As 2023 comes to an end, it's time for Marie Claire's voracious team of book-loving editors to look back on a standout year for literature. The past 12 months have included major pop culture moments within the publishing industry, including Prince Harry's Spare starting off a notable year for celebrity memoirs and several jaw-dropping scandals showing that even the most well-written satire often can't match up to real-life audacity. Throughout it all, each of us encountered some notable favorites that stood out among the new releases.
Below, read on for our favorite books of 2023, from intricate crime novels and propulsive young adult thrillers, to mesmerizing biographies and heart-wrenching fiction stories.
"Two years after her stellar debut memoir Maid—which was adapted into the Netflix miniseries of the same name starring Margaret Qualley—Land returned to shelves with her excruciatingly candid follow-up about her final year studying at the University of Montana. In Class, Land lays out all of the tedium, judgment, and constant stress she faced as a near-35-year-old single mother pursuing an English degree despite naysayers (including her abusive ex and one of her professors) and society as a whole claiming that her dream life isn’t possible for people at her level of poverty. Whenever I read Land, I’m filled with the cathartic release that comes from a skilled writer pointing a finger at the small hypocrisies of life (especially MFA programs)." - Quinci LeGardye, Contributing Culture Editor
"This story, which was our June #ReadWithMC book club pick, was like watching a car crash you can't turn away. When best-selling author Athena Liu dies in a freak accident right in front of unsuccessful writer June Hayward, June uses the opportunity to steal her manuscript and later publishes it under the ambiguous name Juniper Song. What follows is a series of uncomfortable events that only get worse and worse. It was fascinating to read June's self-rationalization of her terrible actions and I loved Kuang's cutting take on how social media factors into the publishing industry." - Brooke Knappenberger, Associate Commerce Editor
"I fell so hard for this book—of everything I read this year, Adelaide has been the one I've gifted the most, talked about the most, thought about the most. (It was also our #ReadWithMC book club pick this past May!) Told with unflinching honesty and tenderness, this book is a love story like you've never read before. It's about purposefully existing as a soft person in a world determined to make you hard; the light that goes hand-in-hand with the darkness, and I can't recommend it enough. Just ask all my friends, who now have their own copies." - Jenny Hollander, Digital Director
"Ola Olajide has a dream life: she’s a celebrated feminist journalist and minor Instagram celeb, after her engagement photos with her fiancé Michael are deemed 'couple goals.' Then, a month before her wedding, Michael is named on an anonymous list of abusers in the media. I couldn’t put down Adegoke’s novel, which lays out every angle of Ola’s dilemma as she (and Michael) try to work through what’s left of their relationship following the bombshell allegation. (The List was our November #ReadWithMC pick, and several viewers agreed that it’s a bonafide page turner.) In addition to having plenty of that cathartic release I mentioned earlier, there’s nothing better than a story that reminds us that there’s actually a human behind every social media pile-on." - QL
"I read 99% nonfiction, and this book is a nonfiction beauty lover's dream: concise, well-researched, thoughtful, and juicy reporting on Glossier and its elusive founder, Emily Weiss. It is equal parts frothy and factual, and it's a glimpse behind the curtain of not just one company but the beauty industry as a whole." - Rachel Burchfield, Senior Celebrity and Royals Editor
"Of all the books I read this year (and there were many—I'm happy to announce I beat my Goodreads goal in October), Ruth Madievsky's All-Night Pharmacy is the one that's stuck with me the most. While the first half unsettled me in a way only a first person narrator making bad decisions can, I found the whole thing quite moving. As the daughter of an Eastern European immigrant and staunch believer in all things mystical, it did feel like this was written just for me, but it's ultimately a coming-of-age story that anyone—regardless of diaspora—can adore." - Sophia Vilensky, Freelance Beauty Writer
"As someone who’s currently living through the gradual existential crisis of my late twenties, Homebodies arrived at the top of my TBR pile at the perfect time. After Mickey Hayward unceremoniously loses her job at a women’s magazine, she’s left adrift in a quarter-life crisis, eventually leaving her NYC apartment (and her live-in partner Lex) to stay at her grandmother’s house in suburban Maryland. Denton-Hurst perfectly describes so many small intricacies of digital media and quiet sacrifices of cohabitation (in case you can’t tell, I’m a sucker for books that say the quiet part out loud). Plus, the love triangle between Mickey, Lex, and Mickey’s hometown ex Tee adds a layer of romance onto the tender soul-searching." - QL
"We're entering the era of media which deeply considers the ramifications of the two-year hiatus the pandemic threw us into, and The Spare Room is among the best of them. Thrilling, juicy, glossy, and steamy all at once, Bartz, as always, nails the nuances of female friendship (We Were Never Here stans, assemble!) while keeping you turning the pages well into the evening and beyond." - JH
"Goodman is the queen of twisty, juicy YA thrillers—her first novel, They Wish They Were Us, is in the process of becoming a HBO series—and The Legacies is a captivating addition to the genre. A glossy, Gossip Girl-esque feast of twists and turns, the novel follows the aftermath of a murder at an elite social club in New York after some of the city's most accomplished teenagers gain access to it." - JH
"Fantasy romance novels are my bread and butter and I ate this one up! From the very first few pages, Ross expertly builds a bleak, war-torn urban setting (think WWI-era London) ruled by clashing gods and centered on two rival reporters, struggling Iris and privileged Roman, who are competing for a promotion. The only thing holding Iris together is the comfort of writing letters to her brother fighting on the front lines, but little does she know that her typewriter is magically connected to Roman's, and soon the two form a bond neither of them were expecting. While it's a bit of a slow burn, the world-building was so crystal clear I could feel Iris's stress from the war. And reading Iris and Roman's relationship develop had me kicking my feet from the sweetness. And do not get me started on the ending! I'm anxiously awaiting the sequel, Ruthless Vows, to see how this duology concludes." - BK
"An instant New York Times bestseller, Michallon's debut is practically convulsing with tension that doesn't allow to you exhale—or stop reading—until the last page. Told from the perspectives of the women closest to a man capable of crimes beyond your darkest imaginings, this jaw-clenching thriller is presented with both empathy and unflinching honesty." - JH
"This story of survival felt like an awakening on what it means to adapt. It follows the thrilling journey of a young girl (named only as "the girl") who escaped a colonial settlement in the early 1600s. Time flew by while I read this gripping saga. And the last line? My god, it took my breath away." - Andrea Stanley, Executive Editor
"One of my favorite subjects to read about is Jackie Kennedy Onassis. I think I've read every biography that exists on this phenomenal woman. But, of all of those books, none were solely dedicated to Jackie's life before JFK. We know so much about Jackie Kennedy, and we know so much about Jackie Onassis, but who is the young woman Jackie Bouvier, pre-marriage? This book beautifully answers that question." - RB
"The quickest description for this book—'A Brooklyn lawyer falls in love with a guy and moves in with his doomsday prepper roommates'—suggests an apocalyptic thriller, but author Kashana Cauley (a former writer for The Daily Show with Trevor Noah, and before that an antitrust lawyer) turns the premise into a sharply-written debut that questions about what true success or safety is in the 21st century. It’s captivating to follow Aretha as she dips her toes further and further into the survivalist lifestyle, wondering all the while how much of her former life she can shed before she loses her tenuous grasp to her own morals." - QL
"I'm a fan of stylist Allison Bornstein already (she has helped me revitalize my closet, and her Instagram is full of actionable style ideas), and her book is a comprehensive summation of all her tips and tricks: her TikTok-famous three-word method; her closet editing system; and more. With the book, I feel like I'm making the most out of my closet, buying less and more intentionally, and making looks that feel like the absolute best version of my style." - Katherine J. Igoe, Contributing Editor
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