The Great Winnowing: Choosing Books for Close Reads 2023
Join the Close Reads crew as we decide what books to read on the show next year!
It’s been said that this is Close Reads Christmas.
The last two days we have been revealing (on the Close Reads Facebook group and on the Goldberry Studios Instagram page) the books we will be discussing on the show in 2023. And now that the whole list has been unveiled it’s time to share them all in one place. So jump in your car, grab your running shoes, start the laundry . . . prep for whatever you do when you’re listening . . . and click play, because on this episode you can listen in as we decide what to listen to, winnowing the list from 35 finalists to 12 winners.
Or just scroll down and check out the list. Either way, we’re excited about this list and can’t wait to dig into the books with you.
Note: If you want to discover the list by listening don’t read below this point.
Please note this list is not the order in which the books will be discussed, which is still being determined.
The Scarlet Letter / Nathaniel Hawthorne
This first book won't surprise you, if you've been paying attention. It's a bonafide classic of American Lit. A book ruined by many a bad high school English class. It's one of those books that is outshined by its reputation far too often. We will be using Karen Swallow Prior's lovely edition--and, yes, she will be joining us!
Persuasion / Jane Austen
This book is a classic, beloved for nearly two hundred years for its wit and wisdom. It's hilarious. It's poignent. And it features one of the great female characters in English literature.
The Picture of Dorian Gray / Oscar Wilde
This book has been requested many times over the years. It's a complex and mildly controversial example of a gothic novel. It's got it's detractors; it's got its super fans. It's super literary; it's pretty campy. It's a great novel for debate.
Pygmalion / George Bernard Shaw
You might primarily know our next book as the inspiration for a movie starring Audrey Hepburn, but it's great in its own right. It's our annual dive into a play. It's inspired by Greek mythology. It's absurdly readable.
The Optimist’s Daughter / Eudora Welty
Original Close Reader, Mary Jo Tate, has been singing the praises of our next author for years, and you know what, it is time. It's time to do a book by one of the great Southern writers, by one of the great female writers, by the one of the great American writers period. It is time to do a Eudora Welty novel.
One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich / Alexander Solzhenitsyn
Our next book is Tim' personal choice--and it's a worthy one. A book that is important for more than its literary merit, it also played a key role in revealing (and even changing) history. It isn't always easy to read, but it's a necessary inclusion in any list of the most essential books of the twentieth century.
The Diary of a Country Priest / Georges Bernanos
One of our favorite recurring genres here at Close Reads is what I will just call the Great Religious Novels of the twentieth century. Think, say, The Power and the Glory. The 2023 example of that is perhaps best known for being the inspiration for one of the great religious movies ever made (same name). It is French. It is pretty Catholic. It's lyrical.
Things Fall Apart / Chinua Achebe
This book may be relatively slight in terms of page count. It's one of the shorter novels we've done on Close Reads (although not the shortest we will read next year!). But it packs a literary punch in the form of a profound and influential historical novel.
The Moving Toyshop / Edmund Crispin
Every year we try to read a mystery of some kind, typically during the dreary winter months. Well this year's mystery is a bit of a cult classic, a hilarious and fun murder mystery with a clever puzzle, delightful characters, and dazzling proze. It is one part Wodehouse, one part Dorothy Sayers.
Everything Sad is Untrue / Daniel Nayeri
Every year we give each of our contributors the opportunity to choose a book. We also like to do a children's novel every now and then. Well our next book for 2023 is Heidi White's choice, a delightful young adult novel that has been getting more buzz in this group than a post criticizing Keira Knightly.
The Netanyahus / Joshua Cohen
David’s choice, this 2021 novel is a strange, hilarious, melancholy, brilliant, bizarre, philosophical novel that some of you may find confounding but, hey, it DID just win the Pulitzer prize. It's about history. It's about Jewish culture. It's about America. It's a contemporary novel that offers a lot to think about.
A Canticle for Liebowitz / William M. Miller Jr.
Next year, our friend Sean Johnson, who has been on the East of Eden episodes, will be helping us out here and there, so we felt it was only right to let them him choose a book, too. Luckily, he chose a fascinating book that has been nominated a number of times over the last few years. It's a post-apocalyptic science fiction novel about monks in the American Southwest who are working to rebuild culture. It's an award-winning classic of the genre, that some critics claim is as good as Graham Greene and Evelyn Waugh.