In 2023, we want cozy books! Seriously, I feel like the older I get and the more stressful my life becomes, the more rom-coms I read. I want my books to be nice, warm hugs! The InBetweenDrafts Books section treasures our romance reads, but we also read our fair share of interesting, thought-provoking fantasies and adventures. Read on to discover our best books of 2023 so far.
Begin Again by Emma Lord
Emma Lord never misses with her contemporaries, and Begin Again is no exception. This book felt refreshing because it focuses on characters in their first year of college. Andie, our overachieving heroine, self-identifies as a “Fixer” and thinks she has her own life all figured out. Boy, is she wrong! Freshman year is a time of growth and finding your true purpose, and Lord nails that journey for Andie. Also, Milo is the perfect caffeine-crazed, grumpy, sweet hero and I love him. — Abby Petree
Renaissance faires and a cute boy playing a lute—what more could you ask for?! Seriously, this is the cozy rom-com of my dreams. The story begins with Maddie grieving the death of her mother when she meets Arthur, who is determined to be her best friend. I love sunshiney, relentless boys, and Arthur is that to a T. Ashley Schumacher really focuses on the relationship between our two main characters, Arthur and Maddie, in this novel, and they’re both so sweet and broken, it makes my heart melt! — A. P.
Lola at Last by J. C. Peterson
I never thought that I would root for Lydia Bennet! J. C. Peterson is a wizard. I loved her retelling of Mary Bennet’s story, so I had to pick this one up, despite never liking Lydia, known as Lola Barnes in this retelling. I respected that she didn’t soften Lola’s personality to make her likable. She’s selfish, self-centered, and vain in the beginning, but she slowly grows to become a better person. Also, her love interest is also another sweet, soft boy! –– A.P.
Happy Place by Emily Henry
For a book twinged with such aching nostalgia and what if’s, Happy Place is yet another escapist read from author Emily Henry. Her best offering yet as well as her most mature, Happy Place is an engaging, and charismatic read with lovable, yet flawed characters and relationships that show the weight and weather of time and distance. Henry has become as popular a name as can be in the lit world over the past few years, with her books Book Lovers, People We Meet on Vacation, and Beach Read amassing a large fanbase. Her latest takes the strongest pieces of all three, culminating in a story that excels both in fleshing out fully formed platonic and romantic relationships, with the romance at the heart producing plenty of swoon-inducing moments. — Allyson Johnson
In her contemporary fantasy debut, author Rochelle Hassan delivers an intoxicatingly vivid world filled to the brim with enriched characters. Honoring the myths and mythmakers of classical lore and fairytales while adding her own unique colors, Hassan’s ability to blend fantasy with realism creates something refreshingly new. Our three protagonists — Aziza, Leo, and Tristan — are lovable and all tasked with their own individual challenges that require the help of others. Their wonderfully fleshed-out dynamic is aided by detailed worldbuilding, no corner untouched by Hassan’s vivid fantastical elements which give the novel its sense of atmosphere and unyielding wonder.
Only the start to what will be a trilogy, Hassan’s gorgeous prose and immersive world-building marries whimsy with horror, darkness with light, romance with friendship, and possibilities with regrets with a deft, assured hand. You’ll need the book pried from your fingertips in order to put it down. — A. J.
In the Lives of Puppets by TJ Klune
With some of author TJ Klune’s greatest worldbuilding to date, In the Lives of Puppets is a story enriched with the follies of humans, the minute of time, and the magic found in discovery. Set in the future, the story follows Victor, his android father, Gio, and the other two androids who live with them. Their peaceful world is disrupted though by the arrival of the android Hap, a key to Gio’s dark past and the fall of humanity.
One of Klune’s darkest novels out of his latest, it’s startling in how it engages with the true horrors of the world without relying on overt violence. While the central romance is enchanting in its own way, it’s lore that Klune has created and the history of this version of the world that manages to truly cast a spell — both blinding in its brilliant beauty and brutality, one that looks to unearth humanities greatest flaws and capacity for empathy. — A. J.
Quietly Hostile by Samantha Irby
Samantha Irby has become a pivotal voice in humorist essayist literature and Quietly Hostile is yet another hilarious, painfully insightful installment from the author. From detailing her experience writing for major television series such as And Just Like That to the awkwardness of casting her likeness for a failed adaptation of her earlier books, Irby continues to take a scalpel to the realities of the creative lifestyle of a writer. On the flip side, she delivers personal anecdotes about the mundanity of freelance schedules, the pain of being dismissed by teens, and some truly heinous detailing of some of the more intimate moments of life. Witty, dry, and bound to make you laugh hard enough that your stomach hurts, it’s yet another must-read for one of the funniest writers working today.
In Memoriam by Alice Winn
This book was devastating. I had a visceral, gut-punch reaction to every page and I still felt hope that the two main characters–doomed unrequited lovers–would find each other despite being two men in the middle of World War I. I need this to be a long drawn out BBC series almost as much as I want it read it again for the first time. — Brianna Robinson
Emily Wilde’s Encyclopedia of Faeries by Heather Fawcett
This was a charming, slow burn of a novel that felt a lot like one of my other favorites, An Enchantment of Ravens by Margaret Rogerson. I loved the cozy worldbuilding and grumpy meets sunshine relationship that brews and I’m desperate for book two. — B. R.
To Shape A Dragon’s Breath by Moniquill Blackgoose
I felt that this book was a revolution. The storytelling and worldbuilding and the pure power and hope that radiated with every page awed me. It was absolutely gorgeous on audiobook and is the type of book that needs to be listened to because the prose lends itself so beautifully to being read. — B. R.
Hell Bent by Leigh Bardugo
This series is so much fun. Alex Stern is unapologetic and I love her for it. And the House System at Yale and occult nature of the story deeply intrigued me. I can’t wait for what comes next for these characters. — B. R.
Highly Suspicious and Unfairly Cute by Talia Hibbert
Talia Hibbert is one of my favorite romance authors. Her books are so charming and funny and her writing always makes me feel better about the world. Her debut YA novel was no exception. — B. R.
Isle of Gods by Amie Kaufman
I will read anything Amie Kaufman writes and I’ll probably love it. Her fantasy worldbuilding and penchant for found families in her stories are some of the reasons I love her writing. The Isle of Gods is rollicking and adventurous and had a hint of a romance and quickly became a favorite read of the year. –B. R.
The Endless War by Danielle Jensen
The Bridge Kingdom series is one of the most entertaining audiobooks series that I’ve ever binge-listened to. Between the romance, the twists, the political mechanizations of all the characters, I recommend the books daily. This book, the most recent in the Keris and Zarrah’s story, deserves all the hype that TikTok has heaped on the series. — B. R.
Images courtesy of Macmillan/Wednesday Books/Harpercollins/Penguin/Roaring Brook Press