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 Beckoning World: A Novel

Kathleen Stone Why did I love this book?

This is a novel about a young man who must decide between pursuing a career in baseball or marrying a woman he loves, the daughter of a midwestern farming family.

The author knows what it’s really like to live on a farm in Iowa, and it shows. His characters fully inhabit that world. Although the story is about one man’s ambition, love, and uncertainties, it’s capacious enough that we all can see ourselves in it.

The story encompasses heartbreak and hope and is written subtly and with insight. It’s the kind of book that keeps you thinking long after you finish it.

By Douglas Bauer,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The Beckoning World is set in the first quarter of the twentieth century and follows Earl Dunham. His weeks are comprised of six days mining coal, followed by Sundays playing baseball. Then one day a major-league scout happens on a game, signs Earl, and he begins a life he had no idea he could even dream.

But dreams sometimes suffer from a lovely abundance, and in Earl's case her name is Emily Marchand. They fall quickly and deeply in love, but with that love comes heartbreaking complications.

The Beckoning World gathers a cast of characters that include Babe Ruth and…


My 2nd favorite read in 2023…

Book cover of Architects of an American Landscape: Henry Hobson Richardson, Frederick Law Olmsted, and the Reimagining of America's Public and Private Spaces

Kathleen Stone Why did I love this book?

As a Bostonian, I live near Trinity Church, one of Henry Hobson Richardson’s masterpieces, and the Emerald Necklace, a prize piece of Frederick Law Olmsted’s legacy.

I thought I had an innate feel for the men’s work. Still, I learned so much from reading this book – about their individual lives, their collaboration, and how they, individually and in concert, used their work to express a vision of America. 

After the Civil War, when the country was redefining itself, these two were significant contributors to the built and natural environment.

This is a highly readable dual biography. The book balances the men’s life stories, an assessment of their work, and the historical context. I found it fascinating. 

By Hugh Howard,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Architects of an American Landscape as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A dual portrait of America’s first great architect, Henry Hobson Richardson, and her finest landscape designer, Frederick Law Olmsted―and their immense impact on America

As the nation recovered from a cataclysmic war, two titans of design profoundly influenced how Americans came to interact with the built and natural world around them through their pioneering work in architecture and landscape design.

Frederick Law Olmsted is widely revered as America’s first and finest parkmaker and environmentalist, the force behind Manhattan’s Central Park, Brooklyn’s Prospect Park, Biltmore’s parkland in Asheville, dozens of parks across the country, and the preservation of Yosemite and Niagara…


My 3rd favorite read in 2023…

Book cover of The Good Lord Bird

Kathleen Stone Why did I love this book?

At first, I was hesitant to read this book because the set-up sounded preposterous – a Black boy disguised as a girl called Onion travels with abolitionist John Brown from Kansas to Harper’s Ferry. Yet, however improbable the protagonist may be, author James McBride explores real history through Onion’s eyes.

The story starts in Kansas when abolitionists and pro-slavery factions are battling over the territory’s future. (Kansas is not yet a state.) It ends in Harper’s Ferry with Brown’s raid on the armory, an event that helped spark the Civil War.

Some of the action does feel exaggerated or even nonfactual in parts, but the story also reflects much of what happened. I recently visited both Kansas and Harper’s Ferry, and the book brought the places alive for me. 

By James McBride,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Now a Showtime limited series starring Ethan Hawke and Daveed Diggs

Winner of the National Book Award for Fiction

From the bestselling author of The Heaven & Earth Grocery Store, Deacon King Kong (an Oprah Book Club pick) and The Color of Water comes the story of a young boy born a slave who joins John Brown’s antislavery crusade—and who must pass as a girl to survive.

Henry Shackleford is a young slave living in the Kansas Territory in 1856--a battleground between anti- and pro-slavery forces--when legendary abolitionist John Brown arrives. When an argument between Brown and Henry's master turns…


Plus, check out my book…

They Called Us Girls: Stories of Female Ambition from Suffrage to Mad Men

By Kathleen Stone,

Book cover of They Called Us Girls: Stories of Female Ambition from Suffrage to Mad Men

What is my book about?

They Called Us Girls tells the stories of seven women who broke professional barriers in the mid-twentieth century.

When they came of age, the conventional expectation was for women to stay home, but these women had other ideas. They forged successful careers in male-dominated professions such as medicine, law, and science, among others.

As a girl and later as a lawyer, I was intrigued by women like them and wanted to find out what fueled their ambition. The book is a collection of individual profiles based on my interviews with the women and lots of research into history and culture. Together, their stories paint a picture of an era.