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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 Dog Soldiers

R.H. Emmers Why did I love this book?

Thugs. Hippies. Crazed drug agents. Random bits of philosophy: “In the end, if the serious man is still bound to illusion, he selects the worthiest illusion and takes a stand.” What more could you ask for?

Why do I love this book and re-read it at least once a year? Because it encapsulates a time when – the mid-70s, when the ideals of the Summer of Love were dead, and Nixon and paranoia reigned – I was trying to find my footing: continue to protest the War or enlist in the Marines?

I try to capture ambivalence and paranoia in my writing. And I try to infuse at least some of my characters with that notion of selecting the worthiest illusion and taking a stand.

By Robert Stone,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked Dog Soldiers as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In Saigon during the last stages of the Vietnam War, a small-time journalist named John Converse thinks he'll find action - and profit - by getting involved in a big-time drug deal. But back in the States, things go horribly wrong. His courier disappears, probably with his wife, and a corrupt Fed wants Converse to find him the drugs, or else.

Dog Soldiers is a frightening, powerful, intense novel that perfectly captures the underground mood of the United States in the 1970s, when amateur drug dealers and hippies encountered the violent world of cops on the make and professional killers.…

My 2nd favorite read in 2023…

Book cover of Darkness at Noon

R.H. Emmers Why did I love this book?

In my youth, I fiddled with Marxism – everyone should be a Marxist when young. That led to my first reading of this book. A haunting, tragic thriller? Yes, and much more.

The main character is Rubashov, one of the Old Bolsheviks, a man who, in the 1920s and 30s, betrayed and murdered at the Communist Party’s behest. But he questions if the things he did were justified.

He is arrested, tortured, and condemned and yet, in the end, dies loyal to the Party’s teachings. Russia and Stalin are never explicitly identified, but the question of why the show trials happened and why so many willingly played their parts is answered. They were all guilty, just not of those particular deeds to which they were confessing, Rubashov thinks.

By Arthur Koestler,

Why should I read it?

7 authors picked Darkness at Noon as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The newly discovered lost text of Arthur Koestler’s modern masterpiece, Darkness at Noon—the haunting portrait of a revolutionary, imprisoned and tortured under totalitarian rule—is now restored and in a completely new translation.

Editor Michael Scammell and translator Philip Boehm bring us a brilliant novel, a remarkable discovery, and a new translation of an international classic.

In print continually since 1940, Darkness at Noon has been translated into over 30 languages and is both a stirring novel and a classic anti-fascist text. What makes its popularity and tenacity even more remarkable is that all existing versions of Darkness at Noon are…

My 3rd favorite read in 2023…

Book cover of Killing Mister Watson

R.H. Emmers Why did I love this book?

It should come as no surprise, in this novel by Peter Matthiessen, that the main character, Mister Watson, dies. And in fact, he is indeed gunned down by a mob in the first chapter.

The mystery, however, is only starting. Set in the 10,000 Islands of the southwest Florida frontier around the turn of the 20th century, the novel wonders if Mister Watson – a historical figure – is really the cold-blooded killer so many neighbors think him to be.

Based on a “few hard facts” and interviews by Mr. Matthiessen, the story is told by those who knew him; his voice never appears. And the conclusion: a mystery – Watson remains opaque.

This is the kind of story I love and the kind of story I try to tell.

By Peter Matthiessen,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Drawn from fragments of historical fact, Matthiessen's masterpiece brilliantly depicts the fortunes and misfortunes of Edgar J. Watson, a real-life entrepreneur and outlaw who appeared in the lawless Florida Everglades around the turn of the century.

Plus, check out my book…

The Secret History

By R.H. Emmers,

Book cover of The Secret History

What is my book about?

It's the year 2024. MAGA-world is up in arms following the death of former President Trump. Ron DeSantis eyes the country's top job. A militia uprising is possible.

Against this background, a top-secret intelligence agency orders an operative to investigate the gruesome torture and murder of a DEA agent in Mexico.

What dark truth was the agent's death intended to cover up? Can the operative unravel the truth before he, too, is killed? Is the man angling to be CIA director guilty of the agent's death.