Pandora Sykes’ 2023 Reading List

The writer, broadcaster and revered bookworm on the page-turners to look out for this year.

When Pandora Sykes recommends a book, you know you’re in for a treat. Whether she’s sharing a stack of page-tuners on her Instagram or analysing much-loved titles with pal Bobby Palmer on their podcast BOOK CHAT, the writer and broadcaster has a reading list to rival the biggest bookworms. So, who better to ask about what we should be adding to our own lists? Here are her recommendations for the year ahead...


Really Good, Actually by Monica Heisey

Book sleeve: 4th Estate

One of the most hyped debuts for 2023, this novel is by Canadian screenwriter Monica Heisey, best known for her work on Schitt's Creek. Inspired by Monica's own divorce, Really Good, Actually tells the story of Maggie, a twenty-something PhD student whose marriage ends after just 608 days. Heartbroken and broke, Maggie has to learn to eat, date, work and 'do' life, on her own. Whilst not losing every single friend, in the process. It is frequently funny, frequently strange and made me wonder why this was the first novel I've read about young divorce. I can imagine it on screen – and given Heisey's background, I suspect it is only a matter of time before it is. Really Good, Actually is out now.


Romantic Comedy by Curtis Sittenfeld

Book sleeve: Penguin Random House

Probably my favourite proof I've read for 2023, by one of my all-time favourite authors Curtis Sittenfeld – most famous for American Wife, a novel based on Laura and George Bush and Rodham, which imagines an America where Hilary Clinton became president in 2016. Romantic Comedy is set on a Saturday night comedy show in the States called The Night Owls (based on Saturday Night Live) and tells the story of its sharp, cynical lead writer, Sally Milz, and her furious obsession with what she calls "a social rule": that average-looking men date beautiful, famous women, but beautiful men only date beautiful women. But then she meets popstar, Noah Brewster and finds her theory sorely challenged... it's a brilliantly written, funny page-turner, I want to read it all again. Romantic Comedy is out in April and available to pre-order.


Happy Couple by Naoise Dolan

Book sleeve: Orion books

I'm a huge fan of Irish writer Naoise Dolan’s fiction and journalism and I loved her sly, clever debut novel, Exciting Times. Happy Couple (another great title) is just as satisfying, but perhaps a bit more sentimental. It’s about Luke and Celine who are about to get married. They love each other, sure – but Luke also loves his best friend Archie. And, well, Celine’s first love is the piano. Set between London and Dublin, it’s a beautiful set piece that asks: is love enough to hitch yourself to someone else? Happy Couple is out in May and available to pre-order.


Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin

Book sleeve: Penguin Random House

This debut novel came out last year, but it feels like it’s getting a lot of chatter right now. (I love it when it takes a bit of time for momentum to build – it shows a book is really good.) Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow is about two best friends and video game obsessives, Sadie and Sam, who meet in hospital as teenagers in 1987 and later go on to build a successful video game empire together. It navigates fame and fortune, disability and health privilege and technology as a force for good and it lends platonic relationships the romance that they deserve. It's beautifully written – original, tender, quirky and at times, devastating. I think it will become a modern classic. And the cover is a banger! Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow is out now.


Golden Age by Wang Xiaobo

I’ve been trying to read more translated novels and so I was excited to tuck into the satirical novel Golden Age by Wang Xiaobo. Golden Age was actually written back in 1992 and it has been a best-seller in China since its publication – somehow escaping censor, despite its criticism of Communist China – but has only just been published here. The pull-quote that pulled me in was this: "Life is but a slow, drawn-out process of getting your balls crushed". I mean, how could I resist!? It's about a 21-year-old man named Wang, exiled to the remote countryside to herd oxen, during the Cultural Revolution in China in the 1980s and his love affair with a doctor named Cheng. When Wang and Cheng are caught in flagrante by Party officials, they are forced to write up their confessions, whereupon things become ever more absurd and entertaining. The book has been compared to Animal Farm by George Orwell. And if you like this, you'll be pleased to know that there is a book of essays (my favourite) coming in July. Golden Age is out now.

For more literary recommendations, What Writers Read: 35 Writers on Their Favourite Book, edited by Pandora, is out now.