2023 was a fantastic reading year for me! I read 41 books, and many of those were 4 star reads, both fiction and non-fiction. I gave a preview of what I thought my top books might be in Favourite Books of 2023 (so far) and you can also check out my Mid year book freakout tag post. What were your best books last year? Without further ado, here are my best books of 2023!
Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell
I keep thinking about this book; a clear sign it’s a favourite! O’Farrell’s writing is beautiful, she really brought the characters to life. I enjoyed the focus on the house as the setting of Shakespeare’s family history. The work isn’t really about Shakespeare at all, it mainly looks at Agnes (Anne) and the children. The parts that I enjoyed the most where the chapter on the travels of the flea carrying bubonic plague, and the ending. Plus, the book gets bonus points for featuring herbal medicine! I would like to read more of O’Farrell’s work this year, perhaps The Marriage Portrait.
The Night She Disappeared by Lisa Jewell
Good ol’ Lisa Jewell, a reliable thriller author if there ever was one! These types of pulp books aren’t award winning, but they are the perfect “in-between” books for me. By this I mean books that I like to read in-between literary fiction or non-fiction, or for when I need an easy read to switch my brain off. Sometimes thrillers can blend together a bit if you read a lot of them, but the plot of this one has stuck with me for the whole year. It’s about a 19 year old woman who disappears on a night out, and a second timeline of the cold case investigation connected to an abandoned mansion.
Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer
Braiding Sweetgrass is a nonfiction work about appreciating nature. Dr Robin Wall Kimmerer’s book offers an oral history or storytelling of our relationship to nature, with a North American indigenous focus. Wall Kimmerrer’s beautifully-woven stories help readers to recognise and celebrate a reciprocal relationship with the natural world. Much of her focus is what the natural world can teach us, and respectful stewardship of the land. I particularly enjoyed her story about the three sisters. This is how beans, corn, and squash grow as companions in a symbiotic way, and is told through an indigenous storytelling lens. A must read for anyone interested in environmental issues/nature writing!
What Happened to You?: Conversations on Trauma, Resilience, and Healing by Bruce D Perry and Oprah Winfrey
What Happened to You? is a fascinating and difficult read. As the title suggests, it’s a conversation or interview-format exploration into the world of trauma, particularly childhood trauma. I would say that this is a core text to read for anyone who has experienced trauma, or works with those who have. Rather than looking at an individual’s situation or behaviour and think “what’s wrong with you?”, this book argues that a better question is “what happened to you?”.
The Bandit Queens by Parini Shroff
What a fun read! The characters were so funny, and the writing was pretty good. The protagonist’s (Geeta) husband disappears and everyone in her Indian villiage thinks she killed him. This reputation results in Geeta being approached by other women who want help “getting rid” of their husbands. The aspects I enjoyed most about this book were the themes about women’s empowerment/feminism, and classism (caste system). I felt transported to Geeta’s village for a first-hand glimpse of the struggles the women faced in rural India.
American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins
This was the last book that we read for book club in 2023. There were mixed opinions on it; some people felt it wasn’t believable. I personally loved the book and interpreted it more as a collection of fictionalised experiences of migrants trying to cross the US border. It’s about a mother and son from Mexico who end up as refugees fleeing from the cartel and making an arduous journey to cross the border. I couldn’t put it down!
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
I think this is the first fantasy book that I’ve read in quite a while. My brother gifted this to me for my birthday last year, and I wanted to wait until autumn/winter to read it because it has that kind of vibe. It was such a beautiful book, and it felt almost dreamlike to read, which makes sense since the circus is called Cirque des Rêves. I loved the plot, the characters, and the writing. It’s about two magicians (sort of) who come together in a remarkable way. It’s romantic, it’s whimsical, and it’s rhythmic in it’s narrative. Overall, a very enjoyable reading adventure and I look forward to reading The Starless Sea next.
The Lido by Libby Page – A cute book, easy to read, and I’d recommend it to most people, regardless of their genre tastes.
Outback by Patricia Wolf – A great thriller (detective novel), couldn’t put it down! I also enjoyed the sequel, Paradise.
Paula McLain – I loved McLain’s writing style in When the Stars Go Dark, though the plot of the book disappointed in the end.