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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.

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My favorite read in 2023…

Book cover of The Madwomen of Paris

Edie Cay Why did I love this book?

The Madwomen of Paris tells the story of Salpêtrière, a hospital in Paris. For a time, it was an insane asylum for women. The book tells the story of Laure, a girl who was hospitalized after the death of her parents, and after her stay for “hysteria,” became a ward attendant. Soon, she meets Josephine, who becomes a famous “hysteric.” Dr. Charcot performs hypnosis on his patients—all women—on a stage for the pursuit of medical knowledge. But it is open to the public, and their names and photos are printed in the newspaper.

I loved this book because it shows exploitation and how some are comfortable with it and some are not. The ethics and choices in this are difficult, as the system is designed to oppress women yet believes it keeps them safe all at once. Then, some don’t fit in the system through no fault of their own, and they struggle to find a place where no one wants them.

I read this book as an advanced reader copy last spring, and I still think about it today. I think about these small moments, so well described, like the girls riding on the top level of a bus to get fresh air, but how it is reserved for gentlemen, and some male medical students recognize her and try to exploit her there. It was absolutely riveting.

By Jennifer Cody Epstein,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Madwomen of Paris as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Two women fall under the influence of a powerful doctor in Paris’s notorious women’s asylum in this gripping historical novel inspired by true events, from the bestselling author of Wunderland.

“Beautifully crafted . . . Combining elegant prose, artfully chosen historical details, and convincing characterizations, this haunting narrative showcases Epstein at her best.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

When Josephine arrives at the Salpêtrière asylum, she is covered in blood, badly bruised, and suffering from amnesia. She is quickly diagnosed with what the Paris papers are calling “the epidemic of the age”: hysteria, a disease is so baffling and widespread that Doctor…

My 2nd favorite read in 2023…

Book cover of The Perfect Crimes of Marian Hayes

Edie Cay Why did I love this book?

This book starts as an epistolary—except for its blackmail letters. And, well, the person blackmailing is not particularly good at it.

Rob—his name and profession—is the son of a French woman who happened to be married to a young duke at the time of his birth who left France and ignored his mother altogether. The duke went on to marry again…and again. Thus, Rob is now blackmailing the last duchess, Marian, who married the duke for the reasons one might marry a duke, namely, money.

In a last-ditch effort to maintain her cash flow—as she has a sick father who needs care—she kidnaps Rob. But she’s terrible at it. They ride to the countryside to see her father, and all sorts of hi-jinks ensue. The dialogue is witty and fast. I read this via audiobook, and the narrator is excellent at Rob’s exasperated but good-natured sarcasm. I couldn’t stop listening to it. 

By Cat Sebastian,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The Perfect Crimes of Marian Hayes as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Cat Sebastian returns to Georgian London with a stunning tale of a reluctant criminal and the thief who cannot help but love her.

Marian Hayes, the Duchess of Clare, just shot her husband. Of course, the evil, murderous man deserved what was coming to him, but now she must flee to the countryside. Unfortunately, the only person she can ask for help is the charismatic criminal who is blackmailing her—and who she may have left tied up a few hours before…

A highwayman, con artist, and all-around cheerful villain, Rob Brooks is no stranger to the wrong side of the…

My 3rd favorite read in 2023…

Book cover of River of the Gods: Genius, Courage, and Betrayal in the Search for the Source of the Nile

Edie Cay Why did I love this book?

This is a non-fiction book about the Englishman Sir Richard Burton and his exploration in Africa to find the source of the Nile River. Millard is not afraid to point out Burton’s bizarre god complex, how smart he was that he might have developed one, and the hubris of explorers during that age.

Much of the “bad luck” experienced is the comeuppance of a young man’s arrogance, but I found myself feeling bad for him at times, even if he did bring it upon himself. He was a genius, and he was uncommonly brave. But his faith in his own imperviousness got many people killed.

The story itself is filled with political intrigue, arrogant derring-do, and untimely bayonets, bugs, and boats.

By Candice Millard,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked River of the Gods as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'This complex, compelling tale is told with simplicity and grace' - The Times

A story of courage and adventure, set against the backdrop of the race to exploit Africa by the colonial powers.

For millennia the location of the Nile River's headwaters was shrouded in mystery. In the mid-19th century, Richard Burton and John Hanning Speke were sent by the Royal Geographical Society to claim the prize for Britain. Burton spoke twenty-nine languages, and was a decorated soldier. He was also mercurial, subtle, and an iconoclastic atheist. Speke was a young aristocrat and Army officer determined to make his mark,…

Plus, check out my book…

A Lady's Revenge

By Edie Cay,

Book cover of A Lady's Revenge

What is my book about?

Lady Lydia Sommerset is an earl’s daughter. At the ripe age of twenty-five, she still wears lavish gowns and dances the dainty steps of the haute ton as if she were pursuing a husband, but her goals are far more personal. 

John Arthur is made of money. A street kid who dazzled with his fists, he now impresses on the London Stock Exchange. After spending his childhood in the gutter, he should be happy with a full belly and coin-filled pockets. His life gets complicated when he finds a woman who finds boxing as vital as he does.

Caught between revenge and finding love with a man who might truly understand her, Lady Lydia must commit to opening her heart or closing it forever.

My 6-year-old's favorite read in 2023…

Book cover of An Anthology of Aquatic Life

Edie Cay Why did they love this book?

Every animal gets a two-page spread that includes a photograph and an illustration, as well as a short description.

My kid loves weird animals, like the bootlace worm—the longest animal! It's even longer than a blue whale! But it looks like a brown bootlace. It's gross. He also likes the flying squid, which jet-propel themselves out of the water up to 30 feet through the air!

By Sam Hume,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked An Anthology of Aquatic Life as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 7, 8, 9, and 10.

What is this book about?

Dive into the wondrous world of water and discover the stories of more than 100 incredible aquatic lifeforms.

The underwater world is so much bigger than young minds can fathom and there is always more to learn. An Anthology of Aquatic Life is a stunning ocean encyclopedia for young readers to explore, with reference pages packed with fascinating information, little learners will be captivated as they discover the facts, stories and myths behind their favourite sea-life animals.

From the deepest, widest ocean to the tiniest puddle, this beautiful compendium takes young readers on an enthralling journey through the aquatic world,…

My 6-year-old's 2nd favorite read in 2023…

Book cover of Funnybones

Edie Cay Why did they love this book?

We found this book as part of the Yoto Audio book collection. It tells the story of skeletons who have a skeleton dog and go out to try to scare people at night, but things usually happen, and no one actually gets scared. 

My kid laughs when the animal bones show up. There is a dog skeleton who gets lost in the snow, which my six-year-old finds the epitome of humor.

By Allan Ahlberg, Janet Ahlberg,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Funnybones as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 4, 5, 6, and 7.

What is this book about?

"This is how the story begins... On a dark dark hill there was a dark dark town. In the dark dark town there was a dark dark street."

Discover the classic children's story that has delighted generation after generation. A must read for halloween, discover the hillarious Funnybones stories. Packed with playful illustrations and easy to read text, discover this timeless bedtime story.

"Children will love poring over the contrasting illustrations while joining in with the repetition. A great book for sharing together" - Book Trust

Can't get enough of the Funnybones skeletons? Discover:
Funnybones: The Black Cat
The Funnybones…

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