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The Best Books We Read in 2023

Posted about 6 months ago by Jennifer Deuell

Now Is Not the Time to Panic by Kevin Wilson

“Two  smart, misfit teenagers spend a hot and sticky summer together – partly by choice but mostly because of proximity.  Boredom, misplaced emotions, and a stolen photocopier lead to a project that quickly spirals out of control.  This book is sweet and sad and funny, and yes, a little bit off kilter.  But so is life, and love, and family.”

~Meg Raymond, Main Library

Rough Sleepers: Dr. Jim O’Connell’s Urgent Mission to Bring Healing to Homeless People by Tracy Kidder

“I have been a fan of Tracy Kidder’s writing since Among Schoolchildren. He dives so intensely into the lives of his subjects that I wonder how he maintains his objectivity. Yet, with an unflinching eye, Kidder’s Rough Sleepers takes us to Boston’s streets, dingy alleyways and emergency rooms with the front-line doctors and staff who try to keep those who are houseless alive. This is a compelling and powerful book.”

~Laura Price, Broad Rock Branch

Bluebeard’s Castle by Anna Biller

“A fun genre-honoring satire of gothic romance with a 21st century feminist perspective. Settle in for wild ride of tone and plot!”

~Ben Himmelfarb, Main Library



Fat Talk: Parenting in the Age of Diet Culture by Virginia Sole-Smith

“I loved this book because it was a very challenging read! Toss out everything you think you know about parenting your kids towards healthy eating (yes, everything), and dive into this nuanced book about the culture of diet talk and how that intersects with raising kids of all ages, even ourselves. Highly recommended.”

~Hayley DeRoche, Westover Hills Branch


The Blazing World: A New History of Revolutionary England 1603-1689 by Jonathan Healey

“The England of the 17th Century was a time of political instability, disease, and rapid advances in informational technology—with political pamphlets acting like today’s podcasts, YouTube, and Tiktok. People were tore between loyalties to the old and the possibility of a new world, which caused retreats into fearful rhetoric. This eventually resulted in the English Revolution, which lead to a brief abdication of the English throne and lead to an experiment with a different kind of government: a republic. Reading Jonathan Healey’s The Blazing World, which focuses on this, the most radical period of change in English life, when Puritans went from a persecuted minority into political power players and even the question of the king’s power was called into question, you cannot help but see how alike we are to people all across time. Books like Healey’s teach us how people have the same needs and fears at the base, but are always responding to changes in the world around them, but also drive those very changes.”

~Chris Sloce, Main Library

Weyward by Emilia Hart

“Told through the perspective of three separate individuals, Hart is able to seamlessly weave each of the three stories together into one cohesive piece. I loved the focus on societal expectations of women and how the protagonists each dealt with issues that connected them beyond their familial ties. I recommend it to all, but especially to fans of historical fiction!”

~Danny Howard, Main Library

Earthdivers, Vol 1: Kill Columbus by Stephen Graham Jones

“As someone who has frequently thought about what I would do if I had the power to change history, I was immediately intrigued by this title. A group of indigenous survivors of the apocalypse in the year 2112 try to right where our timeline went wrong: in 1492, when Columbus sailed the ocean blue. The art breathes life into Jones’s writing, and the story is engaging for fans of both historical fiction and sci-fi. I eagerly await the next volume!”

~Summer Michau, Broad Rock Branch

A First Time for Everything by Dan Santat

“Santat has a knack for writing brilliant descriptions, from realistic, day-to-day life (Are we there yet?) to fantasy (Beekle). His illustrations have added an extra dimension to many children’s titles, from picture books to middle grade fiction and graphic novels. In this graphic novel for middle grades and up, Santat gives an autobiographical account of his middle school summer trip to Europe. Starting with a little about his family and the uncomfortable changes in middle school, the majority of the story focuses on the trip. A coming-of-age graphic novel that many adults could find familiar and to which upper elementary and middle school students can relate. His artistic talents create the perfect backdrop for a lively and fun memory.”

The Concrete Garden by Bob Graham

“Just in at the libraries, this latest from the great author/illustrator Bob Graham is another touching winner. A diverse group of children from a large apartment building tentatively ride the elevator down after a long cold winter. Amanda, the last to come down from the fifteenth floor, takes a box full of chalk from her mom and heads to the playground. Her drawing of a huge flower pulls the other children into adding their own touches, including the “Queen of Swirls” by Rosie. Nasrim, far away from her home, takes a picture from her balcony and sends it to her mom on the other side of the world. Her mom shares it with everyone she knows. When rain comes a few days later the children celebrate the rainbow colored puddles. And life goes on. Written during COVID, this beautiful picture book reminds me of the impermanence of things and what can be created when everyone works together.”

~Lisa Crisman, West End Branch

All the Sinners Bleed by S.A. Cosby

“Now I must keep it 100 with y’all. If it was not for me working for Richmond Public Library, I would have never read this book. S. A. Cosby and his book All the Sinners Bleed was selected for our annual event, Read Up Richmond. So, by me wanting to know what the hype was all about I had to read the book. WOW, why did Mr. Cosby have me up all night to the early morning hours reading this page turning book?! The setting takes place in a small backwoods county in the state of Virginia. The main character is a former FBI agent turned sheriff who happens to also be African American. Titus Crown, who is now the new first ever black elected sheriff, has a serial killer on the loose. Titus must balance his home life with his widower father, his new professional life, the folks of the county and the demons from his past. If you are a fan of a drama, suspense and just a good read… this is the book for you. I liked All the Sinners Bleed so much that I hosted a book discussion about the book as well as download and read another book by S. A. Cosby.”

~April Freeman, Hull Street Branch

Baldur’s Gate III by Larian Studios

“Yes, it’s a video game; however, it’s also an RPG (role-playing game) that is not only heavy in the storytelling with over 1,600 possible endings, but it has also won multiple Game of the Year awards. Where the game really shines, in my opinion, is through the complex, three-dimensional characters that you can befriend throughout your journey, each of their own subplots culminating in emotional and cathartic storylines. I’ve played through the game about five times now, and with each playthrough I see, learn, or experience something new about this rich fantasy world. Even after all the hours I’ve already sunk into this game, talking about it is just making me want to jump back in and play it all over again!”

~Nicole Byers, East End Branch

The Frozen River by Ariel Lawhon

“I have to be honest with you all. Since becoming a mom 19 months ago, my reading life has gone down the drain—which is a very sad thing for a librarian to admit! When I finally sit down and have a moment to myself, my brain is often too exhausted to really dive into a story. So, when I say that this book pulled me in and kept me wanting more, that’s saying something! I’m a sucker for historical fiction, especially one with a strong female lead. And the themes of this tale are so important right now at a time when women’s rights are so threatened. To illustrate this, here’s one quote from the book, ‘Memory is a wicked thing that warps and twists. But paper and ink receive the truth without emotion and they back it without partiality. That, I believe is why so few women are taught to read and write.’ This book will inspire female readers to fight back against oppression. To not let the small injustices go for fear that they will one day amount to large ones.”

~Jenn Deuell, Main Library

Jennifer Deuell

Jenn Deuell is a Librarian with Richmond Public Library. She is a native of Fredericksburg, VA but has lived in Richmond for long enough that she now considers it home. She loves all things YA and can usually be found curled up at home with a good book (rainy day or not). Her other hobbies include traveling and spending time with family, including her husband, daughter Hannah, and two rescued pit bulls. For YA reading recommendations from Jenn, visit Bookologist.

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