My Favorite Books 2023

My Favorite Books 2023

book recommendations a lively hope

2023 was my best reading year yet, both in number and in quality of books. One thing I love about getting older is that I have gotten to know my own reading tastes so much better. I have no issue saying “not right now” if a book isn’t working for me, which allows me to read more books (because I don’t get stuck behind a book I’m not interested in) AND I’m able to find more books that I know I’ll love.

This year I read 138 books, which is 14 more than my previous highest total (last year I read 124). I reread a couple of books (Project Hail Mary with my 14 year old and Help Thanks Wow: The Three Essential Prayers with a family book club), but other than that these were all new to me.

I tried to limit this to 10 books, but just couldn’t leave some of these off the list. So 19 books it is, and please know that I wanted to include even more but had to force myself to stop!

Favorite Fiction

Jayber Crow by Wendell Berry

This has been on my list for a very long time. I’m slowly working my way through the whole Port William series. This book is pure comfort and came along at just the right time. I just love getting to know the characters in this beloved series even better. It’s a quiet, character-driven novel where not a whole lot happens, but sometimes that’s exactly what I want.

Tom Lake by Ann Patchett

No one is surprised that this book made my top of the year list. It was such a treat to listen to Meryl Streep read the audio and I just fell in love with this beautiful fictional family. I’m in a season of life where I want to hear all about the long-lasting love stories. Give me all the couples married for 20+ years who still love to be together. Give me all the close families with grown, or nearly grown children who still want to be around their parents (even if it is due to quarantine). Give me all the grown children getting to know who their parents actually are/were.

The Covenant of Water by Abraham Verghese

An absolutely incredible epic family story that begins in India in 1900. We follow a family across multiple generations, all the way to 1977. This book has many moving parts and distinct timelines and additional characters that criss-cross each other and then all come together in the end.

Everything Sad is Untrue by Daniel Nayeri

This middle-grade story of an Iranian immigrant boy and and his family was a highlight of my reading year. I loved Daniel’s knack for storytelling and how we slowly learn more details about the beautiful and heartbreaking moments in his life. I just loved it.

Sold by Patricia McCormick

This short but powerful novel was difficult to read, but I have found myself thinking about it often since I finished it almost a year ago. It’s about a young Nepalese girl, sold into prostitution. It’s heartbreaking and hopeful.

Go As A River by Shelly Read

I absolutely loved this book. It takes place in Colorado in the 1960s, as the tiny town of Iola is set to be destroyed by a river being dammed. It’s about first love and strength in the face of an impossible situation. I could not stop reading.

Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus by Dusti Bowling

This middle-grade gem was absolutely delightful. I told my kids about it (didn’t read it to them, just told them the story) and they still talk about the protagonist of the story all the time. Aven Green was born without arms, and this is her story. Her parents are a perfect balance of loving and able to challenge her to do things on her own. She makes friends and solves a mystery and this was a perfect gentle read in the middle of some harder books.

As Long as the Lemon Trees Grow by Zoulfa Katouh

This was such a beautiful story set in Syria. It’s about bravery and taking care of those you love and the strain of constant stress/danger/fear on our mental health. It’s a YA love story, and while I tend to steer very clear of those, this one was not at all annoying.

The Yellow Wife by Sadeqa Johnson

This was another hard but hopeful story (a definite theme in my reading life). Pheby is a woman born into slavery. She is promised her freedom when she turns 18, but that promise is not kept. She is brave and kind and overcomes the cruelty she faces.

Starling House by Alix E. Harrow

I’m a huge Alix Harrow fan and I’ve read almost everything she’s written. This is my favorite of hers, which is saying something. The perfect blend of gothic spooky, magic, and found family. This book is a prime example of why I don’t choose my favorites of a year until the year is completely over. I finished it on December 30th and it was a highlight of the year for sure.

Dead Eleven by Jimmy Juliano

This was juuuust the right amount of creepy for my sensitive self. A perfect October read.

Emily Wilde’s Encyclopedia of Faeries by Heather Fawcett

Loved, loved this book about a grumpy young professor who is an expert on faeries and her research adventures. This book is magical and dark and smart. It is set in a cold and snowy place, making it a perfect winter read. I also read The Grace of Wild Things by the same author and loved it.

Honor by Thrity Umrigar

The gorgeous and heartbreaking story of two couples in modern India. The themes included love, hope, betrayal and honor.

Favorite Non Fiction

How the Word is Passed by Clint Smith

This is a history road trip all Americans need to take. Clint Smith tackles racism and the long-term effects of slavery in America with such gentleness. This going on my must-read for my homeschool high schoolers list. It left me feeling hopeful for the future rather than defeated, even though we obviously have a long, long way to go.

You Could Make this Place Beautiful by Maggie Smith

Remember how I mentioned earlier that I want all the long-lasting marriage stories? This is not that. But it is a powerful and inspiring look at grief and and heartbreak and a guide for rebuilding a new life after your old life is shattered. I loved the writing style and just could not put this book down.

Some Writer! The Story of E.B. White by Melissa Sweet

I have long maintained that Charlotte’s Web is the best children’s book ever written and my love for E.B. White goes just as deep. This was an easy introduction to his life and would make a great read aloud, though I enjoyed it just as much reading it by myself.

Know My Name by Chanel Miller

This was a HARD book to read, trigger warnings abound for sexual assault. But goodness it was impactful. A must read for all teenagers, I think, as a way to open up dialogue on consent and respect.

Magic Season by Wade Rouse

This memoir of a son and his father took me by surprise. I was absolutely enthralled and could not stop reading. I sobbed my way through it, which is a good thing in my opinion. 🙂

Tattoos on the Heart: the Power of Boundless Compassion by Gregory Boyle

Beloved founder of Homeboy Industries tells his story of working in gang-prevention in Los Angeles. This story made my heart grow three sizes.

What books did you love in 2023?

3 thoughts on “My Favorite Books 2023

    • Author gravatar

      Wow Heidi! I love your lists!! I’ve tagged several of these to read!! Thanks for the suggestions! While I admit to not being a voracious reader, I think I read more than than 20 this year!! I really liked Anxious People by Fredrik Bachman. Be careful not to read any spoilers. I also really like Forty Autumns by Nina Willner and The Choice by Dr Edith Eger. Oh and Remarkably Bright Creatures by Shelby Van Pelt was fun.

    • Author gravatar

      I added just about all of these to my Libby wishlist. Thanks for much for sharing your books – I have found so many winners over the years through you. Do you have a good source for book ideas? Or are you just so lucky?

    • Author gravatar

      That’s awesome, great job! I love Fredrik Backman! I’ve read everything he’s written. The Beartown series is incredible, but really hard and it took me a while to feel like I could read past book one. But I loved it in the end; he’s such a powerful writer. I’m adding Forty Autumns to my list, and The Choice has been on my radar for a while but I just haven’t gotten to it yet. I’ll have to bump it up the list.

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