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Best of Books 2023 with YPL

The end of the year means that it is time for “The Best of the Best” lists. Here at YPL, at least for this blog, it’s all about the books! We were very curious to see how Yonkers Public Library book checkouts compared to many other top book lists of the year. We compared twelve annual “best of” lists to compile the most frequently mentioned books so we could discover what the most popular book picks were this year. 

Are you curious to see how your favorite book titles compare to the expert lists? Which titles rose to the top of the lists?

The lists pulled from include Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Riot, Bookpage, Bookshop.org, Goodreads, Kirkus Reviews, LitHub, New York Public Library, New York Times (100 Noteable Books and Top 10 Best Books), New Yorker, National Public Radio (NPR)*, Publisher’s Weekly, and Time Magazine

As you read through this post, keep an eye out for some of the more creative categories books were listed under.


The Heaven & Earth Grocery Store by James McBride

Cover for The Heaven and Earth Grocery Store by James McBride.

 

This was the most popular book of all amongst the lists we pulled from, appearing on eleven out of twelves lists (all save for Book Riot). On a wandering trail between a murder mystery, an inherited store, and a love story, this book captured the hearts of many as it hit difficult themes. It appeared in several top lists of books such as top 10, 20, and 100 lists. It also was mentioned under the following categories and tags: adults, historical fiction, fiction, book club ideas, funny stuff, identity & culture, rather long, realistic fiction, seriously great writing, and literary fiction.


King: A Life by Jonathan Eig

Cover for King A Life by Jonathan Eig.

 

The second most popular book features Martin Luther King Jr. and appears on ten of the twelve lists. King: A Life was selected for many categories, especially those in the realm of history, biography, and memoir. Other categories and tags it was included with are best deep reads, eye-opening reads, rather long, seriously great writing, and essential reads.


The following books appeared on 9 out of 12 of the top lists of the year:

Chain-Gang All-Stars by Nana Kwame Adeji-Brenyah

Cover for Chain-Gang All-Stars by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah.

 

Adeji-Brenyah might be familiar to fans of his short stories. As his debut into the novel format, Adeji-Brenyah's vicious story has captured the attention of many. This popular pick appeared on several best and top book lists, and was noted under the following categories: debut, science fiction, and best fictional voices


Biography of X by Catherine Lacey

Cover for Biography of X by Catherine Lacey.

This fictional biography of alternate history appeared on several top lists. While being noted as a long piece of speculative fiction, Biography of X was also appreciated for having seriously great writing and one of the best fictional voices. It was also considered an essential read of the year. 


The Covenant of Water by Abraham Verghese

Cover for The Covenant of Water by Abraham Verghese.

 

Though this was a popular book to put on hold, some people were intimidated by its thick spine at check out. This book was noted for being a lengthy read on several lists while also appearing in categories for seriously great writing, tales from around the world, book club ideas, and family matters. It also appeared in more general categories such as Fiction, Literature, and Historical Fiction.


Tom Lake by Ann Patchett

Cover for Tom Lake by Ann Patchett.

 

Patchett returns with a book on family and love. In addition to being recognized as a notable book of the year, it was also acknowledged in the following categories: fiction, literature, love and romance, realistic fiction, family matters, book club ideas, and the states we’re in.


The following books appeared on 8 of the 12 lists:

North Woods by Daniel Mason

Cover for North Woods by Daniel Mason.

 

This Pulitzer Prize finalist was noted several times for being one of the best pieces of literary fiction and great historical fiction. It was also categorized as seriously great writing and a good pick for book clubs. 


Our Share of Night by Mariana Enriquez (translated by Megan McDowell)

Cover for Our Share of Night by Mariana Enriquez

Perhaps recognizable to some by its original Spanish title, Te tiran muertos, this book’s English debut made its way onto several annual best-of lists. You might notice, it is also the first horror and fantasy pick of the top lists. 


The Bee Sting by Paul Murray

Cover for The Bee Sting by Paul Murray.

 

The Bee Sting is an Irish tragicomedy with added nuance on a second read. This lengthy book appeared on several top lists and appeared in categories such as essential reads and best fictional families.


The Wager: A Tale of Shipwreck, Mutiny and Murder by David Grann

Cover for The Wager: A Tale of Shipwreck, Mutiny and Murder by David Grann.

 

After a flurry of fiction in the top lists, we finally have another nonfiction piece. While appearing under several lists’ history categories, this book was also noted for being an eye-opening read and one of the best page-turners. This was also a popular pick for our library readers! To our patrons who read it, what did you think?


Yellowface by R. F. Kuang

Cover for Yellowface by R.F. Kuang.

 

After an accident creates the opportunity for a manuscript to be stolen, it reappears already published by a new author. Yellowface appeared on some lists with creative category names including the most propulsive page-turners, the best books by hook or by crook, and the dark side. It also appeared under fiction, literature, realistic fiction, two different book club categories, and identity & culture. 


Some other popular books readers like you checked out:

Master Slave Husband Wife: An Epic Journey from Slavery to Freedom by Ilyon Woo

The cover for Master Slave Husband Wife by Ilyon Woo.

This biography features the fascinating true story of two enslaved folks disguising themselves to freedom, one acting as a white slave owner, and the other (her husband) pretending to be her slave. It was celebrated on several notable, must-read, and essential book lists of the year. It was also noted as one of the best page-turners. It appeared on seven of the twelve lists.


Pineapple Street by Jenny Jackson

 

Cover for Pineapple Street by Jenny Jackson.

Another popular book circulated amongst our libraries! Pineapple Street appeared on half of the top book lists we pulled from this year and was noted in categories such as debut and the best of novel rich people problems

Stay tuned for tomorrow’s blog post where we reveal the top ten circulating books across all three branches. 


*NPR’s list was around 3,600 titles long, so we elected to only pull from their books tagged as “Staff Picks.” 

This post was created in collaboration between Zaivy Luke-Aleman, Alison Robles, and Z. 

Zaivy is a Clerk I at the Will I. Grinton Library. She is a lover of fantasy, science fiction, and the stories data can tell us about ourselves.

Alison Robles is a Part-Time Junior Clerk at the Crestwood Library. She is an avid reader with a passion for YA lit, historical fiction and fantasy. A Yonkers native, she graduated from Iona University in 2020 with a dual-degree in Marketing and Public Relations. She is pursuing an MS in Information and Library Science from the University at Buffalo.

Z is the Branch Manager at the Crestwood Library. She enjoys booktalking and sparking people’s connections with books. When she is not  cultivating library experiences for patrons of all ages and matching people with resources ( a legacy of  doing so for over 30 years) she can be found walking in nature, paddleboarding or curled up fireside with PK, her cat and a good book.


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