Do you want to see what books everyone was talking about this year? Here, we’ll uncover the bestselling books of the year 2023 that were viral sales sensations readers loved. With these books, you too, can join in on the trends. See what made the list below!
About the List
Generally speaking, I heard a lot of “sales down” reports in the book industry in 2023, but definitely not as far as these books go, which sold in completely unprecedented and record-breaking numbers. A few trending topics that made for absolutely massive book sales for books published in 2023 were memoirs from extremely famous celebrities and the dragon fantasy romance series that completely swept readers away.
Book sales data can be decentralized and hard to track. So, here, I relied on a combination of data to come up with this list of bestselling books of the year 2023: Publishers Weekly (which covers the most vast array of reporting), news articles, GoodReads reviews and votes for the best books of 2023, and my personal experience in the book industry, from what books readers bought through my links and what everyone on social media was talking about this year.
To put the below numbers in perspective, a book can sell ~10,000 copies in a week and still make the best book lists. These books sold in the hundreds of thousands and millions.
Fourth Wing by Rebecca Yarros
- #1 New York Times bestseller
- Goodreads Best Romantasy Book on 2023
- #1 USA Today bestseller
- #1 Wall Street Journal bestseller
- #1 Sunday Times UK bestseller
- #1 Bestseller list Australia
- Amazon Best Books of the Year, #4
- Apple Best Books of the Year 2023
- Barnes & Noble Best Fantasy Book of 2023
- NPR “Books We Love” 2023
- Audible Best Books of 2023
- Hudson Book of the Year
- Google Play Best Books of 2023
- Indigo Best Books of 2023
- Waterstones Book of the Year finalist
- Goodreads Choice Award, semi-finalist
- Newsweek Staffers’ Favorite Books of 2023
- Paste Magazine’s Best Books of 2023
Why It Made the List: This dragon fantasy romance book was arguably the most viral book of the year. When word spread about how immersive, steamy, and suspenseful it was, it sold over 2 million copies in just about 6 months and even sold out for a time in print — something I haven’t seen happen before. It’s been extremely popular with readers of The Literary Lifestyle as well, and it was a five-star read for me.
In Fourth Wing (Book 1 in the Empyrean series), Violet Sorrengail is a 20-year-old resident of Navarre, and she’s about to enter Basgiath War College in the Scribe Quadrant, like her father, studying books and history. But, her mother, the General, has other plans and orders her to seek entry into the elite Riders Quadrant, which is extremely dangerous and deadly.
Violet is petite and frail, so she’ll have to fight extra hard not just to succeed, but also to survive, especially since people like the powerful Wingleader Xaden Riorson have it out for her. He, and many of the others, are only there because of the fallout from their parents’ rebellion, after which Violet’s mother executed them.
Circumstances may bring them closer than they ever thought they’d be, however, and it’s a heart-stopping journey of not just dragon riding, but also magical powers, mythical creatures, and even love.
Beyond the intrigue, there also remains an overarching theme about the re-telling of history that begins to reveal itself.
Iron Flame by Rebecca Yarros
- Instant #1 New York Times bestseller
Why It Made the List: The release of this book 2 in the Fourth Wing series was pushed up for the holiday season and sold over 584,000 copies in its first week. It has over 400,000+ GoodReads reviews in just about six weeks since its release, and it sold more than any other book ever with readers of The Literary Lifestyle. I read it and rated it 4 out of 5 stars.
Iron Flame is a long and epic sequel that spans two parts: the first is a slower-paced one dedicated primarily to character introductions, history telling, and fantasy world-building, and the second is a fast-paced action-packed battle of numerous forms against dark wielders.
It begins where the shocking finale of the first book left off, as Violet learns more about the big surprise that was dropped in the final pages.
This all sets the stage for more action and surprises than you can imagine, all leading to another shocking ending that leaves you wanting more. It’s a more difficult read in many regards, including its length, details, and pacing, but it is just as immersive.
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Spare by Prince Harry the Duke of Sussex
- #1 New York Times bestseller
Why it made the list: Prince Harry is one of the most famous and most controversial people in the world, so it’s no surprise that his revealing memoir broke all kinds of sales records worldwide, including the sale of 3.2 million copies in its first week alone. Those kinds of numbers are akin to another famous Brit named Harry — Potter! I rated it 5 out of 5 stars.
In Spare, readers finally hear the story of Prince Harry’s life in his own words (well, with the help of a ghostwriter). Prince Harry reveals what he was really thinking and feeling in the iconic moments the world watched him from afar, from the internationally televised funeral of his mother, Diana, the Princess of Wales, to finding love after grief and having a royal wedding.
Overall, Spare is worth reading, particularly given that Prince Harry’s main point is that his family and the British media have always delivered the stories of his life, rather than himself. It’s also a powerful rumination on childhood trauma and grief.
The Woman in Me by Britney Spears
- #1 New York Times Bestseller
- Winner of the 2023 Goodreads Choice Award for Best Memoir & Autobiography
- Named a Best Book of 2023 by ELLE, The Washington Post, Vulture, NPR, The New Statesmen (UK), The New Yorker, and more
Why It Made the List: Pop star Britney Spears’s memoir hit the top of Amazon’s charts a few times before its release, including after news of her teenage abortion of Justin Timberlake’s baby, which is detailed in the book, spread. For a time, I thought it may even surpass Prince Harry’s numbers based on what I was hearing in the book world. While it didn’t, it did rival those of the Obamas, selling 1.1 million copies in its first week alone, which is extremely rare. I rated it 4.5 out of 5 stars.
The Woman in Me reveals the impact that fame and generation trauma had on Britney Spears’s life. She gets extremely candid about many topics, most notably her relationship with Justin Timberlake (who’s referenced nearly as much as her family), as well as her conservatorship and every other notorious moment of her very public life.
Even if you already know the most shocking details she reveals, there’s a lot more to the story, and reading it in full makes a lot of things “make sense” about her life.
Yellowface by R.F Kuang
- Instant New York Times bestseller
- Reese’s Book Club pick
- GoodReads Choice Awards Best Fiction Book of 2023
Why It Made the List: Yellowface is all about the “buzz.” Between Reese Witherspoon promoting this literary suspense thriller to everyone on social media raving about it, readers picked it up in droves and devoured it. The most notable statistic is that it scored over 200,000+ votes to earn the coveted title of GoodReads Best Fiction Book of the Year, and no other book even came close. To me, this shows true mass appeal. I rated it 5 out of 5 stars and named it one of my own favorite books of the year as well.
Yellowface takes the modern thriller and pushes it to the next level, as it goes beyond gratuitous crime and tackles topics like diversity through the lens of copyright infringement, as the suspense builds.
It’s about a struggling writer who adapts the work of her successful author friend after her unexpected death. It weaves in even more thought-provoking plot lines about who owns a cultural story, as it also gives you a behind-the-scenes look at book publishing and internet scandals.
It’s a book that really makes you think about diverse storytelling in different ways than ever before and is hard to put down.
Since I only included 5 books in my list of bestselling books of the year 2023, I wanted to at least mention a few other books that sold really well and got rave reviews and accolades, in case you want even more recommendations.
Emily Henry is always an insanely popular author, and her 2023 release Happy Place was no exception to that rule. Readers loved it, and it’s garnered a whopping 600,000+ reviews on GoodReads this year.
David Grann’s The Wager: A Tale of Shipwreck, Mutiny, and Murder was one of the most popular non fiction books of the year, selling over 400,000+ copies. Grann is known for immersive narrative non fiction, including Killers of the Flower Moon, and was also a top pick by former U.S. President Barack Obama.
Ann Patchett’s Tom Lake sold over 300,000+ copies and was universally praised (it’s one of my own favorite books of the year). Contributing to its popularity is the fact that actress Meryl Streep narrates the audiobook.
The Heaven & Earth Grocery Store by James McBride has also been picking up steam, especially after being named Barnes & Noble’s Book of the Year and one of Barack Obama’s favorite books of the year. It’s sold 250,000+ copies to date.
The bestselling books of the year 2023 that went viral with readers follow the trends of celebrity memoirs and fantasy series. Even when sales numbers were generally down, these books broke records and had everyone talking. If you’re looking to start 2024 by reading a hit, pick up one of these books.
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