Our Favorite Books - 2023

Published Wednesday, December 20, 2023
by V.E. Schwab

V.E. Schwab's YA novel, Gallant, is a package of thrilling, dark, magical mystery that gripped me from first page to last. Olivia, the nonverbal main character, traces back the tangled web of the family she has never known, and along the way, she begins to discover a haunting secret that is another world entirely. Gallant is reminiscent of several other stories that I have loved: Coraline, Stranger Things, the Fall of the House of Usher, Jane Eyre, to name a few. That being said, it stands strongly in its own originality, concocted by Schwab. I had the wonderful opportunity of seeing V.E. Schwab at an author talk in St. Louis (just a week after meeting with the library's Teen Book Club to discuss Gallant), and hearing her speak about storytelling, reading, writing, magic, and life in general made me admire her and her work all the more.
- Kristen

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The Librarianist
by Patrick DeWitt

Given both The Librarianist’s title and its cover art of an old-time checkout card, you might be surprised to find that this story of a retired librarian is not primarily about books or libraries or reading. What you will find, though, is a poignant, sympathetic—and funny—portrait of a solitary introvert, who finds unexpected complications when he reluctantly engages with others. DeWitt not only creates vivid characters, but also dialogue that you’ll find yourself re-reading out loud just to savor it.
- Charlie

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Medusa's Sister
by Lauren J. A. Bear

So good! This retelling of the story of Medusa and her sisters is amazing. I loved Lauren Bear's focus on the relationship between the sisters and the way she brings the tension and complications of being in a tight family group to light. The author does a fantastic job of making the reader care about these characters and I especially appreciated the focus on the Stheno and Euryale - the two who are lesser known. Beautifully written!
- Katherine

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The Last Lifeboat
by Hazel Gaynor

The book is based on a true story of the evacuations of children from Britain to Canada during World War II. The story in itself is powerful and the decisions that need to be made are heart -wrenching. The characters are well written – you feel like you know them but still their decisions can surprise you. The power of the story lies in its complexity, the historical period and the portrayal of the lives of both adults and children.
- Joyce

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Gideon the Ninth
by Tamsyn Muir

The world building, the character development and the story itself are amazing. This story just captivated me from the beginning and never let me off the hook. Gideon is a force and her development is really outstanding. Highly recommend this book as well as the overall collection.
- Jim

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The Sword Defiant
by Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan

This was one of the best fantasy books I have read in quite a while. Even though I had planned for it to last me at least a week, it lasted me just 3 days. I stayed up too late reading it and did not regret it a bit. It is filled with action, political intrigue, and of course a magical talking sword. The only bad thing about it is that it got me really excited to read the sequel, which won't be coming out until 2024. The world the story took place in was well-built, and the characters were engaging and fun to read about.

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Leviathan Wakes
by James S. A. Corey

First-rate sci-fi that hits emotionally while providing all the hard science depth I want. The world-building is gripping and believable. The book was everything I wanted in a sci-fi and more from the first page to the last.
- Greg G.

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The World Gives Way
by Marissa Levien

Absolutely phenomenal! The whole time I was reading it, I did not want to put it down! The ending surprised me, but in a good way that had me sitting back in my chair going "Wow."
- Rachel

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Out of Nowhere
by Sandra Brown

Sandra Brown is my favorite author right now. This book kept my attention and is very exciting!
- Lorraine

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101 Essays That Will Change the Way You Think
by Brianna Wiest

I read so-called “self-help” books all year, but I try to be selective and find those with a more philosophical and practical twist. As in: what can I focus on and practically change to make an actual positive difference in my life. This book is one of my favorites by far. Reading it is like having a personal therapy session with someone who just hits the nail on the head over and over about what we should really be focusing on in life. Wiest rescues us from the weeds and keeps us on the level path of discovery. Her writing style is neither clinical nor fluffy, and I found myself marking passages while feeling that she was speaking directly to me. Adults young and old will get something meaningful from this book. Highly recommended.
- Cary

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Fantastic Fungi: Expanding Consciousness, Alternative Healing, Environmental Impact // Official Book of Smash Hit Documentary
by Paul Stamets (Editor), Louie Schwartzberg (Foreword), Eugenia Bone (Contributor), Suzanne Simard (Contributor) , Roland Griffiths (Contributor), Jay Harman (Contributor), William Richards (Contributor), Andrew Weil (Contributor) , Michael Pollan (Contributor)

Fantastic Fungi is my favorite because it's a whimsical and engaging look into the world of one of the most underappreciated kingdoms! Fungi is going to help save the world, and this book AND film will give you a great look into how that is all going to happen!
- Avie

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Dictionary of Lost Words
by Pip Williams

The book is based on historical events surrounding the compilation of the Oxford English Dictionary. The women' s suffrage movement is at its height and World War I is looming on the horizon. The main character, Esme, discovers some words are considered more important than others by the men compiling the dictionary. Words describing woman's experiences and those of the common folk are intentionally left out. She begins to search out words for her own dictionary: the Dictionary of Lost Words.
- Sally

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St. Lucy's Home For Girls Raised By Wolves
by Karen Russell

Russell's use of language and playfulness in the realm of magical realism draws readers in. It kept me on the edge of my seat sorting out the reality of the worlds Russell invites us into. She also explores culture, assimilation, and rituals. This book is a great read for anyone into fantasy or magic.
- Kristi

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The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration
by Isabel Wilkerson

I was inspired to learn more about African-American history after visiting the National Museum of African-American History and Culture this summer. My education was sorely lacking in this regard, and I was woefully ignorant of the tragic but vibrant history of a significant portion of the United States population. Wilkerson does a marvelous job tracing the story of three individuals from different generations of the Great Migration. She offers a clear-eyed look at the consistent oppression weathered by African Americans in our history. All American citizens can benefit from a thoughtful read of Wilkerson’s Warmth of Other Suns.
- Patrick

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Opening the Road: Victor Hugo Green and His Green Book
by Keila V. Dawson, Alleanna Harris (Illustrator)

This is an accurate picture of the importance of the “Green Book” and why it was created. I love that the pictures truly bring the words alive for the younger generation to understand this part of African American history.

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The Story of Gumluck the Wizard: Book One
by Adam Rex

This was the surprise book of the year for me. It is so silly and heartwarming and the illustrations are so well done too! It’s good for any kind of reading be it a read-aloud or read-together and would best suit early elementary readers. The best part…There will be more of Gumluck as this is only book one!
- Megan

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by Colleen Hoover

I found several aspects of the book to be very captivating, like learning more about Verity and seeing Lowen and Jeremy's relationship grow. As frustrating as the cliffhanger ending was, I really enjoyed getting to debate the two possibilities. I was skeptical going into this read, but I really enjoyed it!
- Aubrey

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Heaven’s River: Bobiverse Book 4
by Dennis E. Taylor

It is so hard to find good hard science fiction that is also funny. I enjoyed all of the Bobiverse books but this one was my favorite. It is great science fiction, funny, and a cool mystery story all in one.
- Greg K.

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About the Author

Katherine is the Social Media Coordinator and has been working at EPL since 2008. She loves books, especially ones with unique plots and those written so well that she can't put them down.