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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 Kill 'Em and Leave: Searching for James Brown and the American Soul

Michael Castleman Why did I love this book?

Kill ‘Em and Leave is a fascinating, gripping biography of the Godfather of Soul, James Brown. After performances, he never partied. He got on his bus and left for the next venue, hence his motto: Kill ‘em and leave.

Brown was an extremely private, secretive person. Even those who knew him well didn’t know much about him. McBride interviewed several dozen folks who were close to Brown and pieces together a marvelous book. I could not put it down.

By James McBride,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Kill 'Em and Leave as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'A formidable free-style book that isn't straight biography but a mix of history, street-level investigative reporting, hagiography, Deep South sociology, music criticism, memoir and some fiery preaching' Rolling Stone magazine

A Guardian best music book of 2016

The music of James Brown was almost a genre in its own right, and he was one of the biggest and most influential cultural figures of the twentieth century. But the singer known as the 'Hardest Working Man in Show Business' was also an immensely troubled, misunderstood and complicated man. Award-winning writer James McBride, himself a professional musician, has undertaken a journey of…

My 2nd favorite read in 2023…

Book cover of Demon Copperhead

Michael Castleman Why did I love this book?

Demon Copperhead is inspired by David Copperfield, but relocated to Appalachia where Kingsolver has lived most of her life.

Demon, christened Damon, grows up in a super-dysfunctional family and is pretty much on his own by age 10. Kingsolver creates a character so real, so believable that you feel like you’re in the hills of West Virginia working in a meth lab. But Demon retains his humanity and survives just as Dickens’ David Copperfield did.

Demon Copperhead is a tour de force that I believe is destined to become a classic novel of down-and-out America on the order of Grapes of Wrath.

By Barbara Kingsolver,

Why should I read it?

58 authors picked Demon Copperhead as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Demon's story begins with his traumatic birth to a single mother in a single-wide trailer, looking 'like a little blue prizefighter.' For the life ahead of him he would need all of that fighting spirit, along with buckets of charm, a quick wit, and some unexpected talents, legal and otherwise.

In the southern Appalachian Mountains of Virginia, poverty isn't an idea, it's as natural as the grass grows. For a generation growing up in this world, at the heart of the modern opioid crisis, addiction isn't an abstraction, it's neighbours, parents, and friends. 'Family' could mean love, or reluctant foster…

My 3rd favorite read in 2023…

Book cover of Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl

Michael Castleman Why did I love this book?

Jacobs was the Anne Frank of American slaves.

As a young woman and mother of three children, her owner subjected her to relentless sexual harassment, a situation typical of the lot of female enslaved people. Jacobs resisted his advances. Her owner threatened to sell her children if she refused to submit to his insatiable sexual demands. One day she disappeared.

Enslavers searched for her with guns and dogs but couldn’t find her. She had hidden in the cramped attic of her grandmother’s cabin, a space only three feet high. She hid there for seven years then was able to escape to the North, where her children had already fled.

Her memoir is a gripping tale of survival that illuminated the many horrors of slavery.

By Harriet Jacobs,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The true story of an individual's struggle for self-identity, self-preservation, and freedom, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl remains among the few extant slave narratives written by a woman. This autobiographical account chronicles the remarkable odyssey of Harriet Jacobs (1813–1897) whose dauntless spirit and faith carried her from a life of servitude and degradation in North Carolina to liberty and reunion with her children in the North.
Written and published in 1861 after Jacobs' harrowing escape from a vile and predatory master, the memoir delivers a powerful and unflinching portrayal of the abuses and hypocrisy of the master-slave…

Plus, check out my book…

Book cover of Sizzling Sex for Life: Everything You Need to Know to Maximize Erotic Pleasure at Any Age

What is my book about?

Sizzling Sex for Life is an inclusive, sex-positive, entirely evidence-based, cradle-to-grave sex guide, from the sexual implications of circumcision to the growing phenomenon of partner sex in nursing homes. Eli Coleman, Ph.D., chair of the Human Sexuality Program at University of Minnesota calls it “the most practical, authoritative, comprehensive sexuality guide ever written.” Sizzling Sex provides guidance on all common sexual issues throughout the lifespan: desire differences, premature ejaculation, erectile dysfunction, trouble working up to orgasm, exiting sexual ruts, and a great deal of information on pornography, which is less harmful than many people believe. Sizzling Sex written by a man for men but it emphasizes the many things most men don’t know—and need to know—about women’s sexuality. 

My book recommendation list