As a community of book enthusiasts, we understand that rating and interpreting books are a subjective experience. But as someone who loves reading, I find it exciting to discover new books that have been recognized for their excellence by people who have a deep understanding of literature and have won awards themselves. This often leads me to explore genres I don’t typically read, and I’ve been lucky enough to discover some amazing authors in the process. Looking back, I’ve compiled a comprehensive list of award-winning books 2023 had to offer, including those that not only won the most coveted awards but also received multiple honors from prestigious literary and nonfiction awards.
This selection offers a diverse range of books, from poignant stories that connect deeply to your soul to dark fairytales with cunning princesses. All the books on this list have something unique to offer and have been recognized for their top-tier storytelling.
I’ve included some of the most prestigious literary awards, such as the Pulitzer Prize, Nobel Prize in Literature, or the Booker/International Booker Prize. There are also genre-specific awards, such as the Hugo and Nebula Awards. Moreover, I’ve included details about numerous awards and medals that are dedicated to recognizing and celebrating authors and illustrators of color.
It’s important to note that some of the books that received awards in 2023 were originally published in 2022 due to the different timings of the awards. This is a great opportunity to catch up on books you might have missed and discover the hidden gems that were celebrated during the award season!
Let’s dive in!
Award-Winning Books 2023: Adult Fiction + Nonfiction
Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver
Awards: Pulitzer Prize for Fiction (co-recipient), Women’s Prize for Fiction, James Tait Black Memorial Prize, Andrew Carnegie Medal Longlist
Inspired by Charles Dickens’s David Copperfield, this novel is set in the Appalachians in Virginia. We follow the titular Damon Fields, aka Demon Copperhead (nicknamed for his equally fiery attitude and red hair), through his childhood to adulthood as he learns how to survive through poverty, addiction, and family instability.
The Heaven & Earth Grocery Store by James McBride
Awards: Kirkus Prize, Barnes & Noble Book of the Year, Amazon Book of the Year
The story is set in Pottstown, Pennsylvania, in the 1920s-30s, featuring a diverse cast of characters, including Jewish immigrants and African Americans. When a skeleton is found in a well in a Black neighborhood, the plot shifts back in time to tell the story of Moshe and Chona. Obama also picked this book as one of his favorites of the year!
Nettle & Bone by T. Kingfisher
Awards: Hugo Award for Best Novel, Nebula Award Finalist
Marra is one of three princess sisters from the Harbor Kingdom. However, she has grown up in a convent as a reserve, while her sisters have been destined to be married off. In a desperate attempt to save her sister, she seeks the help of a witch who gives her three seemingly impossible tasks to accomplish. If Marra can successfully complete the tasks, she will be able to free her sister and kill the abusive prince.
Stay True by Hua Hsu
Awards: Pulitzer Prize for Memoir or Autobiography, National Book Critics Circle Award (2022), Andrew Carnegie Medal Longlist
In his memoir, New Yorker writer Hua Hsu recounts his experiences through the lens of his 18-year-old self, talking about his family and, most significantly, his friendship with Ken, a Japanese-American friend from college. Hsu describes the guilt he felt after Ken was shot and killed during their junior year, and he learned to cope.
The Black Period: On Personhood, Race, and Origin by Hafizah Augustus Geter
Awards: Lambda Literary Award, PEN Open Book Award, Chautaugua Prize Finalist
Geter’s memoir is a literary work of art that showcases her poignant storytelling skills. As a renowned poet, she offers a unique perspective on her own coming-of-age journey, exploring the complex dynamics of her identity as the daughter of a Nigerian Muslim mother and an African American father. Throughout the book, Geter seamlessly weaves in elements of history and art, creating a captivating snapshot of her life and the world around her.
Award-Winning Books 2023: Children/Middle Grade/YA
Freewater by Amina Luqman-Dawson
Awards: John Newberry Medal, Coretta Scott King Book Award
This middle grade novel tells the story of Homer, a 12-year-old boy, and his sister Ada, who escape slavery from a plantation in search of freedom. While separated from their mother, they meet a man named Suleman, who takes them to Freewater, a community established by former enslaved people and their children.
When the Angels Left the Old Country by Sacha Lamb
Awards: Stonewall Book Award Winner, Michael L. Printz Honor, Sydney Taylor Award Winner, Audiofile Earphones Award Winner, National Jewish Book Award Finalist
In Lamb’s historical fantasy, also called a “queer immigrant fairytale,” we follow the adventures of an angel and a demon, both of whom are the last supernatural creatures in their community. The representation is amazing and a new take on classic Jewish stories.
We Deserve Monuments by Jas Hammonds
Awards: Coretta Scott King John Steptoe Award for New Talent Winner
Hammonds’s award-winning YA novel tells the story of Avery, a teen who is moved from the busy Washington D.C. to a small Georgia town as her mother cares for her ailing grandmother. Unsure how she’ll be accepted as one of the few Black girls in her school, Avery is sure her senior year will be a bust. But as she begins to learn more about the town’s history and the life of her grandmother, what she finds may split her family apart.
Hot Dog by Doug Salati
Award: Caldecott Medal
This picture book tells the story of a curious and overheated pup who just wants to cool off on a hot day.
For more award-winning book recs, check out these other great lists: