Author Visionary Compassionate Imaginative Conspiracist Apophenia (or apophenic)
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 Looking Glass Sound

Owen W. Knight Why did I love this book?

Catriona Ward is one of my favourite modern storytellers. Looking Glass Sound is aptly titled.

Its events are told from different viewpoints, challenging the reader to reassess their opinion of what has happened, including attempts at witchcraft and hints of the supernatural. Some events may not have occurred in real life, as one of the protagonists is suffering from visual hallucinations.

It is a murder mystery set in a closed community that achieves notoriety for the shocking discoveries. The author scatters false trails, resolved in a tragic and surprising ending. The characters are well-drawn, although the reader’s opinion of them changes and develops with each new revelation.

The twists in the plot demand a close reading, ideally taking notes to compare differing accounts of events.

By Catriona Ward,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Looking Glass Sound as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'Ward's most complex and brilliant book yet' - GUARDIAN
'A darkly moving and heartfelt exploration of obsession' - DAILY EXPRESS

Writers are monsters. We eat everything we see...

In a windswept cottage overlooking the sea, Wilder Harlow begins the last book he will ever write. It is the story of his childhood companions and the shadowy figure of the Daggerman, who stalked the New England town where they spent their summers. Of a horror that has followed Wilder through the decades. And of Sky, Wilder's one-time friend, who stole his unfinished memoir and turned it into a lurid bestselling novel,…

My 2nd favorite read in 2023…

Book cover of Normal Rules Don't Apply: Stories

Owen W. Knight Why did I love this book?

This collection brings together eleven stories, some linked by shared characters or plot elements that connect the overlapping lives of the characters, ranging from apocalyptic science fiction, a fairy tale queen to a talking horse, which gives a winning betting tip to a racegoer, Franklin. In a later story, Franklin uses his winnings to buy an engagement ring before marrying Connie and moving into her wealthy parents’ home, where a surprising fate awaits him.

One of the pleasures is its intelligent, unforced humour, much coming from coincidences, observations, witty connections, and surprises. The stories are cleverly written, and the characters are well-drawn. A light but thoroughly entertaining read.

By Kate Atkinson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Normal Rules Don't Apply as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A dazzling collection of eleven interconnected stories from the bestselling, award-winning author of Shrines of Gaiety and Life After Life, with everything that readers love about her novels—the inventiveness, the verbal felicity, the sharp observations on human nature, and the deeply satisfying emotional wallop.

Nothing is quite as it seems in this collection of eleven dazzling stories. We meet a queen who makes a bargain she cannot keep; a secretary who watches over the life she has just left; a man who bets on a horse that may—or may not—have spoken to him. Everything that readers love about the novels…

My 3rd favorite read in 2023…

Book cover of The Dangers of Smoking in Bed

Owen W. Knight Why did I love this book?

A collection of sinister, menacing stories, each hinting at death or danger, with some alluding to the supernatural. Several are set in threatening urban locations. Others offer ominous settings that unsettle the reader: a well, a remote quarry pool, a derelict lookout tower. Most are delivered by narrators who casually describe the no-hope lives of the characters and scenarios in a nonchalant, streetwise way.

The narrative style invites the reader to speculate what will or may happen, adding suspense and discomfort. An example is the novella Kids Who Come Back, in which children who have been reported as missing return after several years, having not aged, and are rejected by their parents as not being their children.

By Mariana Enríquez, Megan McDowell (translator),

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Dangers of Smoking in Bed as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?


'Beautiful, horrible... the most exciting discovery I've made in fiction for some time' Kazuo Ishiguro
'Smoky, carnal, dazzling' Lauren Groff

Welcome to Buenos Aires, a place of nightmares and twisted imaginings, where missing children come back from the dead and unearthed bones carry terrible curses.

Thrumming with murderous intentions, family betrayals and morbid desires, these stories shine a light on a violent city gripped by urban madness; giving voice to the lost, the oppressed and the forgotten. Lucid and darkly poetic, unsettling and otherworldly, these tales of revenge, witchcraft and fetishes are a masterpiece…

Plus, check out my book…

The Visitors

By Owen W. Knight,

Book cover of The Visitors

What is my book about?

The Great Reset has begun. Fourteen years ago, Peter saved the world. Now, his sister Emily and two strangers receive coded invitations to return to the hidden village of Templewood, where Peter faces a new, terrifying threat.

Templewood is home to the Sect, a secretive organisation intent on global power. They have infiltrated many Governments and are collaborating with the Visitors: alien invaders who have brought gifts of advanced scientific and genetic discoveries. These gifts will potentially provide enormous benefits for humanity and facilitate the Sect's bid for power. But at what cost and what is the Visitors' motive? Why are they taking, then returning, increasing numbers of the local population? Peter, Emily, and their friends must uncover the truth before their worst fears are confirmed.