The Best Books of 2023 So Far (Updated February 2023)

PEOPLE compiled the most page-turning, attention-capturing books we've loved so far this year — and we're just getting started

Best Books of 2023 so far
Photo: Amazon (5)
01 of 24

A Dangerous Business by Jane Smiley

A Dangerous Business: A novel by Jane Smiley

This enveloping historical drama set in 1850s Monterey centers on Eliza, recently widowed and working as a prostitute. But she's content; far better to be an independent woman than married to an abusive man. When someone starts killing other prostitutes, she and her best friend, Jean, set out to solve the mystery no lawman seems to care about. Mischievously upending old-fashioned narratives of fallen women, Smiley brings time and place alive.

Buy It:

02 of 24

Screaming on the Inside by Jessica Grose

Screaming on the Inside: The Unsustainability of American Motherhood by Jessica Grose
Mariner Books

Moms were over-worked and under-appreciated even before the pandemic laid bare the need to reevaluate family life. Journalist Grose weaves together history, memoir and interviews
with hundreds of women to persuasively propose a saner future for all.

Buy It:

03 of 24

Scatterlings by Rešoketšwe Manenzhe

Scatterlings: A Novel by Resoketswe Martha Manenzhe

In 1927 South Africa, an unhappily married couple find their family endangered by the new so-called Immorality Act, which outlaws sex between the races. This haunting debut chronicles the lives of Alisa, Abram and daughter Dido during the chilling
early steps toward apartheid.

Buy It:

04 of 24

The Circus Train by Amita Parikh

The Circus Train by Amita Parikh
G.P. Putnam's Sons

Parikh's debut is a sweeping love story set amid a traveling circus and the horrors of WWII. Young, disabled Lena, the daughter of haunted illusionist Theo, falls in love with another outsider, tortured Jewish refugee Alexandre. As the Nazis encroach, the performers struggle to survive betrayals and
heartbreaking loss, all leading to a spinning-plates grand finale with an irresistible message: Finding your true self (and true love) is the greatest wonder of all.

Buy It:

05 of 24

The Villa by Rachel Hawkins

The Villa: A Novel by Rachel Hawkins
St. Martin's Press

After her marriage collapses, Emily and her "bestie" decide to vacation in an Italian villa known for a gruesome 1974 murder. Flashing between past and present, Hawkins weaves an engrossing tale about betrayal, sisterhood and the power of telling your own story. Captivating!

Buy It:

06 of 24

The Color of Family by Jerry McGill

The Color of Family: A Novel by Jerry McGill
Little A

In sparkling slivers of stories set from the 1960s to the early 2000s, fortune batters a wealthy Black family of Connecticut, whose six children initially seem set for stardom in sports and beyond. A car wreck, a drug bust, illicit passions and long-kept secrets will change all that.

Buy It:

07 of 24

Sam by Allegra Goodman

Sam: A Novel by Allegra Goodman
The Dial Press

An irresistible coming-of-age portrait of Sam, a young rock climber torn between achieving the better life her financially struggling mom pushes and embracing the reckless freedom of her adored but mostly absent addict dad. But what about what Sam wants for herself? A profound and gorgeously written gem about the tough, tender route Sam must navigate—grappling with friendships, love, insecurities and burgeoning womanhood—to chart her own course.

Buy It:

08 of 24

Small World by Laura Zigman

Small World by Laura Zigman

Growing up with a disabled middle sister who died young has left siblings Joyce and Lydia Mellishman fragile and distant in adulthood. When both women divorce and move in together, red flags are everywhere. Zigman's quirky novel confronts the most painful family issues and is equally knowing—and funny—about what brings comfort and grace.

Buy It:

09 of 24

The Survivalists by Kashana Cauley

The Survivalists by Kashana Cauley
Soft Skull

Aretha's built a great life as a high-profile lawyer when she meets Aaron, an entrepreneur with potential. As their relationship deepens, his preparation-obsessed housemates push Aretha down a darker path. Cauley's sharp wit tracks Aretha's descent into survival mode.

Buy It:

10 of 24

Really Good, Actually by Monica Heisey


Ph.D. student Maggie is a bit of a mess. Only 29 and divorced after 608 days of marriage, she finds comfort in late-night burgers, a fantasy of encountering her ex while she's out with Harry Styles, and the transient pleasure of dating apps. Meanwhile, her friends remind her to shower and try to persuade her not to bleach her hair. This savvy TV writer's debut novel is a cringe-filled, funny—and surprisingly poignant—look at one woman's self-discovery after heartbreak.

Buy It:

11 of 24

Wade in the Water by Nyani Nkrumah

Wade in the Water: A Novel by Nyani Nkrumah

Vividly bringing to life rural 1980s Mississippi, Nkrumah's fearless debut unfurls the fraught friendship between an unhappy 11-year-old Black girl and a White researcher studying the effects of the civil rights movement—but hiding a nefarious
personal connection.

Buy It:

12 of 24

The Chinese Groove by Kathryn Ma

The Chinese Groove: A Novel by Kathryn Ma

This modern coming-of-age tale brims with heart, ambition, drama and a protagonist whose naivete makes him splendidly endearing. Ma thoughtfully navigates family dynamics and first
love. It's guaranteed to have you and the aunties laughing and crying along.

Buy It:

13 of 24

Twelve Months And A Day by Louisa Young

Twelve Months and a Day by Louisa Young
G.P. Putnam's Sons

A young widow and widower, decimated by the loss of their adored spouses, are unable to move on in their lives. But they're not the only ones. The ghosts of their late partners are equally grief-stricken, but instead of succumbing to sorrow, the spirits decide to matchmake their survivors. Told through song lyrics, emails and four different points of view, this is a tender exploration of finding your way through sorrow, and a heartfelt valentine to hope.

Buy It:

14 of 24

Exiles by Jane Harper

Exiles: A Novel by Jane Harper
Flatiron Books

Investigator Aaron Falk arrives in Australian wine country for his godson's christening, post-poned from last year when the community was rocked by a young woman's disappearance. There are clues they've missed, planted deftly by Harper in
the relationships and psyches of her nuanced characters.

Buy It:

15 of 24

This Other Eden by Paul Harding

This Other Eden: A Novel by Paul Harding
W. W. Norton & Company

Apple Island's mixed-race community ignored the outside world until, in 1912, the state of Maine—impelled by misguided faith and supremacist pseudoscience—evicted the residents. At the center: a schoolteacher tries to help a talented young artist, even as his prejudices seal the islander's fates.

Buy It:

16 of 24

Someone Else's Shoes by Jojo Moyes

Someone Else's Shoes by Jojo Moyes
Pamela Dorman Books

When Sam mistakenly grabs the wrong bag on her way out of the gym, she sets in motion a delicious comedy that's an ode to middle-aged women and their friendships. As Sam finds herself tottering into a meeting in Louboutins, just-dumped trophy wife Nisha is locked out of her hotel penthouse with only Sam's clunky lace-ups. The chambermaid who rescues her is just one of a great supporting cast. Give yourself a treat with the latest from Britain's queen of women's fiction.

Buy It:

17 of 24

Big Swiss by Jen Beagin

BIG SWISS, Jen Beagin

While transcribing therapy sessions, Greta becomes obsessed with one of her insufferable boss's patients, a married female Swiss gynecologist. Greta pretends not to recognize her voice when they meet and begin an affair. A darkly humorous satire propelled by smart character observations.

Buy It:

18 of 24

Central Places by Delia Cai

Ballantine Books

Skin-care-obsessed Audrey Zhou had not been home in more than eight years, until a visit back to rural Illinois with her fiancé, Ben. A Walmart run-in with an old crush pushes Audrey
to question her choices and a lifetime of mis- communication— especially with her immigrant parents.

Buy It:

19 of 24

Stone Cold Fox by Rachel Koller Craft

Stone Cold Fox by Rachel Koller Croft

Meet Bea, the con artist extraordinaire at the center of Croft's hilarious debut. Trained by her psychotic grifter mother in the art of bringing men to their knees, Bea has adapted those skills to success as an ad exec in New York City, where she is now planning to extract a marriage proposal from her richest client. Bea's confidence is boundless, her judgment of the rich crowd she's so eager to join is merciless, and watching her scheme to land a rich husband is a total hoot.

Buy It:

20 of 24

My Last Innocent Year by Daisy Florin

My Last Innocent Year by Daisy Florin
Henry Holt and Co.

When the famous poet on the faculty tells Isabel she's a brilliant writer, the next step is the couch in his office. Meanwhile, she's recently accused another student of rape. This evocative, eloquent campus confidential lays out the complications of the Clinton-Lewinsky era just as you might remember them.

Buy It:

21 of 24

Bookworm by Robin Yeatman

Bookworm by Robin Yeatman
Harper Perennial

Saddled with a loathsome husband, Victoria finds refuge in reading, but she's an unreliable narrator of her own life. When she meets a handsome man reading the same book that she is, she imagines he must be her soulmate. A book-club-perfect dark comedy.

Buy It:

22 of 24

I Have Some Questions for You by Rebecca Makkai


It's been decades since 17-year-old Thalia Keith was murdered at Granby, her New Hampshire boarding school. The man convicted of the crime— Granby's athletic director—remains in prison. But when Thalia's former classmate Bodie Kane returns to teach there in 2018, she and her students take a #MeToo-informed look at the case—and old assumptions start to crack like spring ice on the local lakes. A twisty, immersive whodunit perfect for fans of Donna Tartt's The Secret History.

Buy It:

23 of 24

Maame by Jessica George

Maame by Jessica George
St. Martin's Press

At 25, Londoner Maddie tries to transform her dutiful life with a new job, her first apartment and a potential boyfriend but finds herself pulled painfully back into her Ghanaian family's orbit. By turns tender and comic, this portrait of a young woman's journey to self-understanding is triumphant.

Buy It:

24 of 24

My What If Year by Alisha Fernandez Miranda

MY WHAT IF YEAR Alisha Fernandez Miranda
Zibby Books

Change can feel impossible with kids, a husband and
a demanding career. In this charming and highly readable memoir, the author takes a year off and tackles various internships with gusto, proving that sometimes uprooting your entire life is the only way forward.

Buy It:

Related Articles