21 Of The Best Books We Read This Year



It’s that time of the year. The ‘best’ time. When all of the end-of-year lists start to be released and everyone from Obama to Dua Lipa share their favourite reads.  We’ve rounded up our own must-reads of 2023 to assist with your holiday shopping and/or summer reading program. From historical fiction to smart crime to a joyful book about trauma, we hope you find your literary match in the mix.

Birnam Wood by Eleanor Catton

Set in an isolated village in New Zealand’s south island, this beautifully written novel has stayed with me long after reading. Protagonist Mira Bunting is the founder of an eco-activist collective, Birnam Wood, which establishes a guerrilla gardening project on land belonging to a shadowy billionaire who turns out to be an arch baddie (no surprises there). Yes, it veers into a tale of good (eco warriors) versus bad (rich tech bros), but it’s also smartly satirical about do-gooding climate warriors, businesspeople, politicians et al, making you smile even as the plot speeds up towards its sticky end. — Felicity

Thirst for Salt by Madelaine Lucas

This mesmerising and melancholy debut tells the story of a young woman on holiday with her mother in an isolated Australian coastal town. There she meets an older man and begins losing herself in the simple, seductive rhythms of his everyday life. Poetic and emotionally astute, Thirst for Salt is a quietly told story of desire and its complexities. Best read on holidays while in a deeply pensive mood. — Laura

Toxic by Sarah Ditum

The ‘90s was a hostile time to be a female celebrity. There was upskirting, US Weekly, and a tabloid culture that fed on female misery and self-hatred. In Toxic, Sarah Ditum looks at the ways in which Britney, Paris, Lindsay and more were betrayed by the media – and society at large – and offers some much-need context into their lives. Guaranteed to have you viewing the ‘90s in an entirely new light. — Anna

Lioness by Emily Perkins

Exploring power, privilege, family wealth and female frustration, Lioness tells the story of one woman’s mid-life awakening after her husband’s dodgy business deal threatens to upturn their comfortable life. Intelligent and seductive, Lioness will elicit as much contemplation about capitalism and the failures of feminism, as it will furious page-turning. — Laura

Little Plum by Laura McPhee-Browne

Not everyone is up for a novel about motherhood and mental illness, but Little Plum by Laura McPhee Brown is the kind of book you will swallow whole in one afternoon. It is a quiet, short novel that offers a perspective on motherhood that is rarely told – but McPhee Brown’s experience as a social worker makes this an illuminating and original read. — Anna

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From Ann Patchett’s tender tale about love, to a surrealist novel about creativity and grief set in the desert, see the full list of titles at PRIMER.


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