My Favorite Books of 2023

This is one of my favorite posts to write! I have loved reading for as long as I can remember, and writing my monthly book posts helps me better track what I read. When I pick my favorite books for the year, I go through those posts and think about which books has really stuck with me since I read them. To me, that’s what makes a book one of the best! These aren’t in order of favorites, just in the order I read them throughout the year – starting in January and ending in December. Here are my favorites books that I read last year.

I’m Glad My Mom Died by Jennette McCurdy

(Content warning: addiction, parental abuse, anorexia/bulimia) While this was a relatively quick read (or listen, in this case), it was also really difficult because the material is so, so heavy. Jennette was a child star (I was a little too old for her shows, but knew of her of course) whose decision to go into acting was largely decided by her mother, who pushed her every step of the way – often in incredibly unhealthy ways. As Jennette got more roles, her mom only got more controlling and restricting. It’s incredible to see the “work” Jennette has done since her mom’s death, to reclaim her life and try to reshape her mind in a more healthy way.

Clytemnestra by Costanza Casati

(Content warning: rape, violence) My knowledge of ancient Greece and Greek mythology is spotty at best – I know the big names, but not some of the less well-known ones, which is to say that Clytemnestra’s story was completely new to me. It took me a little bit to really get into the story, but I ended up loving it – she was a fierce female warrior and queen. Clytemnestra was trained as a warrior from youth, but found her life upended when her husband was murdered and she was told she’d be marrying Agamemnon, who was involved in the plot to murder her first husband. But Clytemnestra continued to fight – for power, for freedom, for herself. I found myself fully immersed by the end.

I Have Some Questions for You by Rebecca Makkai

(Content warning: sexual assault) I could not put this book down – I think I finished it in less than 24 hours because I just wanted to know what was going to happen. Bodie Kane is a film professor, podcaster, and alum of the Granby School, a boarding school in New Hampshire. During her senior year at Granby, her once roommate, Thalia, was murdered, supposedly by an athletic trainer at the school. When Bodie agrees to teach a short course at Granby, she finds herself increasingly obsessed with the case, and finds herself wondering if they convicted the wrong person. It’s part dark academia, part thriller, part social commentary, and just all around good.

She Is a Haunting by Trang Thanh Tran

This book was completely engrossing – if you are a fan of magical realism or gothic horror, I think you’ll love this like I did. Jade agrees to spend five weeks of her summer in Vietnam with her estranged father in exchange for him paying for her first year of college that she’ll be starting in the fall. While she’s there, she and her sister are supposed to be helping their father renovate an old French colonial house he’s living in, to turn it into a b-and-b. But as soon as Jade arrives, she’s woken up at night in a state of paralysis, and visited by ghosts of the house who leave her with strange and cryptic warnings. Things continue to unravel, and it get increasingly difficult to tell what’s real and what’s not. This was so wonderfully strange.

Meet Me at the Lake by Carley Fortune

I love Carley Fortune’s romances! Fern and Will spent one magical day together years ago, when both had partners, and haven’t seen each other since. Which is why Fern is shocked when Will shows up at the lakeside resort she’s recently taken control of after her mother’s death, only to learn that Will had met her mother there the summer before and agreed to help her make some changes to the property. Fern agrees to let him help, and the two start to get close again, but the memories of what happened years ago still loom over their heads. Is it too late for them now? This was sweet and yet deep, too – the ending was maybe a little quick, but it’s a perfect summer read.

Happy Place by Emily Henry

At this point, I will read anything and everything that Emily Henry writes! Harriet and Wyn have recently broken off their engagement… but no one knows, including their close friends from college, who they’re reuniting with to spend a week at their friend’s lake house (Harriet’s “happy place”) before it’s sold. They have to spend the week hiding their breakup from their friends and pretending like everything is fine, while trying (somewhat unsuccessfully) not to slip back into old relationship habits. The storyline jumps back and forth between present day to various points in the history of Harriet and Wyn’s relationship, as we try to understand what exactly went wrong. As someone in her 30s, I also really loved the storyline about college friendships growing and changing as people grow and change, and needing to figure out that new dynamic, too. I really loved this, but it’s not exactly a light rom-com – Emily Henry compared it to Maroon by Taylor Swift, and that feels right.

The Wind Knows My Name by Isabel Allende

I don’t think there’s ever been an Isabel Allende book that I haven’t loved, and this one is no exception. It weaves together two storylines beautifully – we begin by following the story of Samuel, who is separated from his family as a very young boy for his safety after Nazi attacks in Austria. Years and years and years later, another young child, Anita, is fleeing with her mother, and the pair also end up separated. As a social worker and lawyer work to help reunite Anita with her mother, the Anita and Samuel’s stories are told, first separately, and then intertwined. This was such a beautiful story about family and home!

Fourth Wing by Rebecca Yarros

I have really rediscovered my love for fantasy over the last few years – even better if it’s romantasy (romance + fantasy). Fourth Wing is about as romantasy as it gets! Violet is a first-year student at Basgiath, where you go to learn to be a dragon rider… if you survive. There’s also a love triangle of sorts, and political machination, and family betrayal. But my favorite part is that Violet (just like the author!) has a connective tissue disorder that’s the equivalent of what we would consider EDS, and the book has some really great moments talking about disability and accommodations, just using other words.

Yellowface by R.F. Kuang

I raced through this book – I could not put it down! June and Athena both graduated from Yale the same year, and both published their debut novels at the same time, but while Athena’s career took off, June’s has been floundering, and she’s a little bit bitter. So when Athena unexpectedly passes away with a finished (but not yet submitted) manuscript for her next novel, June decides to steal it and pass it off as her own. June makes excuse after excuse for herself and her actions, and works hard to keep the truth concealed. It’s so interesting to read, because she is truly the epitome of an unlikeable character, but I could not stop reading! It’s not subtle – there’s an excellent rationale for why people shouldn’t tell stories of identities that aren’t their own – but it’s SO good.

Where You See Yourself by Claire Forrest

Wow, I loved this book so much! It’s a coming of age and coming of acceptance story about Effie, a high school senior who is dealing with all the typical teenager issues – friends, her crush, college applications – but also uses a wheelchair. The story follows Effie throughout her senior year, as she goes to classes and student council meetings, applies to colleges and goes on campus tours, and dances the night away at prom. It also follows her grappling with her disability, and learning how, and when, to speak up for her needs. I just really loved how Effie’s disability was handled in the story – you can really tell that the author is also disabled. It’s a story that I wish I could have read when I was younger, and one that I’m so glad is around for the next generation of disabled youth.

The Seven Year Slip by Ashley Poston

This is an incredible rom-com of a book – I think I finished it in about a day because I just didn’t want to put it down. Clementine is a book publicist in New York City who is incredibly committed to her job – especially after losing her aunt, who she was very close with, and moving into her apartment. The apartment in which one day, Clementine finds out she has a new roommate, a man who her aunt promised the apartment to for the summer… seven years ago. Clementine’s aunt had always told her the apartment was a little bit magic, and it turns out she was not wrong. But what happens when you start to fall in love with someone who is living seven years in your past? I loved this so much!

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

I loved this book about the power of books and stories! A.J. Fikry is a bookstore owner on a small island, who lives alone in an apartment above the bookstore after his wife died very young. Then one day, a small child is abandoned at the shop, and while he says there’s no way he can be a father, he finds there’s also no way he can not be a father, and his life is changed. The book is written backwards – Fikry is writing letters to someone about the importance of different books he read throughout his life at the beginning of each chapter. This is by the same author as Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow, and while the content is very different, the writing is just as beautiful. It’s a moving story about the power of books and love.

As Long as the Lemon Trees Grow by Zoulfa Katouh

The story is both beautiful and heartbreaking. Salama lives in Syria, and was a pharmacy student until bombs started going off regularly in her country. Now, she works in a hospital, helping to save the victims that come in daily. Though she is dedicated to her work, and to the loyalty to her country, she also dreams of escaping, to save the life of her pregnant best friend / sister-in-law Layla, so that she doesn’t give birth in the midst of war. Though she knows she needs to go, Salama can’t quite force herself to leave her country. Salama has to decide her place in the ongoing revolution. This story is just incredibly powerful.

The Second Chance Year by Melissa Wiesner

A friend recommended this cozy romance written by a local author, and I’m so glad I read it! Sadie is going through a rough time after losing her job, getting dumped, and losing her apartment, so when she’s offered a wish on New Year’s Eve, all she wants is the chance to re-do the last year of her life. She just knows that if she could do it all over again, she’d make better, more mature choices. But she’s still shocked when she wakes up on New Year’s Day and realizes that her wish has been granted. Sadie has the chance to undo some of the damage from the last year – but sometimes, the things that seem light mistakes turn out to be blessings in disguise.

Shop the books:

Leave a Reply