Bookshelf: 2023 Books All Georgians Should Read announced

And an anthology of poems inspired by queen of country Dolly Parton.
Courtesy of Lookout Books/Island Press/St. Martin's Press

Credit: Lookout Books/Island Press/St. Martin's Press

Credit: Lookout Books/Island Press/St. Martin's Press

Courtesy of Lookout Books/Island Press/St. Martin's Press

It’s that time of year again when the Georgia Center for the Book announces its annual list of Books All Georgians Should Read. The 2023 list is a terrific mix of fiction, nonfiction and memoir published last year. Many of the titles were previously reviewed by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, but a couple of books escaped our notice.

One is “The Resemblance” (Flatiron Books, $28.99) by Lauren Nossett. The debut novel is set on the campus of the University of Georgia where bystanders witness a man get run over and killed by a grinning driver who looks just like the victim. Det. Marlitt Kaplan is charged with solving the murder, which finds her navigating the secret underbelly of the college’s Greek system of sororities and fraternities.

Another is “My Boy Will Die of Sorrow: A Memoir of Immigration from the Front Lines” (Hachette, $29) by Efrén C. Olivares, a human rights lawyer representing families separated by the Zero Tolerance immigration policy of 2018. Olivares brings a unique perspective to the experience because he was an immigrant himself who left his father behind to seek work in the United States 25 years ago. The book tells stories about some of the families he tries to reunite as well as his own journey.

Other books that made the list include “Don’t Cry for Me” by Daniel Black; “Flipped: How Georgia Turned Purple and Broke the Monopoly on Republican Power” by Greg Bluestein; “Bigger Than Bravery: Black Resilience and Reclamation in a Time of Pandemic” edited by Valerie Boyd; “Wingwalkers” by Taylor Brown, “The Conversation Turns to Wide-Mouth Jars” by Cathy Carlisi, Beth Gylys and Jennifer Wheelock; “A Road Running Southward: Following John Muir’s Journey Through an Endangered Land” by Dan Chapman; “My People: Five Decades of Writing About Black Lives” by Charlayne Hunter-Gault; and “The Floating Girls” by Lo Patrick.

The 2023 list of Books All Young Georgians Should Read includes “Stacey’s Remarkable Books” by Stacey Abrams; “Victory. Stand! Raising My Fist for Justice” by Tommie Smith, Dawud Anyabwile and Derrick Barnes; “Does My Body Offend You?” by Mayra Cuevas and Marie Marquardt; “Anisa’s International Day” by Reem Faruqi; “Futureland: Battle for the Park” by H.D. Hunter; “We Deserve Monuments” by Jas Hammonds; “Impossible Moon” by Breanna J. McDaniel; “Briarcliff Prep” by Brianna Peppins; “Eden’s Everdark” by Karen Strong; and “Just Like Jesse Owens” by Andrew Young as told to Paula Young Shelton.

"Let Me Say This: A Dolly Party Poetry Anthology"
Courtesy of Madville Publishing

Credit: Madville Publishing

icon to expand image

Credit: Madville Publishing

What Would Dolly Do? Dolly Parton has become so universally adored for her incredible talent as a songwriter and performer, not to mention her epic philanthropy and sparkling charm, that she’s practically achieved the status of a secular saint.

It’s only fitting that the people’s queen of country would inspire scores of poets to sing her praises. Enter “Let Me Say This: A Dolly Parton Poetry Anthology” (Madville Publishing, $20.95) edited by Atlanta poets Julie Bloemeke and Dustin Brookshire, which published last month.

In their introductions, Bloemeke and Brookshire express their shared loved of the Nashville songstress.

“Struck by her wit and wigs, her music and unabashed glitz, I saw Dolly’s embodiment of presence as an invitation to truth: to own one’s inimitable identity and self-expression,” Bloemeke writes. “Dolly championed boundaries and jest, executing both with aplomb and a sense of what was right.”

Brookshire recalls attending Parton’s 2011 concert in Alpharetta with Bloemeke. For the occasion, they wore “homemade shirts, pink scarves and butterfly stickers on our cheeks.”

Out of their devotion grew this anthology of poems featuring more than 50 contributors who share their passion. The poems range from humorous to poignant and touch on familiar topics, including Dollywood, “The Porter Wagoner Show,” Parton’s prodigious figure and hair, plus tons of “Jolene” references.

A second-grade boy dresses up as Parton for an elementary school assembly in Chad Frame’s “The Intimate Biography.” In Diamond Forde’s “The Great Equalizer,” someone plays a Parton record at a party. “Picture It: black kids turned bright bell of laughter. We pealed from the shadows, hee-hawing and hollering like we stumbled in the wrong bar but we ain’t scared…” Both poems speak to the woman’s universal appeal.

Suzanne Van Atten is a book critic and contributing editor to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Contact her at