears throughout the day, and when she starts working for inquisitive nonagenarian Mrs. B., she begins to share them. Like her protagonist, Page began soliciting stories from friends, family and customers to shape into this realistic and heartwarming character-driven tale about the foibles of human nature (think: Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine). (Jan. 24)


12Maameby Jessica George

A young British Ghanaian woman, known to her family as Maame, narrates this tender but gut-punching debut about the challenges of straddling two cultures. The Londoner is the primary caregiver to her father, who has advanced Parkinson’s, while juggling her job in the theatre world (where she’s the only Black person in every meeting). Maame is dealing with an absent mother, until she eventually has a bittersweet chance at some freedom. The debut author, an English book editor born to Ghanaian parents, used her own diary entries following the death of her father to write this compelling contemporary novel that was hotly pursued by several publishers. (Jan. 31)


THE SCROLL

Prince Harry’s ‘Spare’ Continues to Break Worldwide RecordsThe book also seems to have put a dent in the popularity of members of the Royal Family — including the Prince and Princess of Wales.


Prince Harry’s Memoir Breaks U.K. Sales Record On First Day of ReleaseThe publisher of the new memoir, 'Spare", says it had sold 400,000 copies so far across hardback, e-book and audio formats.


Barack Obama’s Favourite Books of 2022The former U.S. president’s 13 titles include Canadians Emily St. John Mandel and Kate Beaton, as well as tomes from Michelle Obama, George Saunders and Jennifer Egan


Here are the 5 Books on Bill Gates’ Holiday Reading ListThe billionaire philanthropist is giving hundreds of copies to little libraries around the world


Sheila Heti and Eli Baxter Among 2022 Governor General’s Literary Award WinnersToronto writer Sheila Heti took home the fiction award for 'Pure Colour,' a novel the GG peer assessment committee called "a work of genius."


Suzette Mayr Wins $100,000 Scotiabank Giller Prize for ‘The Sleeping Car Porter’The 2022 Giller Prize jury called Mayr's novel "alive and immediate — and eerily contemporary."


Writers’ Trust of Canada Awards: Authors Nicholas Herring, Dan Werb Nab Top PrizesThe Writers' Trust of Canada awards amounted to a combined monetary prize value of $270,000.


Bob Dylan Releases ‘The Philosophy of Modern Song,’ a Book of Essays Dissecting 66 Influential SongsIn his new book, Bob Dylan offers up both critique and historical insight into various musical recordings of the last century by a variety of popular artists.


Prince Harry’s Memoir ‘Spare’ Will Be Published in January 2023The long-awaited memoir will tell with "raw unflinching honesty" Prince Harry's journey from "trauma to healing", his publisher said on Thursday.


Sri Lankan Author Shehan Karunatilaka Wins 2022 Booker PrizeKarunatilaka won the prestigious prize on Monday for his second novel ‘The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida’, about a dead war photographer on a mission in the afterlife.


Canadian Council for the Arts Reveals Governor General’s Literary Awards FinalistsThe finalists for the Governor General's Literary Awards spotlight books in both the English and French language, as well as translated works.


New Penguin Random House Award Named After Michelle Obama Will Honour High School WritersMichelle Obama Award for Memoir will provide a $10,000 college scholarship to a graduating public school senior based on their autobiographical submission.


French Author Annie Ernaux, 82, Becomes First French Woman to Win Nobel Prize for LiteratureThe author said, of winning, that "I was very surprised ... I never thought it would be on my landscape as a writer."


Hilary Mantel, Award-Winning British Author of ‘Wolf Hall’ Trilogy, Dies at 70Wolf Hall, published in 2009, and its sequel Bring Up the Bodies, released three years later, both won the Booker Prize, an unprecedented win for two books in the same trilogy and making Mantel the first woman to win the award twice.


Prince William “Cannot Forgive” Prince Harry, According to ‘The New Royals’ Author Katie NichollPrince William “just cannot forgive his brother,” according to Katie Nicholl, author of 'The New Royals: Queen Elizabeth’s Legacy and the Future of the Crown.'


Five Finalists Announced for Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Prize for NonfictionThe winner — to be announced on November 2 — will take home the annual $60,000 prize.


Peter Straub, Bestselling American Horror Writer, Dies at 79Friend and co-author Stephen King has said the author's 1979 book, "Ghost Story," is his favourite horror novel.


Rawi Hage, Billy-Ray Belcourt and Sheila Heti Make the 2022 Scotiabank Giller Prize Long ListThe jury read 138 books to choose 14 titles for the long list, one of which will win the $100,000 prize, one of the richest in Canadian literature


Salman Rushdie, Novelist Who Drew Death Threats, Is Stabbed at New York LectureThe Indian-born novelist who was ordered killed by Iran in 1989 because of his writing, was attacked before giving a talk on artistic freedom.


Raymond Briggs, Creator of Beloved Children’s Tale ‘The Snowman’, Dies at 88First published in 1978, the pencil crayon-illustrated wordless picture book sold more than 5.5 million copies around the world while a television adaption became a Christmas favourite in Britain and was nominated for an Oscar.


Canadian Author Emily St. John Mandel Makes Barack Obama’s 2022 Summer Reading ListObama's list includes everything from fiction to books on politics, cultural exploration and basketball.


Canadian Author Rebecca Eckler to Launch RE:books Publishing House Focused on Female Authors and Fun ReadsThe former National Post columnist says her tagline is ‘What’s read is good, and what’s good is read.’”


Brian Thomas Isaac’s “All the Quiet Places” wins $5,000 Indigenous Voices AwardThe B.C. author, a retired bricklayer, drew on his childhood growing up on the Okanagan Indian reserve for his coming-of-age story set in 1956


Canadian-American Author Ruth Ozeki Wins Women’s Book Prize for “The Book of Form and Emptiness”The UK judges said her fourth novel, inspired in part by the Vancouver Public Library, contained "sparkling writing, warmth, intelligence, humour and poignancy."


The Bill Gates Summer Reading List Includes a Sci-Fi Novel On Gender Inequality Suggested by His DaughterBill Gates' summer reading list includes fiction and non-fiction titles that cover gender equality, political polarization and climate change.


American novelist Joshua Cohen wins the Pulitzer Prize for fiction for “The Netanyahus”The 2022 Pulitzer prizes include this satirical look at identity politics, focused on the father of former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, at a crucial time in the Jewish state’s history


Margaret Atwood, Alice Munro Among Canadian Authors Recognized in Commemorative Reading List Marking Queen’s Platinum JubileeThe authors are among six Canadian scribes included on the The Big Jubilee Read list.


Queen Elizabeth II’s Aide Reveals Details of Life in Royal Pandemic Lockdown in New Addition to BookAngela Kelly, who's worked for the Queen for 20 years, discusses everything from cutting the Queen's hair to "the light and laughter that was shared ... even in the darkest moments."


New Leonard Cohen Story Collection, ‘A Ballet of Lepers,’ Set for October ReleaseThe collection features a novel, short stories and a radio play written between 1956 and 1961.


Archived Letters Reveal How Toni Morrison Helped MacKenzie Scott Meet Future Husband Jeff BezosBezos hired Scott at the hedge fund where he worked after receiving a recommendation from Morrison. Shortly thereafter, the pair married and Scott helped Bezos launch Amazon.


Prince Harry’s Memoir is Set to Rock the MonarchyFriends say the California-based royal got a million-pound book deal to write "an intimate take on his feeling about the family."


European Jewish Congress Asks Publisher to Pull Anne Frank BookThe Congress says 'The Betrayal of Anne Frank' has "deeply hurt the memory of Anne Frank, as well as the dignity of the survivors and the victims of the Holocaust."


Canadian Author Details Anne Frank Cold-Case Investigation That Named Surprise Suspect in Her Family’s Betrayal in New BookAhead of the 75th anniversary of the publication of Frank's 'The Diary of a Young Girl' in June, a team that included a retired FBI agent and around 20 historians, criminologists and data specialists identified a relatively unknown figure as a leading suspect in revealing her family's hideout.


Man Who Tricked Authors Into Handing Over Unpublished Manuscripts Arrested by FBI in New YorkFilippo Bernardini, an employee of a well known publication house, has been arrested for stealing hundreds of unpublished manuscripts.


Hollywood Legend Betty White Has a Last Laugh in New Biographic Comic BookThe creators of the biographical comic book have released similar books about Hollywood legends like Carrie Fisher, Lucille Ball, David Bowie and Elizabeth Taylor.


Barack Obama Reveals His List of Books That Left “A Lasting Impression” in 2021Obama's favourite 2021 reads include two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning author Colson Whitehead's 'Harlem Shuffle' and 'Klara and the Sun,' by Nobel Prize-winning author Kazuo Ishiguro


“Interview With the Vampire” Author Anne Rice Dies at 80 — Tributes Pour in From Stuart Townsend and OthersThe author, who was best known for her work in gothic fiction, died on Saturday evening as a result of complications from a stroke.


Norma Dunning wins $25,000 Governor General’s English fiction prize for ‘Tainna’The Edmonton-based Inuk writer explores themes of displacement, loneliness and spirituality in six short stories


Omar El Akkad wins $100,000 Giller prize for “What Strange Paradise”The former Globe and Mail reporter, who published "American War" to acclaim in 2017, tackles the global migrant refugee crisis in his second novel


South African Author Damon Galgut Wins the Booker Prize For ‘The Promise’Galgut received nominations for his 2003 and 2010 works before finally taking home the prize this year. 


Hollywood Legend Paul Newman Discusses Life, Acting and Aging Gracefully in Newly Discovered MemoirPublishers of the newly discovered memoir say the Hollywood legend wrote the book in the 1980s in response to the relentless media attention he received during that time.


Here’s What You Need to Know About the Toronto International Festival of AuthorsDirector Roland Gulliver lands in Toronto to open his second, much-expanded virtual festival with more than 200 events


Tanzanian Novelist Gurnah Wins 2021 Nobel Prize in Literature for Depicting the Impact of Colonialism and Refugee StoriesGurnah, 72, is only the second writer from sub-Saharan Africa to win one of the world's most prestigious literary awards


Miriam Toews Garners Third Giller Prize Nomination for “Fight Night” after Shortlist AnnouncedSophomore efforts from novelists Omar El Akkad and Jordan Tannahill join debut books from Cheluchi Onyemelukwe-Onuobia and Angélique Lalonde


Tina Brown’s New Book, ‘The Palace Papers’, Covers the Royal Family’s Reinvention After Diana’s Tragic DeathTina Brown's sequel to her 2007 release 'The Diana Chronicles' is set to hit shelves April 12, 2022. 


Audible.ca Releases Andrew Pyper’s Exclusive Audiobook “Oracle” For New Plus Catalogue LaunchThe thriller about a psychic FBI detective is one of 12,000 titles now available for free to members


Barack Obama and Bruce Springsteen to Release Book Based On Their “Renegades” PodcastThe new book will feature a collection of candid, intimate and entertaining conversations


Prince Harry Will Publish a Memoir in Late 2022Harry says he's writing the book "not as the prince I was born but as the man I have become."


> STAY UP TO DATE

Sign Up for the Weekly Book Club Newsletter