Best Books of 2023

I wasn't sure anything could top the killer reading year I had in 2022, but 2023 had more than one trick up her sleeve. Not only did I read more books than ever this year, I read more newly published books in 2023 thanks to the relationships I've forged with publishers (more on that here). So, this year, I'm doing something a bit different; I've created two different Best Of lists. One focuses on my overall favorite reading experiences of the year, and it includes backlist books. The list you've stumbled upon (and that I hope you find super helpful) features my favorite books published in 2023. My goal is to help you sort through the chaos that is book publishing to find the needles in the proverbial haystack. And while I may not have read every book published in 2023, I can honestly say I read more electrically than ever before, so the books you'll find on this list are varied but still stay true to my reading roots (more on that below). So, without further adieu, here are my selections for Best Books of 2023, all of which get my stamp of approval.

This blog is reader-supported. At no cost to you, I earn a small commission from affiliate links used in this post. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. For more information, visit my legal page.

Best Books of 2023

A quick word before we get started

No matter how you ended up here, let me first THANK YOU for reading. I can only hope that my list of the best books published in 2023 will help you find your next great read. While I can't read all the books, I read a lot of new releases (read this article if you want to know how). And after careful consideration, this list is my favorite books published in 2023.

Now, if you're new to this book blog, you might be wondering who I am. Hi, my name is Carlie 👋🏻, and I'm a huge fan of historical fiction, literary fiction, and women's fiction. If you enjoy those genres, you'll definitely enjoy at least one (but probably more) of the books on this list.

I read 140+ books in 2023, and there've been some REALLY great books along the way including one I will never forget. Each one of the books below stood out to me, living in my brain long after "The End." Allow me to introduce you to my votes for the best books of 2023.

The Best Books of 2023

Hello Beautiful

By far one of the most beautifully written books I've read in a while, Hello Beautiful is a deeply moving novel about family, loyalty, and love. The story focuses on a family of four sisters in Chicago and the young man who marries the eldest daughter. It follows the sisters over the course of several decades, creating richly developed characters and relationships. Thought-provoking and richly detailed, Hello Beautiful should be on every literary fiction lover's reading list. But, be sure to check trigger warnings!

To Die Beautiful

If you've been following me for any amount of time, you know I live for World War II books. I read A LOT of them, both new and old, so I have a pretty good sense of which ones are worth reading. And I swear I'm not lying when I say this debut novel knocked my socks off! If you're looking for an action-packed WWII novel that you won't want to put down, To Die Beautiful is it! Based on unsung WWII heroine Hannie Schaft, this book is everything I want in a WWII novel and then some. Intense, pulse-pounding scenes give way to tender moments of the heart and flesh (closed door), while the ending rips your heart out of your chest. I want to read more books like this, please!

The Celebrants

I will never stop recommending this book. Ever. Rowley has penned one of the most beautiful homages to friendship that I've ever read. The Celebrants is truly a celebration of life, death, and everything in between. The book follows the lives of five college friends shaken by the untimely death of their friend/roommate just before graduation. With his trademark wit and warmth, Rowley weaves an intricate blanket of love and strength that I want to wrap around me and never take off. As I said in my Bookstagram review, it's simply breathtaking.

The Three Lives of Alix St Pierre

I knew within the first few chapters that I would love The Three Lives of Alix St Pierre. Post-WWII Paris. Fashion. Romance. Spies. What more do you need? Seriously though, this book has something for everyone. But at its heart, this book is a feminist novel that vividly portrays the post-war female experience. During WWII thousands of women left the home to work in male-dominant roles, both in the US and abroad. And many proved that women were not only competent, they can excel in all fields. Sadly, many found it hard to break into the workforce after the war's end despite their experience and skill. This book is about that fight. Alix is determined to define her own future, and no man is going to stand in her way! Read my full review here.

Looking for Jane

Gosh this book, y'all. I had a general idea of the premise, but I feel like nothing can prepare you for Looking for Jane. It's intensely powerful and thought-provoking. This book hit me like a ton of bricks, and I'm still thinking about it months later. The content is not for the faint of heart, and everyone should read the trigger warnings before undertaking the journey. Regardless of where you stand on the issue of abortion, this book will make you reflect on a woman's right to choose and the lengths many will go to make that choice, regardless of the risk. Read it. Then read the author's note.

The Unmaking of June Farrow

If you've been following me for any amount of time, then you already knew The Unmaking of June Farrow would be on the Best Books of 2023 list. This, my friend, is my favorite read of 2023 and now second only to The Once and Future Witches for my favorite read of all time. Adrienne Young's masterpiece took my breath away, enveloping me in a story I wanted to live in forever. Strong work, Ms Young.

A Lady's Guide to Scandal

This book, and its predecessor A Lady's Guide to Fortune Hunting, is why I've finally embraced my Regency Romance obsession. Not only is it a ton of fun, but A Lady's Guide to Scandal is the type of feminist fiction I enjoy most. Highly romantic, this closed-door romance stole my heart this year. With interracial and sapphic relationship representation, this book gives us a modern Jane Austen novel that will leave you wanting more Sophie Irwin books to read.

The Vaster Wilds

When I'm asked to describe The Vaster Wilds I struggle to find the right combination of words to capture the magic of this book. It's bleak, raw, and unforgiving, but by the end, you're full of hope and a sense of humanness that sticks with you well past The End. I re-read the last 3-4 pages of this book at least 3 times, loving it more each time. Profound and powerful, Lauren Groff's 2023 release is one that I will remember for many years to come.

The Frozen River

I'll be honest. I didn't have the highest expectations for The Frozen River, but I hoped that Ariel Lawhon wouldn't let me down. After all, she wrote my all-time favorite WWII fiction Code Name Helene. But an 18th-century Maine winter did not sound all that thrilling. Somehow, Ms. Lawhon created a wintery world of scandal, intrigue, injustice, and redemption that I found captivating. And the added bonus of a 50-something female main character elevated this from great to utterly fantastic!

Vampires of El Norte

Who knew I would like historical horror!? I HATE horror movies, but I discovered in 2023 that I really enjoy horror stories, especially historical ones. Of the several horror books I read this year, Vampires of El Norte was by far the best. While not as scary as most horror stories, the message behind the monsters in this book was hard-hitting. Colonialism and cultural appropriation were the over-arching themes, but the love story was center stage. This romance (closed-door) is probably my second favorite of the year (see Alix St Pierre above for #1). TIP: Reading this on the Kindle equipped with translation was a gamechanger.

A Shadow in Moscow

Katherine Reay completely knocked it out of the park with this propulsive spy story. Dual POV and dual timeline, A Shadow in Moscow is the story of a mother/daughter relationship shrouded in secrets. Of all the books on this list, Shadow kept me the most on the edge of my seat, desperate to know what came next. Bravery, heartbreak, and integrity are central to this heart-pounding novel. And the tie between WWII and the Cold War was the icing on the cake!

Talking at Night

Some books just hurt. They are hard to read because of something painful within, something that resonates with you, the reader, making it hard to put them down despite the pain. Talking at Night is the perfect example of this type of book. It's full of painful truths about relationships and the heartbreak that comes with young love. This slower-paced character study was an exercise in beautiful prose, so lovers of poetic storytelling will adore this book.

Runner's Up

It was REALLY hard to narrow the list down to twelve. While some of my favorite reads above may not be my favorite reads of the year, I had to go with the books that I felt appealed to most readers. The following books were also excellent and deserve just as much hype, so be sure to add them to your To Be Read list, too!

Final thoughts

Well, there you have it! These books all brought me so much joy, so I hope they do so for you, too. And if you've read any of these titles, be sure to tell me what you thought in the comments below! Be sure to check out my favorite reads of 2023, a completely different list that best represents me as a reader. Thank you to the many publishers who granted me early access to all these books in exchange for my honest opinion.

About Carlie

Hi there! I'm a 40-ish book lover, always looking for the next great read, particularly the best historical fiction. I live in Los Angeles with my fella and our fur babies, Fozzy and Polly. Working from home changed my life. Suddenly, I had time in my day to read again. I love sharing my reading journey here on my website and social media. Be sure to follow along for reading recommendations and honest book reviews.

Leave a Comment