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The 12 Must-Read Books of 2023

There’s perhaps no better feeling than curling up with a great book, and 2023 has given us plenty of outstanding reads with which to curl up. Narrowing down the best books of the year always feels like a daunting task — especially in our modern age, when the publishing landscape feels bigger and is moving faster than ever before.

TikTok’s “BookTok” community has the power to make literary superstars practically overnight. Colleen Hoover, author of one of the picks on this list,, knows this phenomenon very well. Though her latest novel was actually published at the end of 2022, her vast social media following has helped propel it to the top of The New York Times’ bestseller list over and over throughout 2023.

It’s a testament to the lasting effect books can have. They’re so much more than merely words printed on pages: Great books can be vessels of ideas, emotions, and experiences that expand our understanding of the world. They can transport us to far-off places and introduce us to fascinating people. And sometimes, they’re just downright juicy, entertaining and enthralling us in a way unlike any other medium.

A well-chosen book also makes an excellent gift, and our list can help you find the perfect read for everyone in your life. From a shocking celebrity memoir to insightful meditations on family to the true story of an epic shipwreck, here are 12 of 2023’s must-read books.

“Spare” by Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex

The fonder the memory, the deeper the ache.

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Spare is an unprecedented account of Prince Harry’s life as the “spare” heir to the British throne. The intimate and insightful memoir came three years after Harry and his wife, Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, stepped away from the royal family.

The former prince delves into his experiences growing up, including the tragic death of his mother, Princess Diana, as well as his military service and mental health advocacy. Harry's personal journey toward self-discovery and purpose makes for a captivating and deeply authentic read.

"The House of Eve" by Sadeqa Johnson

Can't let nobody steal your joy, sweetness, or you gon' live a miserable life.

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Set in the 1950s, Sadeqa Johnson's historical fiction novel The House of Eve alternates between Ruby, a high school student in Philadelphia, and Eleanor, a student at Howard University in Washington, D.C. The story follows their contrasting yet parallel lives, painting a painful picture that grapples with the complexities of racism, classism, sexism, and generational trauma. Johnson examines the ways these societal and personal issues link not only these young women, but generations of Americans.

The follow-up to 2021’s The Yellow Wife is a stunning tale of sacrifice and agency with a bittersweet throughline of hope and beauty that will leave you breathless.

“It Starts With Us” by Colleen Hoover

I can draw a seedling with two tiny branches. Yours and mine. We’ll be on our own brand-new, tiny family tree — one that starts with us.

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It’s impossible to overstate Colleen Hoover’s meteoric popularity in the past few years. Published in late 2022, It Starts With Us has logged more weeks as the No. 1 New York Times bestseller than any other book in 2023.

The gripping contemporary romance follows her 2016 smash hit It Ends With Us and finds its protagonists Atlas and Lily working through divorce, trauma, and regret to reignite the teenage love they once shared. It’s a luminous story of redemption and the power of love to heal even the deepest wounds.

“Fourth Wing” by Rebecca Yarros

A dragon without its rider is a tragedy. A rider without their dragon is dead.

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The first of the planned five-part Empyrean series, Fourth Wing has been described as a perfect intro to fantasy fiction, but it’s equally loved by longtime fans of the genre as well. The epic fantasy adventure features a rebellious heroine who attends a war college and must train a dragon to help in the fight to save her kingdom.

The dynamic plot is sure to entice readers who love a magic school setting, and the enemies-to-lovers trope adds an element of romantic tension that fuels the heart of the story.

“Happy Place” by Emily Henry

My best friends taught me a new kind of quiet, the peaceful stillness of knowing one another so well you don’t need to fill the space. And a new kind of loud: noise as a celebration, as the overflow of joy at being alive, here, now.

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Another author highly beloved on BookTok, Emily Henry has a knack for writing poignantly about not only love, but the nuanced nature of adult friendships. In Happy Place, she tells the story of six lifelong friends who convene for their annual weeklong vacation — the last one before the vacation property is sold.

It’s a moving story about change and the concept of home being where the heart is, with some spicy scenes sprinkled throughout to balance the bittersweetness of it all.

“Romantic Comedy” by Curtis Sittenfeld

Sometimes when I speak, I feel like I’m writing dialogue for the character of myself. I’m impersonating a normal human when really I’m a confused freak.

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Comedy writer Sally Milz has resigned herself to the single life, preferring casual flings and a thriving career over love. But when her job introduces her to a famous pop star, things get complicated. The witty and surprisingly tender story examines ambition and love, but it’s also a reflection on celebrity culture, self-esteem, and the societal norms that shape modern relationships.

Sittenfeld may have made a bold choice to title her book after an entire wildly popular genre, but the novel lives up to its name.

“Tom Lake” by Ann Patchett

We clump together in our sorrow. In joy we may wander off in our separate directions, but in sorrow we prefer to hold hands.

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In Tom Lake, Ann Patchett muses on the complexities of family and love and  examines parenthood — and, ultimately, personhood — in a thoughtful way, giving space to parents’ stories and their lives before children. The book focuses on Lara, a woman telling her three grown daughters about her past, which included a fling with a now-famous movie star.

It deftly and beautifully weaves through family dynamics and memory to create a comforting story about the collection of small moments that make up a life.

“The House in the Pines” by Ana Reyes

The mind will always try to explain what it can’t understand — it will make up stories, theories, whole belief systems — and Maya’s mind, Dr. Barry said, was of the type that saw faces in clouds and messages in tea leaves.

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No must-read list would be complete without a page-turning thriller. The House in the Pines is ostensibly about the haunting mystery surrounding the death of Maya's childhood friend Aubrey, but it’s also a coming-of-age story and a carefully wrought  treatise on trauma.

Suspense and surprise abound as a remarkable story unravels, exploring memory, manipulation, and the enduring power of family and friendship along the way.

“The Wager: A Tale of Shipwreck, Mutiny and Murder” by David Grann

We all impose some coherence … on the chaotic events of our existence. We rummage through the raw images of our memories, selecting, burnishing, erasing. We emerge as the heroes of our stories, allowing us to live with what we have done — or haven’t done.

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David Grann’s The Wager is based on the true story of a mysterious shipwreck off the Chilean coast in the 1740s. The Royal Navy vessel was on a treasure-seeking mission, and after meeting its unfortunate fate, a mutiny broke out among the surviving crew.

Grann's storytelling prowess brings to life this rip-roaring historical adventure, which will soon be adapted for the big screen by Martin Scorsese — who also brought Grann’s Killers of the Flower Moon to theaters in 2023.

“The Covenant of Water” by Abraham Verghese

We don’t have children to fulfill our dreams. Children allow us to let go of the dreams we were never meant to fulfill.

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Abraham Verghese’s latest novel comes 14 years after his much-lauded 2009 bestseller Cutting for Stone. The Covenant of Water was worth the wait: It’s an epic tale that stretches across seven decades, chronicling the unique — and unsettling — history of a family marked by an eerie susceptibility to water.

Set against the backdrop of a politically turbulent 20th-century India, the detailed interconnectedness of family history and modern events will stay with you long after you’ve read the last page.

“Outlive: The Science and Art of Longevity” by Peter Attia, M.D. (with Bill Gifford)

If you want to find someone’s true age, listen to them. If they talk about the past and they talk about all the things that happened that they did, they’ve gotten old. If they think about their dreams, their aspirations, what they’re still looking forward to — they’re young.

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There’s no one right way for every person to live, but every so often, a book such as this comes along that makes you rethink some of your less healthy habits. Physician Peter Attia specializes in human longevity, and in this dense, captivating book, he posits that improving one’s life span can be as simple as maximizing our physical, emotional, and cognitive health through proper exercise, nutrition, and sleep.

If nothing else, Outlive feels like a fitting read for heading into a new year — think of it as a mental reset.

“Yellowface” by R.F. Kuang

Keep your eyes on your own paper, they say. But that’s hard to do when everyone else’s papers are flapping constantly in your face.

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R.F. Kuang's gripping novel is a satirical look at the cutthroat world of publishing. June is a struggling white writer who appropriates and publishes a manuscript written by her Asian American friend Athena after Athena’s death in a freak accident. The story that follows is a scathing commentary on the pressures of success and the exploitation and gatekeeping that are unfortunately prevalent in many industries.

While perhaps not the coziest read, it urges some potentially transformative self-examination and provokes a crucial sense of unease, which Kuang has wrapped inside an unputdownable literary thriller.

Featured image credit: Koshiro K/ Alamy Stock Photo

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About the Author
Nicole Villeneuve
Nicole is a writer, thrift store lover, and group-chat meme spammer based in Ontario, Canada.
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