5 Million Votes Later: These Are the 15 Best Books of the Year, According to Readers


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goodreads best books of 2023"
goodreads best books of 2023
Graphics by: Caitlin Schneider
Graphics by: Caitlin Schneider

Every time I hit about 60 percent of the way through a book, my mind immediately starts thinking about what I might read next. If I’m reading something with lots of action and adventure, do I want to keep these vibes going or maybe slow down with a swoon-worthy romance? Is there a book that’s been sitting on my TBR pile for months that I’m finally in the mood to read? Throughout these musings I turn to one place to help guide my final decision: Goodreads.

I simply will not read a book without seeing what other readers think about it. If people overwhelmingly reviewed a book negatively, chances are I won’t be picking it up anytime soon. Suffice it to say that I need the books I choose to read to be vetted. If you’re like me, you’ve come to the right place. Goodreads has announced the winners of their Goodreads Choice Awards, where readers (like us!) vote on the best books of the year across a variety of genres. With almost 6 million votes contributing to these results, you know you’ll be able to trust these picks as you choose what you’re going to read to hit your reading goal before the year is over.

Best Fiction

R.F. Kuang

R.F. Kuang continues her astonishing ascent from genre specialist to literary sensation with Yellowface, a lacerating parable about the publishing industry itself. A combination of satire, metafiction, and slow-burn thriller, the book ultimately delivers a sly cultural critique concerning race and tokenism in the book business.

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Best Historical Fiction

Emilia Hart

An artful variation on the historical fiction novel, Emilia Hart’s Weyward follows three desperate women along three timeline threads—separate but related—in 1619, 1942, and 2019. Hart’s story stitches back and forth in time as the women encounter an abiding feminine power, deeply rooted in the land. Bonus tip: Look up the definition of weyward for some witchy etymology.

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Best Mystery & Thriller

Freida McFadden
The Housemaid’s Secret

Sequel to The Housemaid—a nominee last year in the Mystery & Thriller category—The Housemaid’s Secret is the first Goodreads Choice Award for author (and practicing physician) Freida McFadden. The new novel finds maid-with-a-secret Millie Calloway in another dodgy situation as author McFadden delivers her patented blend of psychological suspense and switchback plot twists.

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Best Romance

Emily Henry
Happy Place

Emily Henry clocks her third straight victory in the category with this tale of a couple who have broken up but don’t want to harsh the vibe on an upcoming trip with friends. The result is a clever variation on the old fake-dating trope. Henry’s three-in-a-row streak is extra impressive when you consider that she’s published only four adult romances in total.

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Best Romantasy

Rebecca Yarros
Fourth Wing

This year’s most unstoppable book, Rebecca Yarros’ dragon-rider fantasy/romance surfed an atmospheric river of BookTok support straight to the bestseller stratosphere. Yarros’ astonishing success has earned the author a massive fandom of devoted readers, and the book helped popularize the emerging consensus term for 2023’s hottest hybrid genre: romantasy.

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Best Fantasy

Leigh Bardugo
Hell Bent

Leigh Bardugo is back on top with Hell Bent, the winner of this year’s Fantasy category. Not coincidentally, the book is the sequel to Ninth House, 2019’s winner in Fantasy. Bardugo’s beloved series has established a new trajectory for dark academia books, promising Ivy League hopefuls a world of secret societies, occult rituals, and interdimensional portals.

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Best Science Fiction

TJ Klune
In the Lives of Puppets

With its skillful mix of fantasy and science fiction elements, T.J. Klune’s innovative novel brings the core concepts of the Pinocchio legend into the notional environs of the 21st century and beyond. Androids! Anxieties! Found families! Klune has an intuitive feel for this kind of modern mythmaking, bringing contemporary resonance to this classic tale.

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Best Horror

Stephen King

As elder statesman and genre godfather, Stephen King is a familiar name in the Horror category. He returns this year with Holly, which pits an old fan-favorite character—private investigator Holly Gibney—against a pair of uniquely depraved antagonists. King’s book is part character study, part thriller, and part cautionary tale concerning octogenarian academics.

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Best Young Adult Fantasy

Rebecca Ross
Divine Rivals

Another massive BookTok sensation, Rebecca Ross’ Divine Rivals introduces a genuinely fresh new fantasy world featuring vengeful gods, the horrors of war, and the power of love—all kinds of love. The book also extols the virtues of old-world correspondence (writing letters!). Good news for impatient readers: Book two of the series hits U.S. shelves on December 26.

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Best Young Adult Fiction

Ali Hazelwood
Check & Mate

Author Ali Hazelwood made her name in the book business by writing smart love stories for discerning adult readers. So, it’s an encouraging development that her first venture into the young adult aisles is proving equally popular. Check & Mate follows reluctant chess genius Mallory Greenleaf as she deploys gambits and strategies in the game of life. Smart kids need love too, you know.

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Best Debut Novel

Emilia Hart

Alert readers will note that debut author Emilia Hart is a double winner in this year’s GCAs, having also taken the prize in Best Historical Fiction. As first novels go, Weyward is both accomplished and ambitious, effectively blending elements of magical realism and historical conjecture to tell the stories of three amazing women in three different eras.

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Best Nonfiction

Matthew Desmond
Poverty, By America

Sociologist and Pulitzer Prize winner Matthew Desmond earns this year’s prize with the kind of book that future historians will be citing for generations. Desmond asks some deeply uncomfortable questions about poverty in the United States, then persuasively argues for a bold new agenda of shared prosperity.

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Best Memoir & Autobiography

Britney Spears
The Woman In Me

One of several high-profile celebrity memoirs to drop this year, Britney Spears’ big book was ecstatically received by fans—and it did quite well with the critics, too. If you’re keeping score at home, Prince Harry’s memoir, Spare, came in second place in this category. Mathematically, that’s American Pop Princess > British Royal Scion—for Goodreads voters, anyway.

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Best History & Biography

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

Journalist and veteran researcher David Grann profiles the bloody fate of an 18th-century British warship that generated two groups of survivors, each telling a different tale of What Really Happened. Perhaps this year’s most expansive book, The Wager crosses rigorous research with true-crime verve, peppered with elements of survival tale, legal thriller, and horror story.

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Best Humor

Henry Winkler
Being Henry: The Fonz…And Beyond

In our increasingly divided culture, it’s nice to find one thing we can all agree on: The Fonz is, was, and shall forever be cool. This bedrock wisdom provides the unshakable foundation of Henry Winkler’s delightful memoir, which reveals the actor’s keen eye, big heart, and formidable writing chops. Sometimes the good guys finish first, after all.

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