The best books of 2023

This list is part of the best books of 2023.

We've asked 1,651 authors and super readers for their 3 favorite reads of the year.

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My favorite read in 2023…

Book cover of The Signature of All Things

Susan Hartzler Why did I love this book?

I fell in love with The Signature of All Things because it whisked me away on an enchanting journey through the pages of history and the depths of the human spirit. At its core, this novel is a vivid tapestry of the Whittaker family's saga, and their remarkable lives during the 18th to the 19th centuries.

Henry Whittaker, a poor-born Englishman turned quinine trade magnate, became a symbol of relentless determination and ambition. His brilliance and tenacity laid the foundation for a family legacy that would shape the world in profound ways. And then there's Alma, his brilliant daughter, who inherited not only her father's wealth but also his intellect. Alma's journey into the world of botany and evolution took me on a thrilling exploration of science and the mysteries of life itself.

What truly drew me into the heart of this novel was the unlikely love story between Alma and Ambrose Pike. Their connection, amidst their stark differences as a scientist and an artist, was like a magnet pulling me deeper into the narrative. Their shared quest for understanding the world, whether through scientific inquiry or artistic expression, resonated with my own curiosity about the intricate workings of life. 

Author Elizabeth Gilbert, one of my all-time favorites, takes readers on a whirlwind adventure across the globe. From London to Peru, from Philadelphia to Tahiti, I felt like a fellow traveler alongside these unforgettable figures – missionaries, abolitionists, adventurers, and geniuses. Each one added a unique layer to the narrative, making the world of the Whittaker family felt incredibly real and immersive.

Alma’s story helped me to come to terms with the suicide of my own partner, something I’ve struggled with since he died back in 2017. The aftermath of suicide stirs up a tumultuous whirlwind of feelings. Guilt creeps in, whispering questions of 'what if' and 'could I have done more?'

Rejection, too, becomes a heavy burden to carry, as you wrestle with the feeling of being left behind, abandoned in a way that seems almost deliberate. And then there's the profound confusion, a constant state of trying to piece together the puzzle of a life that ended prematurely, searching for answers that may never come. Somehow reading how Alma came to terms with this loss helped me, something I am eternally grateful for.

The story is an exploration of an extraordinary moment in human history: the Age of Enlightenment and the Industrial Revolution. It explores the radical new ideas about science, religion, commerce, and class of the era. Alma Whittaker's journey through this transformative period served as a window into a time of profound change and intellectual upheaval.

Reading The Signature of All Things was like embarking on a grand adventure of the mind and the heart. Elizabeth Gilbert's writing was wise, deep, and utterly captivating. It spoke to the questing spirit of a bygone era, and as a reader, I was completely and unreservedly captured by its spell.

This book not only enriched my understanding of history and human nature but also left an indelible mark on my own heart and mind. It's a literary treasure that I will cherish forever.

By Elizabeth Gilbert,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked The Signature of All Things as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

_______________ SHORTLISTED FOR THE WELLCOME BOOK PRIZE LONGLISTED FOR THE BAILEYS WOMEN'S PRIZE FOR FICTION _______________ 'Quite simply one of the best novels I have read in years' - Elizabeth Day, Observer 'Charming ... extensively researched, compellingly readable' - Jane Shilling, Daily Telegraph 'Sumptuous ... Gilbert's prose is by turns flinty, funny, and incandescent' - New Yorker _______________ A captivating story of botany, exploration and desire, by the multimillion copy bestselling author of Eat Pray Love Everything about life intrigues Alma Whittaker. Her passion for botany leads her far from home, from London to Peru to Tahiti, in pursuit of…


My 2nd favorite read in 2023…

Book cover of Daisy Jones & The Six

Susan Hartzler Why did I love this book?

Daisy Jones & The Six transported me back to the electrifying '70s music scene. The heart of the story beats to the rhythm of rock 'n' roll, a genre that holds a special place in my own musical journey.

Daisy Jones, the wild child of LA in the late '60s, embodied the spirit of rebellion and freedom that drew me in from the very first page. Her adventures sneaking into Sunset Strip clubs, entangled with rock stars, and dreaming of gracing the stage at the iconic Whisky-a-Go-Go were a thrilling ride.

But beneath the sex and drugs, it was her love for rock 'n' roll that resonated with me on a profound level. That passionate connection to music, the kind that makes your heart beat faster and your soul come alive, was something I understood deep in my bones.

On the other side of this musical saga, there's Billy Dunne, the brooding leader of The Six. His struggle with impending fatherhood and the intoxicating allure of fame struck a chord with me. It's that classic clash between responsibility and the wild, unbridled energy of rock 'n' roll that speaks to the eternal human struggle to balance dreams with reality.

The moment Daisy and Billy's paths crossed, the spark between them was palpable. It's that kind of electric connection that you only encounter once in a lifetime, both in music and in love. The way their destinies converged under the guidance of a shrewd producer added layers of intrigue and drama to an already captivating narrative.

Daisy Jones & The Six didn't just tell a story; it transported me to a time when I lived with a Rock & Roll musician. The story mimicked my own coming of age, detailing the excitement only a musician can bring to life while allowing me to come to terms with that tumultuous relationship. After I finished the book, my ex contacted me out of the blue—forty years later!

Daisy’s tale of passion brought my own history back to life and allowed me to frame my story in a whole new light. In a strange way, this book became a part of my own musical soul, a reminder of the timeless allure of rock 'n' roll and the unforgettable legends it creates.

But what truly made this book unforgettable for me was its format. The oral history style gave the story a sense of authenticity, as if I were eavesdropping on real conversations among the band members and those who knew them. Taylor Jenkins Reid's writing reached new heights with this novel, capturing the essence of a bygone era in a voice that felt utterly distinctive and genuine.

By Taylor Jenkins Reid,

Why should I read it?

11 authors picked Daisy Jones & The Six as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

SOON TO BE AN AMAZON PRIME TV SERIES STARRING SAM CLAFLIN, RILEY KEOUGH AND CAMILA MORRONE

THE SUNDAY TIMES AND NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

From the author of THE SEVEN HUSBANDS OF EVELYN HUGO and the bestselling MALIBU RISING

'I LOVE it . . . I can't remember the last time I read a book that was so fun' DOLLY ALDERTON

Everybody knows Daisy Jones and the Six.

From the moment Daisy walked barefoot on to the stage at the Whisky, she and the band were a sensation.

Their sound defined an era. Their albums were on every turntable. They…


My 3rd favorite read in 2023…

Book cover of I'm Glad My Mom Died

Susan Hartzler Why did I love this book?

As someone who has a deep love for memoirs, especially since I write them myself, I was completely drawn into Jennette McCurdy's heartbreaking yet hilariously honest journey. I'm Glad My Mom Died isn't just a memoir; it's a raw, unfiltered account of her life as a former child actor and the tumultuous relationship she had with her overbearing mother.

At the tender age of six, Jennette found herself stepping into the world of auditions and stardom, driven by her mother's dream of seeing her become a star. It was a path paved with sacrifices, as she endured what her mother called "calorie restriction," constantly monitoring her food intake and obsessively weighing herself. Her life became a whirlwind of at-home makeovers, with her mother's relentless critiques echoing in her ears, even comparing her to other child stars like Dakota Fanning.

The intimacy of their relationship knew no bounds – from shared diaries to email accounts and control over her income. It was a life lived under a microscope, a life that left little room for her own desires and dreams.

When her big break came with Nickelodeon's iCarly, the world saw her as a rising star, while she battled anxiety, shame, and self-loathing in the shadows. Fame took its toll, leading to eating disorders, addiction, and a string of unhealthy relationships. And just when it seemed like things couldn't get any more challenging, her mother's battle with cancer ended in her passing, leaving Jennette to grapple with grief on top of her existing struggles.

What sets I'm Glad My Mom Died apart is Jennette's refreshing candor and dark humor. I lost my own mom in 2000 and could relate to her story. Her ability to share her story with such honesty and wit is a testament to her resilience and her journey towards embracing her true self.

This memoir isn't just a tale of hardship; it's a celebration of the joy in the simplest acts of self-care, like shampooing your own hair. Jennette McCurdy's story is a reminder that, even in the darkest of times, there is always hope for healing and self-discovery.

But this memoir isn't just about despair; it's about the incredible journey of recovery and self-discovery, something I aim to share in my writing. Jennette's decision to step away from acting and embark on a path towards healing and independence is nothing short of inspiring. It's a testament to the strength of the human spirit and the resilience that lies within us, waiting to be discovered.

By Jennette McCurdy,

Why should I read it?

8 authors picked I'm Glad My Mom Died as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A heartbreaking and hilarious memoir by iCarly and Sam & Cat star Jennette McCurdy about her struggles as a former child actor-including eating disorders, addiction, and a complicated relationship with her overbearing mother-and how she retook control of her life.

Jennette McCurdy was six years old when she had her first acting audition. Her mother's dream was for her only daughter to become a star, and Jennette would do anything to make her mother happy. So she went along with what Mom called "calorie restriction," eating little and weighing herself five times a day. She endured extensive at-home makeovers while…


Plus, check out my book…

I'm Not Single, I Have a Dog: Dating Tales from the Bark Side

By Susan Hartzler,

Book cover of I'm Not Single, I Have a Dog: Dating Tales from the Bark Side

What is my book about?

At age 60, Susan Hartzler has learned to accept, even love, the single life, provided she has good friends and a dog or two by her side. On a purposeful trip to the pound, she hoped to find a dog to care for, one that would sniff out the bad guys, give her a sense of purpose, and help her find meaning in her crazy world. Thoughtful and funny, this memoir follows Susan's life through the many ups and downs on her way to finding unconditional love. Her journey is a personal one, full of the hard decisions it took to learn to put herself first and stop staying in unhealthy relationships. By saving a dog, she rescues herself, learning to love herself as much as her dog loves her.