A Year in Books: My Top 10 Reads of 2023
I just love books. eBooks, audiobooks and good old-fashioned paper books. And despite what you might think, I’m not all about romantic comedy.
Like each reading geek, I set myself a goal. I tend not to go bragging about it on social media since it’s a sure-fire way to fail, but this year, aimed high – telling myself if I tried really hard, I might get through between 30 and 40 books. I’m like a cat with two bum holes over the fact I just finished my 41st book and am eagerly eyeing a seasonally apt 42nd – just in time for the holiday season.
This year’s reading journey was a mix of old and new, with a sprinkle of mainstream and obscure. I found myself parting ways with two books after a few chapters, despite their critical acclaim – a reminder that reading tastes are deeply personal. From the captivating to the cathartic, each book offered a unique experience, making the task of selecting a top ten both challenging and delightful. Think of this as my 2023 book recommendations.
Best books of the year
1. “Really Good, Actually” by Monica Heisey: This book lives up to its title and then some. It’s a poignant, laugh-out-loud journey that resonates deeply with the messiness of modern life. Monica Heisey has crafted a narrative that is both relatable and refreshingly honest. She’s working on a second novel – I can’t wait.
2. “Anxious People” by Fredrik Backman: It’s been a Backman kind of year for me. I got into him through ‘A man called Ove’ (see below), but this tense thriller.mystery fuelled by everyday anxious people is something I can only dream of writing. I want to get into the Beartown series, but I’ve struggled so far.
3. “Brit-Marie Was Here” by Fredrik Backman: More of the great man. This book took me on an emotional rollercoaster. It’s a masterpiece that tugs at the heartstrings, reminding us of the power of resilience and the beauty of finding oneself. And sort of made me think I might find a way into Beartown if I try harder.
4. “Strange Sally Diamond” by Liz Nugent: A thrilling ride from start to finish. Nugent has a gift for creating atmospheric narratives that are both chilling and utterly compelling. This is one for the re-read list!
Living up to the hype
5. “Yellowface” by R.F. Kuang: A book that lives up to its hype, offering a nuanced exploration of identity and appropriation. While it loses steam towards the end, its overall impact remains powerful.
6. “A Man Called Ove” by Fredrik Backman: This is the one that kicked me off on reading everything I could find by this brilliant writer – only one of his stand-alone books failed to make my 2023 top ten, but it’s not a million miles short of the list. This book though is an exquisite exploration of the human condition. This book is a blend of humour and poignancy, capturing the essence of life’s unexpected friendships and the beauty hidden in everyday moments.
7. “Over Sharing” by Jane Fallon: ‘Just got real’ had me convinced that one of the writers I loved with every bone in my body had lost it. ‘Over Sharing’ was a bounce back to form. A witty, insightful examination of modern relationships. It’s a book that both entertains and provokes thought, making it a truly engaging read.
8. “The Burnout” by Sophie Kinsella: Kinsella is someone else I used to love, but of late had been off her game – for me, anyway. She made a triumphant return with this relatable, heartwarming story. It’s a refreshing take on the challenges of balancing life’s demands and finding oneself amidst the chaos.
An unforgettable read
9. “The Vanishing of Margaret Small” by Neil Alexander: This book took me by surprise with its masterful storytelling. Alexander crafts a narrative that is both intriguing and deeply moving, making it an unforgettable read.
10. “Romantic Comedy” by Curtis Sittenfeld: A delightful read t hat had a similar feel to a great TV show that grabs you in season one, but starts to lose its power by season three. Not that any part of it is bad. I just needed a bit more. It’s still in my top ten though, so I’m nitpicking.
And finally … an honourable mention to Bella Mackie’s ‘How to Kill Your Family’ – a book that narrowly missed this list but deserves recognition for its dark humour and sharp insights.
My next read
What books have kept you up late this year? Share your recommendations for my bookshelf so I can get started on the next big read. I’m about to dip my toes into the ever-brilliant Tina Baker’s ‘Wash me Clean’, so I might need something a bit lighter after that.