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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 What Strange Paradise: A Novel

Glenn Dixon Why did I love this book?

I love a good adventure, especially stories that take place in far-off countries. What Strange Paradise fits the bill on both counts, but there’s so much more. It’s the story of a young boy named Amir who is washed ashore on a Greek island. He’s the sole survivor of a disastrous migrant crossing.

What’s remarkable about this story is that the other main character, Vanna, a slightly older Greek girl, helps him evade the authorities (running from problems of her own), and together, they tell you everything that’s good about humanity.

It’s a beautifully written tale that will both break your heart and give you hope for a better world.

My 2nd favorite read in 2023…

Book cover of Girlfriend on Mars

Glenn Dixon Why did I love this book?

What a premise in this book. Girlfriend on Mars is about a reality game show where the two winners will go along on a one-way trip to Mars, essentially setting up the first human settlement there.

This is not a science book. It’s really about the main characters: Amber, who’s been accepted as a contestant on the show (she’s quite brilliant in horticulture), and her loser boyfriend Kevin (a pot dealer who lives in terror that she will actually be chosen for the trip to Mars).

The winners will be a man and a woman (for obvious reasons), which leads to all sorts of misplaced jealousy and, I should emphasize, a whole lot of hilarity.

My 3rd favorite read in 2023…

Book cover of Babel

Glenn Dixon Why did I love this book?

Babel is epic. Spanning 500 pages, it’s the story of a young translator at Oxford University in the 1830s.

What makes it special is the thread of magic realism that weaves through it (silver bars infused with that which cannot be translated). It’s a little bit Harry Potter but so much more.

The great British Empire is extending its power over the world. There are sailing ships and opium wars with China, and deep moral questions discussed by a young group of scholars studying and walking amongst the ancient towers and lamplit streets of old Oxford.

By R. F. Kuang,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?


'One for Philip Pullman fans'

'An ingenious fantasy about empire'

'Fans of THE SECRET HISTORY, this one is an automatic buy'

'Ambitious, sweeping and epic'

Traduttore, traditore: An act of translation is always an act of betrayal.

Oxford, 1836.

The city of dreaming spires.

It is the centre of all knowledge and progress in the world.

And at its centre is Babel, the Royal Institute of Translation. The tower from which all the power of the Empire flows.

Orphaned in Canton and brought to England by…

Plus, check out my book…

Bootleg Stardust

By Glenn Dixon,

Book cover of Bootleg Stardust

What is my book about?

It's 1974, and the debut album from the band Downtown Exit is rocketing up the charts. Their lead guitarist has a debilitating drug problem, though, and young Levi Jaxon, a talented but unknown musician, is hired to fill in.

Inevitably, Levi takes over the position, but he quickly learns that fame comes with a price. He must navigate egos and a fraught love triangle between himself, a young photographer named Ariadne, and the band's scandalous frontman, Frankie. As the band tours Europe, under the gun from their label to finish their next album, Levi faces questions about his past and doubts about his future.

Bootleg Stardust shines a light on the power of music and the courage it takes to find your own voice.