After a fair-to-middling 2022, it’s not unreasonable to hope that 2023 will see several stars burn brightly in the literary firmament. Whether what promises to be the most talked-about book of the year, Prince Harry’s Spare (Random House, January), is included in this number remains to be seen. On the plus side, the prince has the estimable J.R. Moehringer as his ghostwriter; on the negative side is the fact that his every public appearance over the past few years has been so combative that we might expect little more than a 416-page exercise in score-settling.
More reliable pleasures await. Pamela Anderson’s memoir Love, Pamela (HarperCollins, January) should be a revelatory and fascinating dive beyond the usual bimbo clichés. On the other side of the coin, legendary music producer Rick Rubin’s The Creative Act (Penguin, January) is an intriguing-sounding mix of self-help and spirituality, mixed, hopefully, with some high-quality anecdotes about people he has worked with, not least Johnny Cash. Jennifer Wright’s Madame Restell (Hachette, February) is a biography of the so-called “boldest woman in American history: self-made millionaire, a celebrity in her era, a woman beloved by her patients and despised by the men who wanted to control them.” It has a lovely subtitle, too, in which Restell is described as “Old New York’s Most Fabulous, Fearless, and Infamous Abortionist.”
For a more conventional historical biography, Jonathan Eig’s King: A Life (Macmillan, May) promises to be the most revelatory and thorough account of Martin Luther King Jr.’s life yet. Lisa Hilton returns with a new life of the 17th-century playwright and spy Aphra Behn in Unlawful Love: Aphra Behn and Lady Henrietta Berkeley (Penguin, July). And Oliver Soden’s Masquerade: The Lives of Noel Coward (Hachette, April) promises to use new material to put this ever-fascinating cultural figure in his perspective.
Meanwhile, D.J. Taylor’s Orwell: The New Life (Pegasus, May) allows the critic and biographer to revisit the life of one of the 20th century’s most cited — often inaccurately — writers, thanks to the discovery of copious quantities of new material since his earlier biography.
There are more unusual titles. Poet Amy Key’s Arrangements In Blue (Liveright, July) is a deconstruction of what we expect from musical biographies, in which, explicitly inspired by Joni Mitchell’s album Blue, she seeks to “examine the volatile scales of romantic feeling as she has encountered them.” New Yorker critic Janet Malcolm’s final book Still Pictures (F, S & G, January) promises to be a fascinating and rich study of the interplay of memory and photography. Wesley Lowery’s American Whitelash: The Resurgence of Racial Violence in Our Time (HarperCollins, June) will undoubtedly be one of the year’s most controversial titles, due to its unflinching focus on white supremacy in the post-Obama age.
There are, as ever, numerous novels coming out as well. William Boyd’s excellent The Romantic (Knopf, August) was much acclaimed on its British publication last year, and returns this fine writer to a whole-life narrative, this time spanning the 19th century. The best-selling historian Dan Jones moves into fiction with his gritty, thrilling debut Essex Dogs (Penguin, February), but don’t worry — he hasn’t left his minutely detailed medieval settings behind. And Salman Rushdie’s Victory City (Random House, February) would have been highly anticipated under any circumstances, but his near-fatal stabbing last year has turned its publication into An Event That Cannot Be Missed.
Of course, some of the Spectator World’s regular contributors have their own books coming out, too. The literary and cultural critic Francesca Peacock’s eagerly anticipated debut, Pure Wit: The Revolutionary Life of Margaret Cavendish (Apollo, September), explores the life, work and broader historical context of one of the 17th century’s most misunderstood and unjustly maligned figures. Advance word from those in the know suggests that Peacock has produced a revelatory and genre-bending biography. And while modesty forbids me from saying anything about my own forthcoming book, The Windsors at War: The King, His Brother and A Family Divided (St. Martin’s Press, April), the great Tina Brown was kind enough to say that it is “genuinely revealing, politically insightful, scrupulously researched, and has the narrative pace of a champion thoroughbred.”
There are many more titles coming out, all of which we shall be covering in the magazine or online. Some will be brilliant, others atrocious. But in any case, we wish you happy reading throughout 2023.