The Best Books PureWow Editors Read This Year

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When selecting new books to read, we browse Amazon, snoop on the subway and ask friends and co-workers. That last method usually proves particularly fruitful, which is why we polled PureWow editors for the best books they’ve read in 2023. From a whodunnit set in 1500s Florence to a queer (and culinary) rom-com, here are their picks.

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editor favorite books broder

1. Death Valley by Melissa Broder

“It’s a story of a woman struggling to hold onto her sanity and humanity after running away to the California desert to escape the overwhelm of a father that’s in the ICU and a husband who has a chronic illness. I was heartened by how Broder’s protagonist managed to unwittingly alchemize hard life turns into a transcendent wisdom, with no treacle, almost no whining and lots of wordplay reminiscent of early Lorrie Moore and Jennifer Egan. Oh and the main character almost dies after spending time inside an apartment-sized cactus.” – Dana Dickey, senior editor

editor favorite books ofarrell

2. The Marriage Portrait by Maggie O’Farrell

“Mid-1500s: Check. Florence palazzo and Italian countryside: Check. Royal marriage of a young duchess and handsome Italian duke: Check. Although the elements of a historical romance are all there, this slightly-true-but-very-embellished tale of Lucrezia de Medici is more a whodunnit: From the first chapter, we’re waiting for her untimely death and trying to piece together how everything could’ve gone so murderously wrong. Come for the astute observations from an ill-fated duchess, stay for the tiger they keep in the palace basement.” – Roberta Fiorito, senior editor, branded content

editor favorite books yarros

3. Iron Flame by Rebecca Yarros

“I didn't know what to expect going into this one after the ending of the first book (!), but it was so action-packed from start to finish and I loved seeing the characters develop more. I also can’t wait to learn even more about the history of the world Rebecca Yarros has built when the next one comes out (I’m once again counting down the days.) And finally, as this is a fantasy romance, it did have some spicy scenes and they’re honestly *chef's kiss.*” – Natalie LaBarbera, assistant commerce editor

editor favorite books green

4. The Anthropocene Reviewed: Essays on a Human-Centered Planet by John Green

“One of my favorite reads this year was The Anthropocene Reviewed: Essays on a Human-Centered Planet. I bought it on a whim at an airport and ended up reading most of it on a flight. Green writes about all sorts of topics—from origins of Diet Dr. Pepper to his love of the band The Mountain Goats—in a way that's both intimate and universal and always entertaining. I keep it by my bed to read an essay or two whenever I have trouble falling asleep.” – Jenny Jin, beauty director

editor favorite books patchett

5. Tom Lake by Ann Patchett

“In some ways it’s a really quiet, non-flashy book about a woman who—when her adult children come home during the pandemic—tells the story of her brief time as an almost-movie star. But the more you think about it, the more you realize it’s about the way our younger selves turn into our older selves, and how love deepens and changes as we age. It’s one of those books that I wish I could erase from my memory, so I could again have the pleasure of reading it anew.” – Jillian Quint, editor-in-chief

editor favorite books kelly

6. Love & Other Disasters by Anita Kelly

“One of my favorite reads this year was, you guessed it, another LGBTQ+ romance. This novel, Love & Other Disasters, is an enemies (or competitors, if you will) to lovers romance meets Top Chef. Recently divorced Dahlia, a klutzy enigma, enters the show Chef’s Special as a way to find herself after a numbing divorce. Meanwhile, a well-to-do nonbinary Southerner is looking to use the cash prize to create an LGBTQ+ haven for queer youth. Things heat up when the two are stationed too close for comfort in the kitchen, the tension rising as they chop, fold, mix and stir. A page-turner with unexpected character choices, this was one of my favorite reads of 2023.” – Delia Curtis, assistant editor

editor favorite books whiteside

7. Center Center: A Funny, Sexy, Sad Almost-Memoir of a Boy in Ballet by James Whiteside

“I've been obsessed with James Whiteside for years—he's a principal dancer with the American Ballet Theater—and so was thrilled when I learned he was releasing a memoir. It's so well written and he paints such beautiful, detailed portraits of the people in his life, especially his mom. It was funny, touching, just all around a great read. I highly recommend if you're looking for something that's both engaging and joyful. (He's also a very fun Instagram follow, just fyi.)” – Abby Hepworth, fashion editor

editor favorite books shelley

8. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

“I started a classics book club this year and our October read was Frankenstein. Honestly, I had some entrenched notions going in—after all, the monster is a staple Halloween costume, and typically a signature sickly green with bad stitching and painfully misplaced screws. Reading the book gave me a whole new perspective, not just on the monster himself, who had astounding depth, but on what it means to be human and what makes us so. It was also a provoking conversation about the consequences of allowing something to consume us—and how sometimes our most fervent pursuits can be our undoing. I walked away with compassion for the monster...and maybe you will too?” – Marissa Wu, associate SEO editor

editor favorite books washington

9. Family Meal by Bryan Washington

“I was lucky enough to read and review a ton of incredible books this year, but Bryan Washington’s outstanding novel Family Meal was it for me. Centering on two 20-something men in Houston attempting to repair their closer-than-brothers friendship, it’s an intimate meditation on self-destruction and self-discovery, queer love, what it means to heal and the power of personal connection. I’ve recommended it to so many people and have no intention of stopping. Honorable mention to The Chinese Groove by Kathryn Ma, Doppleganger by Naomi Klein and, belatedly, Patrick Radden Keefe’s Empire of Pain, which I finally got around to finishing and which made me absolutely furious.” – Sarah Stiefvater, wellness director

sarah stiefvater

Wellness Director

Sarah Stiefvater is PureWow's Wellness Director. She's been at PureWow for ten years, and in that time has written and edited stories across all categories, but currently focuses...