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New month, new books! Book Light is our Dandelion Chandelier curated list of the most-anticipated new book releases every month, and next up is May 2023. If you ask us, the perfect May read should make us feel like we’ve earned a marvelous reward for surviving April. Bright and optimistic. But not treacly, twee and ultimately full of empty calories. So what are the best new new novels, poetry collections, memoirs and other nonfiction books to read coming out in May 2023? Our intrepid team has been exploring and here’s what we found: over 20 new book releases coming soon that we cannot wait to read.

what are the most anticipated new novels and nonfiction book releases for May 2023?

Wondering what to read in May 2023? We’ve surveyed the landscape, and rounded up a list of the best new books coming this May.

The best most anticipated novels and nonfiction book releases with rave reviews to read among the top new books coming out in May 2023.

The best most anticipated novels and nonfiction book releases to read among the top new books coming out in May 2023.

the best new books coming in May 2023

Here’s our pick of the top new book releases of May 2023 that we cannot wait to read, including novels, poetry collections, memoirs and other nonfiction books. You can pre-order your favorites now, if you like.

Top new book releases May 2, 2023

1. Homebodies by Tembe Denton-Hurst.

Fans of The Other Black Girl, take note. Homebodies is a buzzed-about debut that follows a young Black media writer. After she’s replaced at work, she writes a searing piece about systemic racism in the media industry. Nothing happens right away – but weeks later, when she’s back in her hometown, her letter goes viral.


2. Chain Gang All-Stars by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah.

Chain-Gang All-Stars may be the dystopian novel the world has been waiting for. It takes the horrors of the criminal justice system in America – the racism, profit incentives and ongoing mass incarceration – and weaves them into a riveting work of fiction. The publisher describes it thusly: “Two top women gladiators fight for their freedom within a depraved private prison system not so far-removed from America’s own in this explosive, hotly-anticipated debut novel from the New York Times bestselling author of Friday Black.” We can already see the Netflix series that will inevitably be made from this powerful work.


3. The Half Moon by Mary Beth Keane.

best new novels and nonfiction books coming in May 2023

With The Half Moon, the author of Ask Again, Yes returns with a new novel about a marriage gliding slowly toward the rocks. Malcolm has stretched his family’s finances to buy the bar where he works, the Half Moon. His wife Jess is a successful lawyer who is slowly realizing that motherhood may not happen for her. Both are wrestling with growing older and deciding which dreams to pursue and which to let go. Over the course of one week, in the middle of a blizzard, both will try to define what the next chapter of their lives should be.


4. You Are Here by Karin Lin-Greenberg.

The plot of You Are Here cuts close to the bone for anyone who grew up going to the local mall – to shop, to grab a meal, to hang out with friends, to work. We’re in Upstate New York as a once-bustling mall prepares to shut its doors. In its final days the people who work, shop and in some cases define themselves based on their roles there struggle with transition and find meaning in the end of an important chapter of their lives.


5. The Power of Trees: How Ancient Forests Can Save Us if We Let Them by Peter Wohlleben.

The author of The Hidden Life of Trees returns with The Power of Trees, a passionate argument for the importance of regrowing forests around the world. His critique of forestry management, tree planting, and the exploitation of old growth forests is a clarion call to address climate change by harnessing the reparative power of trees.


6. Traffic: Genius, Rivalry, and Delusion in the Billion-Dollar Race to Go Viral by Ben Smith.

The author of Traffic wrote for Politico, served as News Editor for Buzzfeed, wrote a media column for the New York Times and is now the editor in chief of Semafor, a new news startup he founded in 2022. Who better to pen a “candid inside tale of two online media rivals, Jonah Peretti of HuffPost and BuzzFeed and Nick Denton of Gawker Media” and the havoc they wrought in their relentless search for clicks.


Top new book releases May 9, 2023

7. Our Migrant Souls: A Meditation on Race and the Meanings and Myths of “Latino” by Héctor Tobar.

best new nonfiction and essay collections of May 2023

We loved the Pulitzer Prize-winning author’s 2022 novel The Barbarian Nurseries, so we’re all in with this new nonfiction work about race and identity. In a wide-ranging inquiry that includes “the US-Mexico border ‘wall,’ Frida Kahlo, urban segregation, gangs, queer Latino utopias, and the emergence of the cartel genre in TV and film,” this is a heartfelt and compelling examination of what it means to be “Latino” in America today.


8. Paved Paradise: How Parking Explains the World by Henry Grabar.

best new nonfiction books coming in May 2023

Is parking a sufficiently profound topic for a most anticipated nonfiction book for May 2023? Oh, yes. And then some. As the publisher of Paved Paradise notes: “Even when we don’t resort to violence, we routinely do ridiculous things for parking, contorting our professional, social, and financial lives to get a spot. Indeed, in the century since the advent of the car, we have deformed—and in some cases demolished—our homes and our cities in a Sisyphean quest for cheap and convenient car storage.” Judy Collins’ melancholy lyrics nailed it: Don’t it always seem as though you don’t what you’ve got ’till it’s gone? They paved paradise and put up a parking lot . . .


Top new book releases May 16, 2023

9. The Guest by Emma Cline.

The Guest is the latest from the author of The Girls. It’s a novel told from the perspective of a grifter (think Anna Delvey) and a meditation on who’s using whom when a pretty young woman fakes her way into the precincts of the rich and powerful.


10. Yellowface by R. F. Kuang.

We just finished reading Disorientation, and now we can’t wait to read Yellowface, which takes on the same topic – the appropriation of Asian culture and even Asian features and appearance by white people with money on their minds – from the opposite point of view. June Hayward, who is white, steals the work of her late Asian American friend, passing it off as her own. She justifies this by rationalizing it as a homage to her late friend. But then the work becomes a New York Times best-seller. Now what? Shades of The Plot . . . You’ll have to read it yourself to find out.


11. Dances by Nicole Cuffy.

In another novel that seems directly drawn from a newsfeed, Dances is the story of a young artist at a turning point. At 22, Cece is named the first Black ballerina in the history of New York City Ballet. Soon after, she’s forced to go on an odyssey to find her missing older brother, who supported her dreams of becoming a professional dancer against the will of their parents. But then disappeared without a trace to deal with his own dreams.


12. King: A Life by Jonathan Eig.

King is the first major biography of the civil rights icon Martin Luther King Jr. published in several decades―and the first to include information from recently declassified FBI files. We’re always wary of “new information” and what it might do to the legacies of our beloved icons. But here, we’re promised “an MLK for our times: a deep thinker, a brilliant strategist, and a committed radical who led one of history’s greatest movements, and whose demands for racial and economic justice remain as urgent today as they were in his lifetime.”


13. A Life of One’s Own: Nine Women Writers Begin Again by Joanna Biggs.

Instead of a room of one’s own, this essay collection examines whether what a woman artist really needs is A Life of One’s Own. After her divorce, the author closely examines the lives of iconic women authors, including Mary Wollstonecraft, George Eliot, Zora Neale Hurston, Virginia Woolf, Simone de Beauvoir, Sylvia Plath, Toni Morrison and Elena Ferrante. She’s in search of insight about the conditions under which they did their best work – specifically, she’s testing the hypothesis that domestic life is a trap for women writers that has to be sprung before they can realize their full potential as artists.


14. Quietly Hostile: Essays by Samantha Irby.

best new novels and nonfiction books including essay collections of May 2023

The latest essay collection from one of our favorite writers, Quietly Hostile maps the author’s continued tragicomic odyssey through modern America as a queer Black woman. Turned away from a restaurant for being inappropriately dressed, required to purge an email box full of “weird emails about Carrie Bradshaw,” and more, Irby voices the disbelief, dismay and determination that fuel many of us on our own journeys.


Top new book releases May 23, 2023

15. Sing Her Down by Ivy Pochoda.

The author made a name for herself with her riveting and unforgettable debut novel These Women. Now she returns with Sing Her Down, described by her publisher as “No Country for Old Men meets Killing Eve.” It’s a feminist Western thriller from a brilliant novelist. What more do you need to know?


16. The Late Americans by Brandon Taylor.

best new novels and nonfiction books coming in May 2023

The Late Americans is the latest novel from the author of the widely-praised works Real Life and Filthy Animals. In Iowa City, a quartet of friends are in their final year of school, and confronting “questions about love, sex, ambition and precarity.” They share a moment of reckoning in a cabin in the woods just before they’re supposed to embark on the next chapter of their lives.


17. Why Fathers Cry at Night: A Memoir in Love Poems, Recipes, Letters, and Remembrances by Kwame Alexander.

In this tender memoir, the author shares his life’s journey with his daughters. Revealing stories of his parents, his marriages, the loss of his mother and the moment he perfects her famous fried chicken recipe, this is the perfect read for Father’s Day, whether you’re a parent, a child – or both.


18. Raw Dog: The Naked Truth About Hot Dogs by Jamie Loftus.

Just in time for Memorial Day cookouts comes Raw Dog, an engaging and fact-filled history of the hot dog. Described as “part investigation into the cultural and culinary significance of hot dogs and part travelog documenting a cross-country road trip researching them as they’re served today. The author, her pets, and her ex eat their way across the country during the strange summer of 2021.” Who knew that the humble hot dog is the “inevitable product of centuries of violence, poverty, and ambition”? Mind. Blown.


the best new novels and non-fiction books coming in May 2023

If you’re wondering what to read in May 2023, we hope you’ve got some ideas now! That’s our take on the best, most anticipated novels and non-fiction book releases to read among the top new books coming out in May 2023. What’s at the top of your list, dear reader?

Pamela Thomas-Graham

Pamela Thomas-Graham is the Founder & CEO of Dandelion Chandelier. She serves on the boards of several tech companies, and was previously a senior executive in finance, media and fashion, and a partner at McKinsey & Co.