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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 Invitation to a Banquet: The Story of Chinese Food

Jenny Linford Why did I love this book?

In this beguiling, appetising, elegantly written book, food writer and journalist Fuchsia Dunlop shares her deep appreciation of Chinese cuisine. As the English author of acclaimed Chinese cookbooks, she is well-placed to do so.

Seductive descriptions of beautifully cooked Chinese meals she has enjoyed—exquisite clear soups, thrilling stir-fries, delicately cooked prawns—are an inviting strand woven together with Chinese history and insights into the skills underlying Chinese cuisine. She writes from a place of excellent knowledge with clarity, insight, and wit.

Intriguingly, she notes both the sad, over-simplified stereotyping of Chinese food in the West and how ‘European’ cuisine is misunderstood in China. The banquet Dunlop is inviting us to share as readers truly is a rich and splendid feast.

By Fuchsia Dunlop,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Invitation to a Banquet as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Chinese was the earliest truly global cuisine. When the first Chinese laborers began to settle abroad, restaurants appeared in their wake. Yet Chinese has the curious distinction of being both one of the world's best-loved culinary traditions and one of the least understood. For more than a century, the overwhelming dominance of a simplified form of Cantonese cooking ensured that few foreigners experienced anything of its richness and sophistication-but today that is beginning to change.

In Invitation to a Banquet, award-winning cook and writer Fuchsia Dunlop explores the history, philosophy, and techniques of Chinese culinary culture. In each chapter, she…

My 2nd favorite read in 2023…

Book cover of Super-Infinite: The Transformations of John Donne

Jenny Linford Why did I love this book?

With this mesmerising biography, author Katherine Rundell sets out to share her deep love of the poet John Donne and succeeds in style. This is an enthralling book—an insight into a clever, fascinating man who led myriad lives as a poet, scholar, sea adventurer, and Dean of St Paul’s.

Rundell’s appreciation of Donne’s way with words is insightful. Aptly, her own prose is itself rich and imaginative. She has a flair for arresting images: ‘To read a full text of a Donne sermon is a bit like mounting a horse only to discover that it is an elephant: large and unfamiliar.’  

A book which reminds one of the power of language to beguile, seduce, inform and enthrall.

By Katherine Rundell,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Super-Infinite as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

**A Sunday Times top ten bestseller**
**Shortlisted for the Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year Award 2023**
**Shortlisted for the Duff Cooper Prize for Non-Fiction 2023**
**Shortlisted for the Slightly Foxed First Biography Prize 2023**

'Masterly.' Observer
'Wonderful, joyous.' Maggie O'Farrell
'Frankly brilliant.' Sunday Times
'Unmissable.' Simon Jenkins
'Every page sparkles.' Claire Tomalin
'A triumph.' Matt Haig
'Stylish, scholarly and gripping.' Rose Tremain

John Donne lived myriad lives. Sometime religious outsider and social disaster, sometime celebrity preacher and establishment darling, Donne was incapable of being just one thing.

He was a scholar of law, a sea adventurer, an MP,…

My 3rd favorite read in 2023…

Book cover of The Fraud

Jenny Linford Why did I love this book?

Zadie Smith’s first ‘historical’ novel does not disappoint. This is a wonderfully written, witty, richly imagined, characteristically idiosyncratic book.

This intriguing book is set in the nineteenth century and peopled with historical figures—the now little-known novelist William Ainsworth, his housekeeper, the fascinating Mrs. Touchet, Charles Dickens, Andrew Bogle, a man born into slavery in Jamaica, who becomes a key witness in a real-life Victorian cause celebre.

Intricately structured, at its heart one finds a powerful, compelling story within a story which gives a force to the book. The issues raised within the book—racism, colonialism, woman’s rights, populism, fake news—resonate in our times. A book to set you thinking.

By Zadie Smith,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The instant New York Times bestseller.

From acclaimed and bestselling novelist Zadie Smith, a kaleidoscopic work of historical fiction set against the legal trial that divided Victorian England, about who gets to tell their story—and who gets to be believed

It is 1873. Mrs. Eliza Touchet is the Scottish housekeeper—and cousin by marriage—of a once-famous novelist, now in decline, William Ainsworth, with whom she has lived for thirty years.

Mrs. Touchet is a woman of many interests: literature, justice, abolitionism, class, her cousin, his wives, this life and the next. But she is also sceptical. She suspects her cousin of…

Plus, check out my book…

The Missing Ingredient: The Curious Role of Time in Food and Flavour

By Jenny Linford,

Book cover of The Missing Ingredient: The Curious Role of Time in Food and Flavour

What is my book about?

The Missing Ingredient explores the idea that time is the universal, invisible ‘ingredient’ in the food we grow, make, and cook.

Through encounters with food producers, chefs, cooks, and food writers, Linford takes the reader on an entertaining, enlightening journey and allows us to understand our culinary lives better.