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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 An Immense World: How Animal Senses Reveal the Hidden Realms Around Us

Sally Ember Why did I love this book?

This book took me weeks to read (and I am usually a speed reader!) because it is so dense with facts, photos, vignettes, and stories that I wanted to savor each part and contemplate what it meant. There are dozens of examples in these factoids that gave me pause and caused me to rethink what it means to be “human.” 

I learned what species-ists we all usually are (but Yong is not heavy-handed; I drew my own conclusions) and how dangerously narrow our understanding of animals is (dangerous to us, them, and the entire planet we share). 

Read this if you are interested in animals, environmentalism, ecosystems, sensory perceptions, synesthesia, neurodivergence, biology, science, anatomy, physiology, humanity, peace, and understanding. 

Give yourself a lot of time to “digest” it all. Talk about it with friends and family. Very worth your time.

By Ed Yong,

Why should I read it?

12 authors picked An Immense World as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'Wonderful, mind-broadening... a journey to alternative realities as extraordinary as any you'll find in science fiction' The Times, Book of the Week

'Magnificent' Guardian

Enter a new dimension - the world as it is truly perceived by other animals.

The Earth teems with sights and textures, sounds and vibrations, smells and tastes, electric and magnetic fields. But every animal is enclosed within its own unique sensory bubble, perceiving only a tiny sliver of an immense world. This book welcomes us into previously unfathomable dimensions - the world as it is truly perceived by other animals.

We encounter beetles that are…

My 2nd favorite read in 2023…

Book cover of Apparitions of the Self: The Secret Autobiographies of a Tibetan Visionary

Sally Ember Why did I love this book?

Janet Gyatso is a national/global treasure to Buddhists and non-Buddhists everywhere who have interests in Buddhism, Buddhist teachers/lineages, texts, and biographies.

She spent years learning Tibetan and Tibetan culture so that she could translate not only the words but also the intent and meanings behind the texts. 

Gyatso does an amazing job here with very complicated and often contradictory pieces, putting them together in a uniquely brilliant way with many notes, references, and a great glossary. 

Unexpectedly funny, Jigme Lingpa was a unique individual who lived rather recently (compared to some who lived over 1000 years ago, for example). His life accomplishments include written work that includes information and ideas that continue to teach us in this century partially due to translations like these. Lingpa's work encompassed many other masters' contributions due to his multiple previous lifetimes as a teacher of meditation within the Tibetan Buddhist traditions. 

Gyatso's book does a great service in presenting his words and his personality to a new generation of practitioners and learners. I am extremely grateful.

By Janet Gyatso,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Apparitions of the Self is a groundbreaking investigation into what is known in Tibet as "secret autobiography," an exceptional, rarely studied literary genre that presents a personal exploration of intimate religious experiences. In this volume, Janet Gyatso translates and studies the outstanding pair of secret autobiographies by the famed Tibetan Buddhist visionary, Jigme Lingpa (1730-1798), whose poetic and self-conscious writings are as much about the nature of his own identity, memory, and the undecidabilities of autobiographical truth as they are narrations of the actual content of his experiences. Their translation in this book marks the first time that works of…

My 3rd favorite read in 2023…

Book cover of Kissing Kosher

Sally Ember Why did I love this book?

I read fiction but rarely find it engaging enough to finish a novel. Kissing Kosher, however, captured and kept my interest. 

As a Jew who has enjoyed these in many cities, the author's presentation of her extensive knowledge of New York City's actual Jewish delis and bakeries woven neatly into the story via its fictional main characters and their families delighted me. Some of my interest was in the characters themselves, their quirks, problems, and interactions, all very well-written. 

A major subplot is the health problem of the main character—seriously debilitating endometriosis—which the author also suffers from, so the details, while often painful to read, are specific and authentic. I imagine it's probably a relief to have her condition presented so honestly for those who do suffer. 

The recipes, references, and inclusions of those who need special diets to survive and thrive will also be welcomed by those who need more support and information.

She even fits in a subplot about successful rehab employment and training programs for the recently paroled, a welcome inclusion. 

The main characters are "New Adults," meaning post-high school (in this case, post-college) but pre-marriage/families of their own. So, the subplot of utilizing science and liberal marijuana laws to create healthcare options is well-placed. So are the career angst, the individuation from caretakers/parents, and the sibling relationships suitable challenges for these characters.

Like all fictional romances that do not end in tragedy, this one ends a bit too happily for realism. Still, it's very satisfactory if you're looking for HEA (Happily Ever After) conclusions to your novels. All subplots and the main plot get wrapped up well. It's not exactly a romp, but a good read.

By Jean Meltzer,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

"An unflinchingly honest romance." —Kirkus, starred review

From the author of THE MATZAH BALL and MR. PERFECT ON PAPER comes this hilarious and emotional rivals-to-lovers romance.

Step 1: Get the secret recipe. Step 2: Don’t fall in love…

Avital Cohen isn’t wearing underpants—woefully, for unsexy reasons. Chronic pelvic pain has forced her to sideline her photography dreams and her love life. It’s all she can do to manage her family’s kosher bakery, Best Babka in Brooklyn, without collapsing.

She needs hired help.

And distractingly handsome Ethan Lippmann seems the perfect fit.

Except Ethan isn’t there to work—he’s undercover, at the…

Plus, check out my book…

This Changes Everything

By Sally Ember,

Book cover of This Changes Everything

What is my book about?

Dr. Clara Ackerman Branon, 58, has secret visits from hologram members of the Many Worlds Collective, a consortium of planet and star systems in the multiverse, and discovers she is Earth's first liaison, the Chief Communicator, to the MWC. 

She and Chief Media Contact Esperanza Enlaces provide facts during riots and uncertainty. The MWC holos train Clara and the evolving Psi-Warriors for the Psi Wars against the reactionary Psi-Defiers. As the CC, Clara must communicate effectively with many species on Earth and off-planet to eliminate current political boundaries and select and convene new Global Leaders. When in the multiverse are Clara and her long-time love, Epifanio Dang, together, and where is Clara alone as the CC of Earth? This Changes Everything begins The Spanners Series.