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Check This Out: Local librarians pick their favorite books of 2023

Host Rachel Barenbaum sat down with her colleagues from the Howe Library in Hanover, New Hampshire to discuss their favorite reads from 2023.

Recommendations by Rachel Barenbaum:

"The Possibilities" by Yael Goldstein

Hannah is having a bad day. A bad month. A bad year? That feels terrible to admit, since her son Jack was born just eight months ago and she loves him more than anything. But ever since his harrowing birth, she can’t shake the feeling that it could have gone the other way. That her baby might not have made it. Terrifying visions of the different paths her life could have taken begin to disrupt her cozy, claustrophobic days with Jack, destabilizing her marriage and making her husband concerned for her mental health. Are the strange things Hannah is seeing just new-mom anxiety, or is something truly weird and sinister afoot? What if Hannah really did unlock a dark force during childbirth?

"Blood Sisters" by Vanessa Lillie

As an archaeologist for the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Syd Walker spends her days in Rhode Island trying to protect the land’s Indigenous past, even as she’s escaping her own.

While Syd is dedicated to her job, she’s haunted by a night of violence she barely escaped in her Oklahoma hometown fifteen years ago. Even though she swore she’d never go back, the past comes calling.

Recommendations by Jaren Jenish:

"Life on Other Planets" by Aomawa Shields

"Life on Other Planets" is a journey of discovery on this world and on others, a story of creating a life that makes space for joy, love and wonder while being driven by one of our biggest questions: Is anybody else out there? It is about the possibility of living between multiple worlds and not choosing, but instead charting, a new path entirely.

"Soil: The Story of a Black Mother's Garden" by Camille T. Dungy

In "Soil: The Story of a Black Mother’s Garden," poet and scholar Camille T. Dungy recounts the seven-year odyssey to diversify her garden in the predominantly white community of Fort Collins, Colorado.

"Dyscalculia: A Love Story of Epic Miscalculation" by Camonghne Felix

When Camonghne Felix goes through a monumental breakup, culminating in a hospital stay, everything from her early childhood trauma and mental health to her relationship with mathematics, shows up in the tapestry of her healing.

In this exquisite and raw reflection, Felix repossesses herself through the exploration of history she’d left behind, using her childhood “dyscalculia”—a disorder that makes it difficult to learn math—as a metaphor for the consequences of her miscalculations in love. Through reckoning with this breakup and other adult gambles in intimacy, Felix asks the question: Who gets to assert their right to pain?

Recommendations by Mike Morris:

"I Keep My Exoskeletons to Myself" by Marisa Crane

In a United States not so unlike our own, the Department of Balance has adopted a radical new form of law enforcement. Rather than incarceration, wrongdoers are given a second (and sometimes, third, fourth, and fifth) shadow as a reminder of their crime and a warning to those they encounter.

"Bad Cree" by Jessica Johns

When Mackenzie wakes up with a severed crow's head in her hands, she panics. Only moments earlier she had been fending off masses of birds in a snow-covered forest. In bed, when she blinks, the head disappears.

Night after night, Mackenzie’s dreams return her to a memory from before her sister Sabrina’s untimely death: a weekend at the family’s lakefront campsite, long obscured by a fog of guilt.

"Small Worlds" by Caleb Azumah Nelson

An exhilarating and expansive new novel about fathers and sons, faith and friendship from National Book Foundation 5 Under 35 honoree and Costa First Novel Award winning author Caleb Azumah Nelson.

"Land of Milk and Honey" by C Pam Zhang

A smog has spread. Food crops are rapidly disappearing. A chef escapes her dying career in a dreary city to take a job at a decadent mountaintop colony seemingly free of the world’s troubles.

There, the sky is clear again. Rare ingredients abound. Her enigmatic employer and his visionary daughter have built a lush new life for the global elite, one that reawakens the chef to the pleasures of taste, touch, and her own body.

Recommendations by Megan Coleman:

"Kinauvit: What's Your Name" by Dr. Norma Dunning

From the winner of the 2021 Governor General's Award for literature, a revelatory look into an obscured piece of Canadian history: what was then called the Eskimo Identification Tag System.

"There's No Way I'd Die First" by Lisa Springer

A spine-tingling contemporary horror novel that follows a scary movie buff as she hosts an elaborate Halloween bash, but soon finds the festivities upended when she and her guests are forced to test their survival skills in a deadly game.


Check this Out features lively conversations with up and coming authors, and serves as a platform for diverse voices and stories to be heard. NHPR and The Howe Library are proud to be able to bring these conversations into your homes and headphones.

Rachel is a prolific writer and reviewer. Her work has appeared in Harper’s Bazaar, the LA Review of Books, and more. She has been a scholar in residence at the Hadassah-Brandeis Institute at Brandeis and her work has been supported by residencies at Ucross and Norton Island.
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