Author Horror enthusiast Film critic Academic Reader
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 Road Through the Wall

Mike Thorn Why did I love this book?

Shirley Jackson’s debut novel traces the goings-on within Pepper Street, an early- to mid-twentieth-century California suburb.

Consisting mainly of banal domestic interactions among the neighborhood’s inhabitants, the novel deftly identifies psychological attacks coded into propriety. The adult characters impose their attitudes of racism, classism, and paranoia onto their children, fueling the climactic party scene’s inevitable, violent revelation.

The novel is surprisingly slim given the Dickensian size of its ensemble. Every scene crackles with thematic purpose and narrative tension. Though not a horror book in the traditional sense, it still contains all the menace and suspense of Jackson’s later Gothic fiction, showcasing what would become her career-long fixation on human evil. 

By Shirley Jackson,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The compelling novel that began Shirley Jackson's legendary career

Pepper Street is a really nice, safe California neighborhood. The houses are tidy and the lawns are neatly mowed. Of course, the country club is close by, and lots of pleasant folks live there. The only problem is they knocked down the wall at the end of the street to make way for a road to a new housing development. Now, that’s not good—it’s just not good at all. Satirically exploring what happens when a smug suburban neighborhood is breached by awful, unavoidable truths, The Road Through the Wall is the…

My 2nd favorite read in 2023…

Book cover of The Subjugated Beast

Mike Thorn Why did I love this book?

The Subjugated Beast begins with a classic Gothic setup: an inheritance clause compels a young woman, Curl, to live in the gloomy Castle Grim with her Uncle Paul and Aunt Beatrice.

Holed up in that castle, the impotent and monomaniacal Paul subjects Beatrice to a perverse scientific experiment, wherein she is forced to subsist solely on raw meat. Paul hopes that over time this diet will unlock the woman’s inner beast, a property he believes thrives “deep beneath the undisputed consciousness of each of us.”

Ryan writes in lucidly vivid prose and demonstrates full mastery of plot, character, and atmosphere. Her novel is replete with fascinating reflections on many of horror’s pervading philosophical concerns, such as knowledge and its limitations, science versus spiritualism, and evil as something innate or external.   

By R. R. Ryan,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A legendary rarity, The Subjugated Beast is not simply a literary curiosity, but a true masterpiece of the genre, years ahead of its time. Denice Jeanette Bradley-Ryan writing as R.R. Ryan and Kay Seaton deserves to be thought of as one of the true masters of the weird novel and perhaps even the "Godmother of Splatterpunk". The Subjugated Beast easily stands with modern masterpieces like Richard Laymon's The Cellar, Ray Garton's Live Girls, Edward Lee's Creekers and other masterpieces of cutting edge horror; however, Ms. Bradley-Ryan was authoring these books over seventy years ago! Of her body of work, The…

My 3rd favorite read in 2023…

Book cover of Gravity and Grace

Mike Thorn Why did I love this book?

Simone Weil’s Gravity and Grace is an essential work of Christian mysticism written in profound, aphoristic style that aligns with its main philosophical tenets. Weil argues that emptying, or even nullifying, oneself is imperative in the context of true faith. God does not exist within the limited parameters of human subjectivity and the “created” world, so it stands to reason that the only way to apprehend God is through voiding. Indeed, even faith itself must be sacrificed under Weil’s philosophy, because to believe in something is to avoid nothing.

This book’s conviction is hauntingly persuasive. Its aphorisms accumulate to form a statement of radical belief. I’m deeply moved by Weil’s brilliance, commitment, and clarity of thought. 

By Simone Weil,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Gravity and Grace as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Gravity and Grace was the first ever publication by the remarkable thinker and activist, Simone Weil. In it Gustave Thibon, the farmer to whom she had entrusted her notebooks before her untimely death, compiled in one remarkable volume a compendium of her writings that have become a source of spiritual guidance and wisdom for countless individuals. On the fiftieth anniversary of the first English edition - by Routledge & Kegan Paul in 1952 - this Routledge Classics edition offers English readers the complete text of this landmark work for the first time ever, by incorporating a specially commissioned translation of…

Plus, check out my book…

Shelter for the Damned

By Mike Thorn,

Book cover of Shelter for the Damned

What is my book about?

While looking for a secret place to smoke cigarettes with his two best friends, troubled teenager Mark discovers a mysterious shack in a suburban field. Alienated from his parents and peers, Mark finds within the shack an escape greater than anything he has ever experienced. But it isn't long before the place begins revealing its strange, powerful sentience. And it wants something in exchange for the shelter it provides.

Shelter for the Damned is not only a scary, fast-paced horror novel, but also an unflinching study of suburban violence, masculine conditioning, and adolescent rage.