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The best books of 2023

This list is part of the best books of 2023.

We've asked 1,639 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 Monsters: A Fan's Dilemma

Gayleen Froese Why did I love this book?

There I was, by myself, trying to drag a one-ton sledge down the street and hating myself for getting nowhere, when this book came along and said, “It’s ridiculous this was asked of you. Let me buy you a coffee and explain.” I know I’m not the only person who has struggled with (in my case) loving Rosemary’s Baby and hating Roman Polanksi for what he’s done, or memorizing Woody Allen’s stand-up (ask me about the moose) and not being able to look at him anymore.

Sitting down with this book was like having a kind, clear-eyed, and infinitely well-read older sister put an arm around my shoulders and take me through the guilt and heartache from every angle while we laughed and cried together.

By Claire Dederer,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

***BBC RADIO 4 BOOK OF THE WEEK***

'Funny, lively and convivial... how rare and nourishing this sort of roaming thought is and what a joy to read' MEGAN NOLAN, SUNDAY TIMES

'An exhilarating, shape-shifting exploration of the perilous boundaries between art and life' JENNY OFFILL

A passionate, provocative and blisteringly smart interrogation of how we experience art in the age of #MeToo, and whether we can separate an artist's work from their biography.

What do we do with the art of monstrous men? Can we love the work of Roman Polanski and Michael Jackson, Hemingway and Picasso? Should we love…


My 2nd favorite read in 2023…

Book cover of The Best Minds: A Story of Friendship, Madness, and the Tragedy of Good Intentions

Gayleen Froese Why did I love this book?

As a person who lives with mental illness, and who sees friends, family, and neighbours struggle with their own, I hear a lot of talk about it, but it’s mostly surface. Memes and platitudes.

Rosen’s best friend went from promise to illness to a façade of recovery and finally tragedy, and Rosen has real things to say about it—considered, complicated, and with context both personal and historical. This is the conversation about mental illness I’ve wanted and needed that comes to the topic with compassion but doesn’t stint on honesty or look away from disappointment. I don’t get to look away, either, and I appreciate that Rosen is there with me.

By Jonathan Rosen,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Best Minds as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

ONE OF BARACK OBAMA'S FAVOURITE BOOKS OF 2023

ONE OF THE GUARDIAN AND PROSPECT'S BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR

ONE OF THE NEW YORK TIMES, ATLANTIC, AND WALL STREET JOURNAL'S TOP TEN BOOKS OF THE YEAR

'Extraordinary... Magisterial... A remarkable meditation on friendship, success, madness and violence that refuses to oversimplify' Guardian (Book of the Day)

'The darkest of literary triumphs, and the most gripping of unbearable reads' Telegraph (5 stars)

A novelist's gripping investigation of the forces that led his childhood best friend from academic stardom to the psychiatric hospital where he has lived since killing the woman he…


My 3rd favorite read in 2023…

Book cover of The Song of the Cell: An Exploration of Medicine and the New Human

Gayleen Froese Why did I love this book?

I heard somewhere that we never left the ocean. We packed it into our cells and took it with us to land. I love that kind of imagery, thinking that lies at the intersection of science and romance, and that intersection is a place Mukherjee visits often.

Anyone could educate me about cellular biology, but few could give me a sense of quiet awe about my own cells. By the end of the book, I had a sense of great fortune, as if I’d been born the zookeeper of a place full of mysterious and clever animals and got to be with them every day of my life. 

By Siddhartha Mukherjee,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Winner of the 2023 PROSE Award for Excellence in Biological and Life Sciences and the 2023 Chautauqua Prize!

Named a New York Times Notable Book and a Best Book of the Year by The Economist, Oprah Daily, BookPage, Book Riot, the New York Public Library, and more!

In The Song of the Cell, the extraordinary author of the Pulitzer Prize–winning The Emperor of All Maladies and the #1 New York Times bestseller The Gene “blends cutting-edge research, impeccable scholarship, intrepid reporting, and gorgeous prose into an encyclopedic study that reads like a literary page-turner” (Oprah Daily).

Mukherjee begins this magnificent…


Plus, check out my book…

Lightning Strike Blues

By Gayleen Froese,

Book cover of Lightning Strike Blues

What is my book about?

One summer night in a small prairie city, 18-year-old Gabriel Reece accidentally outs himself to his redneck brother Colin, flees on his motorcycle and gets struck by lightning on his way out of town. He’s strangely fine, walking away from his melted pile of bike without a scratch. There’s no time to consider his new inhuman durability before his brother disappears and his childhood home burns down. He’s become popular, too—local cops and a weird private eye are after him, wanting to know if his brother is behind a recent murder. 

Answers might be in the ashes of the house where Gabe and Colin grew up, if Gabe and his friends can stay alive and out of jail long enough to find them.