Recommended Books of 2023

December 23, 2023

Cheers to this year’s collection of books published by UCLA English alumni, faculty, students and staff.

Extraordinary Aesthetes: Decadents, New Women, and Fin-de-Siècle Culture (University of Toronto Press) by Professor Joseph Bristow. Bristow served as editor for the new essay collection, which draws special attention to contributions artists, poets, and novelists made to the cultural world of the late 1880s and 1890s. Learn more about Bristow in our recent “What We’re Reading” interview, which also spotlights his previous work, Oscar Wilde on Trial: The Criminal Proceedings, from Arrest to Imprisonment.

Each Luminous Thing: Poems (Persea) by alum Stacie Cassarino. This new work by Cassarino won Persea Books’ 2023 Lexi Rudnitsky Editor’s Choice Award and was recommended in The New York Times Book Review’s “Newly Published Poetry.” Learn more about Cassarino here.

Faunalia (Gods & Radicals/Ritona Press) by alumna Alice Fulmer. Fulmer is a current doctoral student at UCSB studying medieval language and literature, contemporary poetry, and the history of gender and sexuality. Faunalia is Fulmer’s debut poetry collection. Learn more about Fulmer here.

At the Hour Between Dog and Wolf (Ig Publishing) by alum Tara Ison. Ison’s previous work includes co-writing the cult film Don’t Tell Mom The Babysitter’s Dead. Her new book is included in CrimeReads‘ 2023 list of “Best Historical Fiction” and in The New York Times Editors’ Choice. Learn more about Ison here.

Living Colour’s Time’s Up (Bloomsbury) by alum Kimberly Mack. Mack is an associate professor of English at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. Mack’s latest book was described by PopMatters as a “satisfying addition” to Bloomsbury’s acclaimed 33 1/3 book series. Mack is also the author of Fictional Blues: Narrative Self-Invention from Bessie Smith to Jack White (University of Massachusetts Press), which won the 2022 College English Association of Ohio’s Nancy Dasher Award. Learn more about Mack here.

Open Leaves / poems from earth (Black Sunflowers Poetry Press) by Professor Harryette Mullen. In April, Mullen was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. She has presented and discussed her poetry at the Hammer Museum, among others. Learn more about Mullen and her new poetry collection here.

Commitment (Knopf) by Professor Mona Simpson. Simpson’s latest work centers on a single mother’s collapse and the fate of her family after she enters a California state hospital in the 1970s. Simpson’s new novel was recommended and reviewed in the Los Angeles Times, and she was profiled in The New York TimesBy the Book, among others. Learn more about Simpson and her new novel in our recent “What We’re Reading” interview, and watch the recent discussion via her Some Favorite Writers event at the Hammer Museum.

Algo Lit (UCLA English) by Professor Danny Snelson & English 116B students. This new English course interrogated new creative forms of generative algorithms, leading students to produce a 233-page book using an AI text generator. After reading essays on digital poetry and electronic literature, students used AI to create this new work, which centers on the perspective of an “artificial literary historian” writing in the year 2063. Learn more here.

For Trapped Things (Roof Books) by Professor Brian Kim Stefans. Fellow poet and UCLA Professor Harryette Mullen describes Stefans’ latest work as “a dizzying slalom, taking off from Olympian slopes of literary genre and allusion, flying through uncanny valleys between exquisitely dissonant verses of an alienated artist-intellectual and the omnivorous media feed of a doom-scrolling pop culture futurist. The poet makes his hard bed, then lies in it, feeling the lumpy truth.” Learn more about Stefans and his new work in our recent “What We’re Reading” interview.

Blackouts (‎Farrar, Straus and Giroux) by Professor Justin Torres. In November, Torres won the National Book Award for his new novel, an experimental work that incorporates vignettes, imagery and poetry, and centers on a story about queerness and erasure. His novel has been recommended and reviewed in The Brooklyn Rail, The New York Times, and Washington Independent Review of Books, among others. Watch the National Book Award Ceremony here; Torres’ acceptance speech begins at about 2:08.00. Torres will do a reading and discussion at the Hammer Museum on Thursday, January 11.