Viget's Favorite Books of 2023

Laura Sweltz, Director of UX Research and Strategic Initiatives

Article Category: #News & Culture

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A collection of staff favorites from 2023.

Viget is full of readers and we’re excited to share some of the books we loved this year with you. These aren’t necessarily books published in 2023 — just books that we read and enjoyed this year. Without further ado, our 2023 favorites:

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet


My underwhelming single sentence summary is that this book is the heartwarming story of a multi-species crew going on a space voyage.

BUT IT'S SO MUCH MORE THAN THAT. I laughed, I cried, I couldn't put it down. I've been recommending this book to my friends who are sci-fi curious but not committed. It's got an optimistic take on sci-fi's reflection of reality, an incredibly fun & dynamic cast of characters, and a simply devourable pace.

But wait, there's more! It's also part of a series! You can read the Wayfarers series in any order, technically – but I am glad I read them in order of publication. The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet was a lovely introduction to a universe that I couldn't get enough of. While I was sad to move on from the truly lovable crew of TLWTASAP (the other books each center on different characters), I highly recommend the subsequent books as well.

Recommended by Lexie Garcia

Ways of Being: Animals, Plants, Machines: The Search for a Planetary Intelligence James Bridle


James Bridle's followup to New Dark Age is a smart, insightful, and compassionate book about the more-than-human world and non-human intelligence from mushrooms to elephants to cars that drive themselves.

Recommended by Max Fenton

A Face Like Glass


Delightfully weird and creative. Hardinge's imagination takes you by the hand into a weird and cutthroat 'Alice in Wonderland'-esque world where cheeses can help you see the future, wines can erase your memories, and facial expressions must be learned. Great for both middle-grade AND adults.

Recommended by Nathan Long

The Dark Fantastic: Race and the Imagination from Harry Potter to the Hunger Games


I wanted to pick a fiction book for my top because that's most of what I read, but I think my favorite is actually this one.

This book is nonfiction that explores how characters from minority backgrounds (specifically black characters) are portrayed in young adult and children's media, citing examples from Harry Potter, the Hunger Games, the Vampire Diaries, and Merlin. Thomas talks about how there is a gap in our collective imagination, which makes it difficult for us to imagine beyond certain stereotypes and archetypes, especially when translating from book to screen. It's a thought-provoking read woven with some of Thomas's own experiences. Even if you haven't watched or read all the things mentioned in the book, it's easy to grasp the concepts Thomas presents.

If you are interested in diversity in media, want to revisit some fan favorites from an angle you may not have considered before, or maybe you're a writer yourself, then this one's for you. And the cover is *gorgeous* so get yourself a physical copy.

Recommended by Jackie Yu

Necessary Trouble


This memoir explores what it was like to be a young woman growing up in the 1950s and 60s. A child of privilege in segregated Virginia, Faust’s immovable sense of self navigates her through the feminism, civil rights, and antiwar movements of the time. This memoir has a historical fiction feel (Faust is a historian by trade) as it reports on the author’s own family history with as much attention as that of the nation’s political climate. As a fan of memoirs, “Necessary Trouble” is one of my favorites.

Recommended by Stephanie Fois

A Day of Fallen Night


I read a lot of fantasy this year and while I also enjoyed Fourth Wing like so many folks, A Day of Fallen Night was my favorite book this year (that also happens to feature dragons, apocalyptic evil, and romance). This is the rare prequel that lends depth to a prior story (Shannon's The Priory of the Orange Tree) while managing to maintain a sense of suspense. You know in broad strokes where the story will finish, but the details and nuance along the way can still be surprising. Also, I get the sense that Shannon is just a lot more comfortable in this world on the second go around.

Recommended by Jackson Fox

Food of the Gods: The Search for the Original Tree of Knowledge


An exploration of humans' symbiotic relationships with plants and chemicals within prehistoric partnership societies and introduces the concept of the "stoned ape" theory.

Why you might care: Why, as a species, are humans so fascinated by altered states of consciousness? Can altered states reveal something to us about our origins and our place in nature?

Recommended by Owen Shifflett

Whale Star: The Gyeongseong Mermaid


It's a Webtoon (scrolling comic) of a Korean manhwa (korean version of Manga). It's a retelling of Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Little Mermaid" set in Korea when it was under colonial Japanese rule. It's a gut-wrenching story about a handmaiden that gets wrapped up in a rebellion against the Japanese occupation when she saves an independence fighter. It's a beautiful comic, both the story as well as literally the artwork. If you like period pieces and a good cry, this is a great one.

Recommended by Megan Raden

Dory Fantasmagory


Dory, aka Rascal, is your typical 6 year old. Armed with a wild, sometimes dark, imagination, she creates a world of crazy games, unusual ideas, and unique perspectives on the mundane. Take Mrs. Gobble Gracker, Dory's long-time nemesis who is 507 years old with sharp teeth and a penchant for stealing baby girls. Scary and dark? Maybe. Endlessly funny to an almost-5-year-old and his parents? You bet.

What started out as an answer to my search for something that would encourage my son's eagerness in learning to read, has become a 2023 highlight for everyone in the family. We've read all 6 books in the series this year and will continue to re-read them in the one to come. They're just too much fun to read to sit on the shelf for long.

Recommended by Liz Quann

Sea of Tranquility


Knowing this book centered around a pandemic, I was skeptical about it being too "on the nose," but I was delightfully wrong. This book is about love and time travel, weaving together shifting storylines across centuries in an artful, powerful, and beautifully subtle way.

Recommended by Hannah Byers



There’s nothing I love more than spooky season reading. This novella caught my eye while browsing autumnal recommendations at Phoenix Books in Burlington, VT. It’s flown under the radar so I’m very grateful that I stumbled upon it. This short but impactful tale of a woman trying to figure out who she is somehow manages to be both cozy and unsettling. It’s the perfect book to sit down with on a fall day and consume in one sitting.

Recommended by Laura Sweltz

If you’re interested in purchasing one of these books, we encourage you to order it from an indie bookstore. If you don’t already have a go-to indie, you can check out some of our favorites here. Feel free to share your favorite books from 2023 in the comments. Happy reading!

Laura Sweltz

Laura is Viget's Director of UX Research and Strategic Initiatives. She works from our Durham, NC office, where she helps clients like Rotary International, AARP, and Time Life understand the needs and behaviors of their users.

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