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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 Dostoevsky in Love: An Intimate Life

Peter Tasker Why did I love this book?

Have you ever seen the devil? Dostoevsky did. At a grand ball, he glimpsed one of the guests, tucking his tail into his trousers on the way out.

The Dostoevsky who emerges from Christofi’s biography is a haunted, conflicted, deeply flawed character. It is remarkable that he was able to write at all when he was in the depths of his ruinous gambling addiction. Yet from this consciousness came some of the most powerful and prescient novels ever written.

Christofi’s book significantly increased my fascination with this extraordinary writer and human being.

By Alex Christofi,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

'A daring and mesmerizing twist on the art of biography' - Douglas Smith, author of Rasputin: The Biography 'Anyone who loves [Dostoevsky's] novels will be fascinated by this book' - Sue Prideaux, author of I Am Dynamite! A Life of Friedrich Nietzsche Dostoevsky's life was marked by brilliance and brutality. Sentenced to death as a young revolutionary, he survived mock execution and Siberian exile to live through a time of seismic change in Russia, eventually being accepted into the Tsar's inner circle. He had three great love affairs, each overshadowed by debilitating epilepsy and addiction to gambling. Somehow, amidst all…

My 2nd favorite read in 2023…

Book cover of The Twilight World

Peter Tasker Why did I love this book?

I’m a huge fan of Werner Herzog, the director who gave us cinematic treats such as Fitzcarraldo and Bad Lieutenant, as well as startling documentaries like Grizzly Man.

As a multi-decade resident of Japan, I’ve been long intrigued by the story of Hiroo Onoda, the Japanese soldier who continued to patrol a remote island in the Philippines until he finally surrendered in 1974. Herzog’s first novel puts you inside the head of Onoda, a man that many would consider crazy, and makes you understand the obsessive logic of his worldview and marvel at his survivalist skills.

It’s a short book, but it made me think about how we construct the collective illusion we call reality. Those who refuse to accept it – like Onoda and the hero of Fitzcarraldo – we call madmen or geniuses.

By Werner Herzog,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

'A potent, vaporous fever dream; a meditation on truth, lies, illusion and time' NEW YORK TIMES

In his first novel, the great filmmaker, Werner Herzog, tells the incredible story of a Japanese soldier who defended a small island for twenty-nine years after the end of World War II.

Hold the island until the Imperial army's return. You are to defend its territory by guerrilla tactics, at all costs... There is only one rule: you are forbidden to die by your own hand. In the event of your capture by the enemy, you are to give them all the misleading information…

My 3rd favorite read in 2023…

Book cover of Why Bob Dylan Matters

Peter Tasker Why did I love this book?

Who would have thought that the teenage Robert Zimmerman, later known as Bob Dylan, belonged to his high school Latin club? Richard Thomas, who found the evidence, was not so surprised.

A Professor of Ancient Greek and Roman poetry at Harvard and a long-standing fan, he has traced Dylan’s increasing use of classical allusions. The singing Nobel prizewinner’s favorite is Ovid, whose phrases he has used over 30 times in his lyrics. “Ancient footsteps are everywhere,” to quote his song “When I Paint My Masterpiece.”

Thomas’s book is personal and easy to read, casting new light on the enigmatic 82-year-old. As a committed fan myself, I can safely say it is the best Dylan book yet, leaving out the ones he authored himself.

By Richard F. Thomas,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Why Bob Dylan Matters as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?


'At last an expert classicist gets to grips with Bob Dylan' Mary Beard

'Thomas's elegant, charming book offers something for everyone - not just the super-fans' Independent

When the Nobel Prize for Literature was awarded to Bob Dylan, the literary world was up in arms. How could the world's most prestigious book prize be awarded to a famously cantankerous singer-songwriter in his Seventies, who wouldn't even deign to make an acceptance speech?

In Why Dylan Matters, Harvard Professor Richard F. Thomas answers that question with magisterial erudition. A world expert…

Plus, check out my book…

On Kurosawa: A Tribute to the Master Director

By Peter Tasker,

Book cover of On Kurosawa: A Tribute to the Master Director

What is my book about?

On Kurosawa explores the work and life of Akira Kurosawa, including all 30 films he directed, a dozen that he scripted or co-scripted for other directors, and key episodes and themes in his personal history.

Amongst these are the rupture with his great leading man, Toshiro Mifune, the suicide of his brother, his women, his war, and his concept of the samurai in contrast to Yukio Mishima’s.

Writing this book was a huge thrill, as I immersed myself in Kurosawa’s world for months on end and created a memento of the experience, including artwork featuring his personal seal and rare photos. Sometimes, I felt he was standing right behind me.