This Is the Best Book of the Year, According to Barnes & Noble and Amazon

Barnes & Noble booksellers and Amazon editors pored through this year's new releases, and both came to the same conclusion: This is the best book of 2023.

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If you’re in search of a guaranteed good book, you’re in luck: It’s the season for anyone and everyone to look back on what they read and select the best books of the year. Book lovers around the world will fill their already overflowing TBR list with the year’s standout titles (or maybe it’s just me). And what better way to kick things off than with a pick from the two biggest book retailers around?

Barnes & Noble and Amazon both just released their annual best books list, and they agreed that The Heaven & Earth Grocery Store by James McBride wins the top spot this year. Read on to learn about the book and the other top books of 2023.

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What is The Heaven & Earth Grocery Store about?

The Heaven & Earth Grocery Store is a gorgeously written fiction book about a community in Pottstown, Pennsylvania, where marginalized groups and their stories weave together.

When it opens, it’s 1972, and the police have just found a skeleton at the bottom of a well. Before they can gather the remains, a hurricane sweeps through—and sweeps away the evidence. The novel rewinds to 1925, transporting readers to a thriving community where Jews like Moshe and Chona Ludlow, owners of the Heaven & Earth Grocery Store, live side by side with African Americans like Dodo, a deaf boy the Ludlows help hide when the state comes to institutionalize him. As the fates of these and other characters unfold, their stories come together with humor and heart.

McBride is no stranger to national awards—his previous book, Deacon King Kong, was an Oprah Book Club pick and one of the New York Times‘s Best Books of the Year. He also received the 2013 National Book Award for fiction for The Good Lord Bird.

How did Barnes & Noble choose its best book of the year?

According to Barnes & Noble, booksellers vote annually for the books that made the biggest impact that year—those they’re proudest to sell. While this year, the votes produced a wide array of titles and book genres, there was one book that seemed to make a significant mark.

“Everyone who reads The Heaven & Earth Grocery Store becomes a passionate advocate for the book. You just want others to share in the sheer pleasure it gives,” said Barnes & Noble CEO James Daunt. “In James McBride’s The Heaven & Earth Grocery Store, we have a stunningly good 2023 Book of the Year, one in which we take great pride and great joy in celebrating. Please read it!”

Barnes & Noble also announced that David Grann is the inaugural winner of its Author of the Year award, honoring achievements that span from the 2009 publication of The Lost City of Z to the 2023 release of The Wager and the film adaptation of 2017’s Killers of the Flower Moon. “Grann’s writing style, mixing thriller-like stakes and riveting history, solidifies him as one of the literary world’s essential nonfiction voices,” Barnes & Noble wrote on its site.

How did Amazon choose its best book of the year?

The Amazon editors choose their top 100 books by reviewing more than a thousand titles first. From there, they whittle the list down to 10 books—and only one gets the coveted No. 1 spot. This year, they announced that The Heaven & Earth Grocery Store came out on top.

“Between dragon-filled romantasy (Fourth Wing by Rebecca Yarros), murderous senior citizens (Holly by Stephen King) and the definitive biography of a legend (King: A Life by Jonathan Eig), this year’s Best Books list truly has a great read for everyone,” said Sarah Gelman, editorial director for Amazon Books. “But it was James McBride’s The Heaven & Earth Grocery Store that our team unanimously fell in love with, wanting to spend time with the residents of Pottstown, Pennsylvania’s Chicken Hill neighborhood long after the last page was turned. Centered on a mysterious murder, it is, at its heart, a story of how powerful communities can be and what it means to be American, and it’s also a hopeful (and sometimes hilarious) reminder of our own capacity for kindness and compassion.”

Barnes & Noble best books of the year

Barnes & Noble announced 12 finalists for Book of the Year, and they cover everything from fiction to nonfiction to cookbooks and poetry books. Don’t miss these must-reads:

  1. The Heaven & Earth Grocery Store by James McBride (winner)
  2. Yellowface by R.F. Kuang
  3. The Creative Act: A Way of Being by Rick Rubin
  4. The Berry Pickers by Amanda Peters
  5. Let Us Descend by Jesmyn Ward
  6. The Wager by David Grann
  7. The Puppets of Spelhorst by Kate DiCamillo
  8. The Story of Art Without Men by Katy Hessel
  9. Chili Crisp: 50+ Recipes to Satisfy Your Spicy, Crunchy, Garlicky Cravings by James Park
  10. Fourth Wing by Rebecca Yarros
  11. Zilot & Other Important Rhymes by Bob Odenkirk
  12. Divine Rivals by Rebecca Ross

Amazon’s best books of the year

Amazon produces a list of 100 best books in genres ranging from biographies and true crime to literary fiction, horror and more. Some of the top picks are:

  1. The Heaven & Earth Grocery Store by James McBride (winner)
  2. The Berry Pickers by Amanda Peters
  3. The Art Thief: A True Story of Love, Crime and a Dangerous Obsession by Michael Finkel
  4. Fourth Wing by Rebecca Yarros
  5. King: A Life by Jonathan Eig
  6. Wellness by Nathan Hill
  7. The Covenant of Water by Abraham Verghese
  8. Holly by Stephen King
  9. Elon Musk by Walter Isaacson
  10. Small Mercies by Dennis Lehane
  11. Hello Beautiful by Ann Napolitano
  12. The Wager by David Grann

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  • Barnes & Noble: “Our 2023 Book of the Year: The Heaven & Earth Grocery Store by James McBride”
  • Barnes & Noble: “Best Books of the Year”
  • Amazon: “Best Books of 2023”

Brianna Bell
Brianna Bell is a writer contributing all things bookish to Reader's Digest. Her work has been featured in the New York Times, the Globe & Mail, the Guardian and many other national and international publications. When she's not writing, she's reading, browsing bookstores or adding to her TBR list.