The 10 Books You Should Be Reading This December

From thrilling mysteries to an unconventional take on travel

December 4, 2023 6:45 am
December 2023 books
December's a great time for reading, and we have some recommendations.
W.W. Norton/Hat & Beard Press/Flatiron Books

Somehow, against all odds, the end of 2023 is in sight. December can be an interesting month when it comes to books, and the titles covered by this list are no exception. Whether you’re seeking a haunting, philosophical read or an irreverent take on sports or travel, we’ve got something here that you might enjoy. And remember, as the days before the end of the year tick down: books also make great gifts.

"The Price of Humanity"
Amy Schiller, “The Price of Humanity”
Melville House

Amy Schiller, The Price of Humanity: How Philanthropy Went Wrong — And How to Fix It (Dec. 5)

In a recent interview with Public Seminar, Amy Schiller explained some of the thinking behind her new book The Price of Humanity. “In focusing on objectification, abstraction and quantification, philanthropy loses sight of the recreational, non-utilitarian practices that keep us uniquely human,” Schiller said — and in her new book, she memorably chronicles why philanthropy is important, how it became flawed and what can be done to transform it for the greater good.

"Orbital" cover
Samantha Harvey, “Orbital”
Atlantic Monthly Press

Samantha Harvey, Orbital (Dec. 5)

If you’ve spent any time watching scenes of humans in space — whether that’s documentary footage from the ISS or the movie Gravity — you’re already aware of how transformative the experience of watching Earth from space can be. Samantha Harvey — a writer equally at home in fiction and nonfiction — takes the reader on board a space station in this thoughtful, deeply resonant new novel.

"Who Are We Now?"
Blaise Agüera y Arcas, “Who Are We Now?”
Hat & Beard Press

Blaise Agüera y Arcas, Who Are We Now? (Dec. 19)

If news of recent technological developments have you thinking about the nature of AI and the evolution of privacy, rest assured that Blaise Agüera y Arcas is, too. These days, he’s a VP at Google working on big questions on the subject of AI. With his new book, he reckons with grand questions of identity and technology, and the ways in which evolutions within both are shaping the world we live in.

"Prophet Song"
Paul Lynch, “Prophet Song”
Atlantic Monthly Press

Paul Lynch, Prophet Song (Dec. 5)

This year’s Booker Prize went to Paul Lynch, for his fifth book to date — a book called Prophet Song, set in an increasingly authoritarian version of Ireland. “The realities portrayed in this book are universals, and represent not some imminent threat, but what we are always, and what we continue to do to be,” Lynch said in a recent interview — and this acclaimed work should give you plenty to ponder.

Blake Butler, “Molly”
Archway Editions

Blake Butler, Molly (Dec. 5)

Much of Blake Butler’s writing has taken the form of inventive, intense fiction. When he does switch gears into nonfiction, as in his affecting 2011 book Nothing: A Portrait of Insomnia, it’s often to powerful effect. With this book, he chronicles the story of his marriage and the aftermath of his wife’s death, summoning a powerful sense of memory and grief along the way. 

"Becoming Ella Fitzgerald"
Judith Tick, “Becoming Ella Fitzgerald”
W.W. Norton & Co.

Judith Tick, Becoming Ella Fitzgerald: The Jazz Singer Who Transformed American Song (Dec. 5)

It’s been over a century since legendary jazz singer Ella Fitzgerald was born, and her impact on the world of music continues to be felt today. (Adele and Lady Gaga are just two of the many contemporary artists who have cited her work as having been crucial to their development.) And now, Judith Tick has written a comprehensive biography of Fitzgerald — one that both chronicles her life and explores her impact on music around the world.

"The Palace"
Gareth Russell, “The Palace”
Atria Books

Gareth Russell, The Palace: From the Tudors to the Windsors, 500 Years of British History at Hampton Court (Dec. 5)

In the 16th century, during the reign of Henry VIII, construction began on a structure that would eventually loom large over generations of the British Royal Family. The palace in question is Hampton Court, and in this new volume historian Gareth Russell — whose books have encompassed everything from the Titanic to the role of royals in World War I — provides a detailed look into its long history and the series of prominent figures who have spent time there.

A New Book Explores the History of a Groundbreaking Military Family
Doug Melville explored his own family’s history in “Invisible Generals”
"Airplane Mode"
Shahnaz Habib, “Airplane Mode”

Shahnaz Habib, Airplane Mode: An Irreverent History of Travel (Dec. 5)

Given reports of tourists behaving badly and the ethical debates surrounding air travel itself, it’s not hard to see why even some dedicated travelers are second-guessing themselves. In her new book Airplane Mode, Shahnaz Habib reckons with both the troubling aspects of travel and its rewards — a conflict she’s well aware of herself. “There’s this hope that I can find something new, something that will make me a better person, that will make my life more meaningful,” she told Publishers Weekly earlier this year.

"Here In the Dark"
Alexis Soloski, “Here In the Dark”
Flatiron Books

Alexis Soloski, Here In the Dark (Dec. 5)

You might know Alexis Soloski best as a culture reporter for the New York Times, or for her work as a theater critic. With Here In the Dark, she taps into a different set of skills, telling the story of a writer drawn into a mystery in the world of drama — one where illusion and reality blur, and where long-buried secrets emerge at unsettling moments. Looking for a gripping novel to read by the fire this December? This might just fit the bill.

"Unfit and Improper Persons"
Kevin Day, Kieran Maguire and Guy Kilty, “Unfit and Improper Persons”
Bloomsbury Sport

Kevin Day, Kieran Maguire and Guy Kilty, Unfit and Improper Persons: An Idiot’s Guide to Owning a Football Club (Dec. 12)

Celebrities like Ryan Reynolds, J.J. Watt, Natalie Portman and Tom Brady all own soccer teams — or, at least, parts of soccer teams. Have you ever considered it? The authors of Unfit and Proper Persons (who you may know from the podcast The Price of Football) explored the ins and outs of running a soccer team with this new book, providing a detailed look at the aspects of the business you might not pick up on when watching the Premier League, the Bundesliga or MLS.

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