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The best books of 2023

This list is part of the best books of 2023.

We've asked 1,686 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 If We Burn: The Mass Protest Decade and the Missing Revolution

Raina Lipsitz Why did I love this book?

Journalist Vincent Bevins’ most recent book, If We Burn, poses an urgent and provocative question: why is it that so many of the mass protests of the last decade led to the opposite of what the protesters were demanding?

Bevins provides fascinating insights about what sparked the uprisings that took place between 2010 and 2020 in Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain, Yemen, Turkey, Brazil, Ukraine, Hong Kong, South Korea, and Chile, and why these protests (mostly) failed to accomplish their goals. Good-faith arguments are hard to come by; readable books on global affairs, even more so.

Bevins has an impressive ability to write nonfiction that’s as accessible as it is intellectually rigorous, and his eye for detail and love of humanity make this book a pleasure to read.

By Vincent Bevins,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked If We Burn as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This book is phenomenal ... It's about as good as journalism gets ...The highest praise I can give If We Burn is to say that it would be criminally negligent not to read it if you'd like to change the world. - ROB DELANEY

Bevins's clear-eyed, sympathetic account of the unfulfilled promise of these protests leaves his reader with a bold vision of the future. - MERVE EMRE

A stunning history of now. - GREG GRANDIN

From 2010 to 2020, more people took part in protests than at any other point in human history. Why has success been so elusive?…

My 2nd favorite read in 2023…

Book cover of Essential: How the Pandemic Transformed the Long Fight for Worker Justice

Raina Lipsitz Why did I love this book?

Sociologist Jamie K. McCallum traces labor actions throughout the coronavirus pandemic and what they revealed about the shocking precarity and poor working conditions frontline workers faced and continue to face.

The book shows how and why the crisis sparked an uptick in labor struggles that’s helping to revitalize the American labor movement today. McCallum’s voice and narrative sensibility are compelling, but what I really love about this book is that it transforms everyday working-class people from abstract category (“essential workers”) to dynamic human characters with agency and power.

By Jamie K. McCallum,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

How essential workers’ fight for better jobs during the pandemic revolutionized US labor politics 

Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, essential workers lashed out against low wages, long hours, and safety risks, attracting a level of support unseen in decades. This explosion of labor unrest seemed sudden to many. But Essential reveals that American workers had simmered in discontent long before their anger boiled over.  

Decades of austerity, sociologist Jamie K. McCallum shows, have left frontline workers vulnerable to employer abuse, lacking government protections, and increasingly furious. Through firsthand research conducted as the pandemic unfolded, McCallum traces the evolution of workers’ militancy,…

My 3rd favorite read in 2023…

Book cover of The Glass Lake

Raina Lipsitz Why did I love this book?

Maeve Binchy is the author I most often turn to for solace in dark times. She is a natural storyteller with a rare generosity of spirit.

The Glass Lake, which I didn’t read until this year although it came out in 1994, is one of my favorites: it’s part mystery, part romantic drama, and partly a story about mothers, daughters, and the toll secrets take: there’s suspense and intrigue and shocking twists and sharp social critique, as well as laugh-out-loud humor and gentle acceptance of human nature in all its flawed glory.

It’s long but extremely well-paced and filled with strong female characters and intense personal sacrifices I will never forget.

By Maeve Binchy,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

'THE GLASS LAKE is Maeve Binchy at her spellbinding best - you'll never want it to end' Woman's Journal

'Maeve Binchy really knows what makes women tick. She crystallises their hopes, dreams and passions in her novels and now she has done it again in THE GLASS LAKE ... a marvellous read' Daily Mirror

Kit McMahon lives in the small Irish town of Lough Glass, a place where nothing changes - until the day Kit's mother disappears and Kit is haunted by the memory of her mother, alone at the kitchen table, tears streaming down her face.

Now Kit, too,…

Plus, check out my book…

The Rise of a New Left: How Young Radicals Are Shaping the Future of American Politics

By Raina Lipsitz,

Book cover of The Rise of a New Left: How Young Radicals Are Shaping the Future of American Politics

What is my book about?

The Rise of a New Left traces the growth of a women-led, multiracial, multi-class, new “new left” in the United States—from Occupy Wall Street to the insurgent campaigns of Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and the mass uprisings of 2020—and its historic and growing influence on American politics. The book draws on dozens of interviews with candidates and organizers throughout the country whose priorities are more urgent than ever in 2023: confronting climate change, managing a global pandemic, upholding human rights, ensuring that Black lives matter, and replacing failing American institutions with truly democratic bodies.