Hello, 2024! I wonder what great books we’ll read this year? The possibilities are endless 📚❤️.
Before we dive into 2024, let’s take a look back at our favorite reads of 2023. Just a few of us had a chance to weigh in, but we ended up with quite the list! These aren’t all books that came out in 2023 — just the ones we read and loved throughout the year.
Here’s our list — what were your favorites? Let us know in the comments!
Sadly, my life doesn’t currently allow much time for reading wonderful, physical books…but since I have to drive quite a bit, Rebecca Yarros, Jennifer L. Armentrout and Sarah J. Maas’ worlds have kept me company via audiobooks this year!
Fourth Wing by Rebecca Yarros
This became a gateway title into the Romantasy genre! The audiobook was so engaging and exciting that I found myself wishing for a bit more traffic! I have been in the middle of another series, but can’t wait to read the sequel!
A Court of Thorns and Roses series by Sarah J. Maas
Feyre and Rhysand have probably been my favorite duo of all the series to date, but I also enjoy their little group of comrades! I didn’t want the books to stop because I was loving how each “sidekick” character was getting their time in the spotlight! Hoping and waiting for more, but am also excited to get into Sarah J. Maas’ other series!
Blood and Ash series by Jennifer L. Armentrout
Currently finishing up the fourth book in the series and while The War of Two Queens has been my least favorite title, the series as a whole is another wonderful combination of spicy romance, war and drama. I did initially miss the memo about the Flesh and Fire series interconnecting, so I have read the books slightly out of optimum order. Correcting that after this one!
I’ve binged so many books this year (I can’t decide is KU is the best or the worst thing ever, I could honestly read everything 😂 )
My highlights in 2023 were:
Days at the Morisaki Bookshop by Satoshi Yagisawa, translated by Eric Ozawa
This was such a feel-good book that gave me cosy vibes. The main character escapes to her uncle’s second-hand bookstore after a break up where she heals both her and her uncle’s hearts. I loved the main characters and the story so much, I bought a physical version from my local bookstore and it’s sitting proudly on the shelf.
The North Wind and The West Wind by Alexandria Warwick
Fantasy re-tellings of popular fairytales but based on the four seasons from Greek mythology. The North Wind is a Beauty and the Beast inspired story and The West Wind is based on the Scottish ballad Tam Lin. They are chunky books but have the perfect amount of plot, description and character development. I’m (trying to) patiently wait for the next book.
The 13th Witch by Mark Hayden
An ex-MI5 agent is recruited by Odin to find a young witch who’s gone missing from her school. This is probably my most recommended book of the year. The fact that Hayden’s MC decides that the giant mole living underneath London needs to be recognized for his service and appoints him the “Lord Mayor of Moles” (complete with gold jewelry) had me in stitches.
My reading goal in 2024 is to slow down my reading so I can take the books in completely. I’ve decided to take part in a War and Peace readalong hosted by Simon Haisell on Substack to help with this.
2023 ended up being kind of a nuts year for me, and in the fall I just completely let go of my reading goal and just read what I could, when I could. It really ended up making me feel calmer! So, I’m setting my goal for 40 this year (I hit 39 in 2023) and just going with the flow. I’ll hit it or I won’t, and it won’t matter either way.
As I look back on my 2023 reads, none of them really stand out over all the others, but there were a handful of really great 5-star books.
The River You Touch: Learning the Language of Wonder and Home: Making a Life on Moving Water by Chris Dombrowski
Listening to this book (on audiobook) was like sitting in a therapy session. Dombrowski’s friend Jeffrey Foucault reads it and plays guitar for the transitions, and it was just perfection. I loved Dombrowski’s musings on being a human on this Earth and learning to live alongside nature, including raising a family while trying to live responsibly.
If you like this quote and memoirs in general, you’ll probably be as swept away by this book as I was:
“We are matter and long to be received by an Earth that conceived us, which accepts and reconstitutes us, its children, each of us, without exception, every one. The journey is long, and then we start homeward, fathomless as to what home might make of us.”Chris Dombrowski
For more of my thoughts, check out my full review of The River You Touch.
The House on Sun Street by Mojgan Ghazirad
This book might have had my favorite fictional character of the year, Moji. She’s bright, inquisitive, and growing up in a fraught country where she has to navigate changing attitudes, laws, and family dynamics. This book was beautiful and definitely stands out as one of the best I’ve read this year.
A little about it: “For the curious and imaginative Moji, there is no better place to grow up than the lush garden of her grandparents in Tehran. However, as she sits with her sister underneath the grapevines, listening to their grandfather recount the enchanting stories of One Thousand and One Nights, revolution is brewing in her homeland. Soon, the last monarch of Iran will leave the country, and her home and her family will never be the same.”
For more of my thoughts, check out my full review of The House on Sun Street.
There’s No Coming Back from This by Ann Garvin
I just love Ann Garvin’s writing. She has this humor that I love, plus the ability to make a lighter story really mean something. This one is about a woman (a mom) in mid-life, just trying to make ends meet by taking a big chance on a job on the other side of the country. Oh, and it’s on a movie set.
To me, Ann hits just the right measure of entertainment and meaning, and therefore I’m a forever reader of hers.
For more of my thoughts on this one, check out my full review of There’s No Coming Back From This.
Bomb Shelter: Love, Time, and Other Explosives by Mary Laura Philpott
I think 2023 is the year that I really fell in love with audiobooks. It’s been such a slow burn for me! I didn’t like them at all when I first tried them, but slowly kept at it as I realized that I could then read more by fitting them into my life when I can’t sit down and pick up a book. I started really getting into them more later in 2022, but my love for them cemented in 2023. Bomb Shelter was one of them that did the cementing.
Mary Laura Philpott is just a master at taking everyday life and turning it into these bits of glorious stories that all come together to form a glimpse of the beauty and pain of being alive. And then, she reads the audiobook version of her own writing, and it all just comes together to create one of the best memoirs I’ve read.
The best part is, this is the second year in a row that Bomb Shelter has made it onto our best of list. It was on Katie’s list in 2022!
A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
This is an older book and a re-read that I’m reading along with my students. Reading it again has reminded me how much I love this book for the way it demonstrates character development and circular storytelling and how it ties together decades of Afghan history through the stories of women. While often hard to read, it’s beautifully written and contains threads of redemption and hope in the face of extreme difficulties.
Matrix by Lauren Groff
I don’t quite know what to say about this book that chronicles the daily life of a French abbess, the nuns in her care, and the abbey she runs except to say that it is instantly compelling. Groff can describe the most basic facets of human life right up against heavenly mysteries and somehow it works.
The Frozen River by Ariel Lawhon
Set in Maine in the 1790s, this felt like a unique spin on both the historical fiction and mystery genres. Martha Ballard is a midwife in Hallowell, Maine who is summoned to inspect the body of Joshua Burgess, a murder victim found in a frozen river. Martha has been preparing to testify in a case the named Joshua and another powerful townsperson as criminals and the book weaves together that case with Martha’s attendance at births and her interactions with her family. Expertly researched (Martha Ballard was a real person) and compellingly told.
We Don’t Know Ourselves: A Personal History of Modern Ireland by Fintan O’Toole
Known for both his research skills and his humor, O’Toole’s personal history of the Ireland he grew up in has the information of a nonfiction book combined with the flow of a good novel. A must read for anyone interested in the history of Ireland, with wider cultural observations that ring true in any number of places.
It’s so hard to narrow it down, but here are all my 5 star reads for the year so far:
How High We Go in the Dark by Sequoia Nagamatsu
This novel in stories explores the lives of myriad characters as they battle a deadly virus unleashed from the frozen body of a girl discovered at an archeological site in the Arctic Circle.
Deeply emotional and utterly raw, this book shows humanity in all its beauty and its ugliness as the disease terrorizes generations across the globe. It is both heartbreaking and full of hope for the future.
A Psalm for the Wild-Built by Becky Chambers
In this quirky sci-fi novella, Chambers has created a lovable duo in tea monk Sibling Dex and their unexpected companion, the robot Splendid Speckled Mosscap. I think Dex’s sense longing for a sense of fulfillment and their struggle to find contentment in their work is very related for a lot of people in their twenties and thirties who have chosen a path for themselves but aren’t quite sure if they’re fully settled in it yet.
Dex and Mosscap challenge one another’s thinking and ultimately try to find an answer to Mosscap’s question, “what do people need?”
Emily Wilde’s Encyclopaedia of Faeries by Heather Fawcett
Emily Wilde brings together two of my favorite qualities in a book — an academic main character and enchanting fantasy elements. It strongly reminded me of Marie Brennan’s A Natural History of Dragons series, which I read years ago and still adore.
Lovable characters, dangerous faeries, and an adventure into another realm made this a highly enjoyable and entertaining read. I’m very much looking forward to reading book 2 next year.
Everyone in This Room Will Someday Be Dead by Emily Austin
Austin’s novel captures the experience of millennial disillusionment mixed with anxiety and depression as Gilda stumbles her way into working as the receptionist at a Catholic church. An atheist and a lesbian, Gilda pretends her way through her new job in an effort to bring some sense of stability to her life while she navigates dating and strained relationships with her parents and brother.
Witty, funny, and oddly relatable. I found it hard to put this one down.
What My Bones Know by Stephanie Foo
One of the few books I’ve read that has made me cry, and probably the only one that’s pulled both happy and sad tears out of me. Foo’s memoir of her abusive childhood and her journey learning about and healing from CPTSD cuts to the quick, but ultimately leaves readers with a hopeful outlook as she finds joy in the family she’s created for herself and her own resilience.
If We Were Villains by M. L. Rio
A murder at a small arts school haunts this novel and its main characters, a group of seven Shakespearean actors who are each other’s closest friends and greatest rivals. Smart and beautifully crafted, this book kept me guessing until the end.
That’s it! Are any of your favorites on our list? What did you love in 2023?