It’s Time for the 8th Annual Book Oscars!

There are a lot of ways to reflect on and categorize one’s reads from the previous year, but the thing I like to do is to award “Book Oscars” for the books I read! Looking back over all the books I read in 2023, here are the awards I’m handing out for 10 different categories. (These categories change somewhat from year to year, depending on my reading trends at the time!)

Roll out the red carpet your reading blanket and put your hands bookmarks together for the 8th annual Book Academy Awards! Let’s get started…

Marble stairs with red carpet, and text on image that says "The Book Academy Awards"
The House of Mirth (Oxford World's Classics)

Best Heroine: Lily Bart from House of Mirth by Edith Wharton

What a fascinating, dynamic lady Miss Bart is! Far from perfect, I nonetheless couldn’t help but admire you. You are an absolute queen at the intricate social game played by those glitzy New York elite. And I loved seeing that you had more depth than at first met the eye. I sound like Lawrence Selden now, don’t I? You win the prize, Lily, and you’ll take down the house yet again.


Best Hero: Piranesi from Piranesi by Susanna Clarke

You’re such a question mark, Piranesi, but I couldn’t help but find you endearing when you took such care of the albatross, or the Biscuit-Box Man, or the way you were so tuned in and reverent towards the House and its tides. Since artifacts are important to you, I hope you will find a cherished alcove for your “Best Hero” trophy, and may it remind you of the worth you already possess.

The Old Curiosity Shop: A Tale (Penguin Classics)

Best Villain: Daniel Quilp from The Old Curiosity Shop by Charles Dickens

I could say that I detest you, Quilp…but I know that would only make you laugh, and you would probably turn a somersault in your grotesque glee. You’re the most villainous villain I came across in my reading travels last year, and although you’re memorable, I’m glad we can part ways! Watch your step.

The Woman in Black: A Ghost Story

Best Setting and Descriptions: The Woman in Black by Susan Hill

Ms. Hill, how did you manage to create such an un-scary yet perfectly haunting horror tale? I think it was your godforsaken setting and that creepy Eel Marsh House. You painted chilling pictures with words that I can still see in my mind when I look, even on the cheeriest, sunniest days.

The Carver and the Queen

Best Young Adult Novel: The Carver and the Queen by Emma C. Fox

I didn’t know all the artistry and magic I would find in the Ural Mountains, or the deep-rooted legends…what a world you spun for me, Emma Fox! Thank you for creating praiseworthy characters and giving them such an exciting, vivid story to inhabit! (Readers, here’s my full book review of The Carver and the Queen.)

The Star That Always Stays

Best Middle Grade Novel: The Star that Always Stays by Anna Rose Johnson

Miss Johnson, I think your novel is categorized as “middle grade” for library purposes, but everyone who reads it will know it’s for children and adults alike! For my part, I couldn’t be more thrilled that there are still “old-fashioned” books being written today. Yours speaks to the heart of all of us who love Anne Shirley and Betsy Ray and their literary cousins. Please, please write more books about Norvia, would you?

He Who Whispers

Best Mystery: He Who Whispers by John Dickson Carr

Goodness Mr. Carr, you’re always good at atmosphere but this one really takes the cake! Or…the Book Oscar, rather! Those hazy, dreamy days on the French estate, and then the deep, muffled green of the New Forest–I could feel myself there! And what a clever impossible crime! Crimes, I should say. This is going to be one of my favourites of yours; one I’ll surely reread.

The Lost City of the Monkey God: A True Story

Best Nonfiction: Lost City of the Monkey God by Douglas Preston

What a gripping novel true story, Mr. Preston! This was so adventuresome it felt like fiction, but all the more fascinating that it’s true. I loved visiting Honduras with you and finding the ancient Ciudad Blanca, learning about the beautiful and deadly Mosquitia rain forest and learning about lidar technology. I’m sorry you got cursed, but it did make for a great story!

Shirley Jackson: Novels and Stories (The Lottery / The Haunting of Hill House / We Have Always Lived in the Castle)

Best Short Story: “The Lovely House” by Shirley Jackson

Trust you Shirley Jackson to think up a weird dream like this! You showed me it was actually a nightmare so subtly, so gradually, it was positively chilling. And it was a lovely house…I’m just glad that I, at least, can leave it!

Hannah Coulter

Best Book: Hannah Coulter by Wendell Berry

This was a hard award to choose, but ultimately Mr. Berry’s quietly-powerful novel was the best book I read in 2023! Thank you, Wendell Berry, for setting yourself the task of writing from Hannah’s perspective, and for creating such an achingly thought-provoking read. I will cherish the wisdom in this book for years to come.

Red velvet seats in a theater facing a lighted stage with closed red and gold curtain

What are your Book Oscars?

Your turn! Sort your 2023 reads by Best Heroine, Best Book, etc. and share in the comments section, if you like! Your categories might look different from mine, based on your reading habits. For instance, if you read a ton of historical fiction or parenting books or biographies, you might give those their own categories.

Book Oscars from Past Years

Here are the other previous book award season winners:

It\'s Time for the 8th Annual Book Oscars!

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  1. My personal list:

    Best Heroine: Mina Murray/Harker; Dracula, Bram Stoker
    Best Hero: either Dr. Seward, Dracula, or Lord Peter Wimsey, Strong Poison, Dorothy L. Sayers
    Best Villain: Carmilla; Carmilla, Sheridan Le Fanu
    Best Romantic Storyline: Lucy Honeychurch & George Emerson; A Room With a View, E.M. Forster
    Best Setting and Descriptions: Dracula, Bram Stoker
    Best Dialogue: The Picture of Dorian Gray, Oscar Wilde
    Best Series: Narnia, C.S. Lewis
    Best Short Story: The Adventure of the Red-Headed League, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
    Best Comedic Work: Three Men in a Boat, Jerome K. Jerome
    Best Non-fiction: Agricola & Germania, Tacitus

  2. Best Heroine: Elnora in A Girl of The Limberlost by Gene Stratton-Porter

    Best Hero: Alessandro in Ramona by Helen Hunt Jackson

    Best Villian: The Minotaur in The Squirrel-cage by Dorothy Canfield Fisher

    Best Setting and Descriptions: Villette by Charlotte Brontë

    Best Young Adult Novel: Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

    Best Middle Grade Novel: Understood Betsy by Dorothy Canfield Fisher

    Best Comedic Novel: The Napoleon of Notting Hill by G.K. Chesterton

    Best Series: the six books about The Chautauqua Girls

    Best Short Story: The Nutcracker and the Mouse King by E.T.A. Hoffman

    Best Book (other than A Girl of The Limberlost): The Bent Twig by Dorothy Canfield Fisher

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