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What was your favorite book of 2023? New Yorkers speak out

If there’s one thing many of us love, it’s a good book.

And this is the time when many media outlets publish their lists of “best books of the year”.

Rather than declaring the best books, we wanted to share some of our favorite reads and hear from New Yorkers about the books that stuck with them in 2023.

Alison Stewart, host of WNYC’s “All of It,” and Jordan Lauf, producer of the show’s “Get Lit” book club, discussed some of their selections in a recent episode.

You can listen to the entire conversation here; an edited transcript is below.

Alison Stewart: Let’s start with fiction. The first is “Small mercies» by Dennis Lehane, the author of “Mystic River” and “Gone Baby Gone”.

Jordan Lauf: This book takes place in Boston, in the middle of the bus crisis. That’s when a court ruled that, in order to diversify public schools, some residents of majority-black neighborhoods would be sent to schools where the population was majority white and vice versa.

Unfortunately, this didn’t sit very well with a certain group of white people in Boston, and this book is set in that white Irish community.

It’s about a white high school girl who disappears the same night a black boy is found murdered. There are theories and questions as to whether these two things could be linked.

The main character of the story is the mother of this young white girl, who has been living in public housing in the Irish neighborhood of Boston for a long time. She decides to take it upon herself to find out what happened to her daughter, to carry out a dishonest investigation. This makes her angry with the Irish mafia, the police.

This is a book that really tackles racism in Boston head-on. Readers should just be aware that there is some very racist language in there and that the main character herself is rather racist, but I think it all serves the larger point of the story, which examines relationships racial in this city at that time. time.

Another crime drama you read and enjoyed was “Penance» by Eliza Clark, and this one has an interesting format.

Lauf: It’s a novel, but it’s written in the style of a true detective book. The idea is that you’re reading a journalism article, written by a guy who investigated a case in which three high school girls killed one of their friends. He tries to understand why they would do this.

It devotes a chapter to each of these girls telling their story, leading you to the crime. By the end, you’re wondering if this “journalist” is really a reliable narrator.

He’s someone who’s been in trouble in the past and he needs this book to get him back. It’s an interesting examination of our obsession with true crime.

Let’s talk to Yael, who’s calling from Callicoon, New York.

Yael: I just have to recommend “Foster” by Claire Keegan, which was such a wonderful experience. I cannot recommend this book enough. It’s a short story, so you can read it in an afternoon.

We have a text: “I read”Klara and the sun‘ by Kazuo Ishiguro in 2021, but my love for it continues through 2023 and beyond. He was one of our Get Lit authors. So whoever texts this, you can watch this conversation. Next in your list of favorite novels isThe reform house“.

Lauf: It’s from Tananarive Due, an author of horror novels. It is based on the true story of the Dozier School for Boys. People who have read Colson Whitehead’s novel “The Nickel Boys” may remember this story.

But this one is very different. It tells the story of a boy who is sent to this reformatory after defending his sister from a white boy in town.

It’s a very violent, abusive place. He encounters all this there, but he also encounters ghosts. He begins to realize that he has a special power to see some of the spirits of boys who faced violence and died at the reformatory.

Someone else who also notices this is the very abusive and violent headmaster, who thinks, “Oh, maybe I can use this to hunt down these ghosts for me, so I don’t have to deal with it anymore.” two.

It’s a bit of a cat and mouse game between this principal, this boy, and between his sister, who is really dedicated on the outside trying to get him out of school.

And it is, in part, based on a personal story – Tananarive Due’s own great-uncle, I believe, died under mysterious circumstances at the Dozier School for Boys.

It’s definitely a little scary. And it’s a little difficult to read.

Lauf: It’s graphic.

I think it’s beautifully told. I loved this book.

Lauf: I thought it was one of the most perfect books I read this year.

Let’s talk to Sarah about Astoria.

Sarah: So there’s a book I read this year – I heard the title and I read it out of spite and then I fell in love with it. It’s called “The Conservationist: Why Environmentalists Should Love Hunting.”

I’m a vegetarian, have been for most of my life, and I’m very anti-gun. The author of this book lives in Brooklyn. It explores the world of hunting and really shook up the way I think about some of the fake meats – that I eat – and how harmful they are to the environment, in terms of destroying local economies.

This book changed my mind about a lot of things. I went in ready to hate it and ended up loving it. So I just thought everyone should give it a chance.

Thanks for calling. We received a text message: “”Where there was fire” by John Manuel Arias, a multiracial, first-generation Latinx American who lost much of my heritage to trauma, shame, and fear. This book had a profound impact on me and it was so beautifully written.

Thank you very much for this text. Another: “‘Glassware‘ by Olivia Wolfgang-Smith, a multi-generational story about glasswork and hereditary trauma.

There’s a text message from someone who has a book on your list.

Lauf: I see someone shouting “The Water Covenant” by Abraham Verghese, who is also the author of “Cutting the Stone.”

This is another one of my favorite novels of this year. It tells the story of a family living in a Christian region of India from the early 1900s to the present. It’s about several generations of this family who are dealing with a mysterious illness that seems to make them very susceptible to drowning. And the doctors who end up investigating what’s going on, and a family member who ends up becoming a doctor herself.

And Verghese himself was a doctor. Medical writing is therefore very complex, but also understandable for a layman.

It’s a very long book. It’s a good choice if you’re looking for something to sit by the fireplace this winter.

Let’s talk to Jo from Middletown, New York.

Joe: I read “The Road” by Cormac McCarthy, and it’s from 2006. The reason I looked it up is because I heard Gina McCarthy, who was an advisor in the Obama administration to the ‘Environmental Protection Agency, in a podcast with Julia Louis-Dreyfus.

I couldn’t put it down. It’s a post-apocalyptic book – we don’t really know what – but I think where we are right now in the world with the climate crisis and other crises, it’s quite powerful.

Jo, thank you. I have a text: “I loved reading a new memoir,”Public-private‘ by Gail Merrifield Papp, about her 25-year collaboration and marriage to Joe Papp at the Public Theater. This came out in October.

I also want to touch on a few of your nonfiction selections, Jordan:The art thief” by Michael Finkel…Is the name self-explanatory?

Lauf: It is! This is one of the most prolific art thieves in history, this guy who lived in France. He stole art from many museums across Europe and he stole almost every two weeks for a few years.

What’s interesting about him is that he didn’t sell them. He kept everything he stole in that attic apartment, in his mother’s house, where he lived with his girlfriend – just so he could look at it and wake up every day and be surrounded by priceless works of art .

So this is the story of this man, his strange psyche, what makes anyone want to do this, how he got caught.

And then it’s about what happens to the art afterwards, which is, in some ways, the most fascinating part of the story.

And the memories?

Lauf: I’m reading “How to Say Babylon” by Safiya Sinclair. She’s a Jamaican poet, and it’s about her life under the guidance of her Rastafarian father, who practiced, I would say, a restrictive sect of that religion, especially as it relates to women’s rights, women’s issues. For example, if you were menstruating, you were impure and could not have contact with men.

It’s somewhat about her journey to self-discovery and independence outside of her father’s lifestyle. But I also learned a lot about the religion itself and how Rastafarians were persecuted by the British and by the Jamaican government over many years.

We’re going to Merv in Scotch Plains, New Jersey. Merv is going to express something that many people have been texting about.

Merv: I recommend “Demon Copperhead”. I bought this for my wife for Christmas after hearing Barbara Kingsolver on your show. She loved the book and passed it on to me.

I thought it was a great retelling of one of the great novels and thought she found a great voice in “Demon Copperhead” and a wonderful retelling of the horrible history of opioids in Appalachia , and I loved picking out all the Dickens characters while we were away.

Merv, thanks for calling. It’s a very good book. Amanda is calling from Brooklyn.

Almond : I read “Harlem Shuffle” by Colson Whitehead, and then I immediately had to get “Crook Manifesto.” I think they’re excellent and one of the characters really resonates with our current mayor, and I’ll leave it at that.

Ah! I didn’t see that one coming. Thank you very much for calling. Here’s a recommendation from Sam: “I readSea of ​​Tranquility’ by Emily St. John Mandel. I was intimidated by science fiction, but it introduced time travel in a very accessible and touching way. Are there any other books you’d like to read before we wrap up, Jordan?

Lauf: Finally, I want to recommend “Rough Sleepers” by Pulitzer Prize winner Tracy Kidder. It follows a particular doctor who works in Boston, Jim O’Connell, who treats homeless and homeless populations. It is the story of his work, his life, but also of some of the patients he treated over the years. I’ve thought about it a lot as our weather gets colder, and it’s just a meaningful book.

Someone texted: “What about January’s “Get Lit?” »

Lauf: We are reading “Day” by Michael Cunningham. It’s the story of a family. She follows them on April 5, through 2019, 2020 and 2021, to see how their lives have changed throughout the pandemic. And we’re having our event with Michael Cunningham on January 31st. And you can buy tickets here.

Jordan, thanks for putting this list together for us, and thanks to everyone who called and texted.

Gn En enter

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