LPL’s Best Books of 2023

It was another doozy of a year for publishing and here is the blog post you've all been waiting for: LPL Staff's Best Books of 2023. 

Chain-gang All-stars

"Set in n a near future dystopia where our for-profit prison system has developed a controversial program for capital offenders, this was difficult to read at times, but is a powerful, important novel with a clear message." - Leah, Readers' Services

Shark Heart

"I just can't even believe this is a debut novel. Science fiction realism that doesn't make you work to suspend your disbelief, poetically written and deeply affecting." - Leah, Readers' Services

Summer Sons

"Absolutely rife with reference to Maggie Stiefvater’s Dream Thieves, this is a haunting novel that simultaneously delivers the best of southern gothic, dark academia, and rural tomfoolery. I read it twice back to back and was depressed both times. 10/10." - Grace, Youth Services

The Traitor Baru Cormorant

"When I say economic fantasy thriller that probably doesn’t actually sound very good, but the first installation in this trilogy was lyrical, emotive, and absolutely devastating. Straddling the line between Game of Thrones style fantasy and a colonial dystopia, this book has unforgettable characters and the absolute best/worst ending I’ve read in ages." - Grace, Youth Services

Emily Wilde's Encyclopaedia of Faeries

"What can I say. It scratched that Spiderwick but make it Enola Holmes itch I never knew I had. It’s whimsical, overwrought, hysterical." - Grace, Youth Services

The Night Is Short, Walk on Girl

"The absurdity of youth and love. Falling apples and Daruma dolls, picture books and bar hopping. A chilling winter storm of lovesickness plagues our protagonist as he chases a woman we know only as ‘the girl with the black hair,’ or ‘the raven-haired maiden.’" - Hannah, Youth Services

In Memoriam

"On the surface this is (yet another) novel set during WWI, but in reality this is a beautiful examination of humanity staring into darkness, and somehow discovering light. At the heart of this book is a tender queer love story that is so impactful and intimately crafted, I feel like my life has been positively changed because of these characters. This is the best book I’ve read all year, but I can also confidently say that this is my favorite book, period." - Adam, Readers' Services

Baking Yesteryear

"Fun, fun, fun! I thought my family had the proprietary recipe for Hello Dollies! Nope, a straight up 80s recipe. Try them and the honey oatmeal quick bread and the ANZAC cookies and many other recipes from each decade of the 20th century. Eat yourself into nostalgic bliss." - Becky, Info Services

Tutankhamun's Trumpet

"2023 was the 100th anniversary of Howard Carter’s discovery of Tutankhamun’s intact tomb, and the brand new Egyptian National Museum in Cairo opened this year. What could be more timely than a book centered on objects that have become famous in their own right, i.e, the sold gold mummy mask that is so iconic? Wilkinson certainly talks about the kingly possessions found in the tomb, but the real focus of the book is what can be learned about the culture and day-to-day lives of ancient Egyptians exemplified by 100 objects interred with the King that would be familiar to and used by all levels of society in Egypt 3,000+ years ago. An Informative and enjoyable read." - Becky, Info Services

A Psalm for the Wild-built

"With all the horrific events in the US and the world this year, I’ve been reading a lot of feel-good fiction with happy endings. So this Sci Fi set in a vaguely post-apocalyptic world surviving without modern technology would not seem to be a good choice. But, the central question in this book, “What do people need?” is just what I needed. 1st in the Monk and Robot series." - Becky, Info Services

The Heaven & Earth Grocery Store

"A community-centered, cinematic, complex, and suspenseful 1930s historical tale inspired from McBride’s past. Chona is the heroine; she runs the Heaven & Earth Grocery Store and leads by example with boundless generosity for her neighbors who are ability-diverse, Black Americans, and immigrant Jews. Unifying to overcome bigotry and revealed with heart and humor, the community celebrates musicians from their era, conspire to commit a caper, and perhaps a murder. With insightful wisdom on human nature through dialogue between the characters, this novel is ultimately uplifting. Awarded the Kirkus Prize for Fiction." - Shirley, Readers' Services

A Grandmother Begins the Story

"An immersive haunting and lyrical generational saga of resilient Métis women, their stories and songs, the land, and bison! This is the fiction debut for the Métis-born author." - Shirley, Readers' Services

Vera Wong's Unsolicited Advice for Murderers

"Offers a laugh-out-loud culinary cozy mystery with authentic Chinese characters in San Francisco’s Chinatown! Our community deserves more eccentric nurturing people like Vera; she is an excellent chef, medicinal tea aficionado, a fine counselor and life coach, perhaps a match-maker, and an inspired amateur sleuth — even though the police are not agreeable. The author’s heritage is Chinese-Indonesian." - Shirley, Readers' Services

The Motel Life

"Vlautin’s characters are rough-around-the-edges, hopeful, imperfect, often traumatized, and honest. Although his writing is the opposite of saccharine, it somehow still holds ample space for the affection between hurting individuals, however frayed that tendril of love may feel." - Theresa, Info Services

Democracy Awakening

"Read the following in your best Samuel L. Jackson voice: Read. Heather. Cox. Richardson. I have, daily, since she started "Letters from an American," the number one political newsletter on Substack (also on her Facebook page). I wish Democracy Awakening could have been my number three pick for the year, but given the state of things, her excellent notes on the state of America is pretty strongly number one." - Jake, Info Services


"An under-appreciated book (not on any "best of 2023" lists I can find, besides this one), by an under-appreciated author. M.R. O'Connor gets certified and works with fire fighters (and, importantly, controlled burn igniters) to demonstrate how and why fires, and even ideas like "wild" and "nature," are changing." - Jake, Info Services


"A surprisingly learned and readable exploration of the intersection (heh) of wildlife and infrastructure, more about animals and ecosystems and less about roads than one would expect. That's a good thing. By Ben Goldfarb, author of Eager, a really great book on beavers." - Jake, Info Services

The Woman in Me

"A look into Britney’s life and career that is at times heartbreaking, enraging, and uplifting. Her story in her own words, an incredibly powerful read that highlights how mistreated women in entertainment can be, especially when they start out in their teenage years." - Mary, Collection Development

Gaza Writes Back

"While awaiting the eAudiobook “On Palestine” (2022) by Noam Chomsky and Ilan Pappé, I read “Gaza Writes Back: Short Stories from Young Writers in Gaza, Palestine” (2013), a sobering collection of stories from young people living in one of the most tumutuous places on earth. Edited by Refaat Alareer, a once prominent Palestinian writer, poet, professor, and activist from Gaza who was killed along with his family in a strike in December 2023, these stories range from toothaches to atrocities, and provide a human side to a conflict I sadly know little about. It’s not an easy read, but a starting point for anyone feeling an urgency to get up-to-speed on the long and complex struggle that lead to the current Israel-Hamas war." - Heather, Marketing

Pedro and Marques Take Stock

"Our two intrepid protagonists have a problem, they’re dirt poor, and even though they’re budding Marxists, they want to be filthy rich. That’s where the weed comes in. Set in Falero’s hometown of Porto Alegre, Brazil, “Pedro and Marques Take Stock” is a fast, funny, furious, and philosophical look at underdogs raging against a stacked deck." - Ian, Materials Handling

Ink Blood Sister Scribe

"A fun (and terrifying) twist on magical books and libraries. I loved all of the protagonists and made people read it so I could talk about it with them. I could not put this book down and it surprised me in the best ways." - Lauren, Youth Services

Before I Let Go

"This book vaulted Kennedy Ryan from my “author whose books I should look out for” to “insta read” status. This book is a beautiful second chance romance. It’s sexy, real and as someone who’s been married for 11 years, depicts the complicated side to loving for someone for so long. Seriously. GO READ IT!" - Lauren, Youth Services


"Writing about a marriage that’s many years past the initial, lusty, wrapping-around each other in bed, never wanting to let go, beginning is tricky but Hill does it with compassion, ease, and a sense of humor." - Sarah, Outreach

Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow

"There are books that come along every now and then that make me feel actual gratitude that I’m a reader. This is one." - Sarah, Outreach

The Measure

"A fascinating book where the author takes a version of our current world and addresses what would happen and the choices people would make if they suddenly knew exactly how long they had to live. It addresses discrimation, religion, politics, LGBTQ+ inclusion, family planning, the military, higher education, and the way we all treat each other. I read it in a day and haven't stopped thinking about it." - Mary Ann, Accounting

The Silent Patient

 "It has an interesting combination of psychology, art, murder charges, and love. I listened to the audiobook and actually yelled out "WHAT?!?" when it came to a big plot twist." - Mary Ann, Accounting

Lawrence Picks: LPL's Best Books 2023