It’s hard to believe, but 2023 is coming to an end. We have been reading nonstop all year—dog-earing pages, underlining passages, and stuffing our bookshelves to their bursting points—to find the books that truly blow us away. Here—drumroll, please—are the novels we just couldn’t put down, the short stories we never wanted to end, the memoirs we can’t forget, the books that jump-started conversations with friends and coworkers, and the hidden gems just waiting for readers to discover and pass on. The authors on this list range from a debut novelist to a three-time Pulitzer Prize finalist. In the interest of fairness, none of our picks are Oprah’s Book Club selections, though those certainly qualify as the best of the best. Some are deeply American, set in Florida or Pittsburgh, the deserts of California or the brownstones of Brooklyn. Others bring the complexity of Jamaica, London, or Siberia to life or explore the past and future of even more distant locales. So pull up your coziest chair, wrap yourself in your softest blanket, and let’s get reading.
This was a spectacular year for fiction. Some of our most beloved authors returned with books that reminded us why we fell in love with them in the first place (good to see you again, Melissa Broder and Alice McDermott!) while other books introduced us to voices we didn’t know we longed for until we encountered them on the page.
Get ready for a range of styles, from propulsive mysteries to family dramas to historical reckonings to sci-fi spectaculars. All of them capture characters in their full (and sometimes hilarious) humanity and offer insights that will stick with you long after you’ve finished the last chapter. Let us know on Oprah Daily and Oprah’s Book Club socials which lines stuck with you, which stories broke your heart or made you laugh out loud, and which books made you want to go back to the beginning and start all over again.
Short-story collections are making a comeback, and we couldn’t be more excited. There’s nothing more satisfying than finishing a full story, start to finish, during a lunch break or in the half-hour before bed—knowing that you’ll have another one to look forward to the next day. These stories pack the punch of a full novel, complete with plot twists and characters that feel as intimate as friends.
From the brownstones of Brooklyn to the cottages of Ireland to an airport bar in Michigan, these best of the best capture moments of poignant family drama as well as zoom out to explore bigger issues like gentrification, drug abuse, and violence against women. Some are comic; some are heartbreaking. But all of them allow us to see the humanity at their core in startling detail. Stack them on your nightstand, and toss them in your bag. We promise: You won’t regret it.
“You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read,” wrote the late, great, and infinitely quotable James Baldwin. In these six memoirs, writers lay bare their own stories—and may even help you make sense of yours. Some of their experiences are almost universally relatable, like Maggie Smith’s quest to rediscover who she is as an individual in the wake of heartbreak or Alice Robb's revaluation of her childhood passion in light of her adult feminist awareness. Others seem, at least on the surface, totally singular: like growing up as the only living child of famously talented (and famously troubled) writers Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes.
These true stories—all written with mastery and compassion—will make you cry, make you laugh, make you think, and make you keep reading way past your bedtime. They may even make you rethink the events of your own life. Or inspire a memoir of your own.
With so many exceptional books published in 2023, there are bound to be a few that slipped through the cracks of your Goodreads TBR list. That’s why we came up with this list, comparing our notes and favorites from throughout the year to celebrate the hidden gems that might not have made it into the display window of your local bookstore—but totally should have.
These five unforgettable books feature debut authors and independent publishers, as well as some established writers who have been quietly—and not so quietly—killing it for years. You may discover your new favorite author or realize that you somehow missed the follow-up to a book you read and loved! Our advice? Get these books on your shelf ASAP. You might still have time to secure the bragging rights of telling your fellow bookworms, “I read that book before it went mainstream.”
The holiday season is upon us, which means potlucks, cocktail parties, white elephants, and a whole lot of room for small talk. While there’s nothing better than reconnecting with friends and family you haven’t seen in a while, there is nothing worse than repeating the same three surface-level conversations. (Yup, it sure is getting darker earlier! Indeed, kids do grow up quite fast!) The books on this list are here to help, loaded with fresh insights, groundbreaking research, and human stories that get at the heart of some of today’s pressing issues. These books will make you look at the world differently—and talk about it differently, so much so that you may even look forward to the buffet line chitchat.
With all the podcasts and social postings, it can be hard to track down thoughtful, nuanced, and factual (!) perspectives—perspectives that actually make you think deeper and broader, rather than stoking fears and divisiveness. These six books tackle big issues: wealth inequality, historical trauma, racial injustice, and more, but they do it with compassion, creativity, and infectious curiosity. You’ll learn something, sure—we did!—but each of these titles is grounded in the pleasures of reading—and discussing. Pass them on in 2024!
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