2023 was another year full of amazing stories. Lower Macungie Library has compiled a list of a few of our favorites from the last twelve months.
LML Favorites of 2023: Biographies
Spare by Prince Harry
It was one of the most searing images of the twentieth century: two young boys, two princes, walking behind their mother’s coffin as the world watched in sorrow–and horror. As Diana, Princess of Wales, was laid to rest, billions wondered what the princes must be thinking and feeling–and how their lives would play out from that point on.
For Harry, this is that story at last.
Available as a book, CD audiobook, and Large Print.
The Woman in Me by Britney Spears
The Woman in Me is a brave and astonishingly moving story about freedom, fame, motherhood, survival, faith, and hope.
In June 2021, the whole world listened as Britney Spears spoke in open court. The impact of sharing her voice–her truth–was undeniable, and it changed the course of her life and the lives of countless others. The Woman in Me reveals for the first time her incredible journey–and the strength at the core of one of the greatest performers in pop music history.
Written with remarkable candor and humor, Spears’s groundbreaking book illuminates the enduring power of music and love–and the importance of a woman telling her own story, on her own terms, at last.
LML Favorites of 2023: Contemporary Fiction
Pineapple Street by Jenny Jackson
Harley, the eldest daughter in the Stockton family, has never worried about money. The product of generational wealth and capitalist success, Darley renounced her inheritance when she married Malcolm, a first-generation Korean American with a lucrative job in banking. Sasha, Darley’s new sister-in-law, has come from more humble origins, and her hesitancy about signing a prenup has everyone worried about her intentions.
Georgiana, newly graduated from Brown and proud to think of herself as a “do-gooder,” has enough money from her trust that she’s able to work for a pittance at a not-for-profit, where she has started a secret love affair with a senior colleague.
But when a scandal derails Malcolm’s career, leaving Darley financially in the lurch, when Sasha glimpses the less-than-attractive attributes beneath the Stockton brood’s carefully guarded façade, and when Georgiana discovers her boyfriend is married and still in love with his wife, they must all come to terms with what money can’t buy–the bonds of love that can make and unmake a family.
Rife with the indulgent pleasures of affluent WASPS in New York and full of recognizable if fallible characters (and a couple of appalling ones!), it’s about the peculiar unknowability of someone else’s family, about the haves and have-nots and the nuances in between, and the insanity of first love–Pineapple Street is a scintillating, wryly comic novel of race, class, wealth and privilege in an age that disdains all of it.
Yellowface by R.F. Kuang
What’s the harm in a pseudonym?
Bestselling sensation Juniper Song is not who she says she is; she didn’t write the book she claims she wrote, and she is most certainly not Asian American.
Authors June Hayward and Athena Liu were supposed to be twin rising stars: same year at Yale, same debut year in publishing. But Athena’s a cross-genre literary darling, and June didn’t even get a paperback release. Nobody wants stories about basic white girls, June thinks. So when June witnesses Athena’s death in a freak accident, she acts impulsively: she steals Athena’s just-finished masterpiece, an experimental novel about the unsung contributions of Chinese laborers to the British and French war efforts during World War I.
So what if June edits Athena’s novel and sends it to her agent as her own work? So what if she lets her new publisher rebrand her as Juniper Song– complete with an ambiguously ethnic author photo? Doesn’t this piece of history deserve to be told, whoever the teller is? That’s what June claims, and the New York Times bestseller list agrees. But June can’t escape Athena’s shadow, and emerging evidence threatens to bring June’s (stolen) success down around her. As June races to protect her secret, she discovers exactly how far she will go to keep what she thinks she deserves. With its totally immersive first-person voice, Yellowface takes on questions of diversity, racism, and cultural appropriation not only in the publishing industry but the persistent erasure of Asian-American voices and history by Western white society.
LML Favorites of 2023: Fantasy
Fourth Wing by Rebecca Yarros
Twenty-year-old Violet Sorrengail was supposed to enter the Scribe Quadrant, living a quiet life among books and history. Now, the commanding general– also known as her tough-as-talons mother– has ordered Violet to join the hundreds of candidates striving to become the elite of Navarre: dragon riders. But when you’re smaller than everyone else and your body is brittle, death is only a heartbeat away because dragons don’t bond to “fragile” humans. They incinerate them.
With fewer dragons willing to bond than cadets, most would kill Violet to better their own chances of success. The rest would kill her just for being her mother’s daughter– like Xaden Riorson, the most powerful and ruthless wingleader in the Riders Quadrant. She’ll need every edge her wits can give her just to see the next sunrise.
Check out the sequel, Iron Flame, here.
Light Bringer by Pierce Brown
The legendary Reaper, Darrow, to defend Mars from a bloodthirsty would-be conqueror, begins his long voyage home, an interplanetary adventure where old friends will reunite, new alliances will be forged, and rivals will clash on the battlefield.
LML Favorites of 2023: Historical Fiction
The Cuban Heiress by Chanel Cleeton
In 1934, the ultimate vacation becomes a fight for survival as the secrets of two women’s pasts collide aboard a luxury cruise liner on a round-trip voyage from New York to Havana.
A novel inspired by the true story of the tragedy of the SS Morro Castle.
New York heiress Catherine Dohan seemingly has it all. There’s only one problem. It’s a lie. When the Morro Castle leaves port, Catherine’s past returns with a vengeance and threatens her life. Joining forces with a charismatic jewel thief, Catherine must discover who wants her dead– and why. Elena Palacio is a dead woman.
Or so everyone thinks.
After a devastating betrayal left her penniless and on the run, Elena’s journey on the Morro Castle is her last hope. Steeped in secrecy and a burning desire for revenge, her return to Havana is a chance to right the wrong that has been done to her– and her prey is on the ship.
As danger swirls aboard the Morro Castle and their fates intertwine, Elena and Catherine must risk everything to see justice served once and for all.
Emily Wilde’s Encyclopaedia of Faeries by Heather Fawcett
In the early 1900s, a curmudgeonly professor journeys to a small town to study faerie folklore, where she discovers dark fae magic, friendship, and love. Cambridge professor Emily Wilde is good at many things: She is the foremost expert on dryadology, the study of faeries. She is a genius scholar and a meticulous researcher who is writing the world’s first encyclopedia of faerie lore.
But Emily Wilde is not good at people. She could never make small talk at a party–much less get invited to one. And she prefers the company of her books, her dog Shadow, and the Fair Folk to that of friends or lovers. So when she arrives in the hardscrabble village of Hransvik, Emily has no intention of befriending the gruff townsfolk. Nor does she care to spend time with another new arrival: the dashing and insufferably handsome Wendell Bambleby, who manages
to charm the townsfolk, get in the middle of her research, and utterly confound and frustrate Emily.
But as Emily gets closer and closer to uncovering the secrets of the Hidden Ones–the most elusive of all faeries–lurking in the shadowy forest outside the town, she also finds herself on the trail of another mystery: Who is Wendell Bambleby, and what does he really want? To find the answer, she’ll have to unlock the greatest mystery of all–her own heart.
LML Favorites of 2023: Nonfiction
The Art Thief: A True Story of Love, Crime, and a Dangerous Obsession by Michael Finkel
For centuries, works of art have been stolen in countless ways from all over the world, but no one has been quite as successful at it as the master thief, Stéphane Breitwieser. Carrying out over two hundred heists over nearly ten years in museums and cathedrals all over Europe – Breitwieser and his girlfriend, who worked as his lookout, stole more than three hundred objects until it all fell apart in spectacular fashion.
In The Art Thief, Michael Finkel brings us into Breitwieser’s strange and fascinating world.
Unlike most thieves, he never stole for money, keeping all his treasures in a single room where he could admire them to his heart’s content. Possessed of remarkable athleticism and an innate ability to assess practically any security system, Breitwieser pulled off a breathtaking number of
audacious thefts. Yet these strange talents bred a growing disregard for risk and an addict’s need to score, leading Breitwieser to ignore his girlfriend’s pleas to stop until one final act of hubris brought everything crashing down.
Poverty, by America by Matthew Desmond
The Pulitzer Prize-winning, bestselling author of Evicted reimagines the debate on poverty, making a new and bracing argument about why it persists in America: because the rest of us benefit from it.
The United States, the richest country on earth, has more poverty than any other advanced democracy. Why? Why does this land of plenty allow one in every eight of its children to go without basic necessities, permit scores of its citizens to live and die on the streets, and authorize its corporations to pay poverty wages?
In this landmark book, acclaimed sociologist Matthew Desmond draws on history, research, and original reporting to show how affluent Americans knowingly and unknowingly keep poor people poor. Those of us who are financially secure exploit the poor, driving down their wages while forcing them to overpay for housing and access to cash and credit. We prioritize the subsidization of our wealth over the alleviation of poverty, designing a welfare state that gives the most to those who need the least. And we stockpile opportunity in exclusive communities, creating zones of concentrated riches alongside those of concentrated despair. Some lives are made small so that others may grow.
Elegantly written and fiercely argued, this compassionate book gives us new ways of thinking about a morally urgent problem. It also helps us imagine solutions. Desmond builds a startlingly original and ambitious case for ending poverty. He calls on us all to become poverty abolitionists, engaged in a politics of collective belonging to usher in a new age of shared prosperity and, at last, true freedom.
LML Favorites of 2023: Romance
Happy Place by Emily Henry
Harriet and Wyn have been the perfect couple since they met in college—they go together like salt and pepper, honey and tea, lobster and rolls. Except, now—for reasons they’re still not discussing—they don’t.
They broke up five months ago. And still haven’t told their best friends.
This is how they find themselves sharing a bedroom at the Maine cottage that has been their friend group’s yearly getaway for the last decade. Their annual respite from the world, where for one vibrant, blissful week, they leave behind their daily lives, have copious amounts of cheese, wine, and seafood, and soak up the salty coastal air with the people who understand them most.
Only this year, Harriet and Wyn lie through their teeth while trying not to notice how desperately they still want each other. Because the cottage is for sale and this is the last week they’ll all have together there. They can’t stand to break their friends’ hearts, and so they’ll play their parts. Harriet will be the driven surgical resident who never starts a fight, and Wyn will be the laid-back charmer who never lets the cracks show. It’s a flawless plan (if you look at it from a great distance and through a pair of sunscreen-smeared sunglasses). After years of being in love, how hard can it be to fake it for one week…in front of those who know you best?
Available as a book, CD audiobook, and Large Print.
Wildfire by Hannah Grace
Maple Hills students Russ Callaghan and Aurora Roberts cross paths at a party celebrating the end of the academic year, where a drinking game results in them having a passionate one-night stand. Never one to overstay her welcome (or expect much from a man), Aurora slips away before Russ even has the chance to ask for her full name.
Imagine their surprise when they bump into each other on the first day of the summer camp, where they are both counselors, hoping to escape their complicated home lives by spending the summer working.
Russ hopes if he gets far enough away from Maple Hills, he can avoid dealing with the repercussions of his father’s gambling addiction, while Aurora is tired of craving attention from everyone around her and wants to go back to the last place she truly felt at home. Russ knows breaking the camp’s strict “no staff fraternizing” rule will have him heading back to Maple Hills before the summer is over, but unfortunately for him, Aurora has never been very good at caring about the rules.
Will the two learn to peacefully coexist? Or did their one night together start a fire they can’t put out?
LML Favorites of 2023: Science Fiction
Chain-Gang All-Stars by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah
The explosive, hotly-anticipated debut novel from the New York Times-bestselling author of Friday Black is about two top women gladiators fighting for their freedom within a depraved private prison system not so far removed from America’s own.
Loretta Thurwar and Hamara “Hurricane Staxxx” Stacker are the stars of Chain-Gang All-Stars, the cornerstone of CAPE, or Criminal Action Penal Entertainment, a highly-popular, highly-controversial, profit-raising program in America’s increasingly dominant private prison industry. It’s the return of the gladiators, and prisoners are competing for the ultimate prize: their freedom. In CAPE, prisoners travel as Links in Chain-Gangs, competing in death matches for packed arenas with righteous protestors at the gates. Thurwar and Staxxx, both teammates and lovers, are the fan favorites. And if all goes well, Thurwar will be free in just a few matches, a fact she carries as heavily as her lethal hammer.
As she prepares to leave her fellow Links, she considers how she might help preserve their humanity in defiance of these so-called games, but CAPE’s corporate owners will stop at nothing to protect their status quo and the obstacles they lay in Thurwar’s path have devastating consequences.
Moving from the Links in the field to the protestors to the CAPE employees and beyond, Chain-Gang All-Stars is a kaleidoscopic, excoriating look at the American prison system’s unholy alliance of systemic racism, unchecked capitalism, and mass incarceration and a clear-eyed reckoning with what freedom in this country really means from a “new and necessary American voice.
The Ferryman by Justin Cronin
From the New York Times bestselling author of The Passage comes a riveting novel about a group of survivors on a hidden island utopia – where the truth isn’t what it seems.
Founded by the mysterious genius known as the Designer, the archipelago of Prospera lies hidden from the horrors of a deteriorating outside world. In this island paradise, Prospera’s lucky citizens enjoy long, fulfilling lives until the monitors embedded in their forearms, meant to measure their physical health and psychological well-being, fall below 10 percent. Then they retire themselves, embarking on a ferry ride to the island known as the Nursery, where their failing bodies are renewed, their memories are wiped clean, and they are readied to restart life afresh.
Proctor Bennett of the Department of Social Contracts has a satisfying career as a ferryman, gently shepherding people through the retirement process and, when necessary, enforcing it. But all is not well with Proctor. For one thing, he’s been dreaming-which is supposed to be impossible in Prospera. For another, his monitor percentage has begun to drop alarmingly fast. And then comes the day he is summoned to retire his own father, who gives him a disturbing and cryptic message before being wrestled onto the ferry.
Meanwhile, something is stirring. The Support Staff, ordinary men, and women who provide the labor to keep Prospera running, have begun questioning their place in the social order. Unrest is building, and rumors are spreading of a resistance group known as “Arrivalists”-who may be fomenting revolution. Soon, Proctor finds himself questioning everything he once believed, entangled with a much bigger cause than realized, and on a desperate mission to uncover the truth.
LML Favorites of 2023: Thrillers
Bright Young Women by Jessica Knoll
The book opens on a Saturday night in 1978, hours before a soon-to-be-infamous murderer descends upon a Florida sorority house with deadly results. The lives of those who survive, including sorority president and key witness Pamela Schumacher, are forever changed.
Across the country, Tina Cannon is convinced her missing friend was targeted by the man papers refer to as the All-American Sex Killer–and that he’s struck again.
Determined to find justice, the two join forces as their search for answers leads to a final, shocking confrontation.
Red Queen by Juan Gómez-Jurado
Antonia Scott–the daughter of a British diplomat and a Spanish mother–has a gifted forensic mind whose ability to reconstruct crimes and solve baffling murders is legendary. But after a personal trauma, she’s refused to continue her work or even leave her apartment.
Jon Gutierrez, a police officer in Bilbao–disgraced, suspended, and about to face criminal charges–is offered a chance to salvage his career by a secretive organization that works in the shadows to direct criminal investigations of a highly sensitive nature. All he has to do is succeed where many others have failed: Convince a recalcitrant Antonia to come out of her self-imposed retirement, protect her, and help her investigate a new, terrifying case.
The case is a macabre, ritualistic murder–a teenage boy from a wealthy family whose body was found without a drop of blood left in it. But the murder is just the start.
A high-ranking executive and daughter of one of the richest men in Spain is kidnapped, a crime which is tied to the previous murder. Behind them both is a hidden mastermind with even more sinister plans.
The only person with a chance to see the connections, solve the crimes, and successfully match wits with the killer before tragedy strikes again…is Antonia Scott.
LML Favorites of 2023: YA
The Davenports by Krystal Marquis
In 1910, the Davenports are one of the few Black families of immense wealth and status in a changing United States; their fortune was made through the entrepreneurship of William Davenport, a formerly enslaved man who founded the Davenport Carriage Company years ago.
Now, the Davenports live surrounded by servants, crystal chandeliers, and endless parties, finding their way and finding love – even when they’re not supposed to. There is Olivia, the beautiful elder Davenport daughter, ready to do her duty by getting married…until she meets the charismatic civil rights leader Washington DeWight, and sparks fly. The younger daughter, Helen, is more interested in fixing cars than falling in love – unless it’s with her sister’s suitor. Amy-Rose, the childhood friend turned maid to the Davenport sisters, dreams of opening her own business – and marrying the one man she could never be with, Olivia and Helen’s brother, John. But Olivia’s best friend, Ruby, also has her sights set on John Davenport, though she can’t seem to keep his interest…until family pressure has her scheming to win his heart, just as someone else wins hers. The first book in a breathless new series, The Davenports offers a glimpse into a period of African American history often overlooked while delivering a totally escapist, swoon-worthy read. Inspired by the real-life story of C.R. Patterson and his family, it’s the tale of four determined and passionate young Black women discovering the courage to steer their own path in life – and love.
Divine Rivals by Rebecca Ross
When two young rival journalists find love through a magical connection, they must face the depths of hell, in a war among gods, to seal their fate forever.
After centuries of sleep, the gods are warring again. But eighteen-year-old Iris Winnow just wants to hold her family together. Her mother is suffering from addiction, and her brother is missing from the front lines. Her best bet is to win the columnist promotion at the Oath Gazette.
To combat her worries, Iris writes letters to her brother and slips them beneath her wardrobe door, where they vanish—into the hands of Roman Kitt, her cold and handsome rival at the
paper. When he anonymously writes Iris back, the two of them forge a connection that will follow Iris all the way to the front lines of battle: for her brother, the fate of mankind, and love.
How many of our favorites have you read this year? Comment below or tag us on socials using #LowerMacLib!
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