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The best books of 2023

This list is part of the best books of 2023.

We've asked 1,608 authors and super readers for their 3 favorite reads of the year.

Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission.

My favorite read in 2023…

Book cover of In That Time: Michael O'Donnell and the Tragic Era of Vietnam

Brett Dakin Why did I love this book?

I was blown away by this intimate account of America’s disastrous intervention in Indochina, told through the life of one soldier.

Michael O’Donnell served as a helicopter pilot during the war, was shot down, and remained MIA for thirty years. While living in Laos in the late 1990s, I met US military personnel who were searching for the remains of soldiers just like O’Donnell, a mission that continues to this day.

What makes O’Donnell’s story especially moving is that he was a poet, the author of one the best-known poems of the war, captured in a letter home from Vietnam. I will never get over the tragedy and the waste that the Vietnam War unleashed on all sides. This book is a vital reminder.

By Daniel H. Weiss,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked In That Time as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In That Time tells the story of the American experience in Vietnam through the life of Michael O'Donnell, a promising young poet who became a soldier and helicopter pilot in Vietnam. O'Donnell wrote with great sensitivity and poetic force about his world and especially the war that was slowly engulfing him and his most well-known poem is still frequently cited and reproduced. Nominated for the Congressional Medal of Honour, O'Donnell never fired a shot in Vietnam. During an ill-fated attempt to rescue fellow soldiers, O'Donnell's helicopter was shot down in the jungles of Cambodia where he and his crew remained…

My 2nd favorite read in 2023…

Book cover of Dorothea Lange: A Life Beyond Limits

Brett Dakin Why did I love this book?

I became interested in Dorothea Lange last year when I picked up a compilation of her photographs documenting the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II. These images had been censored by the US government for decades, kept under wraps.

One of them depicts a young boy seated on the stoop of his barracks, engrossed in a comic book, one that happens to have been published by my great-uncle, the subject of my recent book!

Driven to learn all I could about the circumstances of this photograph, I read Linda Gordon’s wonderful biography of Lange. A master of the form, Gordon uses the pathbreaking photographer’s life to illuminate 20th-century American social history.  

By Linda Gordon,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Dorothea Lange as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

We all know Dorothea Lange's iconic photos-the Migrant Mother holding her child, the shoeless children of the Dust Bowl-but now renowned American historian Linda Gordon brings them to three-dimensional life in this groundbreaking exploration of Lange's transformation into a documentarist. Using Lange's life to anchor a moving social history of twentieth-century America, Gordon masterfully re-creates bohemian San Francisco, the Depression, and the Japanese-American internment camps. Accompanied by more than one hundred images-many of them previously unseen and some formerly suppressed-Gordon has written a sparkling, fast-moving story that testifies to her status as one of the most gifted historians of our…

My 3rd favorite read in 2023…

Book cover of The Personal Librarian

Brett Dakin Why did I love this book?

One of my favorite haunts in New York City, where I live, is the Morgan Library, a short walk from where I work.

This historical novel reveals the truth behind the library by telling the story of Belle da Costa Greene, the Black woman who built and managed J. P. Morgan's personal collection of rare manuscripts, books, and artwork, establishing herself as a leader in New York society, while keeping her true identity completely hidden.

This book is fascinating, a propulsive read. It’s also the first work of fiction I think I've ever read that was co-written; I can't imagine how challenging this was for the two authors!

By Marie Benedict, Victoria Christopher Murray,

Why should I read it?

7 authors picked The Personal Librarian as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Instant New York Times Bestseller! A Good Morning America* Book Club Pick!

Named a Best Book of the Year by NPR! Named a Notable Book of the Year by the Washington Post!

“Historical fiction at its best!”*
A remarkable novel about J. P. Morgan’s personal librarian, Belle da Costa Greene, the Black American woman who was forced to hide her true identity and pass as white in order to leave a lasting legacy that enriched our nation, from New York Times bestselling authors Marie Benedict and Victoria Christopher Murray.

In her twenties, Belle da Costa Greene is hired by…

Plus, check out my book…

Another Quiet American: Stories of Life in Laos

By Brett Dakin,

Book cover of Another Quiet American: Stories of Life in Laos

What is my book about?

My book takes you through the corridors of power and into the living rooms of Laos, where I lived and worked after college.

In this book, you'll meet folks like my boss, a wealthy general who strikes fear into the heart of all who hear his name; an aging prince pining for the French colonial past; an American pilot who left home to fight and never returned; and a new generation of Lao who have more money than they can use, but still search for happiness.

It's a glimpse of one of the world's few remaining communist nations and a way of life that is fast slipping away.