Author Companion of dogs and horses Grower of flowers Walker in the woods Freelance editor
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 Swan Light

Troon Harrison Why did I love this book?

Having grown up in Cornwall, I love the sea, cliffs, and beaches. This book is set in my home country of Canada, along the rugged and atmospheric coast of Newfoundland.

The protagonist is an oceanographer and deep-sea diver; what a cool career! Like many who search for wrecks, she is obsessed with finding famous ones, and this leads her into the trajectory of unethical and equally obsessed treasure hunters.
I could not put down this imaginative book with its clever switching of timelines and complex layered plotting, its vivid and sensory details, cast of unusual characters (including the sea and the cliffs), the premise of treasure hunting/diving/wrecks and lighthouses, and the compelling mystery and danger at its heart. I loved all of it, not least the accomplished wordsmithing.

By Phoebe Rowe,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A sweeping, emotional tale of hope and perseverance, Swan Light weaves together the stories of two people separated by a century but connected by family, purpose, and one extraordinary lighthouse.

1913. Eighty-three-year-old Silvestre Swan has dedicated his life to the care of his Newfoundland lighthouse. His petition to relocate Swan Light from its precarious cliff's edge is going unheard by town patriarch Cort Roland-that is, until a terrible storm brings an unlikely ally into Swan's life. But is it too late for the stone lighthouse?

2014. Marine archaeologist Mari Adams's attempts to fund her search for the notorious SS Californian…


My 2nd favorite read in 2023…

Book cover of Memories in the Drift: A Novel

Troon Harrison Why did I love this book?

I love books that give me insights into personal subjectivities and experiences that are outside of my own. This book, with a memorable setting in small-town Alaska, delivers! Its protagonist, Claire, had a pleasant life until a car accident caused a traumatic brain injury that robbed her of short-term memory.

Claire is incredibly brave and perseverant as she tries to rebuild her life. The author has researched this type of injury and, through Claire’s POV, brilliantly immerses readers in what Claire’s daily life feels like. This POV took me into a place I had never imagined or experienced, and provoked empathy for the character Claire and for real-life sufferers of this affliction.

The story is plotted like a mystery, with tantalizing clues and scenes that build and evolve until the surprising and very happy ending is reached. The theme might be that we all need to keep moving forward. 

By Melissa Payne,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Melissa Payne, bestselling author of The Secrets of Lost Stones, returns with another haunting and hopeful novel about redemption, the power of memory, and a woman's will to reclaim her life.

My name is Claire. I'm thirty-six years old. It's September. I know what I'm doing and why I am here...for now.

Ten years ago, Claire Hines lost her unborn child-and her short-term memory-following a heartrending tragedy. With notebooks, calendars, to-do lists, fractured pieces of the past, and her father's support, Claire makes it through each day, hour by hour, with relative confidence. She also has a close-knit community of…


My 3rd favorite read in 2023…

Book cover of The Good Wife

Troon Harrison Why did I love this book?

I’m a fan of historical fiction, and love novels that portray the social norms and attitudes of other eras in all their contradictory messiness. This novel shares the Elizabethan age in England, with its wild new ideas (alchemy) and its rootedness in a superstitious past (a belief in witchcraft).

Alone while her husband is away, Martha’s healing skills bring her unwanted attention. She must set out on the road to find her husband, traveling northwards through the countryside, surviving by wit, intelligence, and determination. Both the richness of the upper class, and the isolated poverty of the working class, are portrayed.

The author’s wordsmithing is truly beautiful, with vivid descriptions of complex and unusual characters, the landscape, the weather, and all that Martha experiences as she survives her journey. I reread certain passages several times, reveling in the prose. Reading this book was like time traveling, and I highly recommend the trip! 

By Eleanor Porter,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

'Eleanor Porter is a major new voice in historical fiction.' Tim Clayton
Where will her loyalty lead her?

Once accused of witchcraft Martha Spicer is now free from the shadow of the gallows and lives a safe and happy life with her husband, Jacob. But when Jacob heads north to accompany his master, he warns Martha to keep her healing gifts a secret, to keep herself safe, to be a good wife.

Martha loves Jacob but without him there to protect her, she soon comes under the suspicious eye of the wicked Steward Boult, who's heard of her talent and…


Plus, check out my book…

Red River Stallion

By Troon Harrison,

Book cover of Red River Stallion

What is my book about?

In northern Canada in the 1830s, Amelia needs all her skills to survive a starving moon. Alone in her canoe, she is swept away in the fog. Then an awesome creature swims by. Is it her rescuing spirit guide… or something that will drown her in the depths?

In a heartbeat, Amelia makes a life-changing choice, beginning an epic journey in the company of an amazing horse. Travelling west by water, Amelia forges friendships and discovers secrets about a family feud. Bravely facing hardship, Amelia comes of age and finds the promise of love on the prairies.

This novel traces the ancestry of Standardbred horses in Canada through the imported Norfolk Trotter stallion, Fireaway, who travelled 600 miles by river in a boat.