Tubby & Coo's Shelf Improvement

What is Shelf Improvement?

Tubby & Coo’s Shelf Improvement program is just that – we give recommendations that we think will improve yourself and your shelf! For this program, we’re trying to get you to decolonize your shelves, think from a new perspective, and expand your horizons. And, of course, be highly entertained in the process!

We provide a theme for the year and book recommendations for each month inside of that theme. If you purchase all 12 of these books by the end of the year, you’ll receive 10% off all of next year’s selections.

Shelf Improvement 2023

This year’s program focuses on family and everything that can mean. Each book recommended this year features some kind of familial relationship – from found family to single moms to siblings to polyamory to adopted children and everything in between. We hope that by reading these, you’ll interrogate your own ideas of what “family” means. 

You can purchase books directly from us or you can buy from our Bookshop.org affiliate page, but the sale must benefit Tubby & Coo’s in order for it to count towards the challenge. If the recommendation is part of a series and you own the recommended book already, we will count it if you purchase the newest book in the series. You’ll need to submit your receipts for the purchase of your books at the form below. Note that you’ll need to be signed into Google in order to submit the form. This is so we can track your reads for the discount!

Join the discussion on our social media channels (@tubbyandcoos on Instagram, TikTok, Facebook, & Twitter) by tagging us and/or using the hashtags #shelfimprovement and #tubbyandcoos.

Below, you can find the link to submit your receipts for the challenge, our Bookshop.org list to purchase books, our Storygraph challenge, and past challenge information.

Our 2023 Shelf Improvement Picks

January: A Queer Found Family Hippopotamus Epic (Sci-Fi)

January’s pick is American Hippo by Sarah Gailey, a hippopotamus epic featuring queer found family. This book includes River of Teeth and Taste of Marrow, two action-packed novellas that introduced readers to an alternate America in which hippos rule the colossal swamp that was once the Mississippi River. 

February: A Cozy Orphan Witch Found Family Romance (Fantasy Romance) 

February’s pick is The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches by Sangu Mandanna, a cozy, charming, warm blanket of a romance about an isolated, orphaned witch whose opportunity to embrace a quirky new family—and a new love—changes the course of her life. 

March: A Gory Indigenous Mexican Horror with a Single Mother (Horror) 

March’s pick is Piñata by Leopoldo Gout, a terrifying possession tale incorporating Indigenous Mexican lore into the gory plot. The book features a single mother with two daughters who are haunted by something they can’t quite explain…

April: A Found Family Space Opera Featuring Siblings (Sci-Fi)

April’s pick is Some Desperate Glory by Emily Tesh, a thrillingly told space opera about the wreckage of war, the family you find, and who you must become when every choice is stripped from you. This book has a sibling relationship that is central to the story.

May: Dracula’s Polyamorous Relationship Drama (Dark Fantasy)

May’s pick is A Dowry of Blood by S.T. Gibson, a lyrical and dreamy reimagining of Dracula’s brides that is a story of desire, obsession, and emancipation featuring a polyamorous relationship. The paperback releases May 2!

June: Asexual Found Family Heist Adventure (Dark Fantasy)

June’s pick is Little Thieves by Margaret Owen, a reimagining of “The Goose Girl” as a magic-infused caper that is part heist, part adventure, part slow burn romance. The main character is the adopted daughter of the gods Death and Fortune. The sequel, Painted Devils, released May 16!

July: A Sapphic, Found Family, Fraught Mother/Daughter Political Epic (Epic Fantasy)

September’s pick is The Unbroken by C.L. Clark, an anticolonial epic fantasy where two women clash in a world full of rebellion, espionage, and military might on the far outreaches of a crumbling desert empire. Features a budding sapphic romance, a fraught mother/daughter relationship, and queer found family. The sequel, The Faithless, released March 7!

August: A Single Mom Who Devours Books – Literally (Dark Fantasy)

August’s pick is The Book Eaters by Sunyi Dean, a dark fantasy featuring an oppressive patriarchal society for whom books are food where a single mom learns that her son has a hunger not for books, but for human minds, and must go on the run. The paperback releases August 1!

September: A Found Family of Bandits of Ungovernable Gender (Epic Fantasy)

July’s pick is The Water Outlaws by S.L. Huang, a queer epic fantasy of cinematic proportions inspired by the Chinese classic of martial arts literature, Water MarginThe Water Outlaws are a found family of bandits of devastating ruthlessness, unseemly femininity, dangerous philosophies, and ungovernable gender who are ready to make history—or tear it apart. 

October: A Cozy Holmesian Murder Mystery & Sapphic Romance Set on Jupiter (Sci-Fi)

October’s pick is The Mimicking of Known Successes by Malka Older, a cozy Holmesian murder mystery and sapphic romance set on Jupiter featuring a couple.

November: Downton Abbey but GAY & with MAGIC (Fantasy Romance)

November’s pick is A Marvellous Light by Freya Marske, the first book of The Last Binding series featuring an Edwardian England full of magic, contracts, and conspiracies. This book features both a sibling relationship and a gay romance. The second book, A Restless Truth, is also out and is lesbians doing crime on a boat. The third book, A Power Unbound, is set to release November 7!

December: Alien Polyamorous Family (Sci-Fi)

What better way to end the year than with Octavia Butler’s Xenogenesis series, which is a profoundly evocative, sensual, and disturbing, epic of human transformation featuring aliens who are rescuing our dying planet by merging genetically with mankind. This series will forever have you questioning what “family” truly means.