Three Best Reads of 2023


AuthorGardenerNature loverAnimal loverClimate activist
The best books of 2023

This list is part of the best books of 2023.

We’ve asked 1,289 authors and super readers for their 3 favorite reads of the year.

Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission.

My favorite read in 2023…

The Master

By Colm Toίbίn

Book cover of The Master

JoeAnn HartWhy did I love this book?


This novel is in the POV of Henry James, following him around England and the world during the last years of his life, watching him pick up threads of inspiration for his stories. The reader is privy to his awful, slow awareness of how he had irreparably hurt the women in his life, including his sister.

And yet, he defends the selfishness he needed to do his art. Written in his style, which he referred to as “The Mystery of the Self,” you have to love his writing to love this book, and I did. Some people don’t.

Best quote from one of the women, in an argument about sermons and fiction: “When you close The Mill on the Floss, you know much more about how strange and beautiful it is to be alive than when you read a thousand sermons.”

My 2nd favorite read in 2023…

Book cover of Fuzz: When Nature Breaks the Law

JoeAnn HartWhy did I love this book?


“Like a deer in the headlights,” we say about someone who freezes in the face of impending doom. Why is that? Why don’t deer jump out of the way when they see us coming in our speeding metal machines? Mary Roach will tell you.

She is one of the best and funniest science writers around, and her most recent book, Fuzz: When Nature Breaks the Law, is about the often brutal interface where human culture meets wildlife, whether it’s deer in the road or geese on the golf course. In other words, this is a book about how the legal system does or does not regulate “nuisance” animals, a wildly unsuccessful enterprise.

Even those fiberglass predators, such as coyotes and horned owls, meant to spook creatures, might actually attract them, because they signal that good food is nearby. From cougars accused of murders they did not commit, to the ineffectiveness of hazing bears, “specialists in human-wildlife conflict are starting to move their focus from animal biology and behavior over to human behavior.” As always, when it comes to nature, we’re the problem.

My 3rd favorite read in 2023…

Small Things Like These

By Claire Keegan

Book cover of Small Things Like These

JoeAnn HartWhy did I love this book?


This is not much more than a novella, but very compelling. The story is set in Ireland in the early 80s during bad economic times, when the Magdalene convents were still going. The treatment of the young girls was horrific.

Furlong, the owner of a coal company, rescues one of the girls and the story ends. On first reading, it felt like the beginning of a novel, not the end of one, but in fact, you knew what the consequences were going to be, you knew that he could lose everything by what he did. It was complete as is.

I wonder if she planned to go farther and then realized she didn’t have to.

Plus, check out my book…

Highwire Act & Other Tales of Survival

By JoeAnn Hart

Book cover of Highwire Act & Other Tales of Survival

What is my book about?


In this collection of short fiction, characters struggle with COVID-19, ecological destruction, and grief as they attempt to find solace and restoration from a nature that is not always in a position to give back.

A young couple raises crickets for food, a woman in a caged complex is witness to the deterioration of her neighbor, a homeless man contemplates an infant’s grave from the Westward Expansion, and an uncompromising ego takes on a Biblical rain.

These are among the stories from my book, where the climate crisis arrives not just as strange and violent weather but as upheavals in our political and emotional climates as well.

I read 25 books this year.