Best Books of 2023: the TFF To-Read Guide kicks off an inaugural tradition of Winter Solstice book review wonderment and reading highlights to recap some of the incredibly fun works of fiction we have reviewed this year, and also to mention many bright authors we found this year, in 2023, whose light has further emblazoned fiction, even if we have not yet written a review of their books.
Who does not love a ‘Best Of’ list, especially for books?
TFF To-Read Guide Winter Solstice 2023! All Hail the Holly King!
The following will lean on The Forgotten Fiction’s many deserved book reviews from the past year, and are entirely subjective, being put forward by TFF’s managing editor, namely me.
This will be as unconventional and engaging a series of lists as can be arranged.
At TFF we review newly released books and also books that have been released in years prior to 2023, so our ‘best of list’ contains what we found and loved this year, not necessarily what was published this year.
To be honored by the fiction gods in any year is a reason to rejoice!
So place your heads on the Green Knight’s proverbial chopping block, if you will, and prepare to sacrifice a drop of blood – Ow* that hurt! – to his neck-nicking axe in celebration of fictitious truth, as Sir Gaiwan did.
First, I want no feelings hurt if your books do not make a list here: if you write or read fiction, you are awesome and are to be commended, thank you, beautiful people, because your promotion of the art helps makes the world a bit brighter.
Without further ado, here are the year’s best-of lists from TFF:
The Ray Bradbury Award Winner For Best Speculative Fiction Likely To Blow The Doors Off Your Mind Palace goes to…Alix E. Harrow for the novel The Ten Thousand Doors of January.
This book is extraordinary in every sense of the word.
The prose is vivid, the story poignant and oh so moving, and the characters invoke tears of joy and loss that leaves you reeling.
Bradbury said, you must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you, and this writing by Alix E. Harrow truly invokes that kind of reality-proof power!
Coincidentally, The Ten Thousand Doors of January also wins the 1984: You Made Me Cry…Twice Award, and that does not often happen to me (Orwell always gets me though, which is why I do not reread 1984 every year).
The Red Death Award For A Work Most Likely To Keep You Too Terrified To Sleep Award goes to…Philip Fracassi for his novel Boys In The Valley.
The blast of the winter storm in this book will chill your bones!
But do not fret, because the amount of blood spilled in the turn-of-the-century Catholic orphanage is more than enough to warm your hands.
The writing is top-notch, the story is one for the ages, and the events that unfold within the tale bring up just enough flashbacks to The Exorcist that you will hide under your covers shaking.
The Michael Crichton You Better Check Your Technology At The Door Sci-fi Award goes to…Blake Crouch for Upgrade.
This is phenomenal science fiction, and the evolution of DNA manipulation and self-imposed bio-hacking makes for new frontiers in this one.
The pace is furiously fast, thrilling, and thrash-metal-like in its loud challenges to many aspects of society and civilization in a fun new way that builds on Huxley’s Brave New World.
The Da Vinci Ornithopter Award For Best Small Press Publication goes to…Earthling Publications for their incredible signed limited edition of INSPECTION by Josh Malerman.
This is a book that is so awe-inspiring you fear to open it, because it may melt off your face a la the Ark of the Covenant.
There is no title on the cover, no author name, no letters of any kind.
The sleek, stark red leather sets a mood and the eye is drawn in to where a line of children stand, black silhouettes stamped into the cover, awaiting their inspections.
This coming-of-age genre bender from Malerman is a powerful and moving work that examines humanity at its core.
And as Inspection is a work of art, so too is this jaw-dropping edition from Paul Miller of Earthling, and I am deeply grateful to have gotten my dragon-hoarding claws on one.
The Kurt Vonnegut Satiric Stylin’ Society Needs Kilgore Trout To Give It An Enema Award goes to…Chuck Palahniuk for his novel Not Forever, But For Now.
The joeys that survive this tale will not ever want to come out of their kangaroo mums’ pouches again.
This brilliant work of fiction pushes boundaries well beyond their breaking points.
The ability to make readers despise a main character, abhor them, and then become not only invested, but rooting for that protagonist-antagonist (who the hell knows which it is), despite the epic fallout they may bring about is truly remarkable.
This also takes home the Award For Best Use Of A Hearing Aid In A Work Invoking An Outstanding British Dialect and the Harpo Marx Laugh Until You Snot Comedy In Prose Award.
Last, but not least is the Inklings Award For Best Fantasy In Fiction …goes to Kat Howard for the novel A Sleight Of Shadows.
Kat Howard’s writing is pure magic.
A Sleight Of Shadows is the second book in Kat Howard’s The Unseen World duology, following up the Edgar-award winning An Unkindness of Magicians.
Rarely do so many characters come off the pages with such a presence.
The world is very much rooted in our own, but the magic of these magicians and the immersive imagining of New York City in the Unseen World they inhabit is so alive, so unexpected, and so much more then it lets on.
When the bone trees sprout up near Central Park’s solitary island moaning with the voices of dead magicians long gone, readers are brought over the threshold into something new and wonderful.
Here dear readers is the list of TFF Best Books of 2023:
- The Ray Bradbury Award Winner For Best Speculative Fiction Likely To Blow The Doors Off Your Mind Palace
- Alix E. Harrow – The Ten Thousand Doors of January
- The Red Death Award For A Work Most Likely To Keep You Too Terrified To Sleep Award
- Philip Fracassi – Boys In The Valley
- The Michael Crichton You Better Check Your Technology At The Door Sci-fi Award
- Blake Crouch – Upgrade
- The Da Vinci Ornithopter Award For Best Small Press Publication
- Earthling Publications signed limited edition of INSPECTION by Josh Malerman
- The Kurt Vonnegut Satiric Stylin’ Society Needs Kilgore Trout To Give It An Enema Award
- Chuck Palahniuk – Not Forever, But For Now
- Inklings Award For Best Fantasy In Fiction
- Kat Howard – A Sleight Of Shadows
Happy New Year, Fictioneers!