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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 This Poison Heart

Kelly Vincent Why did I love this book?

This book surprised me, and I do love a pleasant surprise.

I originally wasn’t that interested in This Poison Heart because I knew it had something to do with plants, and I don’t care much about plants. But I picked it up because Bayron’s first book had a twist I enjoyed, and it turned out that Briseis — the teenage star of this book— was awesome and engaging, and the story was full of twists, with a feminist twist on classical mythology, a healthy spattering of diverse characters, and LGBTQ+ relationships.

This is my kind of book because Briseis learns a lot about herself and discovers an inner strength she never knew was there. I love to read and write stories like this.

By Kalynn Bayron,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked This Poison Heart as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 12, 13, 14, and 15.

What is this book about?

_______________ 'Kalynn Bayron does more than re-write a fairy-tale ... She breaks it apart and rebuilds it into a wholly original and captivating story where girls finally decide for themselves who lives happily ever after' - Brigid Kemmerer 'Brings much-needed inclusivity and contemporary flavor to the teen fantasy genre' - Kirkus Reviews 'A delicious mix of intoxicating fantasy and coming of age, steeped in Greek mythology and peppered with references to the Jordan Peele films Get Out and Us' - Observer New Review _______________ Ever since she can remember, Briseis has had power over plants. Flowers bloom in her footsteps…

My 2nd favorite read in 2023…

Book cover of I Must Betray You

Kelly Vincent Why did I love this book?

I Must Betray You is another of Ruta Sepetys’s incredible historical YA novels.

She consistently brings to life disparate places and times, and this story of the lead-up to the fall of communism in Romania in 1989 is no exception.

Communist Romania is a nightmare, pitting family and friends against each other through the horrific secret police. Teenage Cristian knows things aren’t right, and he is that rare person who dares to stand up even when it’s completely impossible to win.

I love how Sepetys ties Cristian’s triumphant fictional efforts into the real events in a believable way. When I lived in a former Soviet country, I felt like communism just obliterates the soul, so seeing this hateful regime fall was very satisfying.

By Ruta Sepetys,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked I Must Betray You as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 12, 13, 14, and 15.

What is this book about?

A #1 New York Times and National Bestseller!
A gut-wrenching, startling historical thriller about communist Romania and the citizen spy network that devastated a nation, from the #1 New York Times bestselling, award-winning author of Salt to the Sea and Between Shades of Gray.

Romania, 1989. Communist regimes are crumbling across Europe. Seventeen-year-old Cristian Florescu dreams of becoming a writer, but Romanians aren’t free to dream; they are bound by rules and force.
Amidst the tyrannical dictatorship of Nicolae Ceaușescu in a country governed by isolation and fear, Cristian is blackmailed by the secret police to become an informer. He’s…

My 3rd favorite read in 2023…

Book cover of Felix Ever After

Kelly Vincent Why did I love this book?

All teens are trying to figure themselves out, but kids who don’t feel comfortable in the cis/hetero mold have an even tougher time.

Felix is struggling and starts to doubt some of the things he has believed about himself, and it’s terrifying. Add to that some confusion about some of his relationships, and you have a cocktail of challenges.

I could so relate to Felix and know that my own fictional characters would, too.

This book received some impressive and well-earned accolades for painting such an authentic portrayal of a trans teen finding himself and his place amongst his peers, but it’s also a good story with a lot more going on. It’s impossible not to root for Felix and his friends.

By Kacen Callender,

Why should I read it?

8 authors picked Felix Ever After as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A Stonewall Honor Book * A Time Magazine Best YA Book of All Time

From Stonewall and Lambda Award–winning author Kacen Callender comes a revelatory YA novel about a transgender teen grappling with identity and self-discovery while falling in love for the first time.

Felix Love has never been in love—and, yes, he’s painfully aware of the irony. He desperately wants to know what it’s like and why it seems so easy for everyone but him to find someone. What’s worse is that, even though he is proud of his identity, Felix also secretly fears that he’s one marginalization too…

Plus, check out my book…


By Kelly Vincent,

Book cover of Uglier

What is my book about?

Nic Summers is ready for a fresh start.

Entering her first semester at a boarding school far from her narrow-minded hometown, the talented teen artist hopes to continue exploring her gender identity in a safer environment.

And after meeting a boy she likes, connecting with another student, and discovering a supportive teacher, she’s relieved things are looking up… until once again, she faces a cruel bully. Trying to stay positive, the shy creative focuses on nurturing her fledgling friendships and honing her skills under the guidance of a kind mentor. But after Nic’s crush is vengefully outed as trans, she blurts out something awful and fears she’s ruined everything. Can she mend shattered trusts and reclaim her authentic self?