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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 Demon Copperhead

Christian McEwen Why did I love this book?

Several friends recommended this book to me, and once I got my hands on it, I understood why.

Barbara Kingsolver has taken the plot of Dickens’ David Copperfield, and transposed it to the Appalachian Mountains of Virginia. Her book is told in Demon’s voice— lively, personable, self-doubting, hungry, raw. I stayed up reading it far into the night, and started in again once I reached the end, unwilling to relinquish such terrific company.

No surprise this book has won so many prizes. It really is Kingsolver’s masterpiece.

By Barbara Kingsolver,

Why should I read it?

58 authors picked Demon Copperhead as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Demon's story begins with his traumatic birth to a single mother in a single-wide trailer, looking 'like a little blue prizefighter.' For the life ahead of him he would need all of that fighting spirit, along with buckets of charm, a quick wit, and some unexpected talents, legal and otherwise.

In the southern Appalachian Mountains of Virginia, poverty isn't an idea, it's as natural as the grass grows. For a generation growing up in this world, at the heart of the modern opioid crisis, addiction isn't an abstraction, it's neighbours, parents, and friends. 'Family' could mean love, or reluctant foster…


My 2nd favorite read in 2023…

Book cover of Ask for Horses: Memoir of a Dream-Guided Life

Christian McEwen Why did I love this book?

I have kept track of my own dreams since the age of sixteen, writing them down each morning, and often illustrating them too. But Tina Tau has done far more. Her life has been, quite literally, guided by dreams.

Ask for Horses could be called a double memoir, a conversation between the worlds, visible and invisible. The writing is lucid and engaging, the plot (such as it is) both lively and unpredictable. Tina Tau herself emerges an unlikely heroine: generous, warmhearted, and intrepid. 

By Tina Tau,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Ask for Horses as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

An adventure story in two realms, a conversation between the visible and invisible worlds: in this eloquent memoir, Tina Tau reveals the life-saving intelligence of her dreams.

". . . Ask for something so alive, so surprising, that it will crack your life wide open."

An adventure story in two realms, a conversation between the visible and invisible worlds; in this eloquent memoir, Tina Tau reveals the life-saving intelligence of her dreams. As a young woman she tries to outrun her pain by moving every year, often thousands of miles at a time. But by paying attention to her dreams,…


My 3rd favorite read in 2023…

Book cover of Out Of Silence, Sound. Out Of Nothing, Something.: A Writers Guide

Christian McEwen Why did I love this book?

I have read other books by Susan Griffin, including Women & Nature and A Chorus of Stones, but this one is my favorite.

Susan Griffin is a writer and a poet, she is also a long-time writing teacher. Her book is made up of a series of miniature essays—what the poet Ross Gay calls “essayettes”—which can be read in any order. Subjects include “Silence,” “False Starts,” “Taking Time,” and “Killing the Angel in the House,” most of them no longer than a paragraph or two.

Because each one rests like an island in its own private sea of white space, there is something curiously comforting about the book. Here is the wise mentor you have always longed for, the calm authoritative older sister. “Pause a moment,” she advises. “Take a breath. You can do it. There is no need to be overwhelmed.”

By Susan Griffin,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Out Of Silence, Sound. Out Of Nothing, Something. as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In an elegant but contemporary voice, award-winning author Susan Griffin breaks down the creative process step-by-step, guiding the reader through a practical course in how to begin and end a work of literature, whether fiction or nonfiction, poetry, or prose

The distinguished author of more than twenty-two books, many award-winning, Susan Griffin distills daily wisdom garnered from more than five decades teaching creative writing and editing manuscripts, as well as from her own writing. This collection of brief but ultimately pithy chapters designed to help beginning writers get started also guides experienced writers through blocks and difficulties of all kinds.…


Plus, check out my book…

In Praise of Listening

By Christian McEwen,

Book cover of In Praise of Listening

What is my book about?

Most of us think of listening in fairly literal fashion: human beings listening (or not listening) to one another; the pleasure of attending to a familiar piece of music. But listening can have a far broader and more capacious meaning, moving out beyond the small apparatus of the ears to the hands or belly or enveloping spirit/mind. When an athlete speaks of “listening to his body,” or a gardener describes herself as “listening to the land,” they are using the word as McEwen chooses to use it here—as an extended metaphor for openness and receptivity, rippling out from the self-centered human to the farthest reaches of the non-human world.