Read the best books 2023

best books 2023

Every year, I select the finest books from the many that come across my desk as Vox’s book critic. These books linger in my thoughts long after I’ve read them. I enthusiastically recommend these best books 2023 to friends, urging them to share their reactions. Whether they burst out laughing, shed tears, or even throw the book across the room, these books leave a lasting impact.

I have already shared my top picks from the first half of the year. Now, let us dive into the second half when publishers release their most exciting novels and captivating memoirs. Among this batch, you will find an action-packed allegory critiquing America’s prison system.

It is a philosophical, literary biography exploring the paradoxes of marriage. It also contains a surprising abundance of excellent historical fiction (which I playfully attribute to Hilary Mantel). Additionally, there are domestic novels, satirical works, and an extended tribute to Nabokov.

Without any specific order, here are the best books 2023 from the latter half:

Chain-Gang All-Stars 

Imagine a story akin to The Hunger Games, blending sharp social critique with heart-pounding action. Now, let us address its flaws by infusing it with eloquent prose and thoughtful discussions about race. The result? A nearly flawless book, the debut novel Chain-Gang All-Stars by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah.

Set in a near-future United States, the novel introduces a grim scenario: prisoners can choose to leave jail and participate in televised gladiatorial battles. Survive three years on the circuit, and they earn their freedom. However, hardly anyone lives long enough to achieve that.

Across three acts, Adjei-Brenyah delves into the minds of various individuals connected to the Chain-Gang All-Stars fights. A white spectator shifts from viewing the games as cultural anthropology to cheering for the villains. A tortured prisoner in solitary confinement opts for the circuit over enduring more brutality from guards. 

Meanwhile, a board member at a private prison company strategises ways to boost audience engagement. Amidst this brutality, two veteran fighters grapple with love and forgiveness.

Adjei-Brenyah’s footnotes remind us that the atrocities in his fictional world mirror our own. His characters, admirably, oppose not only the fights but the entire system, the games, the death penalty, and the prisons. They challenge us to consider our own courage.

Loved and Missed 

Susie Boyt’s seventh book, Loved and Missed, is her first to be released in the US. It seems straightforward at first glance, but it is a heartwarming story about a grandmother creating a life with her granddaughter. The book is touching but not overly sweet, showing the hard work it takes to create such warmth.

Ruth, a witty yet sincere woman who teaches part-time and raises her child alone, tells the story. She is adored at school, but her relationship with her daughter Eleanor is strained due to Eleanor’s drug addiction. 

As the story begins, Ruth, longing to care for someone and doubting Eleanor’s ability, decides to take her granddaughter Lily to live with her.

The daily life of Ruth and Lily is filled with comforting routines. Ruth is delighted by their orderly evenings spent reading books together, enjoying biscuits, and watching TV at six. The joy of their simple home life is precious, especially knowing the effort behind it and how fragile it can be.

For the best reading experience, enjoy these best books 2023:.

The Last Language

In 2014 and 2015, a high-profile court case captured the nation’s attention. Anna Stubblefield, an ethics professor at Rutgers, faced accusations of raping a nonverbal man named D.J., who had a developmental disability.

Stubblefield’s defence was that D.J., who had cerebral palsy, had willingly participated in their relationship, and they were in love. Their communication relied on facilitated communication, where she supported D.J.’s arm as he typed on a keyboard.

In Jennifer duBois’s novel The Last Language, the story of Stubblefield and D.J. inspires a fictional narrative with echoes of Lolita. The protagonist, Angela, a linguist educated at Harvard, takes a job as a facilitated communication speech therapist out of sheer desperation. Angela faces personal hardships: her husband’s suicide, expulsion from her graduate program, and a miscarriage. 

Despite these challenges, she finds solace in her linguistics background and secures employment. However, her life takes an unexpected turn when she meets a patient named Sam, whom she believes to be a savant, and eventually falls in love with him.

The Marriage Question: George Eliot’s Double Life 

In her engaging biography of George Eliot, Clare Carlisle, a philosophy professor, centres the story on the topic that defined Eliot’s life and caused a stir: marriage. This turns out to be a surprisingly good way to structure the biography.

George Eliot is well-known for living with George Henry Lewes, whom she considered her husband, even though they were not legally married because Lewes’s first wife was still living. Their relationship shocked the proper society of Victorian times and cost Eliot some close friendships. She insisted on being called Mrs. Lewes, but not everyone agreed.

Eliot’s novels often feature the theme of troubled marriages. The most striking example is in Middlemarch, where a young, idealistic Dorothea marries Casaubon, a boring older man, thinking he is someone great. It is a painful scene to read, but it is part of what makes Middlemarch such a powerful novel.

Carlisle suggests that marriage is a big philosophical issue: fully committing to another person. She sees Eliot as a keen explorer of this issue, approaching the ‘marriage question’ with a philosopher’s determination and an artist’s sensitivity.

The Upstairs Delicatessen: On Eating, Reading About Eating, and Also Eating While Reading

The Upstairs Delicatessen is like a mix of a personal story and a book of favourite things, offering a delightful tribute to some of the best parts of life. (That is three parts if you count the joy of reading and eating together as its own unique pleasure.)

Dwight Garner, a book critic for the New York Times, shares his life’s journey with food and literature, sprinkling his favourite food quotes throughout the pages.

Garner sees himself as someone who has always loved both food and reading. He recalls how, after school, he would grab a bunch of newspapers, magazines, and books, then make a big snack with sandwiches, chips, pretzels, and cookies, along with a glass of red juice made from powder and some milk for the cookies. 

He would spread out his reading on the floor and lie down to read, leaving smudges on the pages. Garner invites you to imagine joining him, lying down with a plate full of snacks and a good book to get lost in.


What are the best books 2023

The best books 2023 include a mix of novels and memoirs that have been highly praised and recommended. They cover a variety of genres and themes.

Can you recommend a book that’s easy to read and heartwarming?

“Loved and Missed” is a touching story about a grandmother and her granddaughter. It is a comforting read that’s not too complex.

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