Archive for December, 2023

Thursday, December 21st, 2023

Top Syndetics Unbound Titles of 2023

We’ve compiled the most popular books in public libraries around the world, drawing on the thousands of libraries that use Syndetics Unbound to add covers, recommendations, summaries, series information and other information and features to their library catalogs.

This post covers the United States. Tomorrow we’ll be releasing the data for Australia, Canada and the UK.

First, here’s a “bar chart race” showing the top books changing over the year. You can also see and share the visualization over on Flourish.

To share this on social media, share this:

And here is a complete list of the top 100 books in US public librariees.

  1. Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus
  2. Fourth Wing by Rebecca Yarros
  3. Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver
  4. Happy Place by Emily Henry
  5. It Ends with Us by Colleen Hoover
  6. Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin
  7. Spare by Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex
  8. Remarkably Bright Creatures by Shelby Van Pelt
  9. The Covenant of Water by Abraham Verghese
  10. It Starts with Us by Colleen Hoover
  11. Verity by Colleen Hoover
  12. Hello Beautiful by Ann Napolitano
  13. The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid
  14. A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas
  15. Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann
  16. Tom Lake by Ann Patchett
  17. Mad Honey by Jodi Picoult
  18. The Heaven and Earth Grocery Store by James McBride
  19. I’m Glad My Mom Died by Jennette McCurdy
  20. Atomic Habits: Tiny Changes, Remarkable Results: An Easy and Proven Way to Build Good Habits and Break Bad Ones by James Clear
  21. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J. K. Rowling
  22. The Wager: A Tale of Shipwreck, Mutiny, and Murder by David Grann
  23. The Housemaid by Freida McFadden
  24. The Five-Star Weekend by Elin Hilderbrand
  25. The House in the Pines by Ana Reyes
  26. The Last Thing He Told Me by Laura Dave
  27. Simply Lies by David Baldacci
  28. The Midnight Library by Matt Haig
  29. None of This Is True by Lisa Jewell
  30. The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins
  31. The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides
  32. The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han
  33. The Exchange: After The Firm by John Grisham
  34. Horse by Geraldine Brooks
  35. All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
  36. Someone Else’s Shoes by Jojo Moyes
  37. I Will Find You by Harlan Coben
  38. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
  39. Pineapple Street by Jenny Jackson
  40. Identity by Nora Roberts
  41. Things We Never Got Over by Lucy Score
  42. Hang the Moon by Jeannette Walls
  43. The Maid by Nita Prose
  44. Storm Watch by C. J. Box
  45. Ugly Love by Colleen Hoover
  46. Holly by Stephen King
  47. The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
  48. Book Lovers by Emily Henry
  49. The Boys from Biloxi by John Grisham
  50. Daisy Jones and The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid
  51. A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson
  52. A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas
  53. The 23rd Midnight by James Patterson
  54. Homecoming by Kate Morton
  55. The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan
  56. I Have Some Questions for You by Rebecca Makkai
  57. Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
  58. The Only One Left by Riley Sager
  59. Never Never: Part One by Colleen Hoover
  60. The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah
  61. Yellowface by R.F. Kuang
  62. Reminders of Him by Colleen Hoover
  63. Trust by Hernan Diaz
  64. Dog Man by Dav Pilkey
  65. Dark Angel by John Sandford
  66. Iron Flame by Rebecca Yarros
  67. Heart Bones by Colleen Hoover
  68. Outlive: The Science and Art of Longevity by Peter Attia
  69. The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman
  70. The Woman In Me by Britney Spears
  71. November 9 by Colleen Hoover
  72. The River We Remember by William Kent Krueger
  73. Fairy Tale by Stephen King
  74. Resurrection Walk by Michael Connelly
  75. Zero Days by Ruth Ware
  76. The Body Keeps The Score: Mind, Brain and Body in the Transformation of Trauma by Bessel A. van der Kolk
  77. The Secret by Lee Child
  78. Dirty Thirty by Janet Evanovich
  79. The House of Wolves by James Patterson
  80. The Personal Librarian by Marie Benedict
  81. Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas
  82. Friends, Lovers, and the Big Terrible Thing: A Memoir by Matthew Perry
  83. West with Giraffes by Lynda Rutledge
  84. A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman
  85. Just the Nicest Couple by Mary Kubica
  86. A World of Curiosities by Louise Penny
  87. Crying in H Mart: A Memoir by Michelle Zauner
  88. Our Missing Hearts by Celeste Ng
  89. Lady Tan’s Circle of Women by Lisa See
  90. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J. K. Rowling
  91. Romantic Comedy by Curtis Sittenfeld
  92. How to Sell a Haunted House by Grady Hendrix
  93. Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid
  94. The Measure by Nikki Erlick
  95. People We Meet on Vacation by Emily Henry
  96. A Flicker in the Dark by Stacy Willingham
  97. Countdown by James Patterson
  98. The Inheritance Games by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
  99. Beach Read by Emily Henry
  100. Wrong Place Wrong Time by Gillian McAllister

How Do We Know?

This data was collected by Syndetics Unbound. The search data is fully
anonymized the day it is collected.

Labels: Uncategorized

Tuesday, December 19th, 2023

Your LibraryThing 2023 Year in Review

2023 Year in Review graphic

We’ve just added a fun new page that wraps up your 20231 activity on LibraryThing.

Check out your Year in Review to see the highlights of what you’ve contributed on LibraryThing this year, including what you’ve read2 and added.

>> Your LibraryThing 2023 Year in Review

Your Year in Review answers all your most pressing questions, such as: how many IKEA Billy bookcases would be needed to store the books you added this year? Who were your top authors? Of the books you added, what had the earliest publication date? How many pages did you read this year? What colors are your 2023 books? How many Talk posts did you write? What were the top awards and honors for your books? What badges and medals did you earn?

You can share your Year in Review with others just by posting the URL, or by taking screenshots to highlight your favorite pieces (like the beautiful poster of book covers).

Take a peek at some of our Years in Review:

Check out some screenshots:

2023 Year in Review read graphic 2023 Year in Review added graphic 2023 Year in Review measure graphic 2023 Year in Review Dewey and color graphic 2023 Year in Review medals graphic

What do you think? This is the first year we’ve attempted a year-end wrap up, and we’d love your feedback. Join the discussion of the Year in Review page on Talk.

  1. These stats are based on data from January 1, 2023 through today. Have you added new books since we released Year in Review? Click the regenerate button at the bottom of the page to update your data. We’ll update it for everyone after December 31, 2023. ↩︎
  2. Data about books read is only displayed if you used reading dates to track your reading on LibraryThing. ↩︎

Labels: new features, Year in Review

Tuesday, December 19th, 2023

Publisher Interview: Eye of Newt Books

Eye of Newt Books logo

LibraryThing is pleased to present our inaugural Independent Publisher interview, hopefully the first of a series. We sat down this month with Neil Christopher, one of the publishers of Eye of Newt Books, an independent Canadian press based in Toronto whose small but impressive catalog features works that pair imaginative fiction and folklore with beautiful and striking artwork. An educator, author and filmmaker who taught for many years in the Arctic, Christopher was one of the founders of Nunavut-based Inhabit Media, an Inuit-owned publishing house that specializes in content featuring traditional Inuit mythology and knowledge. He is himself the author of a number of collections of Inuit tales, from Arctic Giants to The Dreaded Ogress of the Tundra: Fantastic Beings from Inuit Myths and Legends.

How did Eye of Newt Books get started? Whose idea was it, how did it all come together, and what is your vision, going forward?

We have been working in publishing in the Canadian Arctic for almost 20 years, and during that time we met many amazing authors and illustrators that sometimes didn’t fit into our Arctic publishing initiative. As well, there were many stories and projects we wanted to do that didn’t fit into the Arctic publishing work. So, we wanted to start a Toronto-based publishing company that could work with these incredible writers and artists and could realize some of these projects.

Danny** was the one who came up with the name, and we worked together to clarify Eye of Newt’s vision. Basically, we want to make quirky books that might not have a home elsewhere. We want to make books for kids that we would have enjoyed; and we want to make books for adults that we want to read.

**Co-founder of Eye of Newt Books, Danny Christopher is Neil Christopher’s brother, and is also an author and illustrator.

Many of your books—Bestiarium Greenlandica (Denmark), Museum of Hidden Beings (Iceland), Hausgeister (Germany), Welsh Monsters & Mythical Beasts (Wales)—were originally published elsewhere, and often in different languages. How did you discover these books, and their authors and artists? What do you look for, when it comes to adding a book to your catalog?

In our work with Inhabit Media, we often come across books from other countries that we want to version in English and make available to the North American market. Most of these books are about folklore or mythology. We are interested in preserving and promoting authentic traditional lore from other countries. Both Danny and I loved that growing up, and now we get to bring it to a new generation of readers.

Now we often receive submissions from other publishers. It didn’t take long for us to get known, and we are always getting amazing book projects submitted to us for English versioning or licensing for our market.

Both Inhabit Media and Eye of Newt strongly feature works of folklore and mythology. Are you particularly drawn to such tales? What makes them important, and why do you think both of the publishing houses you helped to found are centered around them?

That’s a great question! When we started Inhabit Media, we saw that children in Nunavut were not aware of their own cultural stories. Correcting this situation was one of Inhabit Media’s early missions. Through that work, we saw that traditional stories and lore were being lost or forgotten all over the world. Myth and legends were always something both Danny and I loved growing up, so creating books that help gather and protect authentic representations of myths and legends from around the world is important to us. We love new quirky stories, but we don’t want to forget the old stories and ancient magic.

The books in the Eye of Newt catalog are visually striking, with artwork in a diverse range of styles and media. Are the illustrations as important as the text, and if so, why? What are some of your favorite illustrations, from your catalog, and what is it about them that speaks to you?

For Eye of Newt the artwork and illustrations are just as important as the text. Both Danny and I have other work in publishing and filmmaking. Eye of Newt started as a side project, which quickly grew into something larger. Because of this limited time, we are very selective of the book projects we take on. We are really proud of the list of books we have created, and we intend to keep our standards high to only bring unique and beautiful books to our readers.

Some of my own favourite illustrations are from Iris Compiet’s Faeries of the Faultlines and Kamila Mlynarczyk’s I Can Be Myself When Everyone I Know Is Dead… They are starkly different, but I have a soft spot for prolific creators who really pour their heart and soul into their work and create a lot of it.

Are you still involved in Inhabit Media, and if so, how do you balance your work there with your work at Eye of Newt?

Yes. Both Danny and I are still very active owners of Inhabit Media. Eye of Newt was a passion project for both of us and continues to be so. I am sure finding balance for any business owner is a challenging task, and we certainly find it challenging. Eye of Newt has a talented and committed staff team that are moving projects forward when we are away. A lot of the Eye of Newt work for Danny and I happens at night and on weekends. Danny and I also said that Eye of Newt would be our retirement project, it just got started a bit early and now we are playing catch up all the time.

What can we look forward to in the future, from Eye of Newt, and from you?

Our success with our early books has opened doors with many amazing creators from around the world. We are really excited about the books we have lined up. One area to watch for is the fun and unusual children’s books we will be launching in the next few years. This year we released Kyle Beaudette’s The Garden Witch which is a loose folklore retelling with an aesthetic (and naughtiness!) we enjoy. We always wanted to have children’s books as a major part of our list, and our early books slanted more towards mythology and fantasy. Now, we are looping back to children’s books to help round off our list.

Tell us about your own personal library. What’s on your shelves?

If you had a look at my library, you would easily see where some of our inspirations come from. Faeries by Froud and Lee, Gnomes by Huygen and Poortvliet, etc. and tons of strange and fun children’s books. Just like Eye of Newt, you will see books that are beautifully illustrated. As well, both Danny and I collect very old books. A lot of that collection focuses on folktales, history, witchcraft, and shamanism.

What have you been reading lately, and what would you recommend to other readers?

I have been leaning back into my older books lately. Two books I have been enjoying this month are Rosemary’s Baby by Ira Levin and The World of Kong: A Natural History of Skull Island by Weta Workshop. Two books I consider classics. The World of Kong is very hard to find, as it is out of print, but well worth the hunt!

Labels: interview, publishers

Monday, December 18th, 2023

Come Join the 2023 Roundup Hunt!

The year is drawing to a close, and we’re hosting a special 2023 Roundup Hunt!

This hunt is meant to highlight developments in the bookish world and on the LibraryThing site over the course of this past year.

We’ve scattered a skyful of fireworks around the site, and it’s up to you to try and find them all.

  • Decipher the clues and visit the corresponding LibraryThing pages to find some fireworks. Each clue points to a specific page on LibraryThing. Remember, they are not necessarily work pages!
  • If there’s some fireworks on a page, you’ll see a banner at the top of the page.
  • You have just three weeks to find all the fireworks (until 11:59pm EDT, Monday January 8th).
  • Come brag about your skyful of fireworks (and get hints) on Talk.

Win prizes:

  • Any member who finds at least two fireworks will be
    awarded a fireworks Badge ().
  • Members who find all 12 fireworks will be entered into a drawing for one of five LibraryThing (or TinyCat) prizes. We’ll announce winners at the end of the hunt.

P.S. Thanks to conceptDawg for the Kingfisher illustration! The Belted Kingfisher is the 2023 Bird of the Year.

Labels: treasure hunt

Friday, December 8th, 2023

Top Five Books of 2023

2023 is almost over, and that means it’s time for LibraryThing staff to share our Top Five Books of the Year. You can see past years’ lists HERE.

We’re always interested in what our members are reading and enjoying, so we invite you to add your favorite books read in 2023 to our December List of the Month, and to join the discussion over in Talk

>> List: Top Five Books of 2023

Note: This is about what you read in 2023, not just books published in 2023.

Without further ado, here are our staff favorites!



cover image for Babel cover image for Glassworks cover image for Hello Beautiful cover image for Happiness Falls cover image for I Have Some Questions for You

Babel, or, The Necessity of Violence: An Arcane History of the Oxford Translators’ Revolution by R.F. Kuang. Okay so I haven’t even finished this, but this post will be live by the time I do, and I know it belongs at the top of my top five. Victorian England. Oxford. Magic. Empire and colonialism. Language and translation. It is beautiful and brilliant.

Glassworks by Olivia Wolfgang-Smith. Four generations of messy humans connected in a variety of ways, each failing to understand those who came before them. Gorgeous prose.

Hello Beautiful by Ann Napolitano. Do you like to be emotionally gutted by words? I do. Read this.

Happiness Falls by Angie Kim. Is it a mystery? A literary family drama? An exploration into language and cognition and philosophy? D, all of the above?

I Have Some Questions for You by Rebecca Makkai. An interesting and unexpected take on a mystery/thriller.

I read a lot of really great books this year, so I want to also give honorable mentions to these (Pick 5, you said? Is this cheating? I don’t care!): Tom Lake by Ann Patchett, Congratulations, The Best Is Over! by R. Eric Thomas, The Fragile Threads of Power by V.E. Schwab, The Stolen Coast by Dwyer Murphy, Yellowface by R.F. Kuang, Vigil Harbor by Julia Glass, Lavender House by Lev AC Rosen, Hang the Moon by Jeannette Walls, Sam by Allegra Goodman, and They’re Going to Love You by Meg Howrey.


cover image for Exhalation cover image for Why We Did It cover image for Romney: A Reckoning cover image for The Alignment Problem cover image for Sid Meier's Memoir

Exhalation by Ted Chiang. Ted Chiang is that rare coming-together of a fine writer, a fine storyteller and someone who invents and then works through legitimately interesting science-fiction ideas. I loved his Stories of Your Life and Others, which included the story which became the movie Arrival. The stories in Exhalation are of the same quality. I particularly enjoyed The Merchant and the Alchemist’s Gate, which melds time travel and the narrative conventions of the Arabian Nights, and Anxiety is the Dizziness of Freedom, which imagines limited communication between branches of a many-worlds universe.

Why We Did It: A Travelogue from the Republican Road to Hell by Tim Miller and Romney: A Reckoning by McKay Coppins. Why We Did It and Romney: A Reckoning both deal with the descent of the Republican party from what seemed a “normal” center-right party to the moral, ideological and policy train-wreck-dumpster-fire of the present day. How did it happen? How did so many normal politicians and staff go along with it? Who ignored the rot that turned into Trumpism and why? Who’s responsible? And what, if anything, can be done about it? Why We Did It is the personal and political memoir of a Republican operative—a gay man who became a “hitman for homophobes”—but finally left, disgusted. Romney: A Reckoning is a more straightforward political biography, reaching back to Romney’s early days, but focused on the last few years. It answers the question how one of the most ideologically “flexible” Republicans became an inflexible opponent of Trump and everything he did to the GOP. Romney gave Cobbins free reign over his emails and personal journals, and as many interviews as he wanted, and the anecdotes and quotes he came back with are solid gold.

The Alignment Problem: Machine Learning and Human Values by Brian Christian. I read a ton about AI this year, especially the problems with it. The Alignment Problem is by far the best, explaining the technologies better and deeper than the others, and going into the problems without being hyperbolic or alarmist. The whole OpenAI debacle sent me to reread Cade Metz’ Genius Makers: The Mavericks Who Brought AI to Google, Facebook, and the World, which remains the best narrative of the deep-learning book, until Metz writes the story of OpenAI.

Sid Meier’s Memoir!: A Life in Computer Games by Sid Meier. I love well-done biographies of businesses, such as Steven Levy’s Facebook: The Inside Story, In The Plex: How Google Thinks, Works, and Shapes Our Lives or Insanely Great: The Life and Times of Macintosh, the Computer that Changed Everything. This year I also read Jason Schreier’s excellent Blood, Sweat, and Pixels: The Triumphant, Turbulent Stories Behind How Video Games Are Made, which recounts the stories of key games and the companies that made them. Sid Meier’s book is like those, but told from the perspective of the amiable, somewhat doofus-y programmer who made them. Also, the Sid Meier games are basically the games of my childhood. I played most of them, and have (deep in my brain) nuggets of trivia only Meier’s book could have found for me again. Not a book for everyone, but a book for me.

Honorable mention goes to: The Secret of Our Success: How Culture Is Driving Human Evolution, Domesticating Our Species, and Making Us Smarter by Joseph Henrich. Henrich makes a compelling case that the key human capacity is our capacity to learn. It really belongs in my top five, but I didn’t have much interesting to say about it.

All Systems Red by Martha Wells. I enjoyed this first of the Murderbot Diaries. Wells took an interesting idea and a compelling, original narrator and wrote a fine tale. I wish it were longer and I won’t forget it. I even started the second, and then I asked myself “Do I really want seven more helpings of this?” I did not. This says more about me and my dislike of series, franchises, reboots and other episodic and immortal intellectual properties than it does about the book.


cover image for I Have Some Questions for You

Bright Young Women by Jessica Knoll. This fictionalized account of women who encountered Ted Bundy and the aftermath of their encounters, was so much more than I expected from Knoll. I spend a fair amount of time thinking about the true crime fascination our society has and this novel brilliantly focuses on the victims rather than the perpetrator.

A Heart That Works by Rob Delaney. I didn’t think anything would make me cry more/harder than When Breath Becomes Air and, well, I was wrong. Delaney’s memoir of the loss of his two year-old son is devastating. But it’s also beautiful, and funny, and hopeful.

You Could Make This Place Beautiful: A Memoir by Maggie Smith. Is there anything Maggie Smith can’t make beautiful? This is a gorgeous memoir on divorce and rebuilding.

My Last Innocent Year by Daisy Alpert Florin. I devoured this book! This is some of the best coming-of-age writing I’ve ever read, but it’s by no means a commonplace story.

I Have Some Questions for You by Rebecca Makkai. What Abby said. This certainly wasn’t what I was expecting, and I’m definitely not mad about it.


Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir. This book was so much fun to read. The kind of book that you simultaneously want to read as fast as possible and read slowly so it never ends!

Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson. I love a great, long book. Despite a lot of this book being about war, which is usually not my favorite thing, Stephenson’s prose made it a joy to read!

Fairy Tale by Stephen King. I love my Stephen King books. A Stephen King book about a boy and his dog on an adventure is something I cannot resist.

Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin. So many things in this book were familiar to me, having grown up in the 80s/90s and enjoying video games and online role-playing games. It’s always fun to read a book where you can relate to the experiences of the characters.

The Circus Ship by Chris Van Dusen. One of my daughter’s SantaThing books from 2022, this picture book is so much fun. It has great rhythm, beautiful artwork, and even a page with hidden animals that my daughter always loves to look at!


The Talisman by Stephen King and Peter Straub. It’s been many years since my last Stephen King read, but it was like riding a bike: a hero, a journey with scary thrills, and a happy ending. I hear they’re making a series out of this—produced by the Duffer Brothers (that’s right, Stranger Things)—and cannot wait to see it.

How We Show Up: Reclaiming Family, Friendship, and Community by Mia Birdsong. A thoughtful and intentional exploration of the modern ways we (in America) build and maintain community, and how some groups in particular are laying foundations. Mia’s storytelling made me reflect about how much awesome, transformative value real community can hold through the most challenging of times. I consider this a strong read for the average American, as modern families embark on the rising challenges of everyday life.

Hester by Laurie Lico Albanese. If you’ve ever heard of Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, this is the fictional story of the woman behind the main character of that book, Hester Prynne. Woven into the fabric of 19th-century Salem, Massachusetts stands Isobel Gamble, a talented seamstress and embroiderer from Scotland, looking to make a life for herself in America. She arrives in Salem about 125 years after the Witch Trials, and is forced to consider her own lineage as she walks the tightrope of status and reputation in Salem society. Isobel goes through many trials and tribulations as she seeks to define love, freedom, and strength: many of those qualities that, if bared too much, garnered a woman to be labeled as a witch herself. I loved the depth of character and history in this tale. Will definitely look out for more of Albanese’s work.

Mill Town: Reckoning with What Remains by Kerri Arsenault. Everything is poisoned, paper mills are toxic waste factories, the government is lying (either outright or by omission) to us. Some people like reading tragic fiction, I apparently gravitate towards the real thing. I found this to be a depressing but necessary read, especially being a Mainer. Now please excuse me while I go and Google dioxin…

Bodies Are Cool by Tyler Feder. My annual nod to my son Finn’s collection this year. This is a great book for parents of curious young minds looking to supplement an honest exploration of all the different types of bodies that exist, and how each one has its own special gift.


Below the Root by Zilpha Keatley Snyder, illustrated by Alton Raible The first book in Zilpha Keatley Snyder’s classic Green Sky Trilogy, originally published in 1975, Below the Root is an immensely engaging and deeply moving work of fantasy/science fiction for young readers, one which explores the legacy of violence in a future society that has done everything it can to rid itself of this curse. I love pretty much everything about the book, from the world building to the vocabulary and the way it is introduced, the emotional depth of the characters to the story itself. As if all of this weren’t enough, this book is also greatly improved by the gorgeous artwork of illustrator Alton Raible. Although written in the 1970s, and a product of its time in many ways, in other ways the story here feels oddly current, particularly when it comes to the way in which the goal of avoiding or mitigating harm is used as an excuse for suppression. To offer such wonderful storytelling, and to have such powerful social and intellectual relevance, almost fifty years after its publication, speaks to this book’s staying power, and to its brilliance.

Anna Witch by Madeleine Edmondson, illustrated by William Pène du Bois. From beginning to end, I found Anna Witch a positive delight. It was so lovely, in both storytelling and illustration, that I felt I needed to own a copy of my own, and have now added it to my personal library. So many of the little details here, from the physical characteristics of witches in author Madeleine Edmondson’s world to the fact that they always use names that are palindromes, added to my reading enjoyment. The story itself was also engaging, addressing a number of common childhood themes—young people learning at their own pace, children both needing their parents and needing distance from them—in a magical way. The artwork from Newbery medalist and two-time Caldecott honoree William Pène du Bois was every bit as appealing as the story, capturing both the magical charm of the story and characters, and the emotional pitch of each scene.

The Black Riders by Violet Needham, illustrated by Anne Bullen. The first of Violet Needham’s eight-book Stormy Petrel series, The Black Riders is a marvelous Ruritanian romance for younger readers. First published in 1939, it has become something of a cult classic since, offering a rousing adventure story that is also beautifully written, and that features a wonderful cast of characters. I appreciated the fact that, while there are clear factions in the story, and while the young hero cleaves strongly to his side, the opposition is not depicted as evil, and neither is their leader. Indeed, while in some ways the story here is quite naive, in other ways, it is a very sophisticated book, addressing complex moral questions in an intelligent way, and never talking down to its young audience. Needham is considered a master of Ruritanian tales for children, and I look forward to reading more of her work in this vein.

The Last Devil to Die by Richard Osman. My list of Top Five books for 2022 included The Thursday Murder Club—the first entry in Richard Osman’s mystery series of the same name—and I commented at the time that one of the strengths of the story was the wonderful cast of characters, who truly came alive on the page. In the course of 2023, I have read the second and third in the series, The Man Who Died Twice and The Bullet That Missed, and found that this was also the case with these books. I am not yet done with The Last Devil to Die, but suspect that it is going to be my favorite of the lot, owing in no small part to my love for the characters. As someone who cares for an elderly loved one with dementia, I was deeply moved by the author’s sensitive depiction of a loving couple whose marriage is being affected by Alzheimers. If Osman found it as heartbreaking to write those scenes as I found it to read them, it is no wonder he has announced that he is taking a break from the series.

Saved by the Boats: The Heroic Sea Evacuation of September 11 by Julie Gassman, illustrated by Steve Moors. The story of the maritime evacuation of lower Manhattan on September 11th, 2001, in which some 150 vessels and 600 sailors—many of them civilian volunteers—helped to rescue more than 500,000 people trapped on the island, ferrying them away to safety, is told in this immensely poignant picture book. The story, written by Julie Gassman, who herself escaped Manhattan on that day thanks to the maritime evacuation, is simple but powerful, and I found myself tearing up, while reading it. The artwork from Steve Moors, in muted grayish tones that are sometimes relieved by a bright blue, didn’t speak to me at first, but eventually felt just right for the story, capturing the contrast between the gray dust that coated everything and everyone that day, and the sparkling blue of that September sky. My mother escaped Manhattan on 9/11, thanks to the maritime evacuation, so this story had personal significance for me. It has also been of comfort, since the October 7th terror attacks in Israel, and the more recent spate of praise for Osama Bin Laden’s “Letter to America” on social media, to recall this story of good people stepping up in terrible times, and to remind myself that while there are those who respond to the evil of terrorism with celebration or justification, there are others whose response is to rush to help their fellow human beings.


Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel. Apocalypse fiction is a genre I tend to really enjoy, and this book was such a treat. It’s very character driven, and I was intrigued by how the storylines entangled throughout the book.

Fungirl by Elizabeth Pich. Fungirl is messy and vulgar and hilarious. Pich’s art style is so whimsical and cute. I don’t think I have ever laughed so much while reading a book.

Peaces by Helen Oyeyemi. Peaces caught my eye because I love magical realism, and Oyeyemi’s wonderful prose and surreal story did not disappoint. It’s set on a majestic old train with an unknown destination. The characters are quirky and mysterious and queer, and there are two cute and rambunctious pet mongooses. I adored this book.

All About Love: New Visions by bell hooks. I’m actually still in the middle of reading this one, but I feel like I have already gotten so much out of all the wisdom in it. I really appreciate hooks’ definition of love and her thought provoking look at love in our culture and relationships. This is a book I will be thinking about for a long time after I’ve finished reading it.

The Chromatic Fantasy by H. A. This is such a delightful graphic novel! The art is absolutely gorgeous and H.A. is an incredible visual storyteller. The characters are funny and charming and it was such a joy to watch their romance and adventures unfold in such a beautifully illustrated story.


That’s it!

Come record your own Top Five Books of 2023 on our December List of the Month, and join the discussion over in Talk.

Labels: top five

Friday, December 1st, 2023

December 2023 Early Reviewers Batch Is Live!

Win free books from the December 2023 batch of Early Reviewer titles! We’ve got 144 books this month, and a grand total of 2,949 copies to give out. Which books are you hoping to snag this month? Come tell us on Talk.

If you haven’t already, sign up for Early Reviewers. If you’ve already signed up, please check your mailing/email address and make sure they’re correct.

» Request books here!

The deadline to request a copy is Tuesday, December 26th at 6PM EST.

Eligibility: Publishers do things country-by-country. This month we have publishers who can send books to the US, the UK, Australia, Canada, Netherlands, France, Spain, Italy, Germany, Japan and more. Make sure to check the message on each book to see if it can be sent to your country.

Never Fall AgainThe Lady with the Dark HairA Full Net: Fishing Stories from Maine and BeyondOf Starlight and MidnightThe Hampton House MysterySand and SecretsPsalms of My People: A Story of Black Liberation As Told Through Hip-HopBlack Women, Ivory Tower: Revealing the Lies of White Supremacy in American EducationDesires of the Heart: The Evolution of an American PsychiatristA Lady's Guide to Marvels and MisadventureOne Wrong MoveWhile the City SleepsChasing the HorizonPermaculture Gardening for the Absolute Beginner: Follow Nature's Map to Grow Your Own Organic Food with ConfidenceHeavy OceansPolyphemusThe Four Relationship Styles: How Attachment Theory Can Help You in Your Search for Lasting LoveIn Search of the Lambs and Other StoriesPlaces To Visit On The Way BackCaptive of the Stolen EmpireMet by MoonlightExplosive ChemistryNot to ScaleCambion's RiseBond CrushedThe Fast and the FuriesUn penique en mi bolsillo: Un libro para niños sobre el uso del dineroA Village Boy's Global Journey: A Story of Defiance, Self Discovery and TriumphMistletoe MagicFanny Fitzpatrick and the Brother ProblemMen Don't Owe Women MoneyThe Red WheelbarrowWomen Who Hate WomenTribuneThe Trade Detective Investigating How to Day Trade for a LivingThe Trade Detective Investigating How to Make Money Online and Live WealthyAmy the Elf Sorceress and Her FriendsSouth of Sepharad: The 1492 Jewish Expulsion from SpainA Call from Hell: The True Story of Larry Gene Bell a Small-Town Monster and the Crime that Shook the NationHow to Swap LS & LT Engines into Chevy & GMC Trucks: 1960-1998Over the Influence: Why Social Media Is Toxic for Women and Girls - and How We Can Take It BackServices Marketing Essentials You Always Wanted to KnowMacroeconomics Essentials You Always Wanted to KnowSocial Media Marketing Essentials You Always Wanted to KnowMountain Offerings: PoemsChildren of Steel: Short Fiction from Our Historic Steel Mill TownsTales from the DarksideThe Fragile Blue Dot: Stories from Our Imperiled BiospherePushing Back the DesertI'm Not AfraidDangerous Lovers: A MemoirSwanna in LoveThe ReservoirAccustomed to the DarkReturn to AlkademahClassic Short Stories by Trailblazing WomenThe Other MurderDead GirlThe Scream: Poems from the Outside and from Within, 2013-2023Tokyo Outdoors: 45 Walks, Hikes and Cycling Routes to Explore the City Like a LocalTokyo Outdoors: 45 Walks, Hikes and Cycling Routes to Explore the City Like a LocalEmo Reality: The Biography of Teenage Borderline Personality DisorderPosey's Problem: A Pony TaleWithout the ThunderDestinyThe Instructor's Guide to Accessible and Equitable Course Design: A Roadmap to Barrier-Free Teaching and LearningA Good Rush of BloodRed VelvetThe Time GeneTeaching with Heart: Lessons Learned in a ClassroomA Deadly GameThe Forest Demands Its DueDu Good: The Journey BeginsThe Devils' CrucibleThe Flirtatious CoupleThe Difficult Life of a Little Brown HoundMother Nature Nursery RhymesTwisted NeurosThe Intended SoulHow to Write a Book: Taking the Plunge into Non-Fiction and Conquering Your New Writer Fears and DoubtsShelby's Horse-Filled SummerAll Of Us AloneThe Art of Job Hunting: A Dramedy in VerseThe Price of RevengeBlood in the Water: An Account of Workplace BullyingReflections: Echoes & WhispersChildren of the CrossThe Teenage Guide to Success: The TICK TOCK Formula for Life, Relationships and CareersUnbound 2: A Threat OnboardingVespertine DreamsRise of the CultOOPS, POOPS: Hysterical Potty Training Stories and MoreSend in the Tort Lawyer$—A Legal FarceAlong the Cobbled PathSecrets of Castle RowleySmokoPrisoner of Consequence: Escape the Ripple of Effect and Rediscover Your Natural State of JoyAll Old People Must Die: The Last GenerationHarold Heard Butt CakeRun Away to MarsReasonableWalking the White Horses: Wiltshire's White Horse Trail on FootShelby and the Back-to-School BluesPrincess Rouran and the Book of the LivingConfronting Power and Chaos: The Uncharted Kaleidoscope of My LifeThe TwinsMore Than TrumpAlice on a Friday NightThe Revival You Want. The Revival You Need!: The Astonishing Account of the Hebrides Revival and the Strategies We Can ImplementKiller Dead, Victim AliveBy Hook or By CrookForgotten SecretHeading NorthMy Mary: A Story of One Barnardo Home ChildSharks Are Our FriendsDecember: The Spicy TaleUnleash Transformational Leadership: Unlock Your Potential to Empower & Inspire Your Organization and Create a Culture of SuccessA Clove NecklaceThe Ebon KnightRivers and CreaksTheo's Missing LullabyPassion Without Tension?Sun & ShadowForever HumanMale Chauvinism: Tripping on Male DominanceTwilight Twists: Boomers' Belly Laughs & BeyondFrom Man Caves to Man-Buns: Your Unofficial Guide to Understanding the SpeciesFrank's Bloody BooksRoots and Branches: Your Starter Guide to Becoming a Family History DetectiveBeyond the Family Tree: Advanced Tools & Techniques for the Genealogical ExplorerSoftware Tools for Genealogy: Digital Tools for Tracing Family HistoryAncestry Standards for Data Integrity: Getting History Right the First TimePiglet to Bacon: Unmasking Male ChauvinismTimeless Treasures: A Voyage Through European BeadscapesEquinoxHunter to Hunted: Surviving Hitler's Wolf Packs: Diaries of a Merchant Navy Radio Officer, 1939-45Analyzing the PrescottsThe Birthday of EternityDeath Pulls the StringsThe Self-Love Proclamation: Affirmations That Nurture Confidence and Self-WorthGrasslandsHow To Recognize a Soulmate: Your Guide to Soul Level AlignmentThe ContraptionThe Human Trial

Thanks to all the publishers participating this month!

Akashic Books Alcove Press All We Need Publishing
Anaphora Literary Press Baker Books Beaches and Trails Publishing
Bethany House BHC Press Broadleaf Books
CarTech Books Cinnabar Moth Publishing LLC City Owl Press
DarkLit Press GladEye Press HB Publishing House
History Through Fiction Islandport Press Kakkle Publications
Lighted Lake Press Liz Fe Lifestyle NeoParadoxa
Petra Books PublishNation Purple Diamond Press
Revell Rootstock Publishing Somewhat Grumpy Press
True Crime Seven Vibrant Publishers Wise Media Group

Labels: early reviewers, LTER