Skip to footer



Skip Navigation LinksStaff Picks > Best Books We Read in 2023



Best Books We Read in 2023Best Books We Read in 2023<div class="ExternalClass845EEEDDC95B41D3BF6661F6CE7C3C02"><h3>See the best books <span data-contrast="none" lang="EN-US">Phoenix Public Library staff read in 2023! Browse this list, be inspired and a</span>dd to your 2024 reading wish list! There's something for every reader!<br></h3><div><p><br><br></p></div><p><br></p></div>





Check out what we loved this year!Check out what we loved this year! Picks/BestBooks23_social.jpg661





















All systems redAll systems redWells, Martha, author.4684561Book9780765397539<div class="ExternalClass995A3113FD5D47A58BFA7C64317E48D0"><p>"All Systems Red" takes the top book spot for me this year because it is the only book I haven't been able to forget since I finished it. As a huge sci-fi lover, "All Systems Red" checked every box for me, giving me interesting characters, action and a setting that draws you in. I highly recommend this book for long-time sci-f​i fans and those that are interested in dipping their toes into the genre for the first time.​<br></p><p>- Tara<br></p><p>Murderbot is your run of the mill Cybernetic Security Unit. Except for the fact that they hacked their governor chip so they can choose when to kill, and not be forced to (which isn't allowed for obvious reasons). "All Systems Red" is the first in a 7 book (5 novellas, 2 novels) series about the adventures of Murderbot, the SecUnit who doesn't like to kill. I really like it because Murderbot is a little different (aren't we all) and just wants to find their place in the "universe." It's got a lot of humor and heart and doesn't shy away from the trauma aftermath that always happens in an action-packed story.</p><p>- Katie​<br></p><p><br></p></div>
All the sinners bleedAll the sinners bleedCosby, S. A., author.7169382Book9781250831910<div class="ExternalClass8B118E736CA34C638C571E239F8EC988"><p>​SA Cosby is an incredibly talented writer.  I was blown away by the writing!  Sheriff Titus Crown is an intricate character whose love for his hometown and his belief in justice are tested by, not only evil, but systematic racism.  I recommend it to anyone who loves a good detective thriller, strong characters, and remarkable writing.</p><p>- Laura​<br></p></div>
Answers in the pagesAnswers in the pagesLevithan, David, author.6663453Book9780593484685<div class="ExternalClassB2D719F404934BAF8933239374ECFF6F"><p>​Censorship is such a hot topic for us library folk right now, and this book is all about that.  I love the way Levithan brings the message home through this boy’s perspective, and the way it was interwoven with the story within the story. </p><p>- Tracy​<br></p></div>
Assistant to the villainAssistant to the villainMaehrer, Hannah Nicole, author.7316831Book9781649375803<div class="ExternalClass51934D7B1D52495DB36B5E1C25B8B9F0"><p>​The best book I read in 2023 is "Assistant to the Villain" by Hannah Nicole Maehrer. It's a lighthearted, comedic read and I found myself laughing almost every page. I fell in love with the plot, the characters, and the setting and she's a wonderful emerging author.</p><p>- Elyse​<br></p></div>
Begin againBegin againLord, Emma, author.7077992Book9781250783363<div class="ExternalClass6011710EE9F443079EB934469C91E4E5"><p>​Taking place on a college campus in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Andie learns who she is and what she wants (vs what she thinks everybody thinks she should do) while simultaneously learning about her late mother and who she was as a college student. Of the three "coming of age at college" books I read this year, this one was my favorite because it surprised me in how the story unfolded, and that is always enjoyable.</p><p>- Katie​<br></p></div>
Breadsong : how baking changed our livesBreadsong : how baking changed our livesTait, Kitty (Baker), author.6663197Book9781635578041<div class="ExternalClass6CAE16B330994C449AB54407948D019D"><p>​Part memoir, part cookbook, this book is told in alternating voices between teenager Kitty and her dad Al, it tells the story of how baking, and sourdough in particular, pulled Kitty back from the edge when depression hit when she was 14. They grew from baking a loaf of bread a day to running a full bakery in their town in England. It was a new way to read about depression, and Kitty doesn't shy away from how it affected her. Food is a magical thing, if we let it be, and that magic shines through.</p><p>- Katie​<br></p></div>
But will you love me tomorrow? : an oral history of the '60s girl groupsBut will you love me tomorrow? : an oral history of the '60s girl groups7345132Book9780306829772<div class="ExternalClassD10483EB75514BA99E1DF8BE4542FEA2"><p>A wonderful book about the girl group phenomenon of the 50s and 60s told in the words of the ladies themselves. Extensive interviews voice the girl group story.</p><p>- Keith​<br></p></div>
Chinese Cinderella the true story of an unwanted daughterChinese Cinderella the true story of an unwanted daughterMah, Adeline Yen, 1937-4163323Book{A2709215-A22C-41A5-ACCC-25412B7ED103}Img100.jpg9780307482808 (electronic bk. : Adobe Digital Editions)<div class="ExternalClassFAFE836D98C642FFB38B976379545F85"><h4>eBook​</h4><p>I loved this book because it always kept me on the edge of my seat. I got a refresher on history, a true story account of a girl that didn't have the support of most of her family, yet still kept dreaming about how she would like to change the world around her. Her storytelling skills are immaculate and she truly transports you to the front seat of the injustices of her childhood.</p><p>​- Yolanda<br></p><p><br></p></div>
CursedCursedMeyer, Marissa, author.6854448Book9781250618917<div class="ExternalClass3B5CD79EA2644C6E9B86201AC9B6C061"><p>​This is book 2 to complete a story I really enjoyed. Everything fit together nicely, and I loved all the unique world-​​building around a retold fairytale and elements of Germanic folklore. It felt like something entirely original, while still appealing to my love of retellings. ​<br></p><p>- Emily<br></p></div>
Des _________ : papeles, palabras, & poems from the desertDes _________ : papeles, palabras, & poems from the desertMancinas, Oscar, author.7042321Book9781948800556<div class="ExternalClass3654B13796054B9EAB55D86DA7BD533F"><p>​ I love the way Oscar writes about Arizona, the Southwest, and the Washington-Escobedo Neighborhood in Mesa where he grew up and currently lives! This multilingual collection of polyvocal poems and archival interventions is sharp-toothed, rigorous, and playful -- a piercing ray of Sonoran Desert sun. It's a joy and a gift to see our Salt River Valley home through Oscar's eyes!</p><p>- Ryan​<br></p></div>,%20palabras,%20and%20poems%20from%20the%20desert&relation=ALL&by=TI&term2=mancinas&relation2=ALL&by2=AU&bool1=AND&bool4=AND&limit=&sort=RELEVANCE&page=0&searchid=2
Empire of the summer moon : Quanah Parker and the rise and fall of the Comanches, the most powerful Indian tribe in American historyEmpire of the summer moon : Quanah Parker and the rise and fall of the Comanches, the most powerful Indian tribe in American historyGwynne, S. C. (Samuel C.), 1953-3576557Book1416591052<div class="ExternalClassF0C2757D616C4538982F45513502BD89"><p>​"Empire of the Summer Moon" tells the story of Quanah Parker, the last chief of the Comanches.  His mother was kidnapped as a child and stayed with the tribe, marrying and having 2 children.  Quanah had a long history as both a very good Indian warrior (the author refers to Native Americans as Indians throughout the entire book) and became extremely respected in his later life by both Indians and Whites.<br></p><p>The book paints an often gruesome picture of the way the Indians were mistreated and how the Whites tried to wipe them from the face of the earth, all in the name of Western expansion...making it, for me at least, a very difficult book to read.  The Comanches are regarded as the most powerful Indian tribe ever, and after reading this book, I cannot argue with that assessment.<br></p><p>- Robb<br></p></div>
Excavations : a novelExcavations : a novelMyers, Kate (Television developer), author.7252446Book9780063304512<div class="ExternalClass0B38D639C37E4D409EA78FA7AFCE20F1"><p>Told from four different perspectives, "Excavations" tells the story of a dig site in Greece and the four women who are members of the excavation team. An artifact that shouldn't be there is uncovered, and all four women need to work together to make sure the discovery comes to light. I used to work at an archeological museum, and this novel brought back so many memories... if you've ever worked on a dig site, or wanted to, this book is for you.</p><p>- Katie​<br></p></div>
Fantastic creatures of the mountains and seas : a Chinese classicFantastic creatures of the mountains and seas : a Chinese classicSun, Jiankun, author.6349980Book9781950691388<div class="ExternalClass0EFB4D320ED443F28356F12B5A5EE0A5"><p>​This is one of the most interesting and beautiful books that I've ever read. It has everything that I love - ancient Chinese culture, mythological creatures and unique and striking artwork.</p><p><span style="color:#000000;font-family:aptos, aptos_embeddedfont, aptos_msfontservice, calibri, helvetica, sans-serif;font-size:16px;background-color:#ffffff;"></span>- ​Michael​<br></p></div>
Fat talk : parenting in the age of diet cultureFat talk : parenting in the age of diet cultureSole-Smith, Virginia, author.7172829Book9781250831217<div class="ExternalClass61432D6B799B41C78DEC54CA979890BB"><p>​I found so much useful information in this book. It left me frustrated and sad but in the end, hopeful, because there is a lot that we can do to combat diet culture and support children as they navigate it all.<br></p><p>- Anna<br></p><p aria-hidden="true" style="color:#242424;background-color:#ffffff;font-size:11pt;font-family:calibri, sans-serif;margin-bottom:0px;"> </p><p><br></p></div>
From belowFrom belowCoates, Darcy, author.6680655Book9781728220239<div class="ExternalClass2C98DEDAADB64158962032E90C2C6AE9"><p>​I picked this up on a whim and am glad I did. This is the first book in a long time that had me so immersed in the descriptions and atmosphere that I did not want to put it down. Some of the scenes describe enclosed spaces under water and while reading it on the 5th floor of Burton Barr I was starting to feel claustrophobic. Highly recommend this and the rest of this author's bibliography.</p><p>- Melissa​<br></p></div>
Happiness falls : a novelHappiness falls : a novelKim, Angie, 1969- author.7314834Book9780593448205<div class="ExternalClassFBD3C02784D046D7A45241790E8C5BC6"><p>​I loved this book because the dynamics of the family at the center of the story are just so incredibly relatable. It’s a mystery what happened to the father, but the way that each member of the family reacts to his disappearance is what makes this such a fascinating read. I love the way the author releases the relevant information bit by bit until the story is finally stitched together at the end.</p><p>- Julie​</p><p><br></p></div>
Heaven official's blessing = Tian guan ci fu. 1Heaven official's blessing = Tian guan ci fu. 1Moxiangtongxiu, author.6572506Book9781648279171<div class="ExternalClass014438B523024C90B52B1DF61AC8EC61"><p>​I greatly enjoy the fantasy combined with the mystery. It's fun to watch the character solve what supernatural creature is behind the disappearances in the village he's sent to. The characters are enjoyable, and the book has a decent amount of humor.</p><p>- Kendra​<br></p></div>
His majesty's dragonHis majesty's dragonNovik, Naomi, author.6423878Book9780593359549<div class="ExternalClassB4EABEC51C0F4EF1A7D506D877B7AC45"><p>​This is historical fiction with dragons. What I loved was the fully-realized quirks and personality of Temeraire, who is the lead dragon. And, how Temeraire's character evolves and affects his bonded human. It made me think about broader issues like equity, fairness and respect. I read this in June and couldn't stop until I had finished all nine books in the series. <br></p><p>- Wendy<br></p><div><br></div><div style="border:0px;font-stretch:inherit;font-size:15px;line-height:inherit;font-feature-settings:inherit;margin:0px;padding:0px;vertical-align:baseline;color:#242424;background-color:#ffffff;"><br></div><p><br></p></div>
Holly : a novelHolly : a novelKing, Stephen, 1947- author.7210835Book9781668016138<div class="ExternalClass5A108FB6EA3040D0B142452CB0071D33"><p>I loved the book "Holly" by Stephen King. Holly is a character originally from the "Mr. Mercedes" trilogy. She starts as a shy withdrawn character that, by chance, thwarts a deranged murderer, to ultimately become head of her own crime fighting investigative agency. A true mouse to lioness hero story. <br></p><p>- Jonathan<br></p><div><br></div><div style="border:0px;font-stretch:inherit;font-size:15px;line-height:inherit;font-feature-settings:inherit;margin:0px;padding:0px;vertical-align:baseline;color:#242424;background-color:#ffffff;">​<br></div><p><br></p></div>
In the lives of puppetsIn the lives of puppetsKlune, TJ, author.7087497Book9781250217448<div class="ExternalClass0161E0C0414E40B49CA8C86A076DE207"><p>Everything TJ Klune writes is instantly my favorite book of the year, but this book was particularly great.  The main character was so sweet and so wonderful and I fell in love with him right away and his love interest was just as endearing. It was such a lovely love story. The supporting robot characters were TJ at his finest with their banter and hilarious dialogue. It was SO much fun to read and the world-building was so vivid, I wanted to crawl inside of the book and stay there for awhile. </p><p>- April​</p><p><br></p></div>
Killers of the Flower Moon : the Osage murders and the birth of the FBIKillers of the Flower Moon : the Osage murders and the birth of the FBIGrann, David, author.4676958Book9780385534246<div class="ExternalClass97974720EDE046D5B76E77C1DC3FDDBD"><p>​I think the best book I read in 2023 was "Killers of the Flower Moon" by David Grann. I think it's important to know history. The author did a lot of research and I wanted to read his books before watching the movie to make sure Hollywood told the full story.</p><p>- Juanita​<br></p></div>
Lessons in chemistry : a novelLessons in chemistry : a novelGarmus, Bonnie, author.6613234Book9780385547345<div class="ExternalClass7CA90ECE3DAF4D8CAADF58A802C59004"><p>​This book was so refreshing and I loved the different take on time period and character.  The time period of 30s, 40s, and 50s and these characters who didn't fit the mold of society, strong characters who were smart but also thought outside the box and took a part in empowering the next generation. I especially loved the main character Elizabeth Zott and her smart, strong and empowering character.  </p><p>- Christina​<br></p><p>Excellent read. I loved the book because it is about a woman in a man's world: 1960s. Telling her she can't be a scientist. Guess what? She showed the men what a woman can do.</p><p>- Lynae<br><br></p><p><br></p><p><br></p></div>
Loved and missedLoved and missedBoyt, Susie, 1969- author.7320318Book9781681377810<div class="ExternalClass39CF0760E1DC47A1AF5F224D01AF7E5D"><p>​In this concise novel, a grandmother and her daughter's child make a go of it. It is filled with the tender minutiae of people doing the best they can, given the circumstances. The last chapter is like being knocked out with a feather. </p><p>- Matthew​<br></p></div>
Maid : hard work, low pay, and a mother's will to surviveMaid : hard work, low pay, and a mother's will to surviveLand, Stephanie, author.5541215Book9780316505116<div class="ExternalClassF395DA9F63AE4D62837998C12D062E49"><p>​This book is such an honest memoir of a single mother struggling to get out of extreme poverty and abuse and provide a stable life for her child. I just loved how real and relatable her experiences were, and my heart just broke for her and the many times she had devastating setbacks. But I also loved how her love for her child shines through in every aspect of the book.</p><p>- Julie​</p><p><br></p></div>
Really good, actually : a novelReally good, actually : a novelHeisey, Monica, author.7089354Book9780063235410<div class="ExternalClassDF7B8EF76F2443DE9084572B61184B3E"><p>​One of my favorites this year was "Really Good, Actually" by Monica Heisey. It offered such a relatable perspective on how one deals with feeling like they are not where they should be in life and everything is falling apart. It also was reassuring in that it shows healing from heartbreak is not linear and all the ups and down of life are more normal than we may think! Overall such a refreshing and comforting read. I loved it!​<br></p><p>- Galilea<br></p></div>
Shark heart : a love storyShark heart : a love storyHabeck, Emily, author.7286650Book9781668006498<div class="ExternalClass54B6EEBF928A4292BB3CDAA5D5A24501"><p>​The author did something so amazing here - she took the idea of humans mutating into animals and not only made it believable, but also the most beautiful thing. This book is poetic and different, but a solid reflection of how we do change throughout our lives. It is a testament to love and motherhood and I was sobbing at the end. </p><p>- Laura ​<br></p></div>
Silver in the boneSilver in the boneBracken, Alexandra, author.7078121Book9780593481653<div class="ExternalClassA179D61456FA4677A9F4904E4708DDD0"><p>​I loved this dark fantasy inspired by King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table. It was interesting and easy to read, filled with romance, danger and mystery. The author also lives in the Valley.</p><p>- Maria​<br></p></div>
Stone blind : a novelStone blind : a novelHaynes, Natalie, author.6857796Book0063258390<div class="ExternalClass3E18B65C36F140ECB7D5658D8A82CC2A"><p>​Haynes tells the story of Medusa with utmost respect and smart, edgy humor. I enjoyed the juxtaposition of depictions of deep sorrow and unexpected, wry, and pointed commentary that often left me laughing out loud. Recommended to lovers of mythology retellings and fans of the anti-hero.<br></p></div>
Tender is the flesh : a novelTender is the flesh : a novelBazterrica, Agustina María, 1974- author.6049183Book9781982150921<div class="ExternalClassB96E7A6FC1AE4425AC8E1027345FDEE8"><p>​This is a book that will definitely make you feel SOMETHING. The dystopian world is bleak but draws you in with how people have adapted to the drastic changes in the world. It’s one of those books where you don’t know how to feel about the main character and can’t decide if you like him or not, but you’re curious how his story will unfold. What I liked most about the book, though, is that you can’t really guess where the book will go, but it all leads to a bit of a gut punch of an ending.</p><p>- Allen​<br></p></div>
The collected regrets of CloverThe collected regrets of CloverBrammer, Mikki, author.7172407Book9781250284396<div class="ExternalClass12FF2ADD83384964AA77692C1C3D374A"><p>​I loved our main character Clover and found her job - a death doula - so fascinating. I'm a huge fan of quirky characters and this did not disappoint.  I wanted to befriend everyone in this book! This is a book about death that makes you think about life and what it really means to live.  </p><p>- Laura​​<br></p></div>
The invisible life of Addie LaRueThe invisible life of Addie LaRueSchwab, Victoria, author.5995419Book9780765387561<div class="ExternalClass3EF10C9726884CF1896B9F672189EBB7"><p>​This was the best book I read because I couldn't stop thinking about it after I finished it. I loved Addie's passion for the world as she dealt with always being forgotten but finding beauty in it anyways.​</p><p>- Jess​​<br></p></div>
The last human : a novelThe last human : a novelJordan, Zack, author.5856575Book9780451499813<div class="ExternalClassEC8CFF4F8C9D4B74B82685BED83D068F"><p>​I love science fiction and the plot was truly original. Bonus points for not being able to predict where this story was headed. <br></p><p>- Laura<br></p><div style="border:0px;font-stretch:inherit;font-size:15px;line-height:inherit;font-feature-settings:inherit;margin:0px;padding:0px;vertical-align:baseline;color:#242424;background-color:#ffffff;"><div><br></div></div><div style="border:0px;font-stretch:inherit;font-size:15px;line-height:inherit;font-feature-settings:inherit;margin:0px;padding:0px;vertical-align:baseline;color:#242424;background-color:#ffffff;"><br></div><p><br></p></div>
Three holidays and a weddingThree holidays and a weddingJalaluddin, Uzma, author.7317120Book9780593543917<div class="ExternalClass02C1C6653658458E8AEED8D20D138A3C"><p>​In 2001, Hanukkah, Christmas, and Ramadan all happened at the same time, so it's the perfect setting for this feel-good holiday romance novel told from the perspectives of two women who meet on a doomed flight to Toronto (they make an emergency landing in the middle of nowhere Canada) and become fast friends over this unexpected layover. Add to the holiday magic, the town they've landed in just so happens to be the top secret filming location for a highly anticipated Christmas film. I really like how it reflects our multicultural world, and how the three faith celebrations were able to complement each other in this small town. </p><p>- Katie​<br></p></div>
Vera Wong's unsolicited advice for murderersVera Wong's unsolicited advice for murderersSutanto, Jesse Q., author.7087350Book9780593546178<div class="ExternalClassBFEDEBCC0AAE42B881F487F4F7745344"><p>​If you came downstairs from your apartment into your teashop to find a dead man, would you A) call the police and not touch anything, or B) tidy up, draw an outline around the body with sharpie, rifle through the dead man's pockets for evidence, make a full breakfast and brew tea for the investigators, and then​ call the police? If you chose B, <span data-markjs="true">congratulations</span>, you are 100% a meddling auntie and you need to read this murder mystery. It is funny, intriguing, and full of heart.</p><p>- Katie​<br></p></div>
What an owl knows : the new science of the world's most enigmatic birdsWhat an owl knows : the new science of the world's most enigmatic birdsAckerman, Jennifer, 1959- author.7212699Book9780593298886<div class="ExternalClass6523E9BA139B4A73A2E25300C86F4B23"><p>​This book was FASCINATING! I've always liked owls and knew a bit about them, but reading about what new research is teaching us about why owls do what they do and why they're built the way they're built really gave me a greater appreciation for just how cool they are! And Jennifer Ackerman is wonderful at making scientific writing accessible for non-scientists.</p><p>- Jennifer S.​<br></p></div>
What the river knows : a novelWhat the river knows : a novelIbañez, Isabel (Novelist), author.7372768Book9781250803375<div class="ExternalClass2D29AA2FBBE84C628E49FD4E5CDE5024"><p>I've always loved Egypt and archaeology growing up and while I studied Anthropology for my BA and MA, and yet it's so refreshing to read it as a Young-Adult novel that is also full of magic! The characters and plot were extremely well-written and I'm dying to get my hands on the sequel already!​<br></p><p>-​ Jennifer K.<br></p><p><br></p></div>
When you wonder, you're learning : Mister Rogers' enduring lessons for raising creative, curious, caring kidsWhen you wonder, you're learning : Mister Rogers' enduring lessons for raising creative, curious, caring kidsBehr, Gregg, author.6297594Book9780306874734<div class="ExternalClassD8013E4B53194F00AE583A715FE1D6FF"><p>​It was a valuable reminder to me, as a teacher and as a parent, that children thrive on love, curiosity, and confidence.  Today’s children are growing up in a dramatically different world than their caregivers and it’s difficult for us to keep up the rate of technological change alone. This book reminds us that what impacts children most is not what they learn, but how: feeling admired, valued and curious. </p><p>- Stephanie​<br></p></div>
Why we sleep : unlocking the power of sleep and dreamsWhy we sleep : unlocking the power of sleep and dreamsWalker, Matthew P., author.4885521Book9781501144318<div class="ExternalClass62ECE4DD002240BABB3FB9B8E88EAC2F"><p>​The message this book drives home is that without a decent night’s sleep, our health declines. My three takeaways from this book: driving while sleep deprived is just as dangerous (or even more so) than driving drunk, go to bed and get up at the same times every day to keep your circadian rhythm well calibrated, and stay away from the screen before bedtime and during the night, too (blue light will keep you up at night).  </p><p>- Tracy​<br></p></div>