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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 Lessons in Chemistry

Nancy Nau Sullivan Why did I love this book?

Lessons in Chemistry rang so many bells: primarily the one that my mother rang back in the 70s when “women’s lib” boomed—one of outrage at how women were treated in the workplace.

Elizabeth Zott, Bonnie Garmus’s main character, is strong in the face of bad treatment in the male-dominated field of science in the early 60s. She’s quirky, a bit unbelievable, and single-minded, and Garmus’s story is saved in the hilarious moments.

So many emotions play out here — as in life — and if this book hadn’t struck so many, it would have fallen flat.

Elizabeth pursues her love of chemistry, whether in the lab or in the kitchen, and overcomes one hardship after another. Her ideas are stolen, she’s sexually harassed, she loses her love, and she raises a child alone. But she moves on, and up. Elizabeth stays true to herself: That alone makes the story worth it.  

By Bonnie Garmus,

Why should I read it?

64 authors picked Lessons in Chemistry as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • GOOD MORNING AMERICA BOOK CLUB PICK • Meet Elizabeth Zott: a “formidable, unapologetic and inspiring” (PARADE) scientist in 1960s California whose career takes a detour when she becomes the unlikely star of a beloved TV cooking show in this novel that is “irresistible, satisfying and full of fuel. It reminds you that change takes time and always requires heat” (The New York Times Book Review).

A BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR: The New York Times, Washington Post, NPR, Oprah Daily, Newsweek, GoodReads

"A unique heroine ... you'll find yourself wishing she wasn’t fictional." —Seattle Times…


My 2nd favorite read in 2023…

Book cover of The Exiles

Nancy Nau Sullivan Why did I love this book?

The Exiles drew me back to historical fiction in a big way—though I read quite a bit of the genre for my own work.

I loved this one because I’m dying to go to Australia. And secondly, the author’s research for this story is impressive.

It centers on the plight of female convicts who were shipped from London to Australia as indentured workers in 1840—many of them for small infractions. Evangeline, a former governess, is wrongly accused of stealing a ring given to her by the son of the wealthy family she works for. She’s soon off to the dungeon, where she meets Olive and Hazel. They all end up on a fate-filled ship.

Their stories - and that of a native Australian girl, Mathinna - intertwine like a vine, bringing the whole to life in a tight, vivid time frame. An admirable page-turner.

By Christina Baker Kline,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The author of the #1 New York Times bestseller Orphan Train returns with an ambitious, emotionally resonant historical novel that captures the hardship, oppression, opportunity and hope of a trio of women's lives-two English convicts and an orphaned Aboriginal girl - in nineteenth-century Australia.

Seduced by her employer's son, Evangeline, a naive young governess in early nineteenth-century London, is discharged when her pregnancy is discovered and sent to the notorious Newgate Prison. After months in the fetid, overcrowded jail, she learns she is sentenced to "the land beyond the seas," Van Diemen's Land, a penal colony in Australia. Though uncertain…


My 3rd favorite read in 2023…

Book cover of All the Sinners Bleed

Nancy Nau Sullivan Why did I love this book?

All the Sinners Bleed was a rough read, and if the excellent writing hadn’t knocked me over at the outset, I probably would have let this one go.

This was my first Cosby, and it was a surprise. Titus Crown, a Black sheriff in a small, racist Virginia town, must find a serial killer of Black children. He’s got his work cut out. But he has a loyal crew, women who love him (I’m among them), and determination out the wazoo.

S.A. Cosby is a phenomenal storyteller and produces some of the best new writing around, a bit reminiscent of my favorites, James Lee Burke and Attica Locke. In particular, Cosby’s dialogue is so tied to the character I hardly needed the tags. I hope he brings Titus back. 

By S. A. Cosby,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked All the Sinners Bleed as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

*** THE TIMES - THRILLER OF THE MONTH***
*** MAIL ON SUNDAY - BEST NEW FICTION***
*** FINANCIAL TIMES - BEST NEW CRIME BOOKS***

'A crackling good police procedural....fresh and exhilarating' STEPHEN KING

'S. A. Cosby's novels always hit the grand slam of crime fiction; unstoppable momentum, gripping intrigue and deep character with a hard and telling look at culture and society' MICHAEL CONNELLY

'Titus Crown is one of the most compelling characters I've read in a long time.' STEVE CAVANAGH

A BLACK SHERIFF. A SERIAL KILLER.
AND A SMALL TOWN READY TO COMBUST.

Titus Crown is the first Black…


Plus, check out my book…

Saving Tuna Street

By Nancy Nau Sullivan,

Book cover of Saving Tuna Street

What is my book about?

All is well for Blanche “Bang” Murninghan on her beloved Santa Maria Island. Gran left her a cabin on Tuna Street, and she’s got friends and family.

Then the land-grabbing goons arrive. Her friend, Bob Blankenship, is found murdered, and she suspects the slick, handsome developer Sergi Langstrom and his company of chaos are behind it all.

Blanche keeps digging. All the way to hell. The goons, it seems, are a front for a drug cartel.
The harder Blanche pushes against the source of trouble, the more she is sucked into the vortex of greed, murder, drug runners, and kidnapping (hers). Who can look away? It’s like watching a hurricane, which literally comes straight for Tuna Street.

My 7-year-old's favorite read in 2023…

Book cover of Diary of a Wimpy Kid

Nancy Nau Sullivan Why did they love this book?

My grandson James loves these books. They show that growing up is not a solitary adventure, and the problems that come up can often be solved with humor, friendship, and being true to oneself.

Sometimes the kid doesn't do what he says he's going to do, and it backfires. Lesson learned. Overall, James likes the humor in the books.

Greg, the wimp, is really not a wimp. He comes out ahead when he does what he's supposed to do, at times reluctantly, but he's got friends in high and low places. That helps.

By Jeff Kinney,

Why should I read it?

7 authors picked Diary of a Wimpy Kid as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 7, 8, 9, and 10.

What is this book about?

Boys don't keep diaries-or do they?

The launch of an exciting and innovatively illustrated new series narrated by an unforgettable kid every family can relate to

It's a new school year, and Greg Heffley finds himself thrust into middle school, where undersized weaklings share the hallways with kids who are taller, meaner, and already shaving. The hazards of growing up before you're ready are uniquely revealed through words and drawings as Greg records them in his diary.

In book one of this debut series, Greg is happy to have Rowley, his sidekick, along for the ride. But when Rowley's star…


Explore all books for 7-year-olds

My 9-year-old's favorite read in 2023…

Book cover of Kristy's Great Idea

Nancy Nau Sullivan Why did they love this book?

My granddaughter Maeve loves this series. The babysitters are always finding themselves in different places and in the middle of different challenges.

In one such adventure, the group goes to the big city, and they begin to get on each other's nerves. Maeve can identify with this as she is the eldest and is a "babysitter" of sorts to her younger brother, Silas. He's a pickle. Thinks he's Buzz Lightyear and mostly wants to be his own "man." The Babysitter Club series is a fun read and helps my granddaughter see an easy, often humorous, way to deal with being a babysitter.

By Ann M. Martin, Raina Telgemeier (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Kristy's Great Idea as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 8, 9, 10, and 11.

What is this book about?

Now a major Netflix series!

Kristy, Mary Anne, Claudia, and Stacey are best friends and founding
members of THE BABYSITTERS CLUB. Whatever
comes up - cranky toddlers, huge dogs, scary neighbors, prank calls
- you can count on them to save the day.

Babysitting isn't always easy though, and neither is dealing with
strict parents, new families, fashion emergencies, and mysterious
secrets. But no matter what, the BSC have what they need most:
friendship.

Raina Telgemeier, using
the signature style featured in her acclaimed graphic novels Smile and Sisters,
perfectly captures
all the drama and humor of the original novel!…


My 9-year-old's 2nd favorite read in 2023…

Book cover of Little House in the Big Woods

Nancy Nau Sullivan Why did they love this book?

This was my favorite book as a child and the first chapter book I read at age 7. It is a delight that my grandchildren love it now.

My grandkids, Maeve and James, love this book and the television series Little House on the Prairie. Though many of the problems the family faces in this hardscrabble life happened more than a hundred years ago, Maeve and James empathize with the same issues that Ingalls writes about: loss of a sibling, school issues, the bully in town, the challenges of running a farm (house, condo, cabin, etc.).

There is something timeless about the struggles, family love, and strength that Ingalls portrays in all the books in the series.

By Laura Ingalls Wilder, Garth Williams (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Little House in the Big Woods as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 8, 9, 10, and 11.

What is this book about?

Classic tales by Laura Ingalls Wilder about life on the frontier and America's best-loved pioneer family.

Inside the little house in the Big Woods live the Ingalls family: Ma, Pa, Mary, Laura and baby Carrie. Outside the little house are the wild animals: the bears and the bees, the deer and the wolves. This is the classic tale of how they live together, in harmony mostly, but sometimes in fear ...

The timeless stories that inspired a TV series can now be read by a new generation of children. Readers who loved Anne of Green Gables, Little Women, and Heidi…


Explore all books for 9-year-olds