The top fiction books of 2023, according to 68 lists

The Top Fiction of 2023, According to 68 Lists

Kimberly Johnson
6 min readJan 1, 2024

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Happy New Year! As in the past four years, I’ve compiled a bunch of end-of-year “Best Books” lists from across the web to see which titles get mentioned the most. Personally, I’ve found this a great source of recommendations for my own reading, since bubbling to the top across the breadth of lists I scrape indicates fairly universal appeal: these top books are just good books.

This year, I sourced 68 lists across the web. Here’s what showed up most often:

Top works of fiction published in 2023, according to 68 lists

A quick methodology note because it’s 2023 and we’re all using AI to make our lives easier: I processed maybe 30% of this year’s lists with ChatGPT. Every year, I’ve used webscraper.io to pull titles and authors from book lists I find online, which works great when articles are well-structured.

For example, if all the titles are styled as Heading 2 and all the authors are in a string like by James McBride, it takes me a couple minutes to configure Webscraper to give me a table of titles and authors for that article that I can easily copy-paste into my spreadsheet, even if there are 100 books in the article.

But sometimes articles aren’t well-structured like the above, and the titles and authors aren’t stylized consistently. In the past, I’ve skipped articles that aren’t easy to scrape, because pulling out titles and authors manually simply takes too long.

This year, each time I encountered an article that wasn’t immediately scrapable with a couple of minutes of Webscraper configuration, I just copy-pasted the whole article into ChatGPT, requesting it do the heavy-lifting for me and extract a table of Title | Author from the pasted text. I did pretty careful manual QA for the first few articles I processed in this way, but finding those perfectly accurate, I just let go and let ChatGPT for the rest.

If the list contained fiction and nonfiction entries, I also asked ChatGPT to add a genre (fiction/nonfiction) column, but ChatGPT did occasionally get this wrong, so I ended up looking over these categorizations manually as I have in past years.

And, as a repeat from the last couple years, here are some musings on list accuracy, since I’m always curious which lists are most solidly in the zeitgeist.

Precision: which lists have entries most likely to be in the Top 20? (# of Top 20 entries divided by list length)

Highest-precision Lists, Best Fiction of 2023

Short lists have an advantage in precision: if you just named your favorite book and it happens to be on the Top 20, you have 100% precision!

The New York Times Book Review is a good example of this: they only listed 5 fiction books, so when 4 of them are in the Top 20, they have very high precision. Taking a book rec from the New York Times Book Review gives you a high chance of a “good book”, but you’ll run out of books quickly.

The Digg Round-Up scores the highest on precision this year, which is not surprising since it is also a meta-analysis, although its approach is slightly different than mine, taking rank into account for each list. It’s also not clear how many lists they used.

Recall: which lists mentioned the most Top 20 books? (# of Top 20 entries divided by 20.)

Highest-recall Lists, Best Fiction of 2023

Long lists have a similar advantage in recall as short lists in precision: if you listed all books published in 2023, you would have 100% recall — but very low precision. The top 5 highest-recall lists are mostly over 80 books long, but by definition can’t hit over 25% precision (maximum 20 “Top 20” books, of 80 entries).

For example, if you read all the books on Chicago Public Library’s list (which also had the highest recall last year), you’ll eventually get to almost all the very top ones, but it’ll take you awhile.

Accuracy: so, how to combine precision and recall? Something called the F-score. I’ll let wikipedia explain the math.

Similar to Precision, this still favors shorter lists in my dataset, but you’ll notice that the shortest ones (like the New York Times Book Review) disappear due to their lower recall. The Digg-Round up, another meta-list as mentioned above, unsurprisingly floats to the top here.

Highest Accuracy Lists (F-Score), Best Fiction of 2023

Skeptical? Don’t want your least favorite news source taking up space? You can select just the lists you want here. That link will also let you browse books beyond the Top 20.

Past years:

Tools used: webscraper.io and ChatGPT to extract book titles and authors, Google Sheets to list them, and Looker Data Studio for the pretty graphs above.

All Top 20 covers:

Covers of the Top 20 books listed above

Finally, the list of lists, for the curious.
Note: Count of fiction books may slightly overestimate, as I did not categorize long-tail books that were on 3 or fewer lists, which let me avoid manually categorizing over 800 titles. So what I actually mean here is “(N books that I have not explicitly marked as nonfiction)”. Some of these lists also reference books published before 2023, which I have not bothered to correct for.

Amazon Best Lit and Fiction (20 fiction books)
Barnes and Noble (124 fiction books)
BBC (33 fiction books)
Booker longlist (13 fiction books)
BookPage Best Fiction (14 fiction books)
Bookriot (22 fiction books)
Boston Globe (25 fiction books)
Buzzfeed News (27 fiction books)
Chicago Public Library (97 fiction books)
Chicago Tribune (Fiction) (9 fiction books)
Christian Science Monitor (21 fiction books)
Digg Round-Up (9 fiction books)
Electric Lit Best Novels (25 fiction books)
Elle (13 fiction books)
Engadget (14 fiction books)
Esquire (12 fiction books)
Glamour (18 fiction books)
Good Housekeeping (18 fiction books)
Goodreads 100 Most Popular (97 fiction books)
Goodreads Choice Fiction (20 fiction books)
Harper’s Bazaar (34 fiction books)
Kirkus Prize Fiction (6 fiction books)
Kirkus Reviews Best Fiction (95 fiction books)
Libby Life (80 fiction books)
Library Journal (Literary Fiction) (11 fiction books)
Literary Hub Best Reviewed (10 fiction books)
Literary Hub Favorites (36 fiction books)
Los Angeles Times (15 fiction books)
Marie Claire (115 fiction books)
Mashable TikTok Favorites (10 fiction books)
National Book Awards Longlist (10 fiction books)
New York Post (15 fiction books)
New York Times Book Review (5 fiction books)
New York Times Critics’ Picks (9 fiction books)
New York Times Notable (49 fiction books)
NPR Fresh Air (7 fiction books)
NPR Staff Picks (186 fiction books)
NY Public Library Best Books for Adults (66 fiction books)
Obama’s Favorites (6 fiction books)
Oprah Daily (10 fiction books)
PBS News Hour (8 fiction books)
People Magazine (6 fiction books)
Powell’s Best Fiction (23 fiction books)
Publishers Weekly Best Books (4 fiction books)
Reader’s Digest (14 fiction books)
Real Simple (56 fiction books)
Red Online (10 fiction books)
She Reads (17 fiction books)
Shelf Awareness (10 fiction books)
Slate / books critic (7 fiction books)
Slate / books editor (10 fiction books)
The Atlantic (6 fiction books)
The Guardian (34 fiction books)
The Independent (18 fiction books)
The New Yorker (154 fiction books)
The Times (UK) (22 fiction books)
The Today Show (34 fiction books)
Time’s Best Fiction (10 fiction books)
Time’s Must-Read Books (82 fiction books)
Tor.com Reviewers’ Choice (62 fiction books)
Town & Country (12 fiction books)
Vanity Fair (18 fiction books)
Vogue (46 fiction books)
Vox (13 fiction books)
Vulture (40 fiction books)
Washington Post Best Books (5 fiction books)
Waterstones (99 fiction books)
Wired (5 fiction books)

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