These early 2023 books top reading lists of local literary enthusiasts

·6 min read
"You Could Make This Place Beautiful"
"You Could Make This Place Beautiful"

Most-anticipated book lists for 2023 have been in the atmosphere since, well, last year. With so many worthy offerings calling from the shelves — and reading time so precious — it can help to have a friendly recommendation from someone you already trust.

Looking ahead to the first half of 2023, the Tribune asked representatives of two downtown bookshops to share what they're eagerly awaiting (and we snuck in our own picks too). Publication dates are subject to change.

Joe Chevalier, Yellow Dog Bookshop

Jennifer Maritza McCauley, "When Trying to Return Home" (Feb. 7)

"When Trying to Return Home"
"When Trying to Return Home"

McCauley is a recent University of Missouri creative writing Ph.D., who read poetry here at Yellow Dog back in the day. Now she's out with a highly-anticipated short story collection — I can't wait to see her lyrical but sharp style bring to life a variety of characters across different times and places.

Malcolm Harris, "Palo Alto: A History of California, Capitalism, and the World" (Feb. 14)

As a Stanford graduate and former Palo Alto resident, I'm very interested to see what Harris does in developing the history of Silicon Valley and this little town's outsized influence on the world.

Rebecca Makkai, "I Have Some Questions for You" (Feb. 21)

"I Have Some Questions for You"
"I Have Some Questions for You"

Like many others, I'm a sucker for a good academic mystery, and Makkai is likely to make this a memorable one. A film professor returns to her old boarding school and is drawn back into a murder case from her time as a student.

Margaret Atwood, "Old Babes in the Wood" (March 7)

Atwood returns with a short story collection that promises to be as timely and timeless as her other work.

Rita Chang-Eppig, "Deep as the Sky, Red as the Sea" (June 6)

"Deep as the Sky, Red as the Sea"
"Deep as the Sky, Red as the Sea"

Novel of a real-life pirate queen and how her legend began. What's not to like?

Lorrie Moore, "I Am Homeless If This Is Not My Home" (June 20)

Lorrie Moore is an author I've discovered through my customers at Yellow Dog Bookshop — I feel like she's a hidden gem in the world of modern writers. This new book is a ghost story across two timelines (another type of story I love to read).

Aarik Danielsen, Tribune

Gabrielle Bates, "Judas Goat" (Jan. 24)

In Gabrielle Bates' poetry, there is a braiding of the physical and metaphysical that is at once alluring and maddening, each line the next in a series of endless doors — but with Bates leading the way, we carry the knowledge we glean and gain across every threshold. The promise of an entire book in which Bates can weave her wisdom spell is enough to raise goosebumps.

Deborah Landau, "Skeletons" (April 11)


It's not hyperbole to say Landau's 2019 collection "Soft Targets" loaned me long sought-after language for embodiment, vulnerability, even softness. Those poems handled our many human liabilities, awakening me to "soft spots in even the hardest-looking agent of destruction, to the smallest, most nourishing pleasures," as I wrote for Image Journal at the time. That there are new Landau poems coming into the world, and that they bear this title and this cover, show me how much more is worth waking up to.

Maggie Smith, "You Could Make This Place Beautiful" (April 11)

From her luminous poetry collections (the title of her latest comes from a plumb line in her wildly popular poem "Good Bones") to the life-affirming guide "Keep Moving," Maggie Smith knows the words that unlock the closed soul. Wading into the life that yields such words, as readers will in Smith's first memoir, promises even more chances to feel known by the author's work and, grace of graces, to know Smith herself.

Brandon Taylor, "The Late Americans" (May 23)

"The Late Americans"
"The Late Americans"

Taylor's 2020 debut novel "Real Life" was a feat of voice — a voice I've come to appreciate more through the author's social media and Substack newsletter. I look forward to more time with Taylor's prose, as he projects it over a Midwestern setting and, as his publisher describes it, "a cast of poets, artists, landlords, meat-packing workers, and mathematicians who populate the cafes, classrooms, and food-service kitchens of Iowa City, sometimes to violent and electrifying consequence."

Carrie Koepke, Skylark Bookshop

Stephen Marche, "On Writing and Failure" (Feb. 14)

Number 6 in the Biblioasis Field Notes Series. A tiny book that holds enough to be a repeated reference. Any writer will benefit from having this honest exposure to the importance of failing. It is a harsh, and still kind, reminder that the effort is more important than the result — because without the effort there isn't a chance of anything at all.

Dan Egan, "The Devil's Element" (March 7)

"The Devil's Element"
"The Devil's Element"

Egan's "The Life and Death of the Great Lakes" was a book club favorite, even here in CoMo. "The Devil's Element" continues his journalistic trend, bringing vibrant life to phosphorus this time. The book tickled my science-nerd fancy and kept me itching for the next chapter.

Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah, "Chain-Gang All Stars" (April 4)

I've just started into this unsettling novel by the Unbound alum and author of "Friday Black." It is a brutal, futuristic view of a gladiatorial privatization of our current prison system. He does an incredible job of creating stories that take you beyond the edge of your tolerance, urging you to see the parallel social commentary beneath. I always have to take a moment to catch my breath when I set his work down and this full-length work is leaving me gulping for air and truth.

Cynthia Manick, "No Sweet Without Brine: Poems" (April 4)

"No Sweet Without Brine"
"No Sweet Without Brine"

As with the best poetry, reading Manick's latest collection left me feeling both that I understood and that I would never understand. It is an exquisite collection filled with love and truths.

Beth Hemke Shapiro, Skylark Bookshop

Hanna Pylväinen, "The End of Drum-Time" (Jan. 24)

The doom-filled title name beats below the surface of the entire book, as we await inevitable tragedy. Pylväinen’s uniquely gorgeous writing thrusts us into the frigid, stark, and isolated 1850s era of far-northern Scandinavia, where the nuanced cultural worldviews of Sami herders and Swedish settlers violently collide. The souls of the characters linger long, whether through the yoiking of some or the sermonizing of others.

Veronica Roth, "Arch-Conspirator" (Feb. 21)


Such a hugely creative and clever retelling of Antigone! All of the tragedy and all of the inevitability combined with a transformative futuristic spin kept me riveted from start to finish. Readers will devour "Arch-Conspirator" in one sitting.

Jeannette Walls, "Hang the Moon" (March 28)

What a wild ride through rural Virginia during Prohibition! As lawlessness, feuds, and scandals dominate her small town, bold and fearless Sallie Kincaid — the motherless daughter of local ruler “the Duke” — becomes a bootlegger and leader in her community. Jeanette Walls punches out a riveting, speedy-moving tale filled with strong women triumphing in a man’s world.

Aarik Danielsen is the features and culture editor for the Tribune. Contact him at or by calling 573-815-1731. Find him on Twitter @aarikdanielsen.

This article originally appeared on Columbia Daily Tribune: Columbia literary pros share most anticipated reads of early 2023