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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 Horse

Jo Horne Why did I love this book?

Based on the historical account of a champion racehorse of the 1850s, Brooks gives the reader a lot more in this dual-time story.

The two Black protagonists, one the enslaved groom whose devotion to the horse of the title is both heartbreaking and heartwarming; the other a modern-day doctoral student finding his dissertation topic when he uncovers a painting of a thoroughbred in his neighbor’s trash.

Brooks looks hard at the racism of the pre-Civil War South and then turns her focus to the racism of modern America. It is a hard book to put down, and the ending is a shocker.

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 2nd favorite read in 2023…

Book cover of Notes on an Execution

Jo Horne Why did I love this book?

This is the story of a serial killer and his victims, one living and one dead. The idea is that there is a ripple effect to any crime, especially murder.

The ticking clock timeline is masterful at building and sustaining tension. The author takes that suspense and flavors it with empathy and a whole new portrait of the American serial killer.

By Danya Kukafka,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Notes on an Execution as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?


“Defiantly populated with living women . . . beautifully drawn, dense with detail and specificity . . . Notes on an Execution is nuanced, ambitious and compelling.” —Katie Kitamura, NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW (Editors' Choice)

"A searing portrait of the complicated women caught in the orbit of a serial killer. . . . Compassionate and thought-provoking." –BRIT BENNETT, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Vanishing Half

Recommended by New York Times Book Review • Los…

My 3rd favorite read in 2023…

Book cover of The Nix: A novel

Jo Horne Why did I love this book?

I usually struggle with first novels and this one is a doozy at 700+ pages!! But Hill is a gifted storyteller who takes the reader on a wild ride through the summer of 1968 in Chicago and on into the lead-up to the 2016 election.

It is a story of mothers and sons and fathers and daughters, peppered liberally with signs of the times, like video game addicts and entitled students who think nothing of plagiarizing the work of others. 

By Nathan Hill,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

'The best new writer of fiction in America. The best.' - John Irving

Nathan Hill's brilliant debut, The Nix, journeys from the rural Midwest of the 1960s, to New York City during Occupy Wall Street; from Chicago in 1968, to wartime Norway: home of the mysterious Nix.

Meet Samuel: stalled writer, bored teacher at a local college, obsessive player of online video games. He hasn't seen his mother, Faye, in decades, not since she abandoned her family when he was a boy. Now she has suddenly reappeared, having committed an absurd politically motivated crime that electrifies the nightly news, beguiles…

Plus, check out my book…

The “W” Word: One Woman's Journey To and Through Widowhood

By Jo Horne,

Book cover of The “W” Word: One Woman's Journey To and Through Widowhood

What is my book about?

Author Jo Horne shares her intimate journey of love, loss, and self-discovery.

When her husband of 40+ years passes away after a long illness, she finds herself navigating the unfamiliar territory of widowhood. From the bittersweet passage of her husband’s last six months to the small victories of her first two years alone, she shares the ups and downs of her journey with unflinching honesty.