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Great Reads for 2024
by
Posted On December 1, 2023
To mark the end of the year, NewsBreaks and Information Today contributors are sharing the (already published and to-be-published) books they loved in 2023 and are most looking forward to reading in 2024—whether for pleasure, education, or both. I hope this helps you find your next great read! 

 —Brandi Scardilli, NewsBreaks and Information Today editor


I have to start by mentioning Mother-Daughter Murder Night, the smash hit first novel by Information Today, Inc.’s own Internet Librarian keynote speaker, Nina Simon. In it, three generations of strong women learn much about themselves and their relationship to each other as they work together to solve a mystery in their coastal California town. Attendees of Internet Librarian in Monterey will recognize the environs!

Another one of the best books I read in 2023 was Northeaster: A Story of Courage and Survival in the Blizzard of 1952 by Cathie Pelletier. It is the story of a once-in-a-century snowstorm in New England, but instead of being solely about the storm itself, it is more about individual lives and how they were affected. It was striking to think of living in a time when weather reports were not readily available to the average citizen and the dangerous consequences of not having that information.

I also really enjoyed Owner of a Lonely Heart by Beth Nguyen, which speaks to the immigrant experience from a unique perspective, and The Forgotten Girls: A Memoir of Friendship and Lost Promise in Rural America by Monica Potts, which explains how external forces such as inheritance and education shape the lives of rural Americans, as seen through her experience growing up in Arkansas.

On the lighter side, I really enjoyed Meredith, Alone by Claire Alexander. Readers who are librarians will delight in cheering on the main character—a fan of cats, Emily Dickinson, jigsaw puzzles, and baking—who is trying to emerge from a traumatic event in order to reclaim her life.

In 2024, I am looking forward to reading The Six: The Untold Story of America’s First Women Astronauts by Loren Grush and Yellowface by R.F. Kuang.

—Amy Affelt

Mother-Daughter Murder Night book cover Northeaster book cover

Owner of a Lonely Heart book coverThe Forgotten Girls book coverMeredith, Alone book cover

The Six book coverYellowface book cover


My favorite book of 2023 (and indeed, the decade so far) is Happiness Falls by Angie Kim. It is the story of a suburban Washington, D.C., family consisting of a retired businessman, his Korean academic wife, 20-year-old boy-and-girl twins, and a 14-year-old son with Angelman syndrome. Angelman syndrome is a rare genetic disorder with symptoms similar to autism that renders him virtually unable to communicate. When the father and the young son go for a walk along a river park, the son comes back alone, covered in blood, with no sign of the father. As days go on, we all learn secrets about the missing father, who was researching the concept of happiness, using his unwitting children as test subjects. Eventually, we learn the truth thanks to a breakthrough in communicating with the son. Rarely does one read a novel with this level of actual information as well as a compelling story.

Angie Kim at ALA 2023

Author Angie Kim at the 2023 ALA Annual Conference in Chicago (Photo by Terry Ballard)

Currently, I am reading Barbra Streisand’s massive memoir, My Name Is Barbra, in ebook format (the audiobook runs an incredible 48 hours long). It is most exciting in the beginning—in the early ’60s, she went from being a virtually homeless nightclub performer in Manhattan to a budding superstar who conquered Broadway, television, and the recording industry. Along the way, there were men in her life. Lots of them.

The book I am looking forward to reading in 2024 is The Blind Spot: Why Science Cannot Ignore Human Experience by Adam Frank, Marcelo Gleiser, and Evan Thompson. I often read books about quantum physics and beyond the outer limits of science, simply because I can’t quite understand them, but every new book helps fill the gaps in my knowledge. In this case, the authors propose that “scientific knowledge is a self-correcting narrative made from the world and our experience of it evolving together.”

My favorite history author, Candice Millard, is working on a new project, but it will likely be 2025 or so before we get a look at it.

—Terry Ballard

Happiness Falls book coverMy Name Is Barbra book coverThe Blind Spot book cover


I am currently reading The Gerson Therapy by Charlotte Gerson and Morton Walker. I have read others this year, but this is the one that stands out.

—Sophia Guevara

The Gerson Therapy book cover


My favorite discovery of 2023 was the existence of the well-reviewed book Loremasters and Libraries in Fantasy and Science Fiction: A Gedenkschrift for David Oberhelman (2022). But alas, this 400-page book of heavyweight multiauthor scholarship remains tantalizingly unread by me, despite it also being available as a budget-priced ebook. So many books, so little time. If only I had a time machine or could find an ancient enchanted grove where time passes differently!

The book that did take up most of my time, on and off, was Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull’s weighty 2014 revision of The Lord of the Rings: A Reader’s Companion. This is 976 oversized pages of annotations to the most important novel of the 20th century. It probably helps here if one knows The Lord of the Rings almost by heart and if one has read a great deal of Tolkien scholarship. Otherwise, a compete read-through of Hammond & Scull’s dense tome would be a head-spinning experience. Not a book to give to the average Tolkien fan for Christmas.

I hope to get around to reading the final (no, really final this time) edition of the much-revised biography Arthur C. Clarke: Odyssey of a Visionary (2022). The acclaimed Tolkien’s Faith: A Spiritual Biography (2023) is another biography on my tablet waiting to be read.

I will probably have to write a long and perhaps rather critical joint review of Adventurous Liberation: H.P. Lovecraft in Florida and Midnight Rambles: H.P. Lovecraft in Gotham. Both volumes use specific topographies as lenses through which to examine the most influential writer of the 20th century.

There will doubtless be more books to add weight to my trembling to-read shelf in 2024, including novels and nonfiction science writing. Matt Ridley (The Rational Optimist) may well have a new book out in 2024, and after hearing some recent interviews and speeches, I think I know the topic already. If it’s what I think it is, it will be on top of my nonfiction must-read pile.

—David Haden

Loremasters and Libraries in Science Fiction and Fantasy book coverThe Lord of the Rings: A Reader's Companion book coverArthur C. Clarke: Odyssey of a Visionary book cover

Tolkien's Faith book coverMidnight Rambles book coverThe Rational Optimist book cover


I’ve read eight five-star books this year, which is new terrain for me as a notoriously hard-to-please reader. I’m finding it hard to choose just a few, so below is a little taste of each to spark your curiosity.

First: the nonfiction. Wannabe: Reckonings With the Pop Culture That Shapes Me by Pop Culture Happy Hour podcast co-host Aisha Harris is incisive and analytical with a healthy dash of Millennial humor. While You Were Out: An Intimate Family Portrait of Mental Illness in an Era of Silence by Meg Kissinger is a daughter’s portrait of her large 1960s family dealing with mental illness while not daring to speak its name; she punched me in the heart with her honest writing. The In-Between: Unforgettable Encounters During Life’s Final Moments by Hadley Vlahos shines light on the underpaid, underappreciated hospice profession. Have tissues nearby—you’ll need them. Amy Bloom’s In Love: A Memoir of Love and Loss takes a tender yet unflinching look at ending life on your own terms and takes you through what it was like for Bloom to walk by her husband’s side as he did just so after being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.

Second: the fiction. Happiness Falls by Angie Kim is one I finished recently after being in a big reading slump, and boy did it reignite my excitement for novels. Come for the mystery, stay for the characters. Everyone Here Is Lying by Shari Lapena was just as fast-paced and insane as I was expecting. The title could also be “Everyone Here Is Unhinged.” Obsessed. Ashley Audrain is the best mystery thriller writer active today—there, I said it. Her sophomore novel The Whispers has complex characters, twists, turns, and situations that will keep you holding your breath until the final sentence. If you’re contemplating parenthood in your imminent future, this isn’t for you. Finally, the best book I read so far this year was Tender Is the Flesh by Agustina Bazterrica. This book came out in 2017, so I almost didn’t include it here, but since it’s the best worst book I’ve read—probably in my entire life—I couldn’t leave it out. If Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle was set in present day and the meat was people, it would be this book. Enjoy!

As for next year, The Women by Kristin Hannah (Feb. 6) piqued my interest with its intersection of women’s issues and the Vietnam War. Murder Road by Simone St. James (March 5) is the newest thriller from a novelist who is great at mixing the spine-chilling and the supernatural. Amanda Montell returns on April 9 with The Age of Magical Overthinking: Notes on Modern Irrationality. Her last book, Cultish, is a favorite of mine, and I can’t wait to read her sharp writing turned toward cognitive biases. And last but not least, I would be remiss not to do a double shout-out for my fave, Shari Lapena, who is scheduled to publish what I’m sure is yet another banger titled What Have You Done on July 30. 

—Jessica Hilburn

Wannabe book coverWhile You Were Out book coverThe In-Between book cover

In Love book coverHappiness Falls book coverEveryone Here Is Lying book cover

The Whispers book coverTender Is the Flesh book cover

The Women book coverMurder Road book cover

The Age of Magical Overthinking book coverCultish book coverWhat Have You Done book cover


I just finished The Midnight Hour by Elly Griffiths, the sixth in a series of mystery stories set in Brighton, England. The first book in the series was set in 1950. This one is 1965, so she’s progressed 15 years in six books, allowing her characters to age in interesting ways. Now, about that series. Griffiths did something very un-librarianly with this sixth book. She changed the name of the series. Books 1–5 are listed in the front of the book as “The Magic Men” series. Suddenly, in book 6, the entire series has been renamed “The Brighton Mysteries” series. If your library, like my local public library, shelves series together, this arbitrary renaming causes consternation when shelving. No normal shelver is likely to place The Midnight Hour next to Now You See Them, which is Book 5 in the same series but not the same-named series. As some of my British friends would say, “Crikey!”

bookshelf containing the series The Magic Men/The Brighton Mysteries in the order Marydee would choose

How I would be tempted to shelve the series if my public library would let me (Photo by Marydee Ojala)

With AI permeating so many parts of our personal and professional lives, I’m looking forward to reading AI for the Rest of Us by Phaedra Boinodiris and Beth Rudden. Phaedra and Beth have spoken at Information Today, Inc. conferences Computers in Libraries and Internet Librarian, and Beth is the conference chair for Enterprise AI World, so I know from personal experience how engaging and knowledgeable they are.

—Marydee Ojala

The Midnight Hour book coverAI for the Rest of Us book cover


2023:

The Coming Wave by Mustafa Suleyman describes the tsunami of world-transitional change that’s being wrought by artificial intelligence and synthetic biology. It’s at once deeply informed and a page-turner and is amply stocked with cautionary warnings.

2024:

Determined is by Robert Sapolsky, a prominent behavioral scientist who can write marvelously for the rest of us. The book tackles the ultimate question: Do we have free will?

—Mick O’Leary

The Coming Wave book coverDetermined book cover


2023:

Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver (fiction). I really liked that this book paralleled David Copperfield, but with a decidedly modern flavor—an interesting approach to take.

The Best Minds: A Story of Friendship, Madness, and the Tragedy of Good Intentions by Jonathan Rosen (nonfiction). A fascinating (and heartbreaking) story of the different paths two young boys’ lives took. Really wish they’d move forward with the movie that Ron Howard had planned to make. 

I didn’t read any business books (yet!) this year; I’m reading too many blogs and listening to too many podcasts, maybe.

2024:

Given my poor showing in reading business books this year, I’d like to make my way through The New York Times’ top 10 bestsellers in biz books, starting with Atomic Habits by James Clear. I have them all on my Goodreads want-to-read list.

—Linda Pophal

Demon Copperhead book coverThe Best Minds book coverAtomic Habits book cover


My library’s book club has introduced me to so many books I’ve loved over the years. We started this year with By Her Own Design by Piper Huguley, a piece of historical fiction inspired by the life of Ann Lowe, a Black fashion designer who created Jackie Kennedy’s wedding dress (among other frocks for the elite) but never got the credit she deserved for her artistry. Huguley illuminates Lowe’s life with both candor and kindness toward her subject.

We also read an incredible addition to the canon of works about missing and murdered Indigenous (MMIW) women called Firekeeper’s Daughter. It manages to be hopeful despite its serious subject matter, and it’s the kind of novel you don’t want to end because you fall in love with the characters. Luckily, there’s another story set in the same world—not technically a sequel—called Warrior Girl Unearthed. It has maybe the most infuriating-yet-lovable teenage protagonist I’ve ever had the pleasure to read about. (She’s the niece of the protagonist of the first book.) Author Angeline Boulley is part of the Ojibwe Tribe, and she set her novels in her childhood community of Sault Ste. Marie in Michigan, which has a large Ojibwe population.

Another favorite from this year is The Villa by Rachel Hawkins. Part gothic horror and part psychological thriller, this novel has some scenes I still can’t get out of my head months later. It’s haunting and creepy, with an ending I didn’t see coming.

I’m currently reading MCU: The Reign of Marvel Studios by Joanna Robinson, Dave Gonzales, and Gavin Edwards. It’s quite a tome, taking readers through the entire history of Marvel Studios and digging into the production process of the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies thanks to interviews with the people making them. No matter what Marvel’s current struggles are, this book reminds fans that the MCU has been a singular feat in the history of the movie business.

Books on my to-read list next year are Only This Beautiful Moment by Abdi Nazemian (he’s so good at tugging at my heartstrings in the best way), Endgame: Inside the Royal Family and the Monarchy’s Fight for Survival by Omid Scobie (I’m a fan of Prince Harry, so I’m curious if Scobie can get me to sympathize with the other royals), So Fetch: The Making of Mean Girls (And Why We’re Still So Obsessed With It) by Jennifer Keishin Armstrong (Mean Girls turns 20 in 2024, and I’m looking forward to all the nostalgia feels with this one), and Lies and Weddings by Kevin Kwan (his books—which include the Crazy Rich Asians trilogy—crack me up).

—Brandi Scardilli

By Her Own Design book coverFirekeeper's Daughter book coverWarrior Girl Unearthed book cover

The Villa book coverMCU book coverOnly This Beautiful Moment book cover

Endgame book coverSo Fetch book coverLies and Weddings book cover


My reading in 2023 was highlighted by discovery and rediscovery that reinforced one another. Re-reading Edith Hall’s Aristotle’s Way led me to explore Aristotle’s own Nicomachean Ethics, Poetics, and Politics for the first time, thereby gaining a fuller understanding of his wisdom and his folly. Re-reading Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking, Fast and Slow in the light of current concerns about misinformation and disinformation led to my article in the November/December 2023 issue of Information Today. Lastly, I listened to the audiobook of Ron Powers’ biography of Mark Twain (Mark Twain: A Life), which motivated me to delve into my copy of Twain’s own approved compilation of his work—25 volumes published in the early 20th century—for the first time. As a result, I have a whole new appreciation of Twain’s genius. And by the way, Twain’s description in Life on the Mississippi of the process of becoming a licensed riverboat pilot can be read as a brilliant study in knowledge management.

In 2024, I look forward to furthering my exploration of Twain’s work. I don’t expect to finish all 25 volumes, though. Along the way, I’m confident that unanticipated treasures will present themselves too.

—Dave Shumaker

Aristotle's Way book cover Aristotle Collection book cover Thinking, Fast and Slow book cover 

Mark Twain: A Life book cover Life on the Mississippi book cover


Brandi Scardilli is the editor of NewsBreaks and Information Today.

Email Brandi Scardilli

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