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Favorite 2023 books, from TCCL librarians

If you’re a Goodreads user, you’ve probably seen your Year in Books. It’s a fun, Spotify-inspired glance at the highlights of your reading year. For example, my shortest book at 128 pages was the delightful Small Things Like These by Claire Keegan. My longest at 816 pages was The Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois by Honore Fanonne Jeffers. The book that was most shelved by other Goodreads users was The Guest List by Lucy Foley. The least shelved was The Damages by Genevieve Scott.

While these facts are certainly entertaining, what I love more is browsing my list and finding the purposeful and, sometimes, unintended connections among the books I read. This activity always allows for some insight into the ideas and issues that were at the forefront of my thinking.

In addition to considering my own favorites, I’m equally intrigued by the books that made impressions on my library colleagues. So rather than providing only a list of my favorites (though, of course, I’ve made that list, too), I thought I’d share what has captured the attention of your local librarians.

Such a Fun Age
/
G. P. Putnam's Sons

Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid
From Sherrie Wallace, Suburban Acres Library Manager

Such a Fun Age is written to explore how relationships develop amongst people and the eventual discord that can ensue specifically when race is involved. Incidents occur that reflect real issues in today's society and that is when readers can experience some cringe-worthy moments. The author writes with a light wrist and readers can see the empathy that some characters possess, come to admire the strength some characters possess and accept the failings and shortcomings of some as well. 

Tropicalia by Harold Rogers
From Sara Martinez, Nathan Hale Library Manager

Set in Rio de Janeiro over the turn of a recent New Year, the central characters are irascible, charming Daniel and his responsible and affectionate sister Lucia. Shadowy men from the U.S. who use people without remorse set off the shock waves that reverberate as a legacy of abandonment and betrayal that the siblings struggle to transcend as they traverse a dark and dangerous Rio teeming with partygoers, pickpockets and tourists, in constant danger from thugs of the outlaw or law enforcement variety. Through that darkness, glimmers of love, hope and redemption shine through Rogers’s prose, by turns shocking and brutal or effervescent and delightful.

The Book Eaters by Sunyi Dean
From Carissa Kellerby, Jenks Library Manager

Fascinating and original debut novel that feels both fresh and familiar like a dark fairy tale. Part fantasy and part horror that puts a new twist on vampire-like beings.

No One Tells You This
/
Simon and Schuster

No One Tells You This by Glynnis MacNicol
From Emily Archibald, Regional Manager

When Glynnis MacNicol turned 40, she had a successful writing career and an exciting life in New York City, but neither of the two things that society expects of a woman her age: a partner or a baby. For any single or childless women over 40 who feel like they are supposed to be sad about what they’re missing, but maybe aren’t? Glynnis is your girl.

What Happened to You? Conversations on Trauma, Resilience, and Healing by Bruce Perry and Oprah Winfrey
From Jennifer Ballard, Owasso Library Manager

A conversation between Oprah and Bruce Perry, a brain and trauma expert, explaining how and why trauma throughout your life affects your brain. It changes the question from "What's wrong with you?" to "What happened to you?" It made me rethink the way I respond to situations on an everyday basis.

The List by Yomi Adegoke
From Ellen Cummings, Director of Customer Experience

This novel is ultimately about the Internet and the power of anonymity for good and for bad. It is a 360-degree narrative, told alternately between fiancées and with a fully developed cast of characters, all flawed but presented so fully that we are reminded that rarely is a person all good or bad.  Its relevancy and timeliness make this a hard-to-put-down read, and one that you immediately want to discuss with others.

Day
/
HarperCollins

And, finally, my pick for 2023:
Day by Michael Cunningham

How can I not offer this as my favorite read of 2023? In November, I had the incredible good fortune to moderate a conversation with Michael Cunningham. The occasion was the release of Day, his first novel in 10 years and the sixth anniversary of Magic City Books. These two reasons for celebration share a very important connection—the co-founder of Magic City Books, librarian extraordinaire, and my mentor and friend, Cindy Hulsey.

Cindy met Michael Cunningham in 2010 and was so moved by his novel The Hours—specifically his depiction of the character Laura Brown—that she chose to live her life differently. This purposeful choice undoubtedly allowed her the space, freedom, and daring to consider opening Magic City Books—an act that has enriched the lives of so many Tulsans.

Cunningham’s novel takes place in Brooklyn over the course of a single day in April in three different years—2019, 2020, and 2021. The pandemic is the setting, but not the subject of this novel that explores a family struggling to live under the weight of unspoken expectations and disappointments. In many ways, Day is the bookend to The Hours, both books asking how we can find meaning in our fragile and all-to-short lives.

Rebecca Howard is the regional manager of Tulsa City-County Library. During her 15 years with Tulsa City-County Library, Rebecca launched the readers advisory service Your Next Great Read, and served as TCCL’s county-wide Literacy Coordinator. Rebecca writes Public Radio Tulsa's monthly column Imprint.