Nonfiction to look out for in 2023 – The Guardian
The first major book event of 2023 was supposed to be the publication of Prince Harry’s long-awaited (OK, opinions may vary) memoir, Spare (Penguin, January). But that was before a certain six-hour Netflix show, as a result of which it seems highly unlikely his literary effort will contain anything we haven’t heard already. So let us, having spared only the briefest of thoughts for his livid publisher, turn our attention instead to some other forthcoming memoirs, in what looks set to be a bumper year for autobiography. At the top of my list are Metamorphosis: A Life in Pieces by Robert Douglas-Fairhurst (Cape, February), a brilliant account of one man’s tilted world following a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis, and Good Girls: A Story and Study of Anorexia (4th Estate, April) by Hadley Freeman, which does what it says on the tin with all of its author’s usual wit and insight. I’m eager to read Blake Morrison’s Two Sisters (Borough Press, February), an account of sibling relationships that will be published 30 years after his classic And When Did You Last See Your Father?, while fans of another poet, Don Paterson, should look out for his memoir, Toy Fights: A Boyhood (Faber, January).
Several excellent music books are headed our way in 2023. I’m enjoying an early proof of Quartet: How Four Women Changed the Musical World (Faber, March), an account by Leah Broad of the trailblazing lives and careers of the musicians and composers Ethel Smyth, Rebecca Clarke, Dorothy Howell and Doreen Carwithen; and of course I can’t wait for Goodbye Russia: Rachmaninoff in Exile (Faber, June) by our own Fiona Maddocks. In a long career, Tony King has been fixer, confidante and muse to, among others, the Beatles, Elton John and Tom Jones, and he has now written a book about the glory of it all: The Tastemaker: My Life With the Legends and Geniuses of Rock (Faber, February). Arrangements in Blue by Amy Key (Cape, April) isn’t strictly a music book, but its author, a poet, uses Joni Mitchell’s album Blue as her guide in a memoir about love, loneliness and the unexpected life. It will also be fun to read Masquerade, a new life of Noel Coward by Oliver Soden (W&N, March), as famous for his songs as his plays.
My polemic of the year is Victoria Smith’s righteously angry Hags: The Demonisation of Middle-Aged Women
You may feel that there is already way too much politics in your life right now. But let me whisper it all the same: it seems likely that Johnson at 10: The Inside Story (Atlantic, April), Anthony Seldon’s new book, co-written with Raymond Newell, will be a gripping, if not to say utterly horrifying, read. One Boy, Two Bills and a Fry-Up by Wes Streeting, the shadow health secretary (Hodder, August), may be a sight better than the average political memoir, and I’m looking forward to This Is Not America: Why We Need a Different Conversation on Race by Tomiwa Owolade (Atlantic, June). Widening the frame, A Stranger in Your Own City: Travels in the Middle East’s Long War (Hutchinson, March) by the award-winning journalist Ghaith Abdul-Ahad has already been likened by William Dalrymple to Michael Herr’s classic Dispatches. My polemic of the year is the deeply researched and righteously angry Hags: The Demonisation of Middle-Aged Women by Victoria Smith (Fleet, March), a book that could not be more necessary (a sword and a shield) in the current climate.
Titles that connect to art and the visual image? In her posthumous final work, Still Pictures: On Photography and Memory (Granta, February), the great journalist Janet Malcolm looks back on her own life with the help of 12 family photographs: a must read for me. I’m also eager to get my hands on copies of Ways of Life: Jim Ede and the Kettle’s Yard Artists by Laura Freeman (Cape, May), and Art Monsters: Unruly Bodies in Feminist Art by Lauren Elkin (Chatto & Windus, July). The consoling and beautiful All the Beauty in the World (Bodley Head, March) by Patrick Bringley, once a guard in New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, is part memoir and part portrait, and has already been described as “astounding” by Alex Ross of the New Yorker.
Some books don’t, of course, fit into easy categories. Fans of the critic Ian Penman, or of the German film director Rainer Werner Fassbinder (there may be some who adore both), should pre-order Thousands of Mirrors (Fitzcarraldo, April), the former’s wilfully fragmentary study of the latter. For my part, I’m a fan of piers, promenades and 360-degree melancholia, for which reason I’m hoping that The Seaside: England’s Love Affair by Madeleine Bunting (Granta, May) will live up to the promise of its title, while nostalgia of a different kind will also, I hope, be found in Killjoy by Jo Cheetham (Picador, March), a funny and inspiriting account of one postgraduate student’s life-changing decision to join the No More Page 3 campaign: a first book that couldn’t be more up my strasse if it tried.