Though I’ve interviewed each coming new year for over a decade, my interview with The Year 2023 was a first. As you may know past years had required me to travel to the Glade of Years, but The Year 2023 was different. Today, for the first time ever, The New Year came here to the bookstore for our interview!
Kenny: Thank you so much for taking time from your overburdened schedule to visit the bookstore.
The Year 2023: It was decreed that I should do some book shopping to pick out a gift for the outgoing year.
Kenny: Did you have anything in mind?
The Year 2023: The cards will decree and you will interpret that decree.
Kenny: The cards, eh? I assume you mean that elegant tarot deck you are carrying?
The Year 2023: Yes. I commanded the author Erin Morgenstern to make a deck for me to use in navigating my duties.
Kenny: I see. And how does it work?
The Year 2023: Behold. I shall make a query: Oh, Phantomwise Tarot, attune thy logos as they were the strands of Destiny’s harp and reveal to me what words will salve the bruising turbulence that was The Year 2022!
Phantomwise Tarot: We are attuned to thy command, oh Year 2023.
The Year 2023: It is well. And now I will draw forth the card.
Kenny: Ah, The Emperor that must surely mean you should procure a copy of The Empire of Ice and Snow.
The Year 2023: Ah yes, what but Arctic cold could salve the scalding burns left in 2022’s ashen wake and how sympathetic is that book’s accounting of noble striving against ill fortune. Well chosen, Kenny!
The Year 2023: Before we get to my book picks, is there anything you would like to ask me about?
Kenny: Sure. Will the rising tide of book bans and challenges recede during your tenure?
The Year 2023: Let’s check. Ah, the Page of Swords. Talk about a double meaning. The answer is no. It will not recede. As long as people want free speech only for themselves, the tide will keep rising on all sides because all sides believe the world is made better by restricting, rather than engaging, in speech.
Kenny: Sigh. Well, let’s turn our attention to books that will make your tenure a richer one.
The Year 2023: Certainly. Let’s start with picture books. Their card is the 7 of Pentacles. As to the meaning of the card, “a figure sits high in the branches, waiting patiently for a well-tended tree to bloom and bring their fruition. Blossoming. Fruit. A time for evaluating progress and planning for the next stage.” Ah, I also see that the tree has four branches and I will thus pick four books.
2023 shall certainly be indebted to Marla Frazee’s In Every Life for its sublime unity of artistry and life. Also, while the transition between adult fiction and children’s picture book writing is often a fraught, one Emma Straub’s absolutely delightful Very Good Hats, makes it look effortless, which takes a great deal of work and skill. My year shall see many books dealing dealing with social ills, but one that stands out for its powerful storytelling is Tameka Fryer Brown’s That Flag. Finally, I love a book that takes risks and pulls it off, which is the calling card of Idan Nen-Barak’s We Go Way Back.
Kenny: How about some novels for children?
The Year 2023: All right then. The card for them is the Page of Pentacles.
As to the meaning of the card, it is “a time for teaching or learning new tricks and setting plans into action. Making dreams a reality.” The books emblematic of those principles shall be Angie Thomas’ middle grade debut the aptly named Nic Blake and the Remarkables and Sara Pennypacker’s Leeva at Last in which Pennypacker’s penchant for asking and answering the big questions positively shines. Also, outstanding will be Kiyash Monseff’s Once There Was which deftly walks in the path of magical veterinary practice such as can be found in Doctor Doolittle, Island of the Aunts, and the books with Hagrid in them. Finally, the best second book in a series goes to A.F. Stedman’s terrific Skandar and the Phantom Rider.
Kenny: Great! And what about some picks for adults?
The Year 2023: Let us draw the card for them. Hmmn, ’tis The World. As for the meaning of the card, we see “a familiar figure who is now more than a child stands holding the tree of the world in their hands. A rabbit has been found, mysteries have been unraveled and stories have reached their conclusions. They stand accomplished and triumphant, ready and waiting for new adventures to being. This is the completion of a cycle. A time of having the world at your fingertips. The universe whole and harmonious, with ever-expanding horizons.” The books which will be the most enchanting portals shall be the glorious advent of Shannon Chakraborty’s new trilogy, The Adventures of Amina al Sirafi. I would be remiss in not mentioning Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah’s searingly entertaining Chain Gang All Stars, T.J. Klune’s epic exploration embodied in In The Lives of Puppets, Carol Johnstone’s unsettlingly atmospheric Blackhouse, Annalee Newitz’s engaginly expansive Terraformers, and Rupert Holmes’ delicious The Masters Guide to Homicide: Murder Your Employer.
Kenny: That is a sensationally figurative book to be sure. Not to be consumed literally, I repeat. What about some second books in a series standouts?
The Year 2023: That would be the sheer triumph of Leigh Bardugo’s Hell Bent, and Edward Ashton’s wonderfully companionable new Mickey 7 novel Antimatter Blues.
Kenny: Thanks so much. Any parting insights you can share given the nefarious currents of climate change, geopolitical aggression and instability, internal polarization, inflation, and the lingering grip of pandemics?
The Year 2023: Certainly. I have drawn the Knight of Pentacles.
Kenny: Ah, so dogs are the answer.
The Year 2023: Yes indeed, Kenny. Show them all the affection they deserve and the year 2023 will be the better for it.
Kenny: Thanks for coming to visit Year 2023!
The Year 2023: My pleasure!
This interview appeared originally in Publishers Weekly Shelftalker.