The Most Anticipated Chicago Books of 2023 – Chicago Review of Books


2023 is poised to be a landmark year for literature in Chicago. It can be overwhelming to stay on top of all the latest books from Chicago authors, especially when this next year is filled with so many releases from some of today’s brightest stars such as Rebecca Makkai, Luis Alberto Urrea, and more, as well as electric debuts from promising new authors. Thankfully, we pulled together 28 books we’re looking forward to in the new year so you can focus on making your to-read list. 

Deadpan: The Aesthetics of Black Inexpression 
By Tina Post
New York University Press
January 10, 2023

Arguing that inexpression is a gesture that acquires distinctive meanings in concert with Blackness, Deadpan tracks instances and meanings of deadpan inexpression across literature, theater, visual and performance art, and the performance of self in everyday life. Post expertly details how performance of purposeful withholding is a critical tool in the work of Black culture markers. 

A Few Days Full of Trouble: Revelations on the Journey to Justice for My Cousin and Best Friend, Emmett Till
By Wheeler Parker and Cristopher Benson
One World
January 10, 2023

In this powerful work of truth telling, the last surviving witness to the lynching of Emmett Till tells his story, with poignant recollections of Emmett as a boy, critical insights into the recent investigation, and powerful lessons for racial reckoning, both then and now. 

Extended Stay
By Juan Martinez

University of Arizona Press
January 17, 2023

After his parents are killed in a horrific roadside execution, Alvaro flees his home in Colombia and finds work as a line cook at a seedy hotel in Las Vegas. But he quickly discovers that the hotel is a small appendage of an enormous creature that feeds on guests and their secrets. Martinez draws on the language of body horror and the gothic to comment on the complicated relationship between the Latinx undocumented experience and capitalism and the erasure of those living and working on the margins.

Choosing Family: A Memoir of Queer Motherhood and Black Resistance
By Francesca T Royster
Abrams Press
February 7, 2023

As a member of a multiracial household in Chicago’s North Side community of Rogers park, race is at the core of Francesca T. Rosyter and her family’s world, influencing everyday acts of parenting and the conception of what family truly means. In the literary vein of Maggie Nelson’s The Argonauts, Choosing Family is a brilliant lyrical memoir of chosen family and chosen heritage, told against the backdrop of Chicago’s North and South Sides. 

Weak in Comparison to Dreams
By James Elkins
Unnamed Press
February 7, 2023

James Elkins’ superbly strange novel is one that challenges readers to wonder what it means for something to be true, and what meaning, ultimately, lies in truth. Weak in Comparison to Dreams follows Samuel Emmer, a monitor of bacteria levels in drinking water for the small city of Guelph, who is appointed to the city’s Zoo Feasibility Committee.

Promises of Gold 
By José Olivarez
Henry Holt & Company
February 7, 2023

Olivarez may be based in New York now, but he’ll always be an important part of the Chicago literary community. Promises of Gold is a groundbreaking collection of poems addressing how every kind of love—self, brotherly, romantic, familial, cultural—is birthed, shaped, and complicated by the invisible forces of gender, capitalism, religion, migration, and more. Translated side-by-side in both English and Spanish, these extraordinary poems are sure to become beloved for their illuminations of life and love. 

B.F.F.: A Memoir of Friendship Lost and Found
By Christie Tate
Avid Reader Press / Simon & Schuster
February 7, 2023

From New York Times bestselling and Reese’s Book Club author Christie Tate comes a moving, heartwarming, and powerful memoir about Christie’s lifelong struggle to sustain female friendship, and the friend who helped her find the human connection she seeks. 

Divine Days 
By Leon Forrest
Seminary Offsets
February 15, 2023

This reprint of Leon Forrest’s masterpiece of Chicago literature is being published by Seminary Co-op Offsets, an imprint of Northwestern University Press focusing on new translations, lost classics, out-of-print gems, and works highlighting the rich literary history of the South Side of Chicago. A kaleidoscopic whorl of characters, language, music, and Black experience, Divine Days follows Joubert Jones for one week in 1966 as he pursues the lore and legends of fictional Forest County, a place resembling Chicago’s South Side. This edition brings Forrest’s work back to print, incorporating hundreds of editorial changes that the author had requested—but were never made—when the book was picked up by W.W. Norton after a disastrous warehouse fire destroyed most of the inventory from the original printing of the book by Another Chicago Press. 

I Have Some Questions for You
By Rebecca Makkai
February 21, 2023

Mark your calendars, because Rebecca Makkai is back following her Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award finalist The Great Believers. When Bodie Kane is invited back to teach a two-week course at her alma mater The Granby School, she finds herself drawn to the case of a 1995 murder of her classmate, Thalia Keith. While the school’s athletic trainer, Omar Evans, was convicted for the crime, Bodie begins to wonder if the real killer is still out there. 

By Alyssa Wees
Del Rey Books
February 21, 2023

In this haunting, lyrical fantasy set in 1930s Chicago, a talented ballerina finds herself torn between her dreams and her desires when she’s pursued by a secretive patron who may be more than he seems. 

By Veronica Roth
Tor Books
February 21, 2023

The author of the Divergent series returns with a gripping and atmospheric reimagining of Antigone. Roth reaches back to the root of the legend and delivers a world of tomorrow both timeless and unexpected.

Empty Theatre: A Novel: Or the Lives of King Ludwig II of Bavaria and Empress Sisi of Austria (Queen of Hungary), Cousins, in Their Pursuit of 
By Jac Jemc
February 21, 2023

Jac Jemc may have moved away from Chicago, but we still look back fondly on her 2019 CHIRBy Award winning collection False Bingo. This wildly over-the-top social satire reimagines the mad misadventures of the iconic royal cousins King Ludwig of Bavaria and Empress Sisi of Austria. Empty Theatre is a tragicomic tour de force that is sure to immerse readers in this fascinating, ridiculous, and restrictive world where the aesthetics of excess belie the isolation of its inhabitants.

Island City
By Laura Adamczyk
FSG Originals
March 14, 2023

We’re anxiously awaiting Laura Adamczyk’s first novel here at the Chicago Review of Books. In Island City, a wry, wistful woman, estranged from her family, sells her belongings and moves back to her hometown in the Midwest. Before making her “messy exit,” she holes up in a dark bar and tells her stories to an audience of indifferent strangers. With her trademark unsettling and captivating style, Adamczyk creates a full portrait of a person in one single, booze-soaked monologue. 

Little Poems
By Michael Hennessy
Everyman’s Library
March 14, 2023

Perfect for the train or anytime you need a moment of rest, Little Poems honors the long history of short verse with a generous supply of poems that surprise, amuse, move and delight. All fewer than fourteen lines, Henessy shows us the power and artfulness of brevity.

Earth’s the Right Place for Love 
By Elizabeth Berg
Random House
March 21, 2023

This new novel by the beloved author of Open House and Talk Before Sleep tells the story of two young people growing up in Mason, Missouri. Full of unforgettable characters and written with Berg’s characteristic warmth, humor, and deep insight, Earth’s the Right Place for Love is about the power of kindness, character, and family, and how love can grow when you least expect it. 

Biography of X 
By Catherine Lacey
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
March 21, 2023

Catherine Lacey is no stranger to suspenseful and deeply tangled tales, and Biography of X is no different. When X—an iconoclastic artist, writer, and polarizing shape-shifter—falls dead in her office, her widow hurls herself into writing a biography of the women she defied. This roaring epic blends nonfiction and fiction to plumb the depths of grief, art, and love. Here Lacey pushes her craft to its highest level yet, creating a mystery that’s sure to stay with you long after you’ve finished the book. 

Trace Evidence
By Charif Shanahan
Tin House Books
March 21, 2023

Following up on his Lambda Literary Award finalist debut Into Each Room We Enter Without Knowing, Charif Shananhan continues his piercing meditations on the intricacies of mixed-race identity, queer desire, time, mortality, and the legacies of anti-Blackness in the US and abroad. At the center of this urgent collection sits “On the Overnight from Agadir,” a stunning and heart wrenching poem that chronicles the poet’s survival of a devastating bus accident in Morocco, his mother’s birth country, and ruminates on home, belonging, and the mysteries of fate. An absolute tour de force that brings words to some of our deepest desires. 

See Also

The Next Shift: The Fall of Industry and the Rise of Health Care in Rust Belt America
By Gabriel Winant
Harvard University Press
March 23, 2021

Men in hardhats were once the heart of America’s working class; now it is women in scrubs. This book asks the question: what does this shift portend for our future? In a day in age when health care workers are on the front lines of our most pressing crises while continuing to be underappreciated in our workforce, Gabriel Winant offers unique insights into how we got here and what could happen next.

Play the Fool
By Lina Chern
March 28, 2023

In this delightful and intriguing mystery, cynical tarot card reader Katie True seeks to uncover the truth about her friend’s mysterious death. Caught in a larger conspiracy while investigating the death of her best friend, Katie must use her street smarts and her inner Strength card to solve the murder or risk losing everything. 

Foster Dad Explores the Cosmos
By Nash Jenkins
Overlook Press
May 16, 2023

Prep meets The Secret History in this searing debut novel about a tragic scandal at an American prep school, told in the form of a literary investigation through a distinctly millennial lens. Jenkins explores privilege and power, the pitfalls of masculinity, and how we create the mythologies that give us meaning in this sharp and emotional coming-of-age tale.  

Dual Memory
By Sue Burke
Tor Books
May 16, 2023

Acclaimed author of Semiosis returns with Dual Memory, a standalone novel blending hard science fiction and action adventure. When Antonio Moro discovers an unusual ally in a nascent AI known as Par Augustus, the two forge an uneasy alliance in an effort to defend their island city.

King: A Life
By Jonathan Eig
Farrar, Straus and Giroux

May 16, 2023

The first full biography in decades, King mixes revelatory and exhaustive new research with brisk and accessible storytelling to forge the definitive life story for our times. Eig casts a fresh light on the King’s family origins, as well as MLK’s complex relationships with his wife, father, and fellow activists, crafting a landmark biography for our times. 

Good Night, Irene
By Luis Alberto Urrea
Little Brown and Company
May 30, 2023

Here at the CHIRB, we’re always thrilled when a new book from Luis Alberto Urrea enters the world, so Good Night, Irene is high on our most anticipated list. In 1943, Irene Woodward heads to Europe to join the Red Cross, where she joins an elite group of women nicknamed the Donut Dollies who provide camaraderie and a taste of home for soldiers at the front line. Taking inspiration from his mother’s own Red Cross service, Urrea has delivered an overlooked story of women’s heroism in World War II in a dynamic and unforgettable portrait of friendship and valor. 

A Duration
By Richard Meier
Wave Books
June 6, 2023

In the poem-essays that comprise A Duration, writing is a physical act where writing and lived experience support one another in bodies that are injured and heal, that die and continue in new forms, playing new roles. Richard Meier transmutes years of daily practices of attention into mesmerizing trajectories through an always unfolding present.

Maddalena and the Dark
By Julia Fine
Flatiron Books
June 13, 2023

Following up on the incredible success of her 2021 CHIRBy Award winning novel The Upstairs House, Julia Fine takes readers to 18th-century Venice in her new enthralling love story. Set at a prestigious music school, Maddalena and the Dark follows two girls drawn together by a dangerous wager and electric, boundless desires. 

Check back in June for Part 2 of our 2023 Most Anticipated List!


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