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Readers’ Favorite Books: 2023 Edition

In addition to sharing our own favorite books of 2023, we love giving our email subscribers an opportunity to share the best books they read each year. This year, over 700 book titles were submitted, but 30 books rose to the top.

The book cover representing the best books of 2023 according to Book Girls' Guide Readers.

The only rule we imposed was that our readers submit books they read during 2023, so not all of the books are brand-new releases. We’ve divided the list into the best books published in 2023 and the best backlist titles submitted by our readers. This section will come in handy as we all read through the In Case You Missed It Challenge!

In the “Book Girls Say…” section of each description, you’ll find quotes from our readers sharing why each book was their favorite. In addition to these books being our readers’ favorite books of 2023, some of the novels have also been included on our reading challenge book lists over the past few months. When that is the case, you’ll see our average reader rating and the percentage of those readers who would recommend the book to a friend.

Readers’ Favorite 2023 Releases

Tom Lake book cover

Book Summary

Set during the summer of 2020, Lara’s three adult daughters have returned home to quarantine at the family’s northern Michigan cherry orchard. As they pick cherries and go about running the family business in isolation, the sisters beg their mother to tell them the story of her long-ago romance with celebrity Peter Duke. When Lara was in her early 20s, she and Peter shared the stage during a Michigan summer stock theater run of the play Our Town.

Lara begins the story with her very first experience on stage in high school and works her way forward through her brief but eventful theater career. As the girls learn more about their mother’s life, they are forced to reconsider everything they thought they knew about her and their father.

The Book Girls Say…

“This beautiful novel captures the ways in which our past shapes who we become, how certain moments and experiences stay with us forever, and how certain relationships – no matter how brief – leave lasting imprints on our souls.” -Kathy C.

“The mother/daughter connections that took place really due to COVID were a great backdrop to the mother’s life story. Plus, I learned a lot about cherries!” -Linda B.

“As the story unwinds, what they had believed about their parents is not the same as what happened. The misunderstandings or misinterpretations that happen in families all the time is on full display and made me think about my own relationships with my grown children and my parents.” -Marsha R.

Fourth Wing Book Cover

Book Summary

Violet was supposed to be a scribe, living quietly among books, but her mother has ordered Violet to join the hundreds of candidates striving to become the elite of Navarre: dragon riders.

At twenty-two, she’s a young adult but smaller than most, and her body is brittle. Most dragons incinerate fragile humans, and others would attack her because she’s the daughter of the commanding general. She’ll have to use all her wits to survive because once you enter Basgiath War College, you either graduate or die.

The Book Girls Say…

“I was completely drawn into the story. The world-building was interesting, but the characters were what really made it a standout. I’m in my 60s, certainly not a TikTok-using teen, but this book isn’t just for the typical audience.” -Terry S.


“This is the best adult fantasy I have ever read. The world-building is done really well and the characters are well developed. It is the best fantasy I have read since Harry Potter.” -Lani M.

“I know I’m not alone in loving this! It was a refreshing escape to a thrilling world of dragons & romance. I don’t read much fantasy, so it was an excellent palette cleanser and fast-paced.”

Book Girls’ Readers Rate This Book

100% Would Recommend to a Friend

Book Summary

Kerala, on India’s southern coast, is a slender, coastal state with almost 373 miles of Arabian Sea coast and beaches. Being surrounded by water makes this a popular tourist destination. But for the family at the heart of this novel, being surrounded by water has plagued three generations. In every generation, at least one person dies by drowning.

This new literary fiction epic is a tale of love, faith, and medicine in which the family is seeking answers to this strange secret. The family is part of a Christian community that traces itself to the time of the apostles, but times are shifting, and the matriarch of this family, known as Big Ammachi—literally “Big Mother”—will witness unthinkable changes at home and at large over the span of her extraordinary life.

The Book Girls Say…

“The best book I’ve read in at least 10 years. The writing is exquisite. The plot, the setting, the characters were all SO original – I’ve rarely been this intrigued by all aspects of a book. I knew nothing about Thomas Christians, southern India, leprosy before reading this. Verghese (who is a dean in Stanford’s medical school) explores medical ethics and issues in an easily understood manner, and his love for humanity shines throughout the book. Truly a masterpiece.” -Weezie F.

“With its gorgeous cover and wonderful writing, The Covenant of Water is a story of a family that, over the course of some 70 years, experiences joy and pain, success and hardship, sickness, death, and sometimes, near-miraculous recovery. It’s a family with secrets, some more widely shared than others and some held closely among very few. It’s filled with wonderful characters, all flawed and imperfect, but each in his or her own way, striving to live the best life they can. The novel also includes a great deal of history, involving both the transformation of India over the course of the 20th century, and changes in the author’s own field of medicine as well. The writing is absolutely beautiful throughout. I recommend this book highly and without reservation.” -Gerry D.

“Love the writing, love the layered family drama, love the diversity of characters who each have their own strengths and flaws. Just a beautiful book from beginning to end.” -Dana S.

Book Summary

Charlie greets the women in his family, including his wife and four daughters, by saying “Hello, Beautiful” and truly sees something special in each of them. Unfortunately, Charlie is resented by his wife, Rose, because he’s an alcoholic, which also impacts his ability to provide for the family.

Their oldest daughter, Julie, is smart and ambitious. When she meets William, whose family couldn’t be more different than her own, he’s at college on a basketball scholarship. For William, the sport has been his saving grace and a substitute for the love of family. At least until he meets Julie and her family embraces him in their family unit when they become a couple. Once that happens, the family refuses to give up on him.

While you’ll get some fall vibes when Julie heads to college, Hello Beautiful also follows the characters for nearly four decades. The book begins in the main character’s childhood, in the 1960s, and spans into their middle age years.

This slow-paced, character-driven family drama from the author of Dead Edward pays homage to Little Women, including references to the classic.

The Book Girls Say…

“I love family sagas and this addressed mental health issues which are so prevalent in our society. It was wonderful to see a family take in a family member’s spouse as one of their own and try to help them.”

“I love to read character-driven stories which span multiple years. Hello Beautiful was such a wonderful story and even though it covered topics such as suicide and depression I found the book to be wonderfully uplifting. I think the book does a very realistic portrayal of family life.” -Lori A.

Book Summary

Clover had an unusual childhood, with her Kindergarten teacher passing away during a reading of Peter Rabbit. Then, her parents passed away while traveling, and she started a new life with her grandfather in New York City. She continued to be fascinated by death and was studying different cultural traditions abroad when she received the terrible news that her grandfather had passed away alone in his office.

Clover commits to preventing others from dying alone by becoming a death doula. She only takes one patient at a time, so she can be more present for her clients than hospice workers. Whether she’s only holding their hand or hearing their regrets about life, she is present to honor them in their last moments. Her only friend is actually her grandfather’s friend, Leo, who is very concerned that when he is gone, Clover will be alone. Between his friendship-matchmaking and a fiesty new client, can Clover shift her life focus outside of work from the dying to a new life of her own?

The Book Girls Say…

“It is a young person’s look at death and being fascinated by death. Yet it is so positive underneath all the questions, and there are so many quotes to underline!” -Marsha R.

“Mostly, “I just loved the story and Clover and her sweet way with people near to death. How she honored them. This book had my heart!” -Lynne K.

“Sad subject matter that turns into a feel-good read with likeable characters.” -Mary Ellen R.

Kindle Unlimited as of: 12/13/2023

Also Featured on These Book Lists:

The 23 Best Books of 2023

Holly by Stephen King

Book Summary

The recurring character, Holly, is on her own at the Finders Keepers detective agency. When she gets a call from Penny asking for help finding her missing daughter Bonnie, Holly is reluctant to take the case. She’s supposed to be on leave because her partner Pete is out with COVID, and her mom just died. But the desperation in Penny’s voice makes Holly take the job.

Just down the street from where Bonnie disappeared, Professors Rodney and Emily Harris are hiding a secret in their basement. They are the picture of bourgeois respectability: married octogenarians, devoted to each other, and semi-retired lifelong academics. But is this savvy, elderly couple really related to Bonnie’s case?

The Book Girls Say…

“The character of Holly Gibney is an all-time great. Fully fleshed out, multi dimensional easy to root for.”

“Not always a fan of Stephen King (I don’t so well with scary), but he is a brilliant writer and I enjoyed how he tied in the Mr Mercedes books with this one. He developed her into a new person. Was happy how he did it.” -Jane A.

The River We Remember book cover

Book Summary

On Memorial Day in 1958, the residents of Jewel, Minnesota, are shocked to discover the dead body of the town’s most powerful citizen, wealthy landowner Jimmy Quinn. Sheriff Brody Dern must investigate, but he’s still carrying the physical and emotional scars of his military service, which complicate his career.

The townspeople have a prime suspect before Dern even has the autopsy report. Noah Bluestone, a Native American WWII veteran, has recently come back to town with a Japanese wife. But does the couple’s return have anything to do with this case?

The River We Remember explores midcentury life in America and highlights how countless small towns were affected by the WWII scars that remained well after the last shots were fired.

The Book Girls Say…

“William Kent Krueger has become one of my favorite authors since I discovered his work in 2020. I was very excited to read his newest novel and it did not disappoint. I love his sense of place and time, his compelling characters, and the beauty of his prose.” -Heather H.W.

“His writing is excellent. He knows how to weave a story that holds your attention and plays on all your senses and feelings. He captures the human condition so well.” -Echo M.

Book Girls’ Readers Rate This Book

97% Would Recommend to a Friend

Book Summary

Nineteen-year-old Marion’s dreams come true when she’s cast as a member of the Rockettes, Radio City Music Hall’s precision dance troupe. It’s an honor for any dancer to be selected for the role and given the opportunity to perform at the art deco masterpiece of a theater that is Radio City. But Marion soon learns that, behind the scenes, the days are long and the rehearsals grueling.

One night, in 1956, a bomb explodes in the theater. It’s suspected to be the work of the infamous “Big Apple Bomber” who has been planting bombs in crowded places around the city for the past sixteen years. The police still have no leads, leaving citizens living in fear. At Marion’s urging, the police agree to try psychological profiling, a radical new technique at the time.

While the Rockette’s are trained to stay in line, Marion realizes that to help catch the bomber, she’ll have to stand out.

The Book Girls Say…

“Loved the dual timeline, historical setting of Radio City Music Hall, and the romance and mystery in the storyline!”

“I couldn’t put this one down. I loved the story, the characters, the mystery, and the setting.” -Kristi

Book Summary

When bombings began in London in 1939, 14-year-old Hazel and her 5-year-old sister, Flora, were evacuated to a rural village in the English countryside. Living with a woman and her teenage son in a charming stone cottage, Hazel comforts Flora by telling her stories of a magical fairy tale land. It provides the sisters with a fictional place where they can escape the fears and hardships of war. One day while playing near the banks of the River Thames, Flora disappears. Hazel blames herself and carries the guilt into adulthood. Twenty years later, Hazel’s life looks ideal from the outside – charming boyfriend, a nice flat in London, and a good job at a rare bookstore. But on the eve of her new career at Sotheby’s, she unwraps a package that changes everything.

It’s an illustrated first-edition book called “Whisperwood and the River of Stars.” It’s the imaginary world that she created for Flora – one that she never wrote down and never told anyone else about. What does it mean? Is Flora still alive? And does this fairy tale hold the truth about her disappearance? Hazel embarks on a feverish quest for answers. Along the way, she’ll reconnect with people from her past and put her future in jeopardy.

The Book Girls Say…

“Imagine creating a world that seems so real that it ‘s hard to know what’s real and what’s not. The story intertwines a mystery with secrets that are almost lost. Patti Callahan Henry is a master storyteller who weaves history within a most believable story.” -Leigh Anne A.

“This was a great story with lots of plot twists. Every time I thought I had it figured out, I was thrown for a loop. I loved how the story unfolded.” -Dawn V.

“This book was a heart-grabbing story that took me to a different time and place to learn about war orphans and redemptive love.” -Dianne H.

Book Girls’ Readers Rate This Book

100% Would Recommend to a Friend

Book Summary

This historical novel is based on the real-life and memoir of a 15th-century female physician in China. Tan Yunxian was raised in the Ming Dynasty era by her grandmother, also a physician, who taught her the art of Chinese medicine. Additionally, she learned about female conditions from her best friend, Meiling, who was training to be a midwife. While Yunxian was on the path to be a success in her own right, she was still sent into an arranged marriage.

Her new mother-in-law was a traditionalist who forbade her from seeing Meiling and stopped her from helping the girls and women in their household. Instead, she is supposed to be a “proper wife,” learning poetry, embroidering foot-binding slippers, and staying within the walls of their compound.

How did Yunxian break free and go on to treat women from all classes of society and create remedies that are still used over 500 years later? Lisa See tells her compelling life story in this novel.

The Book Girls Say…

“I love the way this author writes—I have learned quite a bit about cultural life in Asia. I also particularly love this one, because of the way these women are interconnected even though their cultural may not permit it.” -Wendy K.

“The culture of China and women’s lives so long ago was eye-opening. I learned a lot about a time of history not often studied. The foot binding was especially interesting.” -Linda B.

Book Summary

Lucy is a 26-year-old teacher’s aide hoping to adopt her student, seven-year-old Christopher. He tragically lost his parents, but she needs to be in a better financial situation for both the actual adoption process to be approved and to take care of Christopher long-term.

She’s always found comfort in books, especially the Clock Island series by Jack Masterson. The author stopped writing and became reclusive years ago, but she still regularly re-reads his work. Just when Lucy is about to give up on adopting Christopher, Jack Masterson re-emerges and announces a new book. However, it’s not a standard release. Four contestants will get to come to the real Clock Island and compete for a chance to win the single copy in existence, which is worth at least six figures.

The Book Girls Say…

“It was unique and nostalgic.” -Becky B.

“Whimsical story for every book lover.”

Also Featured on These Book Lists:

Best Magical Realism Books

The Invisible Hour book cover

Book Summary

Fifteen-year-old Mia is planning her escape from an oppressive cult in Massachusetts. Her mom was a teenager in an affluent Boston family, but when she became pregnant with Mia, she joined a community and later married the leader, Joel.

Mia loves books but has to be secretive when visiting the library because it is not allowed. When she finds a copy of The Scarlett Letter, she finds the story so similar to her mother’s life. This book changes her life in more ways than one, as soon she finds herself transported to Nathaniel Hawthorne’s world in 1837.

The Book Girls Say…

“Hoffman is an incredible storyteller. I enjoyed the prose as much as the storyline. I also loved the magical realism of the story.” -Mary Ann G.

“Captivating book about cult life and the escape provided by a caring librarian and a special book.” -Lynn S.

Kindle Unlimited as of: 08/15/2023
Lonely Hearts Book Club Book Cover

Book Summary

Sloane is a small-town librarian in Idaho who enjoys her daily visits from the town curmudgeon, Arthur. She loves verbal sparing with him so much that she instantly notices when he doesn’t show up one morning. When another day passes without a visit, her worry intensifies.

When Sloane tracks Arthur down at home and finds him almost bedridden, she needs a way to cheer him up. An impromptu book club with other lonely library patrons soon begins, and unlikely friendships form through their shared love of books.

The Book Girls Say…

“I loved the relationship that evolved between Sloan and Arthur. It just shows the rippling effect when just one person reaches out.”

“This book warmed my heart as it showed how all different kinds of people can get together and care for each other and be there for each other.”

Readers’ Favorite Backlist Titles Read in 2023

It’s always interesting to see which titles published before 2023 are still being commonly read and highly rated. Our readers rated these backlist titles as their best reads of 2023.

Book Girls’ Readers Rate This Book

97% Would Recommend to a Friend

Book Summary

In this charming debut novel, Widower Tova works at the Sowell Bay Aquarium to occupy her mind and time. She takes pride in cleaning perfectly every night, even though she doesn’t need the money. She loves all the aquarium life but forms a special bond with the intelligent (and curmudgeonly) octopus named Marcellus.

He’s just as surprised to feel friendly toward this human who visits him nightly. Soon, he connects the sadness he sees in her with something he saw in the ocean long ago. Can he help her solve the mystery of her son’s disappearance 30 years ago?

The Book Girls Say…

“Who would think a book from the point of view of an octopus would have my heart? But Marcellus was such a great character! I loved all the characters and the connections. An amazing book!” -Lynne K.

“This book was out of my norm and was recommended to me by my friend who owns a bookshop. This book made all of my emotions soar. It was so sweet and I completely fell in love with Marcellus. Anytime I see this book on someone’s wishlist I automatically buy it for them!” -Sam N.

“I loved the audiobook version which brought Marcellus to life with his wry wit and world-weary demeanor.” -Brenda S.

Also Featured on These Book Lists:

Remarkably Bright Creatures Book Club Guide with Discussion Questions
Uplifting Books for Book Clubs
Intergenerational Novels: Books that Connect Generations

PS: We also have a printable Remarkably Bright Creatures book club guide available on Etsy, including discussion questions, themed games, a Marcellus bookmark, and more!

Demon Copperhead Book Cover

Book Summary

This is a modern retelling of Charles Dickens’s David Copperfield. Like Copperfield, Copperhead examines institutional poverty, but in contemporary Appalachia.

Born to a teenage single mother, Damon (soon to be known as Demon) braves the modern perils of foster care, child labor, derelict schools, athletic success, opioid addiction, disastrous loves, and crushing losses.

The Book Girls Say…

“It is a brilliant modern retelling of David Copperfield (a book I also love). She really captures the horror of the opioid crisis and makes you see how easy it is for someone to become addicted and the toll that it takes on society. I’m a huge fan of Barbara Kingsolver and I think this is one of her finest novels to date.” -Heather H.W.

“Barbara Kingsolver is an amazing writer. Her description of the life of an orphaned Appalachian kid is so realistic and painful. The narrator on the Audible version IS Demon Copperhead in all his hurt and humor. This book is long, but never feels like it.” -Pat S.

“It haunts me. I find my thoughts returning to it as I read almost daily about opioid crimes in the news. The opioid crisis had to have begun somewhere and somehow. The novel personalizes the time and place with heart-wrenching events and characters.” -Kris I.

Lessons in Chemistry Book Cover

Book Girls’ Readers Rate This Book

97% Would Recommend to a Friend

Book Summary

Elizabeth Zott is a quirky and brilliant female chemist working with an all-male team at the Hastings Research Institute. But her scientific qualifications don’t stop the “good old boys” from being frustrated that she won’t get coffee or make copies for them. When Elizabeth meets Calvin Evans, another scientist at the Institute, another type of chemistry results.

Fast forward a few years. It’s 1961, and Elizabeth is a 30-year-old single mother and she’s taken a bit of a detour in her career. Instead of working for Hastings, she’s now (somewhat reluctantly) the star of a much-loved cooking show called Supper at Six. Her cooking methods are unusual (“combine one tablespoon of acetic acid with a pinch of sodium chloride”). As her popularity grows, it turns out she’s not just teaching women to cook; she’s also daring them to change the status quo.

The Book Girls Say…

“I loved the strength of Elizabeth. Also, the plot was a great mixture of humor, sadness, and drama.” -Janet L.

“I loved the characters (especially 6:30). As a woman in the working world, even though the story takes place in the 1960’s, it’s very relatable. The cover made me expect a much lighter story but I loved where it went.” -Jessica A.

“This story of a strong-willed and determined women during a time when women were second-class citizens reminded me of how far women have risen during my lifetime. I loved this book.” -June W.

Also Featured on These Book Lists:

Lessons in Chemistry Book Club Guide with Discussion Questions
Books Like Lessons in Chemistry
Books Set in the 1960s

PS: We also have a printable Lessons in Chemistry book club guide available on Etsy, including discussion questions, themed games, a custom bookmark, and more!

Mad Honey book cover

Book Girls’ Readers Rate This Book

96% Would Recommend to a Friend

Book Summary

Olivia has been raising her son, Asher, as a single mom ever since she fled her seemingly perfect marriage that was not as it appeared from the outside. When she left her abusive marriage to protect her son, she brought him to her small hometown in New Hampshire. Once home, she moved into her childhood house and took over her father’s beekeeping business.

Like Olivia, Lily is also familiar with starting over. She and her mom recently relocated to New Hampshire to give Lily a fresh start in her final year of high school.

Olivia and Lily’s lives cross paths when Asher begins dating and falls in love with the new girl in town. A few months later, Olivia is shocked to receive a phone call from Asher that he’s at the police station and Lily is dead. Asher is the only suspect in the case, but he insists he didn’t do it. Olivia is willing to give up everything she has to defend her son. But as the case moves toward trial, and as she discovers that Asher has hidden more from her than she realized, Olivia begins to question what traits her son may have inherited from his father.

The Book Girls Say…

“This book surprised me about halfway through, but then it just stuck with me. It’s hard to say without giving spoilers, so I will leave it at that. I’ve read 224 books so far this year, I read this in January and it’s still my favorite!” -Denise M.

“Jodi Picoult has been hit or miss with me in the past few years, so I was hesitant to pick this up I had no choice when my book club chose it as a selection. I’m glad they did! This is a topical storyline to current day, with a twist I did not expect! This was a ‘can’t put it down’ book for me!”

“I loved how this was written almost backward and from two different perspectives. It gave just the right amount of information at just the right times to keep you coming back for more. The topic was relevant for the times and of course with Jodi Picoult there is always a twist you don’t see coming.” -Kamber D.

Book Girls’ Readers Rate This Book

100% Would Recommend to a Friend

Book Summary

West With Giraffes is a charming tale of adventure that takes you on the ride of a lifetime from the East Coast of the US to the West, alongside a rowdy 17-year-old, a grumpy older man, and two giraffes. The year is 1938, and no American zoo has successfully housed giraffes before. The female zoo director of the San Diego Zoo believes she can do it. The giraffes have just survived a hurricane en route to the East Coast, and Riley Jones, the curmudgeonly head zookeeper, is responsible for safely transporting the giraffes from New York City to San Diego.

America is still in the throes of the Great Depression, and the Dust Bowl conditions continue to ravage the drought-stricken Southern Plains states. A coast-to-coast trek with giant animals is no easy feat. Jones begrudgingly teams up with a starving teenager named Woody to help him make the journey. The adventures along the way include run-ins with circus con artists, being tailed by a female photographer looking for a big scoop, an emotional visit to Woody’s hometown, and so much more.

At its heart, this is a coming-of-age story. Now, at the age of 105, Woody recounts his 12-day cross-country trip with Jones and the giraffes and how it shaped his life.

The Book Girls Say…

“The story itself is beautiful, about the kindness and innocence of animals. I love historical fiction and this was set during the dust bowl. The characters were deep, and a bit mysterious. The writing was beautiful. I had so many favorite quotes! Also, I had taken a road trip a few years ago across the country similar to the one these characters took, and I visited the San Diego zoo this year prior to reading this book. So this book felt familiar like a favorite blanket. It was delightful.” -Elizabeth W.

“This book was such an unexpected pleasure.”

Kindle Unlimited as of: 08/13/2023

Also Featured on These Book Lists:

West with Giraffes Book Club Questions & Guide
Books About Traveling Across America
Unforgettable Dust Bowl Books

PS: We also have a printable West with Giraffes book club guide available on Etsy, including discussion questions, bonus giraffe content, a custom bookmark, and more!

Book Girls’ Readers Rate This Book

97% Would Recommend to a Friend

Book Summary

When a Vietnam POW returns home, he carries new anger and impulsiveness. Determined to stand by her husband, his wife agrees with his plan to move his family to Alaska to live off the grid. Soon after arriving, the harsh reality of rural Alaska sets in for 13-year-old Leni and her mom.

For a while, things were better with her dad as they spent the fall season preparing for their first Alaskan winter, but she feared his more balanced self was only temporary.

The Book Girls Say…

Alaska has always fascinated me. Visiting is on my bucket list for sure. This book had me so very invested it was hard to get anything else done. I didn’t cry, I sobbed. And I cheered. -Robin N.

“I couldn’t put it down! It grabbed me and kept my attention.”

“The writing is beautifully descriptive. The reality of this type of life in Alaska was fascinating. I loved Leni’s resilience despite everything she went through.”

Book Summary

If you could find out exactly how many years you have left to live, would you want to know?

On the same day, all around the world, every person over the age of 22 receives an identical box. Inside each is a string. At first, no one knows what the strings mean, but it soon becomes apparent that a long string means long life and a short string foretells a life cut short.

As society responds to the revelation of the boxes, each person must make a choice – do you want to know how long you will live? If so, what will you do with that knowledge? And what if your choice is different from those you care about most?

These are the dilemmas facing the eight protagonists in The Measure, whose fates become interwoven as their individual stories unfold.

The Book Girls Say…

“This is a book that really makes you think and will stick with you long after you’ve read the last page. We think it’s a perfect book to listen to on a road trip because it offers up abundant topics for a discussion with no right or wrong answers.”I loved this one because it really got you thinking. It wasn’t that I loved the story necessarily, it was the entire premise of it. I recommend this one to others after reading it from a recommendation of a friend” -Denise M.

“The whole concept just blew me away. The book reeled me in from the beginning, and it gave me so much to think about throughout. This is a book I will always remember.” -Lynn C.

“Wow! She did such an amazing job tying all the stories together and really hit on current world climate. Great read!” -Ann P.

Horse book cover

Book Girls’ Readers Rate This Book

100% Would Recommend to a Friend

Book Summary

Through the true story of a racehorse named Lexington, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Geraldine Brooks manages to weave a tale of spirit and injustice over 150 years of American history.

The book has three timelines. In 1850, you’ll meet an enslaved horse groomer, Jarrett, in Kentucky, who has a special bond with Lexington. There is also a young artist who paints images of the horse. When the Civil War erupts, the artist fights for the union and runs into the young groom and stallion again far from the track.

In 1954, a gallery owner on Martha’s Vineyard takes a special interest in a 19th-century equestrian old painting, even though the artist and provenance are unknown.

In 2019, a Smithsonian scientist from Australia and a Nigerian-American art historian unexpectedly connect through a common interest in the painting as they look for clues to the origin.

The Book Girls Say…

“The premise of this book seemed so interesting with people, both real and fictional, tied to one of the world’s greatest racing horses, Lexington. I learned so much about horses and racing and training of race horses that it encourages me to visit Lexington’s skeleton at the Kentucky Horse Museum.” Joy H.

“Learning more about horse racing and the lives of enslaved people that even though “free” had no rights of ownership or of racing a horse.” Anita F.

Book Summary

Beginning in the 1980s and spanning 30 years, this story follows the lives of Sam and Sadie as they continue to reconnect at various points in their lives. Their first meet as children in the hospital – Sadie is visiting her sister, and Sam is recovering from a terrible car accident. They bond over their love of video games, and their instant friendship helps pull Sam out of his depression. But eventually, they have a falling out, and they don’t meet again until Sam’s junior year of college at Harvard (she is a student at MIT). He’s exiting a subway car when he sees Sadie across the platform.

This unexpected reunion soon begets an incredible collaboration as Sam and Sadie create a legendary video game before they’ve even graduated from college. They are young, brilliant, rich, and successful, but none of these characteristics can protect them from their creative ambitions, future betrayals, and inevitable failures.

The Book Girls Say…

I loved the writing, the story, the characters and the behind the scenes look at what goes into making a video game. It was sad in so many ways, but I really loved this book.

“I did not expect to like this book as much as I did. I love interesting characters and the connections between them, and this book really delivers.” -Faye O.

Also Featured on These Book Lists:

Best Book Club Books From 2022

Before We Were Yours book cover

Book Girls’ Readers Rate This Book

98% Would Recommend to a Friend

Book Summary

This book is based on the true story of Georgia Tann’s “adoption” agency that claimed to help orphans, but instead kidnapped poor children and trafficked them to wealthy families.

Twelve-year-old Rill Foss and her four younger siblings have a wonderful life on the Mississippi River aboard their family’s shanty boat. But on a stormy night when their father has to take their mother to the hospital, Rill is left in charge. Unfortunately, strangers arrive, and the kids are thrown into the Tennessee Children’s Home Society orphanage. They are assured that they will soon be returned to their parents – but quickly realize the dark truth.

In present-day South Carolina, Avery Stafford returns home to help her father during a health crisis. When she stumbles upon the possibility that her grandmother may be harboring a dark family secret, Avery becomes obsessed with her mission to uncover the truth.

The Book Girls Say…

“Yet another historical event I did not know much about – the selling of children in Tennessee. This book was heartbreaking and powerfully resilient. I loved the back and forth of the past and the present as well.” – Kendall H.

“It was a story that needed told, and as horrible as it was the story still had victory and joy.” -Heidi C.

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo book cover

Book Girls’ Readers Rate This Book

98% Would Recommend to a Friend

Book Summary

Evelyn Hugo lived a glamorous and scandalous life, but doesn’t like to talk about it and has become reclusive after leaving her career. When the movie icon is finally ready to talk about her time in show business, she picks an unknown reporter to log her personal history, but why?

You’ll slowly unwrap Evelyn’s life from the 1950s to the 1980s as she chronicles her past life and relationships, including the seven husbands she had along the way. As the book covers so much of her life, it moves quickly and will keep you engaged and entertained for hours.

The Book Girls Say…

“I loved the background of Hollywood and her encounters with the infamous. The life long love story was strong and very true. It made one wonder if and who the story might be based on.” -Joanne

“I could not figure out where this one was going even though it seemed like it should have been obvious. I loved this.” -Christa S.

Book Summary

The newest book from the author of The Martian has received praise from both fans of Sci-Fi and those who normally avoid Sci-Fi, so it could be a great pick for couples with different genre preferences! Astronaut Ryland has just woken up millions of miles from home, a very long time after his mission. His crewmates are dead, and his memories are fuzzy.

Slowly, he begins piecing together that he must single-handedly save Earth from an event that could cause total extinction. With themes of both mystery and adventure, this highly-rated book won the 2022 Audie Award for Audiobook of the Year. Readers consistently call it a must-listen and say the narration makes the story come to life.

The Book Girls Say…

“The scientific base of Weir’s books always grounds them in reality for me, but for this book it was the reality of loneliness and friendship the felt the most real and I loved it even more than his previous books. I can’t wait to see how he tops it.” -Amanda S.

“I am not a space girly at all, but this book was so different than what I thought it would be. Who knew a book about space would leave me feeling so warm and fuzzy?!” -Genevieve M.

Book Woman of Troublesome Creek book cover

Book Girls’ Readers Rate This Book

99% Would Recommend to a Friend

Book Summary

The impoverished residents of Troublesome Creek struggle for nearly everything, but thanks to Roosevelt’s Kentucky Pack Horse Library Project they don’t want for books.

Book woman Cussy Mary Carter, is not only Troublesome Creek’s own traveling library, she’s also the last living female of the rare Blue People ancestry. But not everyone approves of Cussy’s family or the government Library Project. Cussy wants to bring the joy of books to the hill folks, but she has to confront prejudice and suspicion as old as the Appalachians.

The Book Girls Say…

“Engaging characters, great descriptions of the setting, learned about the Blue People which I didn’t realize was a real condition.” Megan J.

“I loved this book because the story was so compelling. To read about her struggles just to be accepted. Excellent story!” -Vera Z.

Book Summary

While this book is technically a YA Fantasy, it receives high ratings across the board, even from those who don’t typically choose YA or Fantasy novels.

Linus is a 40-year-old caseworker at the Department in Charge of Magical Youth, and spends his days overseeing children in orphanages and his nights in a tiny house with his devious cat.

When Linus is called to a classified assignment to visit 6 children deemed dangerous, he also meets their caretaker, Arthur Parnassus, who is dedicated to the children’s safety. However, as Linus and Arthur connect, secrets are exposed. Linus must choose between destroying the home of the children or risking them destroying the world.

The Book Girls Say…

“How are we different and how are we the same? How do others help us learn more about who we are? Are our differences something that keeps us apart and if so, why? This book answers these questions and more. It’s a celebration of embracing our work individuality and allowing and encouraging others to do the same.” -Cori D.

“A wonderfully entertaining YA book! As a former teacher the story line was so eloquently told and the magicalness was such a fun element of the children… and the growth of the characters was genuine!” -Nancy M.

The Reading List book cover

Book Girls’ Readers Rate This Book

95% Would Recommend to a Friend

Book Summary

When teenage library worker Aleisha finds a list of little-known novels in the back of To Kill a Mockingbird, she decides to read every book on the list. Each story is magical to her for different reasons.

Widower Mukesh worries about his bookworm granddaughter, Priya. To connect with her, he visits the library and meets Aleisha. When she shares the found list with him, they begin to form an unexpected friendship and discover the healing that is desperately needed for each of them.

The Book Girls Say…

“This book is a truly wonderful story of found family, friendships and the love of books. It deals with some difficult subjects within this context, so it isn’t a “sappy” book. I just wanted to hug it when I finished it.” -Laura M.

“The reading list included several books that I’ve read and loved, so the book was familiar from the start for me. Serious issues are broached in the story, but lovingly addressed.” -Ruth

“Lovely book bringing together diverse people over the love of books.” -Susan C.

Kindle Unlimited as of: 12/13/2023
Thursday Murder Club book cover

Book Girls’ Readers Rate This Book

90% Would Recommend to a Friend

Book Summary

At Coopers Chase retirement community, there isn’t a lot of excitement. For fun, four residents meet weekly in the Jigsaw Room to discuss unsolved crimes and talk through what could have happened. They figure they’ll stay younger by using their brains to solve crimes.

But then, a murder occurs near their community. A local developer is found dead, and an unexpected photo is next to the body. Before they know it, the quirky group of friends is investigating a crime in real time…much to the dismay of the actual detective assigned to the case.

The Book Girls Say…

“I love multiple points of view. The characters were so complex and wonderful” -Lindy R.

“A friend recommended it to me, and I absolutely love the characters and the wit and mystery of the story! I am currently reading the 4th installment of the series.” -Lauren E.

Also Featured on These Book Lists:

Books With Characters in Their 70s

Book Girls’ Readers Rate This Book

100% Would Recommend to a Friend

Book Summary

Set in 1932 during the Great Depression, This Tender Land follows four orphans who have escaped the abusive Lincoln Indian Training School in Minnesota. The kids set off down the Mississippi River and have to survive the environment while being pursued by the school. They have to decide whether to trust each stranger they encounter and discover themselves along the way.

The Book Girls Say…

It was such a sweeping, painful, yet beautiful and redemptive story. It stayed with me for a long time. -Kristi

“Excellent characters, loved the evocation of Huck Finn.” -Beth H.

“Wonderful coming of age story that redefines “family”. Each character embarks on their own journey of self-discovery.” -Sarah M.

In addition to the books listed above, authors Amy Harmon, Louise Penney, Jeff Zentner, and Katherine Center each had multiple books submitted as a reader favorite, but none of their individual books made the cut-off. However, we highly recommend exploring their backlists!

Printable Version of Our Readers’ Favorite Books of 2023

Our Buy Me a Coffee BFF members can access a printable version of this book list, with space to color in the spines and/or add your own ratings to each title.

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Angela & Melissa

The Book Girls are best friends who jointly read over 200 books per year. We started Book Girls' Guide in 2019 to help others de-stress and find joy through the power of a great book. We do in-depth research on thousands of novels and non-fiction titles each year to provide curated book lists covering a variety of genres.

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