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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 The Midnight Library

Susannah C. Richards Why did I love this book?

When I began to read Matt Haig’s 2020 bestseller The Midnight Library, I paused. Immediately confronted with the realization this work is about mental health issues, I was not certain I wanted to continue reading. However, I am grateful I hit the “resume” button, which eventually confirmed this time-travel work of fiction is whimsical, magical, creative, quirky, thought-provoking, and artful.

The main character, Nora, suffers from acute depression and a lack of self-love. Disenchanted with her current pathway of life, she makes a suicide declaration. In a plot similar to It’s a Wonderful Life, Nora visits a library that offers alternate lives; to “correct” career pathways, mend relationships, pursue lofty dreams, and form new friendships. Yet, altering subtle decisions in new life experiences can have deleterious changes, such as death, conditional love, and negative influences.

Understandably, some readers will not be able to move past the book’s discussion of suicide. But for me, the overarching theme is less about mental health issues and more about promoting a mindset of gratitude instead of listening to an inner voice ruminate about prior mistakes. 

By Matt Haig,

Why should I read it?

35 authors picked The Midnight Library as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The #1 New York Times bestselling WORLDWIDE phenomenon

Winner of the Goodreads Choice Award for Fiction | A Good Morning America Book Club Pick | Independent (London) Ten Best Books of the Year

"A feel-good book guaranteed to lift your spirits."-The Washington Post

The dazzling reader-favorite about the choices that go into a life well lived, from the acclaimed author of How To Stop Time and The Comfort Book.

Somewhere out beyond the edge of the universe there is a library that contains an infinite number of books, each one the story of another reality. One tells the story of…

My 2nd favorite read in 2023…

Book cover of Horse

Susannah C. Richards Why did I love this book?

As I began to read Horse by Geraldine Brooks, I was baffled: I expected to immediately be drawn into a cannot-put-the-book-down experience by this Pulitzer Prize-winning author. But, I should have known that the superb writing of the author would first require me to studiously set the time period and character placement perimeters in this 2023 historical fiction.

Woven into three different time periods were topics that consisted of a cast-off painting at a curb-side junk pile, a racehorse whose skills were unparalleled, and a skeleton from a Smithsonian storage.

Additionally, Horse included characters that lived in 1850 – Jarret, the enslaved groom of the racehorse; 1954 – Martha Jackson, an art gallery owner; and 2019 – Jess, a Smithsonian scientist, and Theo, a Nigerian-American art historian student.

While the author’s artful juggling of characters and time periods is impressive, Geraldine Brooks is most masterful with her inclusion of the need for social justice, which begins with a subtle prickling and gradually swells to a declaration of today’s continual unfair distribution of means, power, and resources.  

By Geraldine Brooks,

Why should I read it?

20 authors picked Horse as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"Brooks' chronological and cross-disciplinary leaps are thrilling." -The New York Times Book Review

"Horse isn't just an animal story-it's a moving narrative about race and art." -TIME

A discarded painting in a junk pile, a skeleton in an attic, and the greatest racehorse in American history: from these strands, a Pulitzer Prize winner braids a sweeping story of spirit, obsession, and injustice across American history

Kentucky, 1850. An enslaved groom named Jarret and a bay foal forge a bond of understanding that will carry the horse to record-setting victories across the South. When the nation erupts in civil war, an…

My 3rd favorite read in 2023…

Book cover of Long Way Down

Susannah C. Richards Why did I love this book?

In 2017, Jason Reynolds introduced the world to Long Way Down, a young adult novel that follows a fifteen-year-old’s sixty-second elevator passage from the seventh to the ground floor. Written in narrative verse, the revenge-seeking teenager meets up with ghosts who press him to decide if he truly wants to use a gun as a means to avenge the murder of his older brother.

It appears the author is using a literary platform to incite the public to WAKE UP! to the cost of gun violence. Yet, how ironic that the very theme of Long Way Down caused the book to be censored, even though it has been bestowed with countless accolades.

Shouldn’t the array of positive reviews and numerous awards override a censorship board? 

By Jason Reynolds,

Why should I read it?

8 authors picked Long Way Down as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 13, 14, 15, and 16.

What is this book about?

“An intense snapshot of the chain reaction caused by pulling a trigger.” —Booklist (starred review)
“Astonishing.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“A tour de force.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)

A Newbery Honor Book
A Coretta Scott King Honor Book
A Printz Honor Book
A Time Best YA Book of All Time (2021)
A Los Angeles Times Book Prize Winner for Young Adult Literature
Longlisted for the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature
Winner of the Walter Dean Myers Award
An Edgar Award Winner for Best Young Adult Fiction
Parents’ Choice Gold Award Winner
An Entertainment Weekly Best YA Book of…

Plus, check out my book…

A Work of Heart: Connecting with Kids in a Chaotic World

By Susannah C. Richards,

Book cover of A Work of Heart: Connecting with Kids in a Chaotic World

What is my book about?

A Work of Heart is an emotional - and necessary - book for adults who guide our most valuable resource: our children. This narrative journey intricately unfolds mentor/mentee relationship-building stories, such as a child’s passageway from homelessness and aggression to honor roll student, or the journey of a nonverbal child with autism from explosive outbursts to peaceful interactions.

Each chapter of this page-turner builds with momentum to motivate parents, teachers, coaches, scout leaders, social workers, nurses, occupational therapists, and anyone who interacts with youth to model the book’s concept of real-time mentorship.

Simply stated, real-time mentoring is the immediate gift of guidance and support for those needing a positive and trusted role model.