Author Historian Urbanist City walker
The best books of 2023

This list is part of the best books of 2023.

We've asked 1,681 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 There Are No Accidents: The Deadly Rise of Injury and Disaster―Who Profits and Who Pays the Price

Brian Ladd Why did I love this book?

The title is arresting: what does it mean? (No, it’s not another conspiracy theory.)

Think of an automobile “accident.” Was it really just a chance event, or was it a predictable, even inevitable result of many decisions that permit careless operators of enormous machines to careen about inches away from pedestrians and sometimes—oops!—to run down people like Jessie Singer’s late bicyclist friend. Or think of a child maimed while working overnight in a chicken plant: what do we mean when we call that an accident?

From these and other examples, the book delves even deeper. We want to blame someone, but that often misses the point. Singer’s probing questions show us how we have built a world that churns out victims while telling us that nothing can be done about it: it was just an accident.

By Jessie Singer,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked There Are No Accidents as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A journalist recounts the surprising history of accidents and reveals how they've come to define all that's wrong with America.

We hear it all the time: "Sorry, it was just an accident." And we've been deeply conditioned to just accept that explanation and move on. But as Jessie Singer argues convincingly: There are no such things as accidents. The vast majority of mishaps are not random but predictable and preventable. Singer uncovers just how the term "accident" itself protects those in power and leaves the most vulnerable in harm's way, preventing investigations, pushing off debts, blaming the victims, diluting anger,…

My 2nd favorite read in 2023…

Book cover of Walkable City Rules: 101 Steps to Making Better Places

Brian Ladd Why did I love this book?

I thought I knew this stuff: what’s wrong with our inhospitable city streets and how great designers like Jeff Speck can make them better if given a chance.

But he packages the diagnoses and solutions so succinctly here: all the things a town can do to transform its streets from inhospitable auto sewers to places worth lingering, even while we improve movement for pedestrians and bicyclists but also for motorists.

By Jeff Speck,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Walkable City Rules as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Nearly every US city would like to be more walkable-for reasons of health, wealth, and the environment-yet few are
taking the proper steps to get there. The goals are often clear, but the path is seldom easy. Jeff Speck's follow up to his
bestselling Walkable City is the resource that cities and citizens need to usher in an era of renewed street life. Walkable City
Rules is a doer's guide to making change in cities, and making it now.

The 101 rules are practical yet engaging-worded for arguments at the planning commission, illustrated for clarity, and
packed with specifications as…

My 3rd favorite read in 2023…

Book cover of The Outermost House: A Year of Life on the Great Beach of Cape Cod

Brian Ladd Why did I love this book?

In the 1920s, young Henry Beston built himself a tiny cottage on the coastal dunes and ended up staying for a year.

It sounds like Thoreau, and indeed Beston produced some of the finest nature writing I have read, comparable to the best parts of Walden (and better than Thoreau’s own Cape Cod book), evoking the rhythm of the seasons through the water and wind, the birds and crustaceans, and, not least, the people of the outer Cape, then few in number (hard to imagine), as they scratched a living from the harsh landscape—not least by scavenging the detritus of the all too frequent shipwrecks.

By Henry Beston,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked The Outermost House as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The seventy-fifth anniversary edition of the classic book about Cape Cod, "written with simplicity, sympathy, and beauty" (New York Herald Tribune)

A chronicle of a solitary year spent on a Cape Cod beach, The Outermost House has long been recognized as a classic of American nature writing. Henry Beston had originally planned to spend just two weeks in his seaside home, but was so possessed by the mysterious beauty of his surroundings that he found he "could not go."

Instead, he sat down to try and capture in words the wonders of the magical landscape he found himself in thrall…

Plus, check out my book…

The Streets of Europe: The Sights, Sounds, and Smells That Shaped Its Great Cities

By Brian Ladd,

Book cover of The Streets of Europe: The Sights, Sounds, and Smells That Shaped Its Great Cities

What is my book about?

Like many of us, I wondered what city streets were like before cars came along. My answers grew out of a few years’ intense reading and viewing: they weren’t paradise, the smells were not always great, nor were the sounds, but they were often a city’s chief places of labor and trade, of music and theater, of gossip and politics and social display, and of the sewers and pavements and facades that gave shape all these activities. I looked mainly at the leading metropolises of London, Paris, Vienna, and Berlin in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries to find the richest stews of animated humanity.