Books We Love 2023 launches Monday. Book of the Day host Andrew Limbong talks about our annual, interactive guide to the years’ best books.
ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
It’s the most wonderful time of the year. Yeah, family, food and holidays – but really, I’m talking about the moment NPR launches our annual Books We Love guide. Whether you are adding to your own to-be-read stack or looking for gifts to give, we have more than 350 book recommendations. You can view them all online starting today. And to guide us through this massive pile, NPR’s Andrew Limbong is here. He’s part of our culture team and host of the NPR Book Of The Day podcast. Hey, Andrew.
ANDREW LIMBONG, BYLINE: Hey, Ari.
SHAPIRO: This is so much more than a top 10 list, but it’s not exactly an exhaustive list. So what is it?
LIMBONG: Yeah. It’s just – you know, to put it bluntly, it’s a collection of all our favorite reads. You know, early in the autumn, we sent out a call out to all of our reporters and critics and stuff like that, and we just compiled this massive list of all of their different tastes and all of their, you know, best reads. And what it is – it’s like a democratic approach to the best-of list. You know, like you said, it’s 350 books. That’s a massive list. We’ve got these filters to help you winnow it down, and I think it’s a pretty good guarantee that you’ll find the right book for either you or your loved one.
SHAPIRO: It’s great because it’s not just capital-I important books. There’s children’s books. There’s cookbooks. There’s romance…
SHAPIRO: …And science fiction. Like, tell us how these filters work.
LIMBONG: All right. And so let’s see. Like, for me personally – let’s just do a live demo here – I like seriously great writing. I like that tag because it’s one where the authors really, like, flex their chops and stuff like that. Another popular tag is staff picks. So we got those two going together. And then let’s do for history lovers. And so, you know, with that we get a couple different options. One looks like a nonfiction book called “There Will Be Fire” by Rory Carroll, which is about the attempts to assassinate Margaret Thatcher during the Troubles. But another is actually Justin Torres’ “Blackouts,” which you wrote about, Ari.
SHAPIRO: Oh, yes, my pick.
LIMBONG: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. And he just won the National Book Award for fiction. So yeah.
LIMBONG: Shout-out to Justin Torres. Yeah.
SHAPIRO: Yes. It was a book that I wanted to read again as soon as I finished reading it the first time. OK. So when you look over this full list, are there any major trends that jumped out to you?
LIMBONG: Yeah, there’s a really interesting – there’s some really interesting books looking at the culture that we consume and really, like, poking at some questions, including, like, the one about, like, representation. So there’s a book called “Broadway Bodies” by Ryan Donovan, which is an examination of, you know, literally the types of body shapes and sizes and abilities that get cast in theater. The other one I want to shout out is – was recommended by Pop Culture Happy Hour co-host Glen Weldon. It’s called “Hi Honey, I’m Homo!” by Matt Baume, and it uses, like, the TV sitcom to examine current-day queer politics and history.
SHAPIRO: What about books on the kids list?
LIMBONG: Yeah. There’s two I want to shout out here, one being “Big” by Vashti Harrison. It’s this beautifully illustrated book about size and acceptance. And there’s another really fun one titled “Mexikid.” It’s a graphic novel by Pedro Martin. It’s about a Mexican American boy who goes on, like, this family road trip to Mexico to pick up his grandfather. And, you know, as adults, we can point to it, being like, oh, it’s a tender look at family and immigration and roots and all that. But, you know, there’s enough, like, potty humor (laughter) for kids to really get into it.
SHAPIRO: That’s NPR’s Andrew Limbong just scratching the surface of Books We Love. You can explore the whole list at npr.org. Thanks, Andrew.
LIMBONG: Thanks, Ari.
(SOUNDBITE OF LOS DESTELLOS’ “PASION ORIENTAL”)
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