Indie Booksellers Recommend 13 Books for 2023

We asked booksellers across the country what new and upcoming books they're most excited about

Photo by Hatice Yardım on Unsplash

There’s a quote from novelist John Green that wonderfully captures the power and magic of shopping indie: “You cannot invent an algorithm that is as good at recommending books as a good bookseller, and that’s the secret weapon of the bookstore—no algorithm will ever understand readers the way that other readers can understand readers.”

In the last few years, despite doomsday declarations about e-books and big box stores making indie bookstores obsolete, small bookstores have been thriving. Even in our tech-centric society, readers know there is something treasured about the experience of holding a physical book in your hands, one that you picked up after a day of browsing at local shop or, even better, one selected just for you.

In July of 2022, I started working at The Bookshop, a cozy 500-square-foot and woman-owned bookstore in East Nashville. While the job of an indie bookseller involves typical day-to-day tasks like running the shop, ringing up customers, and restocking shelves, one major responsibility is keeping up with upcoming releases so that we can make the best recommendations to customers on what to read next. We read ARCs (Advanced Reading Copies) months before a book’s release date so that we alway have a sense of what is coming down the literary pipeline. I read because I love to read but also because I want my knowledge of books both old and new to remain fresh and vast. That way, I can introduce customers of all ages and backgrounds to a book they will love.

In short, as indie booksellers, we have an impeccable pulse on the literary landscape and a knack for giving the best recommendations. Our pool of book knowledge is wide, deep, and overflowing with information that we can’t wait to share. But don’t take it just from me. Check out the books 13 indie booksellers from across the country are most excited about in 2023.

Hit Parade of Tears by Izumi Suzuki, April 11th

“Izumi Suzuki’s a legend of Japanese science fiction and her work is full of deranged little freaks! There’s aliens, alternate dimensions, romance and more! I’m so pleased to be blessed with a new collection!!!”—Natalie Orozco, Books Are Magic in Brooklyn, New York

Juno Loves Legs by Karl Geary, April 18th

“Juno and Legs are unforgettable: charming and frustrating, loving and hurtful, fully brought to life in this novel about fierce friendship and chosen family. In a bleak world of adults who fail children, Juno and Legs hold tight to each other, finding solace and safety in a world of their own. I loved every harsh and tender moment of Geary’s moving story, and will think about these two lost souls for a very long time.”—Santiago Nocera, Greedy Reads in Baltimore, Maryland 

Chain-Gang All-Stars by Nana Kwame Adeji-Brenyah, May 2nd

A blistering corpo-fascist dystopia in which prisoners fight gladiator-style for public entertainment and a chance at freedom. Adjei-Brenyah takes the incendiary satire made famous in his collection Friday Black and applies it to America’s prison-industrial complex. Underpinning this vibrant sci-fi world and its rich characters is the horrifying realization of the dystopia we’re already living in.”Cameron Vanderwerf, Brookline Booksmith in Brookline, Massachusetts

Gone to the Wolves by John Wray, May 2nd

“LITERARY METALHEADS! DEATH CULTS! 1980’s GULF COAST FLORIDA! Sold. Gone to the Wolves  follows three weirdo friends, united by their love of death metal, as they make their way from Venice, Florida strip malls to the glam-rock alleyways of the Sunset Strip, then into the forests of Norway when one of the trio follows a siren song into a dangerous underworld. Meeting Kip, Leslie, and Kira on the page gave me that same buzzy, frantic energy that I remember from going to shows and making unlikely friends as a Floridian teenager, and their relationships are remarkably layered and raw. John Wray’s writing is propulsive, unsettling; tender in some places and sharp as razorwire in others. The last third of this book had my ears ringing, like standing in front of a live amp inside a tornado. This book is an absolute banger.”Rachel, Tombolo Books in St. Petersburg, Florida

20 km/h by Woshibai, May 16th

“Woshibai’s comics combine a minimalist art style with surreal slices of life: a man breaks free from an egg, only to find himself trapped in another; a person reading a book finds themselves engulfed in greenery until the doorbell rings and they look up to find it was all in their head. His comics are like a quiet poetry—they achieve incredible depth with little to no dialogue or sound. I adore reading his collections, and I’m so excited to be able to introduce his work to English speaking audiences!”—Heather, Brookline Booksmith in Brookline, Massachusetts 

The Postcard by Anne Berest, translated by Tina Kover, May 16th

“While on bedrest Anne recalls a mysterious postcard sent to her family twenty years earlier. The postcard simply contained the names of her four relatives murdered at Auschwitz. Who sent the postcard and why? Anne and her mother work to uncover the mystery. Absolutely compelling and engrossing, The Postcard by Anne Berest and translated by Tina Kover is a story of memory and loss and a new standout in literature about the Holocaust.”—Caitlin Baker, Island Books in Mercer Island, Washington 

Ink Blood Sister Scribe by Emma Törzs, May 30th

“It is perhaps too on the nose to describe a book about magical books as a magical book. And yet there is magic of all kinds buzzing on each page of Ink Blood Sister Scribe: grisly, Grimm body horror magic; romantic, confectionary fairy-tale magic; and the binding, consuming magic of family and what it means to belong. Törzs has written a book that will make you laugh, weep, and contemplate what you know about human connection. I am still under its spell!”—Sarah Jackson, The Book and Cover in Chattanooga, Tennessee

My Murder by Katie Williams, June 6th

“The narrator of My Murder by Katie Williams is the clone of a young mother recently murdered by a serial killer. Go ahead and read that again—I’ll wait. If that isn’t compelling enough, how’s about some wickedly clever prose, a propulsive pace, a not-so-subtle critique of our true-crime + motherhood obsessions, and, yes, a few twists and turns? Not only did I devour it in two sittings, but I’ve also been thinking about it ever since. I simply can’t wait to put this one in readers’ hands.”—Joelle Herr, The Bookshop in Nashville, Tennessee

Open Throat by Henry Hoke, June 6th

“Your new favorite queer-mountain-lion-novel is coming this June from MCD books. Narrated by a queer mountain lion in present-day ‘ellay’ (Los Angeles)—Henry Hoke’s genre-bending novel is a quick read of profound depth. Hoke weaves the topics of ecosystem destruction and climate collapse, implicitly classist and racist policing, and our country’s despicable treatment of unhoused individuals into this tale seamlessly. Equal parts bildungsroman, thriller, and camp (feline cruising, playful spelling, and much more), Open Throat is a fable for our times that cements Henry Hoke as an essential voice in experimental and deliciously queer fiction. By the end, you will be roaring, too.”—Charlie, A Room of One’s Own in Madison, Wisconsin

The Blonde Identity by Ally Carter, August 8th

“This book made me feel all the excitement of falling in love. Amnesia, hot spies, strong female lead, I mean… how could I want more? Ally’s transition into adult novels is one that I have been waiting on forever. Call me a fan-girl, because I am. This is a must read for anyone in need of a good romcom.”—Isa Fernandez, The Bookmatters in Milford, Ohio

The Spirit Bares Its Teeth by Andrew Joseph White, September 5th

“In a stunning sophomore novel steeped in Victorian spiritualism and gothic dread, the rigid gender norms of the past collide with the urgent questions of bodily autonomy we face in our present, with deadly results. The Spirit Bares Its Teeth cements Andrew Joseph White’s place as a master of horror.”—Kay Frost, Brookline Booksmith in Brookline, Massachusetts 

The Maniac by Benjamin Labutat, October 3rd

The Maniac is about to be one of the biggest books of the year, and it’s easily now the best book I have ever read. I have never felt so consumed, mentally, spatially, psychologically, by a book like I was with The Maniac. The prose is beyond electric, it’s nuclear. The multiple narrative accounts are so intricate and deliberate, you know from the very first few pages that you’re in the hands of a true master, an author so skilled that pages of text feel like works of art in and of themselves, so daring that you almost can’t believe just how successfully he pulled off a story this difficult and complex to tell. The Maniac is exquisite, horrific, mind-blowing, inspired, perfect. What Benjamín Labatut has made here is an absolute feat, and I can’t wait to watch the world lose its mind over this insane, extraordinary book.”—Emily Tarr, Thank You Books in Birmingham, Alabama

Death Valley by Melissa Broder, October 24th

“A grief-driven writer on a desert wander, a lost trail, an accident, a fever dream. With talking rocks and teenage bunnies. Melissa Broder’s Death Valley is funny and moving and weird and perfect, and—like a cactus—will both stick and soothe.”Gregory Kornbluh, Downbound Books in Cincinnati, Ohio

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