Books

The Best Books of 2023: Must-Read Fiction

Out of the more than 100 fiction books I’ve read in the past year, here are the best books of 2023 in fiction!

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I read a TON. Typically, I read around 130 books per year. My tastes range from fluffy beach reads to sci-fi to satire to memoirs to historical nonfiction; basically, I’m all over the place.

This year was the first time I didn’t finish everything. If I didn’t like the book, occasionally, I’d put it down and move on to try something else. While I know many people do this, I never have: even if it’s badly written or boring, I want to know how it ends! This year I did for a few, when I could tell that no ending was going to change my opinion.

I also dived deep into the fantasy genre. I’ve always been a fan of fantasy and sci-fi, but especially now that so many great titles are hitting mainstream awareness, it’s easier and easier to find the next great title. I’m also a big believer in reading as a way to escape, and this year has been tough, both personally and globally. There’s been a lot of need for escaping for an hour in a book!

Looking for my nonfiction favorites? It’s here!

In no particular order, here are my top ten books of 2023, fiction edition!

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Best Books of 2023: Fiction

Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow, Gabrielle Zevin

I love books about nerdy things. I’m not a gamer at all, but a well-written book about someone being totally and completely passionate about the thing they love is a joy to read. The book follows two people: first as they become friends, become friends, again, and then launch a massive gaming company.

With “how they did it” interviews peppered in, Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow is still a story about people and their relationships, not about a company or a rise to fame. I don’t want to say too much about the plot, but it’s beautifully written and at the top of this list on purpose. I think about this book at least weekly.

Legendborn, Tracy Deonn

If I could only recommend one book in the fantasy category this year, it would be Legendborn. Picture a secret society created around King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, except that their descendants could fight demons invisible to the average person. Their existence is a closely guarded secret, so when one teen gets mixed up in their pre-initiation rites, things go a little sideways.

I’ll admit that I’m biased: it’s set at my alma mater, so I can picture the exact castle (and rumored secret society) she’s describing. But genuinely, Legendborn was one of the best books I’ve read in a long time. Plus, I guarantee you’ll never see the ending coming. The sequel, Bloodmarked, is great as well and I can’t wait until the next installation gets published.

Divine Rivals, Rebecca Ross

Categorize Divine Rivals under “both a good story and makes you think.” I love stories that have a writing motif, and this one is really well done. Anonymous penpals, journalists trying to make it, and the pressures of family and war make a great coming-of-age story.

Its very much set up to be a series, so I can’t wait to read the sequel, Ruthless Vows. I’m currently on the months-long waiting list at my library, so it’ll be a while.

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Another great book that should really be on your list!

Fourth Wing, Rebecca Yarros

I almost didn’t include Fourth Wing, only because it seems to be on everyone’s list already! It’s a classic story: a girl goes to an intense school where she’s underqualified and has to compete to survive, all the while getting slowly sucked into bigger geopolitical issues. Add in dragons and magic, and you have Fourth Wing!

I don’t say that to make fun – the feel of Fourth Wing reminded me of Divergent or The Hunger Games. But the themes are a bit more adult than any of those (definite spicy scenes). I loved both Fourth Wing and its sequel, Iron Flame!

Upgrade, Blake Crouch

In a world where genetic modification has had devasting global effects, it’s now illegal. So when Logan Ramsay realizes his DNA has been hacked, he’s immediately in danger from the government agency he used to work for.

But why him? Why now? And to what end? He hunts down the answers while he evades capture.

Upgrade hit that sweet spot of science fiction that’s nearly here. It makes the book more ominous and more compelling. Upgrade isn’t what you’d expect and definitely worth a read!

The Miniscule Mansion of Myra Malone, Audrey Burges

Myra’s massive, intricately detailed dollhouse is practically her whole life. Seriously though: the agoraphic blogger has made her career from sharing the details and restoration of her minuscule mansion. So when furniture trader Alex Rakes stumbles onto her website, he’s shocked to discover that her dollhouse is an exact replica of his ancestral home, inside and out. Even down to the mysterious music that plays through the halls.

The story follows the two trying to get to the bottom of how a historic New England home has a replica dollhouse in a small Arizona attic. The Miniscule Mansion of Myra Malone is one of those books that has a magic to it without wizards or faries, and it’s both sweet and moving.

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Verity, Colleen Hoover

Struggling author Lowen has a chance encounter with one of her favorite writers, who ends up hiring her as an in-home ghostwriter for his severely injured wife Verity’s novels. It’s a dream job to get her career back on track, and Verity left tons of notes for the series to get her going. What she doesn’t expect is to find an autobiography revealing the darker side of their marriage and life together. Lowen must decide to do with secret insights, especially as she’s falling for the husband.

Colleen Hoover is having a moment, and for good reason. She writes so well, even on some hard subjects (hello, It Ends With Us). Verity is my favorite of hers so far, and a classic thriller. Complete with a weird kid and everything! I definitely didn’t see the ending coming, which is the biggest marker of a great one.

The It Girl, Ruth Ware

Hannah Jones’ Oxford roommate April is from another world. She’s wealthy and entitled, she’s fun and fun-loving, she’s the campus’ It girl. So when she’s murdered in her first year, Hannah’s world is rocked.

Ten years later, the convicted killer dies in prison. While Hannah thought this would bring her peace, a journalist shows her that they may have arrested the wrong person and that the killer may be a little closer to home. Hannah tries to figure out who the real killer is, digging up decades-old secrets along the way.

Ruth Ware is always a favorite of mine – I always knew it would make my best books of 2023 list. The It Girl is more intense than your average murder mystery, her thrillers have you on the edge of your seat to the very end.

Red Queen, Victoria Aveyard

In a dystopian world, humanity is divided into “average” red bloods and silver bloods with special superhuman abilities. Mare Barrow and every other red live hand to mouth, oppressed by the silvers. But when Mare surprises everyone with having silver-like powers, she’s forced to play a dangerous game of hiding who she is amongst royalty and aristocracy!

I read the whole series this year! It’s a great premise and a great four books. As they continue, both the global impacts and the points of view expand. Even if you don’t read the whole series, try out Red Queen and see if you like it!

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Killers of a Certain Age, Deanna Rayborn

Four former assassins are celebrating retirement on a luxury cruise when their organization targets them. They now have to 1) survive, 2) figure out who exactly ordered the hit, and then 3) decide what to do about it.

Killers of a Certain Age is fun. The four women are hilarious, very Golden Girls, but with a more lethal set of skills. It’s a great escape book.

Honorable Mention: Foul Lady Fortune, Chloe Gong

Rosalie Lang is saved from near death and is now practically immortal. She doesn’t age, sleep, and heals from wounds in seconds. As payment for saving her life, she agrees to work as an assassin for her government.

I couldn’t do my best books of 2023 list without this one. It’s an assassin story set in 1930s Shanghai, and it’s the best of a good story set in a particularly interesting time, one that Western audiences may not have read much about previously. Foul Lady Fortune has intrigue, romance, and power in all the best ways.

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What’s on your list of the best books of 2023? I’m sharing my nonfiction list next week, or you can check out previous years’ lists for more inspiration!

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