The Skinny's Books of 2023

Our Books Team share their favourite books of the year, from theatre-inspired Palestinian literature to unsettling body horror tales

Feature by The Skinny Book Team | 04 Dec 2023
  • Books of the Year

Cover art for The End of August.

The End of August by Yu Miri, translated by Morgan Giles (Tilted Axis Press)

Lee Woo-Cheol is a running prodigy, but in Japanese-occupied Korea the Second World War is fast approaching. In the present day, his Japanese-born granddaughter trains for a marathon in Korea. This stunning new translation of Yu Miri’s epic, semi-autobiographical novel, weaves together the past and present in a complex, beautiful and brutal family history. Eleanor Bally, Books Team

Honourable mentions:
Study for Obedience by Sarah Bernstein (Granta)
My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh (Jonathan Cape)
Treacle Walker by Alan Garner (4th Estate)
The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida by Shehan Karunatilaka (Sort of Books)

Jacket cover for Enter Ghost by Isabella Hammad.

Enter Ghost by Isabella Hammad (Jonathan Cape)

It would have been hard to contain in just a few lines the rich depths of Isabella Hammad’s Enter Ghost when it was released; it is near impossible now, following several of the worst weeks in Palestine’s entire history. Perhaps all I can say is that I am so grateful – for its precision, for its imagination of theatre as occupiable and reclaimable space, for the way it observes and reifies resistance with such clarity. I am so grateful to have read it; I am so grateful it exists. Anahit Behrooz, Books Editor

Honourable mentions:
Bellies by Nicola Dinan (Transworld)
I Will Greet the Sun Again by Khashayar J Khabushani (Viking)
Mrs S by K Patrick (4th Estate)
Curious Affinities by Sophie Chauhan (Hajar Press)

Jacket cover of This Is My Body, Given For You

This Is My Body, Given For You by Heather Parry (Haunt Publishing)

These stories are incredible, experimental, weird and wonderful. Through them Heather Parry takes the theme of the body and explores the fear, strength, fragility, and mythology that relates to it, as well as the relationship between the physical and psychological. Alistair Braidwood, Books Team

Honourable mentions:
Three Fires by Denise Mina (Polygon)
Electricity by Angus Peter Campbell (Luath Press)
River Spirit by Leila Aboulela (Saqi Books)
Rural: The Lives of the Working Class Countryside by Rebecca Smith (William Collins)

Away from Beloved Lover by Dee Peyok (Granta)

Dee Peyok has spent the last ten years researching and visiting Cambodia in search of the country’s lost Rock ‘n’ Roll scene, which flourished during a golden period in the 1960s and ‘70s before it was just as quickly destroyed by Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge. 90% of its musicians were killed in the genocide, their stories alive only in the memories and hard-fought record collections of its survivors. Books like these shouldn’t be undervalued. They are like gold dust. And neither should the people propelled by passion to write them. Part travelogue and part social history, it’s a timely yet resolutely joyous debut. Louis Cammell, Books Team

Honourable mentions:
BFFs: The Radical Potential of Female Friendship by Anahit Behrooz (404 Ink)
Your Driver is Waiting by Priya Guns (Atlantic Books)
Never Was by H. Gareth Gavin (Cipher Press)
Strong Female Character by Fern Brady (Octopus Publishing Group)

The Vaster Wilds by Lauren Groff (Hutchinson Heinemann)

After her mistress' daughter dies in a new European settlement in colonial North America, a young girl flees into the forest. Alone in a foreign landscape, her survival skills are pushed to the limit as she battles the terrain, the weather, and her own thoughts. Groff's incredible writing leaves you rooting for her teenage heroine against every odd, as she runs through the forest in boots she's stolen from a pox-ridden body in the street. Bleak and brilliant. Terri-Jane Dow, Books Team

Honourable mentions:
How to Be a French Girl 
by Rose Cleary (Weatherglass Books)
 by Nina Allan (riverrun)
I am Homeless If This Is Not My Home by Lorrie Moore (Faber)
The End of Nightwork by Aidan Cottrell-Boyce (Granta)

Illuminated by Water by Malachy Tallack (Penguin)

Illuminated by Water was not a book I thought I’d enjoy. I don’t like fishing at the best of times, but Tallack’s writing brought beauty and tranquility to the subject, told through a patchwork of memories accrued across a lifetime in such a languid way I couldn’t stop reading once I’d started. Josephine Jay, Books Team

Honourable mentions:
A Heart That Works by Rob Delaney (Coronet)
River Spirit by Leila Aboulela (Saqi Books)
Anam by André Dao (Picador)
The Shards by Bret Easton Ellis (Knopf)

Doppelganger: A Trip Into the Mirror World by Naomi Klein (Allen Lane)

Using the concept of the doppelganger – the shadow self, the mirror world, the evil twin – as an intellectual lynchpin, Naiomi Klein masterfully weaves her way through anti-vaxxers, wellness influencers and alt-right demagogues, attempting to make sense of the conspiratorial turn in contemporary politics. Whilst the book is far reaching and relentlessly incisive, later chapters grapple with how Zionist Israel became a doppelganger of the white supremacist settler colonial project which created the conditions for its existence, rendering the book even more necessary than Klein could have imagined at the time of publishing. Paula Lacey, Books Team

Honourable mentions:
The Coiled Serpent by Camilla Grudova (Atlantic Books)
Lovebug by Daisy Lafarge (Peninsula Press)
Through the Addicts Looking Glass by Waithera Sebatindira (Hajar Press)
Daddy Boy by Emerson Whitney (Cipher Press)

Enter Ghost by Isabella Hammad (Jonathan Cape)

Some books almost dare you to continue – go on! read on! – and you simply don’t dare to put them down. Enter Ghost is one of those books. Compelling, commanding, it's both heady and hearty, with its impeccably calibrated depiction of Palestinian life under Israeli occupation, of Shakespeare in translation, of the wheels of imperial myth-making and familial memory-remaking in perpetual motion. Hammad is peerless when it comes to capturing the spirit of immediacy that shores up any cause – regardless of whether it’s of the people, for art’s sake, or a mixture of the two – and her prose shines. No other novel I’ve read this year has felt all at once like a presage to a reckoning, a page-turner of real depth as well as some remarkable lightness, and a reminder of the roles we must be poised to play not only in our own lives, nor those of others, but also in projects of liberation. No other novel could. Tara Okeke, Books Team

Honourable mentions:
Lovebug by Daisy Lafarge (Peninsula Press)
The End of Nightwork by Aidan Cottrell-Boyce (Granta)
Men I Trust by Tommi Parrish (Scribe UK)
Heritage Aesthetics by Anthony Anaxagorou (Granta)

Vehicle by Jen Calleja (Prototype Publishing)

Vehicle by Jen Calleja is an experimental, speculative, genre-defying novel told in verse. Calleja has written a cerebral and riotous exploration of nationhood, fascism, borders and languages that is timely and timeless in an everchanging political world. This book is rooted in punk and is like nothing else I’ve read. Andrés Ordorica, Books Team

Honourable mentions:
Blackouts by Justin Torres (Granta)
Family Meal by Bryan Washington (Atlantic Books)
Cowboy by Kandace Siobhan Walker (Cheerio)
The Delivery by Margarita García Robayo, trans. Megan McDowell (Charco Press)

Jacket cover of Study For Obedience by Sarah Bernstein.

Study for Obedience by Sarah Bernstein (Granta)

In this strange and complex novel, an unnamed woman moves to the countryside to tend to her brother after his divorce. Between a series of bizarre events and the uncanny meditations of an unreliable narrator, readers will find a story about guilt, innocence, the power of passiveness and the violence of obedience. Whether for its intricate themes or eerie vibes, this is the kind of novel you’ll want to reread as soon as you finish it. Venezia Paloma, Books Team

Honourable mentions:
Evil Eye by Etaf Rum (Harper)
A Little Luck by Claudia Piñeiro (Charco Press)
Penance by Eliza Clark (Faber & Faber)
Linghun by Ai Jiang (Dark Matter INK)

Doppelganger: A Trip Into the Mirror World by Naomi Klein (Allen Lane)

Far too many books post-Brexit/Trump have been sold on their supposed ability to cut through the noise. Every book wants to be the defining word on this godawful sociopolitical moment. Enter Doppelganger, the only book worthy of such a title. Here, Klein allows her internet-addled brain to elegantly guide the reader through the doubleness she sees in everything now; from anti-vax theory, to shock jock grifters, to her native Canada’s relationship to its indigenous population. An already seminal masterwork. Patrick Sproull, Books Team

Honourable mentions
Lord Jim at Home by Dinah Brooke (Daunt Books)
The Guest by Emma Cline (Vintage)
Bellies by Nicola Dinan (Transworld)
Scammer by Caroline Calloway (Dead Dad Press)

Yellowface by Rebecca F. Kuang (Borough Press)

An addictive and pacey literary thriller I burned through in a day! If you live for Twitterati drama or devoured Cat Person and Bad Art Friend, you'll enjoy Kuang's heady cocktail of unlikeable characters, unreliable narrators, and a meta evisceration/dissection of the ugly sides of writing and publishing. Katalina Watt, Books Team

Honourable mentions:
The Shadow Cabinet by Juno Dawson (HarperVoyager)
Godkiller by Hannah Kaner (HarperVoyager)
This Is My Body, Given For You by Heather Parry (Haunt Publishing)
The Grief Nurse by Angie Spoto (Sandstone Press)

Jacket cover for BFFs by Anahit Behrooz.

BFFs: The Radical Potential of Female Friendship by Anahit Behrooz (404 Ink)

BFFs is a gorgeous wee exploration of female friendship, viewed through the structure of traditional romantic relationships, reinforced with pop culture and literary citations throughout. I read the whole thing either nodding in agreement, or wondering how Anahit has managed to so eloquently describe some of the most important relationships in my own life. BFFs has incited pub arguments about whether it’s better to have female friends or a boyfriend (to my own boyfriend no less, and the answer is friends), and has made me feel so proud and full of love. Plus, it’s worth the read alone for the excellent references – your Goodreads and Letterboxd wishlists will thank you. Phoebe Willison, Designer

Honourable mentions:
Leaving Cheyenne by Larry McMurtry (Simon Schuster)
Say Nothing by Patrick Radden Keefe (Doubleday)
The Rachel Incident by Caroline O'Donoghue (Knopf)
Hings by Chris McQueer (404 Ink)

In Ascension by Martin MacInnes (Atlantic)

This spare but luminous interior epic builds layer upon layer of meaning towards a beautiful catastrophe of an ending. MacInnes combines a reverential curiosity about the world with deep, delicately rendered emotion: a perfectly formed work of both science-fiction and of literature. Eris Young, Books Team

Honourable mentions:
The Shadow Cabinet by Juno Dawson (HarperVoyager)
Jackal, Jackal: Tales of the Dark and Fantastic by Tobi Ogundiran (Undertow)
The Coiled Serpent by Camilla Grudova (Atlantic)
All the Hidden Paths by Foz Meadows (Tor)