The Best Books of 2023

Some of the best books of 2023, including non-fiction, novels, Jewish books, and more.

The Best Books of 2023

While books usually take years to write and produce, this year’s offerings were timely enough to feel uncanny. As every year, I compiled my favorite books, this time broken down by type and, to a degree, by genre, all simply as a way of whittling it down to a more manageable size. In a given year, even the most up-to-date reader is likely to only read a handful of books actually published in that year and, and the same was true for 2023. If you are interested in everything I covered in 2023, you can check my Goodreads Reading Challenge and Currently Reading lists to get a bigger overview, complete with reviews.

For this list, the book had to be released in 2023, and for comics the entire story arc from which a collected edition would be produced had to have been released in its entirety. Separate lists will come out both for the Best Horror Books of the Year and the Best Comics of the Year, but obviously both are well represented below as well. This list, like all others, will be mirrored on Goodreads as well so you can follow them (and my account as a whole) for more recommendations, reviews, and angry rants.

2024 will be even more current as I will be reviewing more new fiction and doing publisher profiles, as well as a special look at Jewish horror. Follow me on TikTok and Instagram for regular #BookTok recommendation lists, and send over your own favorites (or challenge mine). 

Doppelganger - Naomi Klein

Written with the same quick and direct prose that has made Naomi Klein one of my favorite journalists and excavators of American politics since her 2000 debut No Logo, Doppelganger is a tour de force. By using her own “doppelganger,” a negative double she is often confused for, she is able to look at the house of mirrors of our modern political consciousness. With conspiracy theories contorting the struggle against power, to bad faith harassment replacing accountability, to imperialism calling itself “intersectionality,” we have a culture that feels as though it has manipulated reality into its dead opposite. Each chapter looks at a little bit of our moment, from the rise of the far-right, the conspiracism of the COVID age, the exploding authoritarianism and violence of the State of Israel, and the dissolution of friendships, alliances, and careers. Her doppelganger, the feminist-turned-conspiracist Naomi Wolf, acts as a shadow character to help provide a temporal center for us to take a meandering, and fruitful, walk through the flipped table of our society. Well written, boldly controversial, and generative for rethinking our most difficult catastrophes.

Honorable Mentions:

Best Graphic Novel/Comics

Monica - Daniel Clowes

This was perhaps the most difficult category since 2023 was filled with heavy contenders, and comics publishing is such a dense world of monthlies, one-shots, collections, and the like. For those not steeped in the comics world, Daniel Clowes is one of the rare indie crossover artists/authors whose work does not depend on genre faithfulness or arcane superhero canon. In his most recent book, Monica, he sprints through different genre conventions to tell a beautifully devastating story of a woman trying to find who her mother actually was and what that means for her own attempts to piece together a life. It includes enough elements to hook a horror reader, while allowing the onion of this character’s self-conception to peel away with each page. Heartbreaking, hilarious, and infinitely relatable, Monica feels like a fully matured Clowes operating with the kind of wistful vantage point only hinted at in books like Ghost World

Honorable Mentions

Best Novel

Everything the Darkness Eats - Eric LaRocca

This was also a dense category, but an honest assessment of which 2023 novel packed the most punch would have to be Everything the Darkness Eats by Eric LaRocca. While LaRocca is particularly prolific, especially in the world of novellas, this is his first novel: an interlocking set of human tragedies centered around the cosmic horror of a conjured, and potentially apathetic, God. The book does include LaRocca’s trademark reliance on brutality, but it highlights the absolute frailty of its characters to script a type of morally ambiguous fable. This is not a particularly subtle book, but as you read LaRocca you begin to realize how underwhelming silence can be and why bold decisions can lead us into likewise important revelations. A real standout for the world of New Queer Horror and one that may even sustain non-genre readers.

Honorable Mentions

Best Book of Short Fiction

grotesquerie - Richard Gavin

When you have a career spanning collection like grotesquerie, you may have the best autobiography an author could possibly write. That is how Richard Gavin’s new collection feels, a snapshot of the derangement that underlies every gut-punching story he writes. The contents range from the cosmic to the haunting, but each one could, on its own, be enough to purchase the book, equal parts punchy, frightening, and lingering. The final three stories in the collection stray away from my own interests and into the territory of fables, but even these are done with an artfulness seldom seen. This remains the perfect book to get a wide range of short horror written in a perfect pitch.

Honorable Mentions

Best Novella

The Black Lord - Colin Hinkley

Colin Hinkley’s debut novella The Black Lord is everything I love in cosmic horror: desperately wrought characters, a terrifying entity not bound by established conventions or past dalliances, and a frightening totem used to look at the unanswered questions about our lives. In this case, it is the fragility of the family and the secrets that parents pass to their children, oftentimes promising their later destruction. This positions Hinkley as a strong emerging voice, as well as Tenebrous Press as a publisher to watch in the crowded world of horror novellas.

Honorable Mentions

Best Book on Fascism/Far-Right

Age of Insurrection: The Radical Right’s Assault on Democracy - David Neiwert

David Neiwert’s latest book is his magnum opus: a detailed portrait of our society’s current decline, the culmination of his nearly four decades chronicling the rise of the far-right. No book more correctly documents the dark underbelly of the Trump years and the culmination that occurred on January 6th, 2021. Neiwert outlines all the characters, with both an unprecedented amount of research and detail and a narrative arc that matches its epic scope. This is one of the best writers researching the far-right developing one of the most groundbreaking modern volumes on the subject.

Honorable Mentions

Best Jewish Book

Jewish Space Lasers: The Rothschilds and 200 Years of Conspiracy Theories - Mike Rothschild

Both a history of modern political misdirection and of the aspirational myths that motivated Jewish communities to persist, Rothschild’s book does something rather unparalleled: it tells a Jewish story as a way of telling the story of the entire West’s economic future. While also a stunningly comprehensive and lyrical book about conspiracy theories, the far-right, and “false consciousness,” it is also a definitively Jewish book in that it places it within the Jewish imagination about what we could become.

Honorable Mentions

Best Scholarly Book

Defender of the Faithful: The Life and Thought of Rabbi Levi Yitshak of Berdychiv - Arthur Green

A tour de force by one of the most important Jewish studies scholars, theologians, and rabbis living today. Green brings a thoroughly critical but immensely sympathetic eye to early hasidic rabbi Levi Yitshak of Berdychiv, taking readers through his life and the contours and influence of his ideas. Green’s neo-hasidic perspective is visible as he ties the mystical teachings of Yitshak to the lives of Jewish seekers from then till now and makes Jewish spirituality as alive as it was when the Baal Shem Tov descended the mountains to bring joy back to the rabbinate. While the scholarship is impeccable, it is also immensely readable and has shown both how to unite academic study with popular textual construction, as well as the incredible growth he has made since he wrote Tormented Master, his doctoral thesis on Rabbi Nahman of Bratslav, a book that is similar in structure and subject yet does not flow with the same lyrical prose that Defender of the Faithful does.

Honorable Mentions