Author Vintage book collector Husband Father Bad ukulele player
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 Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend

Ronnie Blair Why did I love this book?

Rin Tin Tin was one of the many TV animal heroes who entertained me growing up. What I didn’t know at the time was that the Rin Tin Tin rushing to the rescue on my black-and-white screen was just the latest in a line of Rin Tin Tins, and the original dog had been an even bigger star in 1920s silent movies.

Susan Orlean delves into that first dog’s history. An American soldier rescued him as a pup on a World War I battlefield in France, brought him to the United States, and trained him into international stardom.

The nostalgia factor drew me in, but Orlean makes this more than just Rin Tin Tin’s story. The book touches on such subjects as World War I, pet ownership in America, and other early dog stars, such as the now largely forgotten Strongheart, a German shepherd whose silent-movie popularity rivaled Rin Tin Tin.

By Susan Orlean,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Rin Tin Tin was born on a battlefield in France towards the end of WW1. He died in 1932, supposedly in the arms of Jean Harlow, the original 'blonde bombshell', epic in death as he was in life. In his prime, he was one of Hollywood's the biggest stars. He received two thousand fan letters a month, had jewels, furs and a private driver, had his paw-print set for posterity on Hollywood Boulevard and was credited with saving Warner Brothers from bankruptcy - twice. His owner, Lee Duncan, was so completely devoted to him that when his wife sued for…

My 2nd favorite read in 2023…

Book cover of Last Chapter

Ronnie Blair Why did I love this book?

I first learned about World War II news correspondent Ernie Pyle when I was a boy in the 1960s. An elementary school reading book included an article about him and did not gloss over the fact he died at the hands of a Japanese machine gunner on April 17, 1945.

His story stuck with me, perhaps because my father fought in World War II, just like the soldiers Pyle wrote about.

Pyle mostly covered the European theater, becoming beloved by Americans as he reported on the lives of average soldiers. But in early 1945, he moved to the Pacific. In the Last Chapter, published a year after his death, Pyle writes about and celebrates the marines, sailors, and pilots he encountered in the Pacific, noting their names and hometowns as if writing a personal letter to their families back home. But for the reader, there is a sense of poignancy, knowing Pyle also is unwittingly detailing the last months of his life. 

By Ernie Pyle,

Why should I read it?

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

My 3rd favorite read in 2023…

Book cover of Yours Truly: An Obituary Writer's Guide to Telling Your Story

Ronnie Blair Why did I love this book?

Few things sound more morbid than writing your own obituary – unless James R. Hagerty is leading you through the exercise.

Hagerty, the obituary writer for the Wall Street Journal, isn’t afraid to inject humor into a serious and, for some, unpleasant subject. As a former journalist myself, I can tell you that family members aren’t always equipped to supply the best obituary material, especially when they are in mourning.

So, Hagerty suggests writing the obituary yourself right now, telling the stories only you can tell. The best obituaries aren’t just a list of jobs held, places lived, and survivors left behind. Hagerty urges everyone to add personality to this final summation of your life so that those reading it are captivated by your sense of humor, your resilience in the face of hardship, or anecdotes from episodes in your life. 

By James R. Hagerty,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In a surprisingly upbeat, heartfelt book about a serious subject, The Wall Street Journal’s veteran obituary writer, award-winning journalist James R. Hagerty, shares his unique skills with those who want to have the last word with flourish, honesty, and even humor.

Whether in-brief for future newspapers and websites, or as a more complete mini-memoir for friends and family, Yours Truly is a guide to making sure your story is told the way you want – and how the process of preparing your own life story can help you live a better life.

“Write your own obituary. Intimidating? You bet. Especially…

Plus, check out my book…

Eisenhower Babies: Growing Up on Moonshots, Comic Books, and Black-and-White TV

By Ronnie Blair,

Book cover of Eisenhower Babies: Growing Up on Moonshots, Comic Books, and Black-and-White TV

What is my book about?

Eisenhower Babies transports readers to a time when World War II memories were still relatively fresh, space exploration was just beginning, and television had only recently become prominent in most American homes.

This memoir of growing up in a Kentucky coal-mining community from the late 1950s to the early 1970s weaves history, popular culture, and geography into a nostalgic journey interspersed with tales of coal-strike tensions and humorous family adventures.

Eisenhower Babies also celebrates 1960s small-town life, where a police officer might promise to give a four-year-old his gun once the officer ran out of bullets, a neighbor could return from a Florida vacation with a live baby alligator, and children of World War II veterans waged imaginary battles against Hitler’s treachery in their backyards.