Indie Books to Watch in Summer 2023
by Joe Walters
Get your pre-order finger ready. Summer 2023 is a season of great indie books.
Summer is a time for heat, for adventure, for vacation, for books. No matter if you’re in love with the season like me and Ray Bradbury or not, I still give you my full permission to dive into something brilliant this season.
Explosive. Groundbreaking. Essential. The indie books on this list are gearing up for big splashes, and I just want to make sure that you see them first. Literary fiction, mystery-thrillers, fantasy romance, climatology, and beyond–this list is anything but exhaustive of the great work indie presses & authors are doing.
So many books have crossed my desk over the last few months, boasting a summer release date. And while many more of them looked great, I can’t help but shout these 23 from the rooftop. Ready to read more? Start here.
Here are 23 indie books coming out in Summer 2023 that you’re going to want to see.
(Everything on Independent Book Review has been independently selected by a very picky group of people. We may earn a commission on items you purchase through our links.)
1. The Lost Journals of Sacajawea
Sacajawea was the interpreter and guide for Lewis and Clark. You’ve heard stories in schools and history books, but you’ve read nothing like Debra Magpie Earling’s The Lost Journals of Sacajawea. This lyrical novel challenges the historical narratives of this wildly impressive human.
2. The Holy Days of Gregorio Pasos
This Latinx American coming of age story has so much for so many, despite being so short. Identity, love, soccer, humor, the sweeping truths of American immigration–The Holy Days of Gregorio Pasos will have you antsy to crack it open every chance you get.
Take it from Dantiel W. Moniz: “Restrepo Montoya’s prose illuminates truths so clearly you can see straight through them to the world around you, and even into yourself.”
3. About the Carleton Sisters
I’m a sucker for a parallel storyline, especially when they converge. This literary novel from Dian Greenwood and She Writes Press is a story of the uniqueness of sisterhood and the uniqueness of sisters. Laura Stanfill, author of one of our impressive indies of 2022, called it, “Incisive, raw, and achingly beautiful.”
4. The Memory of Animals
Claire Fuller has been pumping out hits since 2015. From Our Endless Numbered Days to Bitter Orange and Unsettled Ground, when Fuller releases something, you should probably pay attention. This dystopia is giving off thriller vibes with its pandemic reality, the complications of squid, and survival.
5. Kill Your Darlings
Available May 2023
Author: L.E. Harper
Print Length: 322 pages
How do you write a book about a writer? Tensions are high for authors, even when the room is quiet, when they are pounding away (or not) on their keyboard. You can do that, or you can throw them into the thick of their own novel.
Kill Your Darlings is a writer fantasy that’ll have you second-guessing whether or not that dangerous plot twist is worth including in your next story, and it tackles depression and the need to escape with fervor.
IBR’s Nick Rees Gardner had this to say about Weft in a forthcoming review, “At the intersection of realist literary fiction, surrealism, horror, and crime, Kevin Allardice’s Weft is a powerful and unexpected novel about the ties that bind us to family and the lies we weave to make ourselves feel safe.”
And did I mention it’s about a mother-son con duo who find themselves in a haunted house? Keep an eye out for this one!
7. Dark Park
Dark Factory landed a place on our 2022 Impressive Indies list, and with good reason. Bestselling sci-fi author Kathe Koja has gone above and beyond in building this reality-bending world, and Dark Park is coming in for an encore. If you like experimental sci-fi, this series is going to get you dancing.
8. Pure Cosmos Club
Pure Cosmos Club is an absurd tragicomedy about a painter who falls under the influence of a New Age guru. With his life already slipping out of his grasp, he joins the guru’s cult in search of a solution beyond the daily humdrum materialism of life in today’s America. If you like Vonnegut and Murakami, choosing Binder is a no-brainer.
9. The Wind Began to Howl
This supernatural thriller follows private investigator Isaiah Coleridge into a chilling mix of music, movie magic, and madness. Alma Katsu, author of The Fervor, calls it “hardboiled and trippy at the same time,” while Clay McLeod Chapman calls it a “bareknuckle novella that’s equal parts Hollyweird fiction and conspiracy-laden Catskills noir.”
10. At the Edge of the Woods
This one might look familiar! At the Edge of the Woods received a starred review from Jaylynn Korrell back in February, and it was chosen as an Indie Book of the Month in April. It’s right up our alley with beautiful nature writing combined with real-life thrills and an excellent protagonist.
11. Launch Me to the Stars, I’m Finished Here
I loved Gregorio’s debut, Good Grief, back in 2018, and have been seeking out his books ever since. Why? He’s been pumping out uniqueness for years: from a mixed poetry and short story collaboration to his latest, Rare Encounters with Sea Beasts and Other Divine Phenomena, which gently covers childhood grief and friendship.
Launch Me to the Stars is about a depressed young woman aiming to build a spaceship so she can get to a lightyears-away world. I’m already a huge fan of Gregorio, but give me something about escapism, and I’ll get lost in it for days.
12. The Plotinus
This inventive novella is about a young man who gets arrested and incarcerated by a robot called the Plotinus. With surprising optimism and vibrant hallucinations, this book celebrates the enduring power of imagination. And it’s from the brilliant Rikki Ducornet!
13. Girl Country
Did you hear that Dzanc Books just won the AWP Small Press Publisher Award? And with good reason! We’ve loved a number of Dzanc Books over the years, from The Conviction of Cora Burns to Dioramas by Blair Austin.
So when Girl Country hit my desk, I knew I couldn’t look away. It’s populated by mothers and monsters, mermaids and milkmaids, nuns and bus drivers—women navigating the intersection of the mundane and the magical.
14. Small, Burning Things
Cathy Ulrich’s debut, Ghosts of You, included some of the best flash fiction I’ve ever read. So you could imagine my excitement to see a second collection on its way to print.
Ulrich’s story starters are the best, you’ll see. Kim Magowan, author of How Far I’ve Come, even says, “Cathy Ulrich’s opening lines are magic wardrobes and trapdoors, plummeting readers into enticing, twisted story-worlds where girls disappear into thin air, fall from the sky, ignite in flames, crash through ice, and leave dirty, elusive footprints in their wake.”
15. Prince Zadkiel (The Royal Matchmaking Competition)
Available June 2023
Author: Zoiy G. Galloay
Genre: YA / Fantasy / Romance
Print Length: 437 pages
I couldn’t get you out of here without a romance! Zoiy G. Galloay, author of Princess Qloey, is back with another installment in her trope-filled Royal Matchmaking Competition series.
Find out why IBR’s senior reviewer Alexandria Ducksworth says, “Readers will love Galloay’s diverse fantasy world and its people…filled with elves, dwarves, nymphs, fairies, and more with their own unique cultures.”
16. Maybe There Are Witches
Give me any excuse to dive into witch activity, and I’m taking it. This one is about a middle schooler who, along with a couple weird boys from school, must get to the bottom of the witchy mystery surrounding her long-dead relative and determine if the villagers who killed her might have had a point.
Steven T. Seagle, creator of Ben 10 & Big Hero 6, says, “At a time where we all worry our kids might get lost in their phones, WITCHES poses that they might, instead, get lost in their tomes, and aside from the impending cataclysmic doom they might find within, I can’t think of a better fate for young readers like Clara, or yours.”
17. The Quickening
Elizabeth Rush’s last book, Rising, was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. This brilliant writer has a way of breaking down climate truths and remaining personal, human, and vulnerable in the face of the planet’s melting reality. It’s an expedition to Antartica, and somehow, it takes you even beyond that.
Megha Majumdar, author of A Burning, says, “The Quickening is the Antarctic book I’ve been waiting for—an immersive modern day expedition tale, a reflection on science and knowledge-making, a confrontation with gendered histories, and a brilliant writer’s spellbinding meditation on human mistakes, distant goals, and courage.”
18. Talking Back
If you’re an American history buff, you can’t miss this book. It tells stories of Native women breaking through in the colonial south, making big differences in big ways. With stories you likely won’t hear anywhere else, Talking Back is the epitome of essential historical nonfiction.
19. Is the Algorithm Plotting Against Us?
Artificial intelligence is near impossible to avoid in 2023, and it will only improve and expand from here. In this first book from Working Fires Foundation, AI expert Kenneth Wenger breaks down the complexity and demonstrates its potential and pitfalls.
20. Meet Me Tonight in Atlantic City
Like so many of my northeast neighbors, I know my way around the Jersey Shore. I’ve got memories of its streets, its people, its beaches, its seagulls, its nonsense. Jane Wong’s memoir is humorous and honest and lyrical, “a love song of the Asian American working class.” This story of making a life with what you have is one that will stick with you.
21. Little Beast
Riot In Your Throat has published some of the best books our team has read, like Somewhere, a Woman Lowers the Hem of Her Skirt, so we’re always keeping an eye on what they’re producing. Enter: Little Beast! This new collection by Sara Quinn Rivara is filled with wildlife, witchcraft, and wonder.
22. The Nameless
The Nameless, an autobiographical poetry collection by the author of Gog, explores the speaker’s relationship with the figure of Death as a friend, a tormentor, a savior, and a capricious and mysterious force.
David Kirby says, “It’s not possible for me to imagine a book more challenging or more pleasurable than this one.”
23. Judas & Suicide
This collection navigates religion and suicide by way of Black family and community. Author Allison Raskin says, “Rarely, if ever, have I read such an honest and artistic exploration of what it means to have to develop a will to live…. This book is one small, but crucial, step toward destigmatizing suicide in society and one large leap in helping those who have had their lives touched by it feel less alone.”
Which Summer 2023 books are you excited about?
About the Author
Joe Walters is the founder and editor-in-chief of Independent Book Review. When he’s not doing editorial, promoting, or reviewing work, he’s working on his novel or trusting the process. Find him @joewalters13 on Twitter.
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