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The best books of 2023

This list is part of the best books of 2023.

We've asked 1,552 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 Dark Room Etiquette

Dev Jannerson Why did I love this book?

If you’ve been through something horrible, how do you go back to living your life? This question (a familiar one for me) is at the center of Dark Room Etiquette, in which a teen is kidnapped and brainwashed by a lonely man with religious delusions.

It’s a top-notch abduction thriller but also a fearless depiction of living with trauma; if anything, the story becomes more gripping once Sayers is rescued. Plus, the character arc is stunning. Sayers transforms from an entitled rich kid to withdrawn and helpless, and finally to destabilized and haunted.

It’s profound, sensitive, and completely believable. I can’t wait to read it again.

By Robin Roe,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Dark Room Etiquette as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 14, 15, 16, and 17.

What is this book about?


Popularity, good looks, perfect grades—there's nothing Sayers' family money can't buy.

Until he's kidnapped by a man who tells him the privileged life he's been living is based on a lie. 

Trapped in a windowless room, without knowing why he's been taken or how long the man plans to keep him shut away, Sayers faces a terrifying new reality. To survive, he must forget the world he once knew, and play the part his abductor has created for him. 

But as time passes, the line between fact and fiction starts to blur, and Sayers begins…

My 2nd favorite read in 2023…

Book cover of What My Bones Know: A Memoir of Healing from Complex Trauma

Dev Jannerson Why did I love this book?

Stephanie Foo and I are the same age, grew up in the same place, and both live with complex PTSD as a result of our tumultuous childhoods. We have never met, but this memoir felt like a hug.

Years after distancing herself from her parents, Stephanie Foo can’t stop panicking or criticizing herself despite provable success. Foo deals with a subject by learning all about it, and she has brilliant feedback about the literature and therapeutic methods introduced for C-PTSD.

Ultimately, she provides clarity and hope for those of us who made it through hell but still expect disaster and want to respond to compliments with, "Oh, pshaw, you’re so nice, but I’m actually a fetid sewer marsupial."

By Stephanie Foo,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked What My Bones Know as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • A searing memoir of reckoning and healing by acclaimed journalist Stephanie Foo, investigating the little-understood science behind complex PTSD and how it has shaped her life

“Achingly exquisite . . . providing real hope for those who long to heal.”—Lori Gottlieb, New York Times bestselling author of Maybe You Should Talk to Someone

ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR: The Washington Post, Cosmopolitan, NPR, Mashable, She Reads, Publishers Weekly

By age thirty, Stephanie Foo was successful on paper: She had her dream job as an award-winning radio producer at This American Life and…

My 3rd favorite read in 2023…

Book cover of What Never Happened

Dev Jannerson Why did I love this book?

Socially conscious thrillers? Reluctant detectives with tragic histories? A setting (in this case, Catalina Island) that impacts everything? I was sold on Rachel Howzell Hall’s latest novel by the end of the intro, in which teenage Coco comes home to find her family massacred after a home invasion.

Twenty years later, Coco returns during a divorce with designs on selling her family’s abandoned house. Then, she receives threats. Then there’s a series of deaths, and rumors swirl about them being less natural than they look. Oh, and the man convicted of her family’s murder—who the cops encouraged her to implicate—has been freed due to new evidence.

What Never Happened is intense but also great fun, especially if you’ve been to Catalina. Yes, the bison are important.

By Rachel Howzell Hall,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked What Never Happened as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

It's murder in paradise as a woman uncovers a host of secrets off the rocky California coast in a gripping novel of suspense by New York Times bestselling author Rachel Howzell Hall.

Colette "Coco" Weber has relocated to her Catalina Island home, where, twenty years before, she was the sole survivor of a deadly home invasion. All Coco wants is to see her aunt Gwen, get as far away from her ex as possible, and get back to her craft-writing obituaries. Thankfully, her college best friend, Maddy, owns the local paper and has a job sure to keep Coco busy,…

Plus, check out my book…

The Women of Dauphine

By Dev Jannerson,

Book cover of The Women of Dauphine

What is my book about?

When Cassie's family moves into a decrepit house in New Orleans, the only upside is her new best friend. Gem is witty, attractive, and sure not to abandon Cassie—after all, she's been confined to the old house since her murder in the 60s. 

As their connection becomes romantic, Cassie must keep more and more secrets from her religious community, which hates ghosts almost as much as it hates gays. Even if their relationship prevails over volatile parents and brutal conversion therapy, it may not outlast time.