My 2023 Reading Year + 10 Favorite Books

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I had really grand plans for my reading year. I was going to read more books than I’ve ever read in a year.

But things definitely didn’t turn out that way. If you follow me on socials or get my newsletter, you probably already know this. But in February I tore my ACL, and I can’t help but think that that major life…interruption…impacted my reading life.

And I think there’s something to that, because I read way more books I LOVED later in the year than I did earlier in the year.

Another reason I think my reading struggled a bit this year? My business of this blog. It grew a lot this year, and my plans for this space and the things I’m working on in this space grew a lot with it. I definitely found myself with weeks where I felt obsessed with this work that I love and reading a lot less.

So how will reading look in 2024? Hopefully better than 2023. I want to read more books that I love. Spend more time reading. And set better boundaries with other things in my life to make sure I prioritize reading time. You know, the normal goals that most people set for their reading lives in the new year.

But hopefully this year I won’t have a major injury and surgery that derails me. *knock on wood*

So, here are my 10 favorite books I read in 2023. Some are new releases, some are backlist. They are in the order that I read them here.

The Hero of This Book by Elizabeth McCracken

Is this memoir or fiction? Supposedly it’s fiction, but it closely aligns with McCracken’s own life and the loss of her mother. In it, she (the fictional author) travels to London to recreate a trip she and her mother took while she reflects on the life of her mother and her own grief. It’s a beautiful book and also very slim. Perfect for fans of memoir and literary fiction.

Take Good Care of the Garden and the Dogs: A True Story of Bad Breaks and Small Miracles by Heather Lende

I’ve been wanting to read this book for awhile and picking it up after my ACL tear was the perfect time. In this book, Lende reflects on her Alaskan community and how important they are to her and how they helped her heal after a terrible accident (she was runover by a truck and had a crushed pelvis). It’s a beautiful and reflective book that made me want to travel to Alaska. For fans of memoirs.

The New Guys: The Historic Class of Astronauts That Broke Barriers and Changed the Face of Space Travel by Meredith Bagby

I’m pretty sure every 90s kid when through a phase where they were fascinated by the Challenger disaster. I definitely did. And being from the Rocket City and learning so much about space growing up, I could not WAIT to read this history of the Space Shuttle program. And I LOVED it. It really focuses on the first class of shuttle astronauts, which included the first women and people of color in space. And of course a big chunk of it deals with the Challenger disaster. I thought it really was a page-turner, and it’s perfect for fans of narrative non-fiction.

Happy Place by Emily Henry

Okay, so this probably isn’t my favorite Emily Henry book. But I still adored it and it deserves a spot on my favorites of the year list. In it, a couple who broke up months ago travels to Maine with their friends for their annual vacation. But they never told anyone that they broke up, and now they have to keep up the charade of their relationship so they don’t ruin the week. For fans of rom-coms.

Hula by Jasmin ‘Iolani Hakes

I listened to Hula on audio and loved the whole experience. It’s about three generations of women on Hawaii: a grandmother who is a famous hula teacher, a mom who has turned her back on hula, and a daughter who dreams of winning Miss Aloha Hula but doesn’t really feel like she fits in with her community. It’s about family and community and history and colonialization and it’s just so dang good, especially on audio. For fans of family sagas.

Sam by Allegra Goodman

This is the kind of book that I traditionally love, one where not a ton happens but everything happens. It’s just about a girl name Sam who is growing up. She loves her dad, but he’s not always around. She sometimes struggles to get along with her mom. She falls in love with rock climbing. She has confusing relationships. This book perfectly describes what it feels like to be a pre-teen and a teenager, and while that may not sound fun to revisit, Allegra Goodman writes it in such a gentle and compassionate way that this is one of those books I clutched to my heart when I was done. For fans of quiet fiction.

A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra

Here it is. The best book I read all year. It’s NOT an easy book, and definitely comes with some content warnings. But it’s also the most beautiful book I’ve read in a long time. It’s about the wars between Russia and Chechnya, and it starts when Ahkmed rescues a young girl across the street whose father has been taken. They go to a nearby hospital, because for some reason the people who took the girl’s father also what the girl and Ahkmed things a local doctor can protect the girl. But the doctor is also preoccupied with the disappearance of her own sister. This is a book of interweaving lives and plotlines, and it’s just unbelievable. For fans of literary fiction.

The Cheat Sheet by Sarah Adams

Sometimes books meet you just exactly when you need them. And while a lot of times that is the case for more reflective books, it can also be the case for rom-coms. This was exactly what I wanted to read while the Taylor/Travis relationship excitement was percolating in society. It’s about Bree, a dancer, and Nathan, her BFF who also happens to be an NFL quarterback. And she definitely can’t let him know that she is secretly in love with him. It’s absolutely adorable. For fans of rom-coms.

Warrior Girl Unearthed by Angeline Boulley

This is the second book in the Firekeeper’s Daughter series and I highly recommended reading the first book first to avoid spoilers. I also highly recommend listening to these books on audio. In Warrior Girl Unearthed, we follow Perry Firekeeper-Birch (Daunis’s niece) as she reluctantly takes on a summer internship and then becomes fully invested in recovering the stolen sacred items of her ancestors. For fans of YA suspense.

Daughters of the Flower Fragrant Garden: Two Sisters Separated by China’s Civil War by Zhuqing Li

I had no idea I was going to find this book so fascinating and learn so much Chinese history I didn’t know! This is a true story about the author’s aunts, two sisters who were unintentionally separated for decades when one sister went on vacation and then was unable to return home once the communists took over. I learned so much about communist China, but also about Taiwan and the way China’s conflicts changed the course of so many lives. The book did such a great job of showing how specific policies had individual impacts. It was so fascinating and perfect for fans of narrative non-fiction and political histories.

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