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The Weekly Read: What’s New in Books

‘Age of Vice,’ Prince Harry’s red-hot memoir, and what book clubs are reading now

left age of vice by deepti kapoor right author deepti kapoor

Riverhead Books / Mathew Parker

The first great novel of 2023?

One of the best parts of my job is having the chance to read books pre-publication, particularly when I land on a stunningly good one. That would be Age of Vice by Deepti Kapoor, out Jan. 3 — a complex saga that begins with a tragic traffic accident in New Delhi, then shifts back in time to detail how the three main characters’ lives become entangled. There’s reporter Neda (Kapoor also worked as a New Delhi journalist); wealthy, tortured Sunny, heir to his father’s corrupt business empire; and Ajay, Sunny’s wise, quiet servant. Exploring issues of class, power and morality, this action-packed page-turner should be one of the first breakout hits of 2023.

Find more of the new year’s biggest books, including celebrity memoirs and other nonfiction, through mid-March here.

left prince harry speaking at the twenty twenty three invictus games right the cover of prince harrys book the spare

Joshua Sammer/Getty Images for Invictus Games Dusseldorf 2023 / Random House

Prince Harry speaks out

Well, it’s the big day: the release date for Spare, the hotly anticipated memoir from the British king’s second son, Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex. Its publisher, Penguin Random House, made headlines months ago by simply revealing the book’s title — an allusion to the saying that a monarchy needs an “heir and a spare” (Harry’s older brother, Prince William, is the current heir to the throne). Details from Spare, ghostwritten by J.R. Moehringer, started leaking last week, when British papers reported, among other things, Harry’s claims that his brother physically attacked him, knocking him to the floor and injuring his back, during a 2019 confrontation. We’ve finally nabbed a copy of the coveted book ourselves. Here are some key revelations.

left mad honey by jodi picoult right the a a r p the girlfriend book club logo

Ballantine Books / AARP

The Girlfriend Book Club dives into ‘Mad Honey’

A recent favorite of members of The Girlfriend Book Club Facebook group (The Girlfriend is AARP’s newsletter and website for women 40 and older) is the bestseller Mad Honey by Jodi Picoult and Jennifer Finney Boylan. A woman, Olivia, moves with her son Asher back to her New Hampshire hometown to take over her dad’s beekeeping business. But then Asher’s girlfriend, Lily, is found dead, and he’s a prime suspect. It’s a story of love — the love of a parent for a child as well as romantic love. But more than that, it’s a story of self-acceptance and how it’s never too late to start over in life. An added bonus are the recipes (with honey, of course) at the end of the book.

Picoult and Boylan will join AARP’s Shelley Emling for a live book talk for the book club’s nearly 54,000 members (membership is free) on Jan. 17 at 7:30 p.m. ET. 

In case you missed it…

The Swedish Art of Aging Exuberantly: Life Wisdom From Someone Who Will (Probably) Die Before You by Margareta Magnussen; The Stress Prescription by Elissa Epel, M.D.; 12 Weeks to a Sharper You by Sanjay Gupta, M.D.

Simon & Schuster; Penguin Random House; Simon & Schuster

’Tis the season for self-improvement

The start of a new year reliably brings gym memberships, diet resolutions and a slew of self-help books — some of which are hitting shelves now. A sampling:

  • The Swedish Art of Aging Exuberantly: Life Wisdom From Someone Who Will (Probably) Die Before You by Margareta Magnusson. This light, charming and slightly rambling book on ways to grow older with joy comes from the 86-year-old author of 2018’s The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning, a guide to late-life decluttering. In her latest, she writes about how to “make aging itself into an art.” That includes embracing new experiences while learning “to be less afraid of the idea of death, for it comes for all of us.” She also adds more death-cleaning tips.
  • The Stress Prescription: Seven Days to More Joy and Ease by Elissa Epel, M.D., a professor and vice chair of the Department of Psychiatry at the University of California, San Francisco, explains how to lower your stress levels within a week by learning “to stress better.” Although constant stress is toxic to our physical and mental health, she doesn’t suggest trying to eliminate stress altogether — that’s impossible; it’s integral to being human — but rather changing how we respond to it.
  • 12 Weeks to a Sharper You by Sanjay Gupta, M.D., is a companion to his 2021 number one bestseller Keep Sharp: Build a Better Brain at Any Age (both books are published in collaboration with AARP). This follow-up offers practical strategies for, among other things, lowering your anxiety, increasing your energy and sharpening your mind.

woman reading a book at home

Eva-Katalin/Getty Images

Good books are good for your brain

A new study has found that casual reading — the fun kind, where you’re deeply immersed in a story — can boost memory in older adults. Researchers at the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, divided the approximately 70 participants (ages 60-79) into two groups. One group read for 90 minutes a day, five days a week, for eight weeks, while the other worked on word puzzles for the same periods of time.

The readers were given iPads loaded with a mix of 100 mysteries, biographies and literary novels, carefully chosen with help from bibliophiles at the area library to be entertaining (“page-turners,” as they put it). Among them were A Big Little Life by Dean Koontz, All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr, and Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty. (See the full list here.)

The study, published in July in Frontiers in Psychology, found that the readers’ memory skills improved far more than the puzzlers’ memory skills.

So pick up a book for your brain’s sake — but make sure it’s one you can really enjoy, says Liz Stine-Morrow, the study’s senior investigator. “I think that the most important thing is just to find [one] that you can get absorbed in,” she notes. “You want to create a situation for yourself where you can get lost in a book.”  

Lucy By the Sea by Elizabeth Strout; The Candy House by Jennifer Egan; To Paradise by Hanya Yanagihara

Penguin Random House; Simon & Schuster; Doubleday

Best Books of 2022, Part 2

A month or so ago, I wrote about the many best-books lists flooding our inboxes and social media, and noted how difficult it is to pick a handful of winners from the countless great reads released in the past 12 months. Well, I took a stab at it myself in this AARP Members Only Access story. My personal faves for fiction this year were To Paradise by Hanya Yanagihara, Lucy by the Sea by Elizabeth Strout and The Candy House by Jennifer Egan. Meanwhile, more than 50,000 members of AARP’s The Girlfriend Book Club group on Facebook picked Remarkably Bright Creatures by Shelby Van Pelt as their favorite novel of the year. For nonfiction, they chose the 10th anniversary edition of Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice From Dear Sugar by Cheryl Strayed. (Here’s the full list of the book club’s winners.)

Please share your own “best of 2022” book picks in the comments section below.

a woman listening to an audiobook on her phone

Getty Images

Best audiobooks of 2022?

As someone who never listens to audiobooks (I’m too easily distracted), I’m certainly not going to even try to suss out the best of the year on my own. Instead I’ve been poring over others’ lists, which has only served to confirm what we all know: These best-of lists are wildly subjective. Take the Audible, AudioFile magazine, New York Times and Washington Post best-audiobooks-of-2022 lists, which have very little overlap. For what it’s worth, the handful of audiobooks that did make two of the four lists include the mystery novel The Maid by Nita Prose (Audible and AudioFile); The Bullet That Missed, a fun caper from Richard Osman (The Washington Post and AudioFile); and Viola Davis’ bestselling memoir, Finding Me (The New York Times and AudioFile).  

I asked Robin Whitten, editor and founder of AudioFile, for her personal favorite, and she pointed to The Maid, due to the exceptional performance — a “very subtle character portrait” of the main character, Molly — by the actress Lauren Ambrose: She “was really channeling the quirky traits and mindset of the character,” Whitten said. “Doing that all with just her voice and her storytelling was magic.” 

left pasta grannies by vicky bennison right essentials of classic italian cooking by marcella hazan

Hardie Grant Books / Knopf Publishing Group

This year's top cookbooks

If you need inspiration in the kitchen or are looking for the perfect gift for the amateur chef in your life, consider our roundup of 10 of 2022’s best cookbooks. It includes a new edition of a tried-and-true must-have: Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking, 30th Anniversary Edition by Marcella Hazan, often referred to as “the godmother of Italian cooking.”

Italian food lovers (and who isn’t one?) might also check out Pasta Grannies: Comfort Cooking: Traditional Family Recipes From Italy’s Best Home Cooks by Vicky Bennison. Like her 2019 Pasta Grannies: The Official Cookbook, this is a love letter to Italy and its melt-in-your-mouth regional recipes that Bennison, who has a Pasta Grannies YouTube channel, has collected from there and abroad. They include 99-year-old Marietta’s tagliatelle and 91-year-old Pina’s chestnut gnocchi with walnut pesto. The recipes are accompanied by QR codes that can take you to related videos on YouTube, along with photos of the dishes, which, if you’re Italian American (or, maybe, even if you’re not), will remind you of home.

new books from the book of the month club

Book of the Month Club

New benefit for book-loving AARP members

AARP has added a fun perk for its members, who now can receive discounts from the Book of the Month Club, a subscription service where every month you can select a new hardcover book. There are usually between five and seven options from which to choose; this month’s, for example, include a new bestselling debut historical novel, The Circus Train by Amita Parikh, and a holiday rom-com, Kiss Her Once for Me by Alison Cochrun.

AARP members get one book for $5, along with a free downloadable reading guide, a reading tracker, a gift after signing up and a free add-on book in July. The subsequent monthly fees are $16.99 (shipping is free), but you can cancel at any time, and skip any month without having to pay. If you’re not a member but are registered with, you can receive your first book for $9 (restrictions apply), among other perks. Find out more here.

Elizabeth Taylor - The Grit & Glamour of an Icon, by Kate Andersen Brower, still of Taylor from her film Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

HarperCollins / Metro-Goldwin-Mayer Pictures/Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images

What Elizabeth Taylor really wanted

Elizabeth Taylor: The Grit & Glamour of an Icon, by Kate Andersen Brower (Dec. 6), is the first authorized biography of the Hollywood legend. Brower tells us she spent three years going through Taylor’s private letters and diaries, and interviewing more than 250 of the star’s closest friends and family, noting that “her vulnerability is what surprised me most.”

She points to “a letter written on tear-stained TWA stationery she wrote to the love of her life, Richard Burton, thanking him for the ‘Tuesday diamonds and the Friday emeralds,’ but begging him to show his love less lavishly and more genuinely.” The author offers this from the letter: All I need is your back to warm up against, your hand to hold when I’m afraid or cold inside. To talk to you when the lights are out. . . . I need you — nothing else, so don’t give me any more “stuff.” I just want you. I give you all of me with all my love. Elizabeth.

“The woman who had everything simply wanted to be loved for who she was,” Brower says.

A World of Curiosities, by Louise Penny, and portrait of the author

Macmillan / Mikaël Theimer

Louise Penny defends her fictional town      

Penny’s 18th novel in her best-selling detective series featuring Quebec Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, A World of Curiosities, is out (Nov. 29), to her adoring readers’ delight. Gamache is reunited with a brother and sister who were suspected of killing their mother more than a decade ago, and uncovers a secret room with a mysterious painting, among other unusual happenings.

The book arrives just as Amazon Prime launches a new TV series based on Penny’s novels: Three Pines, referring to the fictional, idyllic — despite its unusually high murder rate — Canadian town where the Gamache stories are set. Starring the British actor Alfred Molina as Gamache, the show premiered Dec. 2 and has received decent reviews so far — including from Penny herself, although with one sharp critique. She posted on Facebook her objection to a line in the series’ trailer, where one character “describes Three Pines as a place that will expel people who don’t belong.” (The character, Ruth, tells Gamache in the first episode, “This village is the most welcoming place on earth. But if you don’t belong here, Three Pines will find you out and chase you one way or another.”)

The author, 64, wrote in her post that she fought (unsuccessfully) to have the line removed, because it’s “the antithesis of what Three Pines is about.” Rather, she noted, “It is a place of friendship, of belonging, of acceptance and inclusion. No matter who you are. No matter what we believe. No one is turned away. … That ridiculous misstep aside, I think you’ll like the trailer.”

Amazon Prime is releasing two episodes a week through Dec. 23.

Flirting with the Beast, book cover and photo of author Jane Porter

Penguin Random House / Jane Porter photo ©Courtney Lindberg

Loving older characters

The romance genre is the fastest growing category in publishing these days, with sales through August up 40 percent over 2021, according to industry analysts the NPD Group. The books draw readers of all ages (the average age is 35 to 39, according to Romance Writers of America), yet it’s not easy to find a good romantic novel focused on love at middle age and beyond.

Enter Flirting With the Beast by Jane Porter (released as a mass-market paperback on Nov. 29), about 59-year-old widow Andi McDermott, who’s snowed in at her mountain vacation cabin with the heat knocked out but stays warm thanks to enigmatic, ruggedly handsome neighbor Wolf (yes, Wolf!). It was a fun read for me, due in no small part to its relatable protagonist.

“I absolutely love writing characters who are my age,” the author, 59, tells AARP, noting that she’s done so since 1994, when she wrote Flirting With Forty. Earlier this year she came out with Flirting With Fifty, a romance focused on a 50-year-old divorced college professor. “It’s important to me to highlight the strength and beauty of mature women,” she says, “and pairing wonderful older women with wonderful men is romance at its best.”

The Official Scrabble Players Dictionary, people playing Scrabble

Merriam-Webster / Getty Images

The ‘sitch’ with Scrabble

Scrabble players now have more than 500 additional words for their arsenal, all highlighted in the new Seventh Edition of The Official SCRABBLE Players Dictionary, released Nov. 15. Among them are FOLX (folks); JEDI (a person who shows skill or mastery); SITCH (a situation); ADULTING (to behave like an adult); VIBE (to enjoy music); and, not a moment too soon, HANGRY (angry from being hungry).

While “sitch” might seem a bit sketch to Scrabble purists, the dictionary editors say they used strict standards to determine a word’s worthiness for inclusion. It “needed to both be new to Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary and fit Scrabble’s rules for gameplay,” according to editor-at-large Peter Sokolowski. “A word must be used frequently by many publications and writers, with evidence of long-term and widespread use.”

Also added: VAX and VAXED (for vaccine and vaccinated, obvi — a word I predict will be added in the next go-round). They would also be accepted as VAXX and VAXXED, if Scrabble had more than one ‘x’ tile.

The new words are already listed in the online Scrabble dictionary — so you can prove your play is legit (also a legit word, by the way). Read our story for more on the dictionary’s changes.

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Please share your own favorite new (or old) books, upcoming releases you’re excited about, or anything book related in the comments section.

Christina Ianzito is the travel and books editor for and AARP The Magazine, and also edits and writes health, entertainment and other stories for She received a 2020 Lowell Thomas Award for travel writing.

Editor's note: This article was originally published on June 21, 2022. It has been updated to reflect new information. 

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