I’m Nancy Baker Author Of Cold Hillside
Nancy Baker
Author Reader Flamenco dancer
The best books of 2023

This list is part of the best books of 2023.

We've asked 1,199 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…

The Winged Histories

By Sofia Samatar,

Book cover of The Winged Histories

Nancy Baker Why did I love this book?

This book was everything I love in fantasy fiction – gorgeous prose, memorable characters, hard choices, and a world that feels heartbreakingly real.

In a world on the brink of revolution, four women – a soldier, a scholar, a poet, and a socialite – are caught on opposing sides and have to navigate their ties of loyalty, family, love, and ambition. Each voice is utterly compelling, and each moves the story in ways you can’t anticipate.

It’s not a long book, but it’s a feast of thoughtful storytelling written with beauty and power.

By Sofia Samatar,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Four women, soldier, scholar, poet, and socialite are caught up on different sides of a violent rebellion. As war erupts and their families are torn apart, they fear they may disappear into the unwritten pages of history. Using the sword and the pen, the body and the voice, they struggle not just to survive, but to make history. Praise for The Winged Histories: "Like an alchemist, Sofia Samatar spins golden landscapes and dazzling sentences...a fantasy novel for those who take their sentences with the same slow, unfolding beauty as a cup of jasmine tea, and for adventurers like Tav, who…

My 2nd favorite read in 2023…

Book cover of The Mountain in the Sea

Nancy Baker Why did I love this book?

When I love a book, I rave about it at the drop of a hat. I raved about this mind-blowing SF thriller to everyone I met for weeks.

It’s got everything: international skullduggery, evil tech business empires, a world under ecological threat, futuristic science based on current cutting-edge research on cephalopod intelligence, and – of course - intelligent octopuses. I dove right into this and just surfaced long enough to read parts of it aloud to whoever happened to be nearby.

Thought-provoking, exciting, and exquisitely written, this book won the Locus Award for Best First Novel, and it is absolutely worth raving about.

By Ray Nayler,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The Mountain in the Sea as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'I loved this novel's brain and heart'

'A first-rate speculative thriller, by turns fascinating, brutal, powerful, and redemptive'

There are creatures in the water of Con Dao.
To the locals, they're monsters.
To the corporate owners of the island, an opportunity.
To the team of three sent to study them, a revelation.

Their minds are unlike ours.
Their bodies are malleable, transformable, shifting.
They can communicate.
And they want us to leave.

When pioneering marine biologist Dr. Ha Nguyen is offered the chance to travel to the remote Con…

My 3rd favorite read in 2023…

Book cover of I Used to Be Charming: The Rest of Eve Babitz

Nancy Baker Why did I love this book?

I don’t remember how I ended up with Eve Babitz’s wry and entertaining memoir on my “to-read” list, but I was so impressed I had to follow it up with a biography of her.

Dubbed the ultimate ‘LA It Girl’, Babitz was an artist, writer, and collector of lovers and friends from every creative corner of the city.

She hung out at the Troubadour with Jim Morrison, played chess (naked) with Marcel Duchamp, dated (ahem) any number of boldface actors, and turned her life into writing that captured the pleasures and absurdities of life in Los Angeles.

From love to heartbreak to a near-death cigarette accident, Eve did it all and wrote about it with unforgettable style. 

By Eve Babitz,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked I Used to Be Charming as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Previously uncollected nonfiction pieces by Hollywood's ultimate It Girl about everything from fashion to tango to Jim Morrison and Nicholas Cage.

With Eve’s Hollywood Eve Babitz lit up the scene in 1974. The books that followed, among them Slow Days, Fast Company and Sex and Rage, have seduced generations of readers with their unfailing wit and impossible glamour. What is less well known is that Babitz was a working journalist for the better part of three decades, writing for the likes of Rolling Stone, Vogue, and Esquire, as well as for off-the-beaten-path periodicals like Wet: The Magazine of Gourmet Bathing…

Plus, check out my book…

Cold Hillside

By Nancy Baker,

Book cover of Cold Hillside

What is my book about?

With them, there are no happy endings. In Lushan, the Fey are not fireside tales but a dangerous reality. Generations ago, the survivors of a dying empire bargained with the Faerie Queen for a place of safety, and each year, the tribute must be paid.

When misfortune means the price is not met, the Queen demands the services of Teresine, once a refugee slave and now an advisor to Lushan's ruler. Teresine must navigate the treacherous politics of the Faerie Court, where the Queen's will determines reality and mortals are pawns in an eternal struggle for power.

Years later, another young woman must discover the truth of what happened to Teresine in the Faerie Court, a truth that could threaten everything she loves. 

I read 125 books this year.