Author Historian Professor Memoirist Civil war scholar
The best books of 2023

This list is part of the best books of 2023.

We've asked 1,644 authors and super readers for their 3 favorite reads of the year.

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My favorite read in 2023…

Book cover of Skinfolk: A Memoir

Nina Silber Why did I love this book?

Lately, I’ve been reading books by historians who use their historian skills to tell stories about their own lives. I’m trying to do that myself about my own life.

So, I loved the way Guterl thought deeply about the family he grew up with in the 1970s and 80s and especially how his parents tried, with very mixed success, to create a family that brought together children of different racial backgrounds. With very sensitive portrayals of his parents and siblings, Guterl shows how this intentional upbringing could produce personal pains and pleasures.

By Matthew Pratt Guterl,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Could a picturesque white house with a picket fence save the world? What if it was filled with children drawn together from around the globe? And what if, within the yard, the lines of kin and skin, of family and race, were deliberately knotted and twisted? In 1970, a wild-eyed dreamer, Bob Guterl, believed it could.

Bob was determined to solve, in one stroke, the problems of overpopulation and racism. The charming, larger-than-life lawyer and his brilliant wife, Sheryl, a former homecoming queen, launched a radical experiment to raise their two biological sons alongside four children adopted from Korea, Vietnam,…

My 2nd favorite read in 2023…

Book cover of My Hijacking: A Personal History of Forgetting and Remembering

Nina Silber Why did I love this book?

This was another incredible book in which a historian looked back at her childhood and focused on one specific traumatic event from her past, the time she and her sister were on a plane that was hijacked en route from Tel Aviv to New York City.

Hodes not only used her skills as a researcher to recreate the events of the hijacking in mesmerizing detail, she also movingly revealed the personal traumas she endured during and after the ordeal, especially as she came to realize how much she had suppressed the event in her own consciousness.  

By Martha Hodes,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In this moving and thought-provoking memoir, a historian offers a personal look at the fallibilities of memory and the lingering impact of trauma as she goes back fifty years to tell the story of being a passenger on an airliner hijacked in 1970.

On September 6, 1970, twelve-year-old Martha Hodes and her thirteen-year-old sister were flying unaccompanied back to New York City from Israel when their plane was hijacked by members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and forced to land in the Jordan desert. Too young to understand the sheer gravity of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Martha…

My 3rd favorite read in 2023…

Book cover of My Mother's Wars

Nina Silber Why did I love this book?

I think I literally read this book in one sitting. If I didn’t, that was only because I didn’t want the book to end.

The author, another historian, tells a hugely moving story about her mother, a Jewish immigrant in New York in the 1930s, who struggled to make her way as a young woman. Because she immigrated alone, she was also separated from her parents and siblings. 

Through occasional letters that go back and forth, Faderman’s mother dreams about reuniting her family in New York but ultimately comes to learn about the tragedies her parents and siblings endure at the hands of anti-semites and Nazi invaders. I was riveted by Faderman’s portrayal of her mother, a woman I felt I had read about repeatedly in history books but who came to life in such a moving and personal way. 

By Lillian Faderman,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked My Mother's Wars as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

An acclaimed writer on her mother’s tumultuous life as a Jewish immigrant in 1930s New York and her life-long guilt when the Holocaust claims the family she left behind in Latvia
A story of love, war, and life as a Jewish immigrant in the squalid factories and lively dance halls of New York’s Garment District in the 1930s, My Mother’s Wars is the memoir Lillian Faderman’s mother was never able to write. The daughter delves into her mother’s past to tell the story of a Latvian girl who left her village for America with dreams of a life on the…

Plus, check out my book…

This War Ain't Over: Fighting the Civil War in New Deal America

By Nina Silber,

Book cover of This War Ain't Over: Fighting the Civil War in New Deal America

What is my book about?

This book defies easy classification. Is it about the Civil War? The New Deal? Both? More than anything, I’m interested in historical memory and how people in one era –the 1930s and 40s – look back to another era – the Civil War – in order to make sense of their present circumstances. It wasn’t a coincidence that Americans living in the 30s and 40s spent a lot of time thinking about, reading about, and watching movies (think Gone with the Wind!) about the Civil War. By thinking about events and people from that earlier era, Americans during the New Deal began to reimagine issues related to big government; civil rights; as well as war and overseas entanglements.