Best of the Best 2023
Every year our staff vote for their favourite books of the past 12 months. From their votes, we uncover the titles they loved most. Across six categories – Australian fiction, international fiction, nonfiction & memoir, picture books, junior & middle books, and young adult books – we share with you our top ten bookseller-voted titles. This year we've taken it one step further and asked you, our customers, to nominate your top read from each list of ten. After tallying your many, many votes we can now share who you nominated as the Best of the Best 2023.
Best of the Best – Australian fiction
1. The Bookbinder of Jericho by Pip Williams
Another runaway success for Pip Williams, The Bookbinder of Jericho is a wish come true for fans of her debut novel, and a wonderful tale for anyone who loves books. A companion to The Dictionary of Lost Words, the new story begins in 1914, among the bookbinders of Oxford University Press – known as the ‘girls’ – including twin sisters Peggy and Maude Jones. For Peggy, everything about the work is a constant reminder of her frustrated desire to attend Oxford University. Maude is content with her role, yet needs Peggy. When war breaks out and refugees arrive from Belgium, opportunity knocks for Peggy and she finds herself in an age-old dilemma, a woman trying to find a way to be true to herself and to those she loves.
2. Women & Children by Tony Birch
3. Edenglassie by Melissa Lucashenko
Best of the Best – international fiction
1. Yellowface by Rebecca F. Kuang
In one of the most talked about books of the year, Rebecca F. Kuang has peeled back the curtain from modern literary publishing to reveal the questions we should all be asking – and to which her protagonist, Juniper Hayward, should certainly have given at least some consideration before she decided to pass off her brilliant (and recently deceased) friend Athena Liu’s manuscript as her own. Worse still, she publishes it under a deliberately ambiguous pseudonym – June Song. What could possibly go wrong? Yellowface has kept readers enthralled and mortified all year – it is not to be missed, and neither are its superb observations about racism and representation in publishing.
2. The Bee Sting by Paul Murray
3. Birnam Wood by Eleanor Catton
Best of the Best – nonfiction
1. Wifedom by Anna Funder
Too many biographies about great male writers fail to acknowledge the invisible work of the women who made it possible for them to exist: Nabokov’s wife Vera was his typist, proofreader, editor, agent, business manager, and chauffeur; Tolstoy’s wife Sophia edited and rewrote War and Peace eight times – by hand – whilst also raising their 13 children and managing the household finances.
It is Eileen O’Shaughnessy – who published a dystopian poem titled 'End of the Century, 1984' a year before she met her husband George Orwell – whose brief but remarkable life is the focus of Anna Funder’s captivating memoir, Wifedom. Funder deconstructs the idea of the ‘male genius’, pulling back the curtain to reveal the vivid woman whose achievements and contributions have been largely forgotten. Rousing, nuanced and exquisitely well-written, Wifedom is a compelling window into an uneven marriage, the brilliant minds within it, and the way structural misongyny continues to affect women today.
2. Question 7 by Richard Flanagan
3. Pageboy by Elliot Page
Best of the Best – young adult
1. Welcome to Sex! by Dr Melissa Kang & Yumi Stynes
Talking about sex can feel strange and awkward, but it doesn’t have to be!
Welcome to Sex! is an inclusive and honest guide that explains everything you need to know about sex in a reassuring and shame-free way. Topics include how to know when you’re ready, how to communicate about sex and how to stay safe, plus much more. For ages 12+.
2. The Stolen Heir by Holly Black
3. The Quiet and the Loud by Helena Fox
Best of the Best – junior and middle grade
1. Songlines by Margo Neale, Lynne Kelly & Blak Douglas (illus.)
Margo Ngawa Neale and Lynne Kelly invite you on a journey through the oldest, biggest library of knowledge on Earth. This knowledge isn't held in books: you will find it in songlines of the land, sea and sky. Learn about history, art, song, science and more in this engaging and inviting introduction to Indigenous traditional knowledges, how they apply today and how they can help all people thrive into the future.
Fully illustrated and with plenty of bite-sized snippets of fascinating information, this young reader’s edition of Songlines is an endlessly interesting book for all kids 8+.
2. The Lost Library by Rebecca Stead & Wendy Mass
3. Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Chalice of the Gods by Rick Riordan
Best of the Best – picture books
1. We Know A Place by Maxine Beneba Clarke
We know a place that's mysterious-magic, a window to lives you can't even imagine.
We know a secret world-wakening secret, a brain-boggling secret, on Ballarat Street.
A fun and vivid story of two children who find magic and wonder at their local bookshop each Saturday following a morning of chores. With beautiful, textured illustrations, We Know a Place is a love letter to bookshops and the magic they provide. For ages 2+.