DISCOVER: MPMG Top Reads of 2023
The MPMG team assembled our favourite fiction and non-fiction reads from 2023. Happy reading!
Laura Murray, Founding Partner:
Fiction: Yellowface by R.F Kuang
White lies, dark humour, and deadly consequences are at the core of this razor-sharp, ‘unputdownable’ novel. Told from the perspective of June Hayward, an unsuccessful young author who finds herself the only witness to the death of her former classmate, Athena Liu, a Chinese-American author who is a literary rising star, she decides to steal Liu’s unpublished manuscript and claim her friend’s work as her own. June’s (stolen) novel goes on to enjoy great success in the literary world, but emerging evidence threatens to bring her short-lived fame to a startling halt. Yellowface deftly grapples with questions of racism, cultural appropriation, ambition, and power within the publishing industry. It’s a clever, witty, and timely read that will stay with you long after the last page.
Non-Fiction: You Could Make this Place Beautiful by Maggie Smith
In this extraordinary memoir, told in vignettes and with lyrical prose, poet Maggie Smith explores the demise of her marriage and her renewed commitment to herself. Full of raw vulnerability and honesty, the memoir acts as a profound study of loss and grief, but also of strength, hope, and ultimately self-love. With a spirit of self-inquiry and empathy, Smith shares both the poignant, heartbreaking moments she navigates alongside the mundane and relatable ones. For anyone who has experienced great loss, this memoir is truly a healing balm. It reveals how, in the aftermath, we can find our power again, rebuilding our lives and our selves into something truly beautiful.
Brian Paterson, Partner:
Fiction: Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin
There are books you read, then there are books you consume. I stayed up two nights in a row until 3 a.m. reading this, as I simply could not put it down. Zevin was ‘killing me softly’ with this book, describing a life journey of friends and business partners in a creative industry with all the ups and downs it entails. The art form in question is video games, and Zevin does a beautiful job illustrating the way in which it is moving beyond recreational roots into a complex, compelling storytelling medium that stands alongside more traditional expressions.
Non-Fiction: Fire Weather by John Vaillant
If you were to ask for my favourite books of all time, John Vaillant’s The Golden Spruce invariably ranks among them (as I shared several years ago). This year, he released what feels like a spiritual successor in a remarkable book that offers a blow-by-blow accounting of the 2016 Fort McMurray wildfire, while also exploring humanity’s history with oil, fuel, and flame. Released in Canada’s worst wildfire year ever – with the number of hectares burned in 2023 more than doubling the previous record – this is a relevant, prescient, and necessary read for the world we are stepping toward.
Angela Poon, Communications Manager:
Fiction: Tom Lake by Ann Patchett
A gentle and unassuming love story set during the height of the pandemic, we follow a mother’s recounting of her past as a budding young actress to her three adult daughters, who have been forced home to help their parents harvest cherries on their family-run orchard. Switching effortlessly between present and past, Patchett charmingly explores the many faces of love – all-consuming young love, steadfast committed love, and unconditional maternal love. Inspired by and narratively centred around the beloved classic play Our Town, Tom Lake similarly paints a sentimental portrait of the everyday life, love, and loss of one woman’s story to beautiful effect.
Non-Fiction: Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner
An unflinching and devastating account of a daughter’s loss of her mother to cancer, Crying in H Mart is at once both extremely personal to the author and deeply relatable for anyone who has had a tumultuous relationship with a parent. Zauner – known for her indie pop solo project Japanese Breakfast – powerfully recounts her childhood growing up in Eugene, Oregon, to a Korean mother and American father, the breakdown of her relationship with her mother as an angsty teen, and her efforts to reconnect with both her mother and her Korean heritage as she cares for her in her final months. A raw and painful reflection of loss and identity, this book will break your heart wide open.
Sijia Cheng, Digital Marketing Coordinator:
Fiction: The Book of Goose by Yiyun Li
Yiyun Li showcases her unique gift for storytelling in this gripping and unsettling story of girlhood and female friendship, power, lies, fame, obsession, and loss. Set in a rural French town in the 1950s, at the center of the story is a literary hoax devised by two girls with different yet complementary characteristics — Agnes, with her perfect penmanship, dictates dark, unsettling tales from the seemingly more dominant and intelligent Fabienne’s raw imagination (but are those stories not disturbingly real?). Through their witty, fierce, and almost cruel games of make-believe, the two girls are able to imagine a world larger than their own. Nevertheless, as they grow up, at least one of them will not survive this world. Full of deep currents, this book is all-consuming, brutal, and beautiful – cut open by Li’s restrained, yet, unflinching prose.
Non-Fiction: Red Comet: The Short Life and Blazing Art of Sylvia Plath by Heather Clark
Focusing on the remarkable literary and intellectual achievements, this new biography by Heather Clark brings to life the brilliant Sylvia Plath, aiming to restore the woman behind the common myth. Featuring never-before-accessed materials, Clark’s research is meticulous, comprehensive, perceptive, offering readers a Plath dazzling in her multiple, complex, fascinating selves.