If you’re hoping to pad out your “to be read” shelf with some of 2023’s most anticipated books, help is at hand. As Joanna Davey, publisher at Hodder Faith, shares the ten books she’s eagerly anticipating this year.
We All Want Impossible Things by Catherine Newman
Stories of friendship are my favourite kind of story as they help me value and celebrate my own relationships with those with whom I’m journeying through life. We All Want Impossible Things follows the lives of lifelong friends, Edi and Ash as they navigate a cancer diagnosis. But despite the heavy subject matter, this promises to be “snorty-hilarious”. Penguin suggests it’s ideal for Nora Ephron fans and readers who loved 2021’s sensation, Sorrow and Bliss – which is 100 per cent me, so I can’t wait to pop it into my suitcase for my summer holiday read.
The Fraud by Zadie Smith
My first encounter with Zadie Smith’s writing was devouring her Booker-Prize-shortlisted NW one long, hot summer when I lived in Willesden Green, NW6, and I’ve been a fan ever since. NW was an acutely observed tragicomedy of modern London life, whereas The Fraud is a historical novel – a genre I don’t usually care for, but I’m hoping Smith’s dazzling writing will change my mind. Centring on the Tichbourne trial, a Victorian cause celebre that captivated Victorian England, The Fraud promises to be a thought-provoking study on truth and falsehood and why we believe the stories of some and not others.
Don’t Think, Dear by Alice Robb
Recently, I started singing lessons and my new hobby is reawakening a childhood musicality that has lain dormant for years alongside painting, drama and my major teenage passion: ballet. I used to read any book about ballet I could get my hands on, so when I saw this one by Alice Robb on the publishing horizon, those dancing memories came flooding back. This re-examination of the art of ballet by a former ballerina analyses its control, abuse and eating disorders in a post-#MeToo world, yet considers how the discipline of ballet might offer a form of liberation and sanctuary from everyday and existential pressures.
The Night Is Normal: A Guide through Spiritual Pain by Dr Alicia Britt Chole
I have not – yet – experienced the fabled “Dark Night of the Soul”, but several friends have, or are going through it at the moment. I often feel at a loss as to how to counsel those for whom their once close Father God seems distant, feeling that my hope and positivity comes across as flat, unnuanced and lacking in understanding. In 2023 I aim to read more books that help me come alongside my discouraged friends, and The Night is Normal is one on my list. In it, Alicia Britt Chole offers practical and soulful tools for navigating spiritual darkness and uncovering the priceless treasures too precious to be sourced in sunshine.
Endless Grace: Prayers Inspired by the Psalms by Ryan Whitaker Smith, Dan Wilt
Last year I was given a copy of Sheltering Mercy, the first of this two-volume series of prayers inspired by the Psalms. It was a meaningful gift, and I used it and benefitted from it daily in 2022. I’m pleased to see that Book 2, containing the authors’ prayerful reflections on Psalms 76-150 is coming out in March. On those days where prayer doesn’t flow so easily, these gorgeous books – which are illustrated with compelling linocuts – will lead you back to the Scriptures and the peace and safety of the Good Shepherd.
I, Julian by Claire Gilbert
I, Julian is the stunning retelling of Julian of Norwich’s story – the account of a medieval woman who dares to tell her own story, battling grief, plague, the Church and societal expectations to do so. Compelled by the powerful visions she had when close to death, Julian finds a way to live a life of freedom – as an anchoress, bricked up in a small room on the side of a church – and to write of what she has seen. The result, passed from hand to hand, is the first book to be written by a woman in English, Revelations of Divine Love. Tender, luminous, meditative and powerful, Julian writes of her love for God, and God’s love for the whole of creation.
Lighting the Beacons: Kindling the Flame of Faith in our Hearts by Jill Duff
Lighting the Beacons by Bishop Jill Duff arrives in February and it’s been described by Philip North, Bishop of Burnley, as “A high-energy fix of joy”. I don’t know about you, but that sounds like something I want for 2023! Inspired by a recurring vision from the Holy Spirit, Jill writes of how God’s love ignites a flame in our hearts that – whether it’s a blazing beacon, or a flickering candle – can bring light, hope and joyful transformation to the darkest corners of our communities. Inspiring stuff!
Sober Spirituality: The Joy of a Mindful Relationship with Alcohol by Erin Jean Warde
Several years ago I became vegan, convicted that I couldn’t truly claim to love my neighbour or serve the poor by continuing to eat meat and dairy, knowing the damage those industries do to the environment, and in turn, the homes of the world’s poorest people. My faith motivated me to change what I ate, and in this book, Episcopal priest Erin Jean Warde tells of how her faith made her reconsider what she drank, and provides encouragement, wisdom and theological reflection for Christians who are curious about changing their relationship with alcohol.
God Save the King
Do you know the second verse of the national anthem? No, neither do I! But this might be the year to learn it as there will be many a chance to sing out “God Save the King” this summer, as the Coronation of King Charles takes place. This a gorgeous picture book that I will be buying for all my godchildren as a souvenir of this historic occasion. Introduced by Classic FM’s Anne-Marie Minhall, God Save the King tells the story of our national anthem and celebrates all things British in delightful illustrations that capture traditions old and new from around the country.
Romans: A Letter That Makes Sense of Life by Andrew Ollerton
Anyone who has heard Dr Andrew Ollerton speak will know just how gifted he is in communicating the Bible in a creative way. In Romans, Andrew applies his trademark straightforward teaching style to Romans – one of the most theologically complex books of the Bible – to discover how an understanding of Paul’s longest letter unlocks the whole story of Scripture and helps us make sense of life. The book accompanies an upcoming course on Romans from Bible Society and I will certainly be recommending both to my house group leaders this year.