The Best Books of 2023

How many of these have you read? 

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  • Photo Credit: Featured photo: Lucas K / Unsplash

Every single time I log onto social media, it seems like my favorite #Booktok or #Bookstagram accounts are raving about a new release that I haven’t heard about before. Whether it’s a post by the author, a faceless account posting quotes against evocative images, or a compilation of silent book reviews, it seems like a new Best Book of 2023 book is gracing my screen on a daily basis. 

Between traditional publishing houses and the growing popularity of self-publishing, the number of books being released on an annual basis that critics and readers deem as the next best book of the year is almost overwhelming. If you, like me, have trouble sorting through the myriad of posts, advanced reader copies, and bestseller lists, this compilation is a good place to start. 

Award-Winning Books



By Hernan Diaz

Co-winner of the 2023 Pulitzer Prize, Diaz’s genre-bending novel explores the power that money has over society, and in some cases, over reality. Trust offers readers a complicated narrative around the idea of the American Dream. While the stock market crash of 1929 spelled disaster for most, Andrew and Mildred Bevel managed to not only survive it but came out on top. As they thrive in an economically crippled society, questions begin to flourish about their investments, motivations, and their carefully crafted public personas. 

Demon Copperhead

Demon Copperhead

By Barbara Kingsolver

The other co-winner of the 2023 Pulitzer Prize for fiction and an astute retelling of Dickens’ David Copperfield, Kingsolver’s Demon Copperhead explores the ways in which our society has progressed since Dickens’ novels—and the horrifying ways in which it has stayed the same. Damon Fields, also known as Demon, is a child growing up in America’s foster care system. His world is colored by the belief that if there’s anything that you want in the world, you’ll have to get it yourself. His life as a youth in Southern Appalachia affords him his own unique set of challenges, coupled with the difficulties of being raised in the foster system.

Kingsolver’s novel delves into the multitude of stresses faced by children in America. Her prose explores the various challenges faced by American youth, including the perceptions of achievement in the academic system, and the lack of support that students may receive within their school system. 


Prophet Song

By Paul Lynch

Winner of Britain’s Booker Prize, Prophet Song is perfect for fans of The Handmaid’s Tale and 1984. Eilish is an Irish civilian watching the world that she’s always known fall away. The election of a neo-fascist government sends the country into a state upheaval. A mother to four children, Eilish struggles to keep the family in one piece as the country’s attitudes shift more openly toward the whims of the newly elected powers that be. 

It’s not long before her husband is sought after by the new government’s secret police. The leader of a teacher’s union, Larry is accused of sedition by this new governmental force. Eilish tries to find ways to help her family escape the country, but is foiled at every turn—there’s always something holding her and her family back. Lynch’s novel explores the erosion and desolation of governmental upheaval in times of uncertainty. 



By Justin Torres

Centered around the conversations of two queer men, Nene and Juan, Justin Torres’ Blackouts is a queer book with an engrossing format. The two take turns telling one another anecdotes, cobbling together a queer historical record. Torres also uses passages from Sex Variants, a study on homosexuality that was initially published in 1941. 

While Torres’ Blackouts doesn’t follow a traditionally novelistic format or conventional structure, it still draws the reader into the complicated histories and lives of two queer men. Juan is dwindling and dying in an institution known as “The Palace” when Nene seeks him out. The varied structure brings Danielewski’s The House of Leaves to mind, embedding the reader in different artistic structures as the story progresses in this 2023 National Book Award Winner.

Bestsellers/Critics’ Picks


The Bee Sting

By Paul Murray

Named among The New York Times Top 10 Books of 2023, Murray’s The Bee Sting centers around the bitterly embattled Barnes family. There isn’t a single member of the family that isn’t facing their own set of problems. Rife with flashbacks and hypotheticals, The Bee Sting navigates between the Barnes family’s current lives and the circumstances that led them to that particular situation. 

Set in a small Irish town, Dickie and Imelda Barnes struggle to make ends meet as their lives turn down a road that neither of them anticipates on their wedding day—a day on which, it just so happens, Imelda was stung by a bee. 

The Covenant of Water

The Covenant of Water

By Abraham Verghes

Both a best seller and among the 103 books chosen for Oprah’s Book Club Picks for 2023, The Covenant of Water is an intergenerational novel that spans over half a century. Following the lives of citizens in Kerala in South India, Veghese immerses the reader in the realistic and difficult realities of a young girl in South India in 1900. When we first meet her, she’s 12 years old and is on the verge of being married to a 40-year-old widower. 

As the young woman (nicknamed Big Ammachi) grows, she comes to learn that the family has a generational curse, simply known as The Condition.

I'm Glad My Mom Died

I'm Glad My Mom Died

By Jennette McCurdy

Jeanette McCurdy’s best-selling memoir digs into the difficult natures of grief and remembrance. Best known for her roles on iCarly and Sam & Cat, McCurdy recounts the struggles that she faced over the course of her career as a child star. She grapples with the realities of her childhood, recognizing the difficulties of the relationship that she faced as a child star with an overbearing mother. 

McCurdy frankly discusses the emotional abuse that she faced over the course of her childhood. She describes the hardships faced in her past and explores the ways in which she’s working on recovering and reclaiming her future. 


Fourth Wing

By Rebecca Yarros

The first of the Empyread series, Yarros’ Fourth Wing draws the reader into the expert and treacherous world of dragon riders. Violet Sorrengail is unexpectedly called to the Navarre academy for dragon riders. Violet has always had a very different vision of her future: her place in the world was meant to be among Navarre’s scribes, not their dragon riders. But she heeds the call of her mother to join the dwindling leagues of dragon riders. 

Much in the sense of Harry Potter’s wand choosing the wizard, the dragons of Navarre choose their rider—or harm them when they find them unworthy. Within the academy, Violet finds herself at odds with Xaden Riorson, a grumpy wingleader. If you have a slowburn fantasy itch that needs to be scratched, look no further than Fourth Wing.

The Reader (EBB NL) Favorites 

The Cement Garden

The Cement Garden

By Ian McEwan

With a similarity of V.C. Andrews’ Flowers in the Attic, McEwan’s novel digs into the darker aspects of childhood. The narrator, Jack, has recently turned 15, and is struggling with the urges that begin to present themselves during puberty. Jack and his three siblings grieve the sudden death of their parents and grapple with their agony in unhealthy ways. 

Hotel Honolulu

Hotel Honolulu

By Paul Theroux

Theroux’s caustic Hotel Honolulu pulls the reader into the complicated life of Buddy Hamstra, a former writer. Having taken over running of an 80-room hotel close to Waikiki beach, the narrator observes the lives and difficulties of the varying patrons that come through his doors and stay in the hotel. 



By Thomas Keneally

Keneally’s Confederates draws readers into the state of the American union in the difficult summer of 1862. Keneally’s book doesn’t sugarcoat the brutality or difficulty that soldiers faced over the course of the Civil War. Confederates looks at the perspectives of varying sides of the war, portraying the challenges faced by all of those who participated or were affected by the conflict. 

Mary, Mrs. A. Lincoln

Mary, Mrs. A. Lincoln

By Janis Cooke Newman

If you’re looking for another stellar American Civil War read, Newman’s Mary, Mrs. A. Lincoln tells the story of a traditionally misunderstood woman. Newman explores Mary Lincoln’s past, starting with the rambunctiousness of her childhood to the seance-throwing tendencies of her adulthood. In telling her story from the first-person, Newman demystifies an infamous historical figure. 


The Sisters Chase

By Sarah Healy

Mary and Hannah Chase are left struggling after their mother suddenly passes in a violent accident. At the age of 18, Mary becomes fully responsible for caring for her four-year-old sister, Hannah. She abandons the motel that her mother had managed after learning that the debt owed on the property is heavier than the property itself is worth. Mary chooses to take her sister elsewhere, realizing that her life and the life of her sister will be more beneficial, if not more varied, on the road. 

Featured photo: Lucas K / Unsplash