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The best books of 2023

This list is part of the best books of 2023.

We've asked 1,559 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 Indigo Field

Valerie Nieman Why did I love this book?

This is a powerful book about the intersecting lives of black and white, newcomer and native, centered on a field “planted but never plowed” that bears the secrets of the past.

Old Testament wrath collides with New Testament forgiveness, as Hudson explores the wonders of the human heart. Set in the South, it draws on the rich legacy of the region to tell a universal story with beautiful language and attention to detail. 

By Marjorie Hudson,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

"Indigo Field brims with multigenerational drama, earthy spirituality, and deeply imagined characters you are unlikely to forget." -Sue Monk Kidd, author of The Invention of Wings, The Book of Longings, and The Secret Life of Bees

In the rural South, a retired colonel in an upscale retirement community grieves the sudden death of his wife on the tennis court. On the other side of the highway, an elderly Black woman grieves the murder of her niece by a white man. Between them lies an abandoned field where three centuries of crimes are hidden, and only she knows the explosive secrets…

My 2nd favorite read in 2023…

Book cover of Red Clay Suzie

Valerie Nieman Why did I love this book?

The voice of Philbet grabs you from the first page.

This story of a young boy struggling with difficult physical challenges and even more intimidating social ones as he grows to adulthood in rural Georgia grabs you by the heart and won’t let go. A novel of breathtaking honesty and vulnerability, leavened by a hefty dose of humor.

By Jeffrey Dale Lofton,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Red Clay Suzie as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A novel inspired by true events

The coming-of-age story of Philbet, a gay, physically-misshapen boy in rural Georgia, who battles bullying, ignorance, and disdain as he makes his way in life as an outsider-before finding acceptance in unlikely places.

Fueled by tomato sandwiches and green milkshakes, and obsessed with cars, Philbet struggles with life and love as a gay boy in rural Georgia. He's happiest when helping Grandaddy dig potatoes from the vegetable garden that connects their houses. But Philbet's world is shattered and his resilience shaken by events that crush his innocence and sense of security; expose his misshapen…

My 3rd favorite read in 2023…

Book cover of Hamnet

Valerie Nieman Why did I love this book?

I’m a Shakespeare fan from childhood, so this beautifully crafted story of the Bard’s youth and family life intrigued me.

Beguiling is a word I’d use, pulling you in from the first line, “A boy is coming down the stairs,” almost stage directions. The deep understanding of the place and people provides a solid basis for O’Farrell's evocation of Shakespeare’s origins and especially his wife. Left me in tears but also suffused with the pure joy of creation. 

By Maggie O'Farrell,

Why should I read it?

31 authors picked Hamnet as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'Richly sensuous... something special' The Sunday Times
'A thing of shimmering wonder' David Mitchell


On a summer's day in 1596, a young girl in Stratford-upon-Avon takes to her bed with a sudden fever. Her twin brother, Hamnet, searches everywhere for help. Why is nobody at home?

Their mother, Agnes, is over a mile away, in the garden where she grows medicinal herbs. Their father is working in London.


Plus, check out my book…

In the Lonely Backwater

By Valerie Nieman,

Book cover of In the Lonely Backwater

What is my book about?

All Maggie Warshauer wants is to leave behind her stifled life at a North Carolina backwater and escape to college. An outsider at school and uncertain of her own sexual identity, Maggie spends her days sailing, exploring, and categorizing life around her. But when her beautiful cousin Charisse disappears on prom night and is found dead at the marina where Maggie lives, her life begins to unravel. A mysterious stranger begins stalking her and a detective on the case has her struggling to hold on to her secrets—her father's alcoholism, her mother's abandonment, a boyfriend who may or may not exist, and her own actions. Maggie is forced to come to terms with the one person who might hold the answers—herself.