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The best books of 2023

This list is part of the best books of 2023.

We've asked 1,644 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 The Stranger in the Woods: The Extraordinary Story of the Last True Hermit

David Humphreys Why did I love this book?

I am a strong introvert. I like my "me" time. But then there’s this man—Christopher Thomas Knight, who spent 27 years living in the woods of Maine alone. 

Michael Finkel’s The Stranger in the Woods is about Knight, who went into the forest, unprepared, in 1986 and didn’t come out again until he was arrested in 2013.

He survived by growing to understand the woods and being an excellent thief—both in the sense that he was good at lifting things and was, as much as possible, a conscientious outlaw. 

I found this a compelling read, partly because of the terse writing and partly because I understand and don’t understand the things that motivated Knight.

By Michael Finkel,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked The Stranger in the Woods as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

*THE NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER*

Could you leave behind all that you know and live in solitude for three decades? This is the extraordinary story of the last true hermit - Christopher Knight.

'This was a breath-taking book to read and many weeks later I am still thinking about the implications for our society and - by extension - for my own life' Sebastian Junger, bestselling author of The Perfect Storm

'A wry meditation on one man's attempt to escape life's distractions and look inwards, to find meaning not by doing, but by being'
Martin Sixsmith, bestselling author of Philomena…


My 2nd favorite read in 2023…

Book cover of Elephant Complex: Travels in Sri Lanka

David Humphreys Why did I love this book?

Maybe it’s true that the best travel writers can convince you to consider doing things that you wouldn’t do otherwise. This year alone, I have entertained ideas about piloting an aircraft over Africa (Beryl Markham) and driving the Pan-American Highway from Alaska to Argentina (Tim Cahill). 

Then there’s John Gimlette’s Elephant Complex: Travels in Sri Lanka. His combination of meticulous research, compelling story-telling, vivid description, and insightful interview made me want to walk through the tropical jungle, sleep in a tree house, meditate in a serene Buddhist temple, and savor scalding curry in Colombo.

Last year, I was a person who was only peripherally aware of Sri Lanka. And now, a mere 450 pages later, I’m a person who desperately wants to go.

By John Gimlette,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Elephant Complex as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A gripping account of an under-reported island' Spectator, Book of the Year
'[A] brilliant new book about an island that has a geography from heaven and a history from hell' Daily Telegraph
'A brilliant work of travel, history and psychological insight . . . astute and sympathetic . . . very funny' Wall Street Journal
Everyone has wanted a piece of paradise
John Gimlette - winner of the Dolman Prize and the Shiva Naipaul Prize for Travel Writing - is the kind of traveller you'd want by your side. Whether hacking a centuries-old path through the jungle, interrogating the surviving…


My 3rd favorite read in 2023…

Book cover of The First Cat in Space Ate Pizza

David Humphreys Why did I love this book?

This book says “ages 8 - 12” in small type on the back. That is a horrible lie of marketing. It should say, “mandatory: childlike sense of whimsy.”

The First Cat in Space Ate Pizza by Mac Barnett and Shawn Harris is a graphic novel approximately 300 pages long. It’s about a cosmic crisis on the moon caused by intergalactic rats, led by a three-headed king—although one of the heads is a bit dim. Brace yourself for giants, a moon queen, pirates, an angry Sphinx, robot showdowns, running gags, and an evil computer who just wants to be a part of the narrative.

It was the most delightful book that I bought this year. Read it aloud to someone who’ll appreciate it.

By Mac Barnett, Shawn Harris (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The First Cat in Space Ate Pizza as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 8, 9, 10, and 11.

What is this book about?

"Ridiculously fun and brilliantly illustrated." -Dav Pilkey, creator of Dog Man and Captain Underpants

As seen on The TODAY Show! New York Times bestselling Mac Barnett and Caldecott Honor award-winning illustrator Shawn Harris turn their massively popular The First Cat in Space Ate Pizza live cartoon into an action-packed and hysterical graphic novel series-perfect for fans of Dav Pilkey, Raina Telgemeier, and Jeff Kinney. A Kids' Indie Next List Pick, an Indie Bestseller, and a Junior Library Guild Selection!

Something terrible is happening in the skies! Rats are eating the MOON!

There's only ONE hero for the job, a bold…


My podcasts are...

Strong Sense of Place and The Library of Lost Time

I'm the co-host of two podcasts about books: Strong Sense of Place and The Library of Lost Time.

Strong Sense of Place is a bi-weekly show for book lovers who are curious about the world—and want stories that transport them to other places and times. In each episode, we choose one destination and discuss what makes it different than everywhere else. Then we recommend five books we love that took us there on the page.

The Library of Lost Time is a short-and-sweet podcast! Every week, we tell you about two new books at the top of our TBR, then share something related to reading, travel, or culture that we think will delight you.