2023 Reading Round Up

Wow… what a reading year 2023 has been!

I’m at 152 books read for the year at the moment, but I think I’ll finish my current read (How To Be A Writer by Marcus Berkmann) before the fireworks herald in 2024.

This is absolutely a reading record for me – I’ve never read this many books in a year before, and I’m almost a little embarrassed to admit how high the total is, because I’m pretty much against any kind of goal setting around total number of books read. This year has also been strange: I’ve not been working for good chunks of the year for health reasons and there have been days on end where I’ve been home alone, too ill to be at work or off enjoying life with my husband and daughter, and I have curled up and read… and read… and read.

Books are always a comfort to me. They’re a source of education, inspiration and entertainment, and are always my first choice of ways to spend downtime; more than television, movies, and even more than the various creative hobbies I keep telling myself I want to begin. In my wildest dreams, I’d play the keyboard, knit, and do watercolour painting… but in reality, whenever I consider those things, I see the time they would steal from my reading life, and go back to my books.

While I don’t ever set a target number of books to read, I do set some book-related goals each year. In 2023, my low ball goal was to read 20 books pre-owned by me before the start of 2023. I sailed past this, and read a total of 23 books pre-owned by me… which still left a rough count of 72 million books unread and on my bookcases. Eek. I also wanted to spend the year devoted to a year-long reading project, as I did in 2022 with War and Peace. For 2023, I decided to spend the year reading the Bible… this goal never stuck, and within days I abandoned the project. I didn’t replace it with another year-long read. My only other reading intention was to continue my wild love affair with the library, and I’m very pleased to say that this routine of regularly updating my holds list and replenishing my books at the local library is one of the biggest sources of joy in my life. In 2023, 42 books read were borrowed from the library… and a great many DNFs were from the library, too. I don’t track my DNFs anywhere, but I know there were many books I requested from the library on a whim, didn’t get into, and abandoned… I see this as no reflection on the author or the book. Maybe it wasn’t for me, but maybe it just wasn’t for me at that time.

This does mean that almost a hundred of the books I read this year were either gifted or lent to me this year, or bought by me this year. What can I say? I’m a compulsive book buyer, and I make no apology for this. [I do, however, make an apology for the amount of books I have ordered from Amazon, who treat workers poorly and refuse to pay tax. I broke up with Amazon in October 2023 and am now ordering my books from Waterstones, who I dearly want to succeed and remain open, and independent bookstores.]

Audiobooks made up 11 of my books read this year, and the reason that total is low and will probably stay low is because I am a huge podcast fan. All of my listening time is spent enjoying podcasts.

But what were my best books of 2023? Where do I even start? I’m a terrible book reviewer. In fact, I have little interest in discussing books after I’ve read them. My opinions go from; it was great; to, it was okay; to, it wasn’t for me. I love characters more than plot. Sure, plot makes things happen, but long after I’ve finished a book, it’s the characters I remember, not what they did.

Here is some attempt to classify my favourite books of 2023:

BEST AUDIOBOOK: Getting Better by Michael Rosen. In my house, we adore Michael Rosen, and this memoir details all kinds of stories from his life, focused on illness, loss, and recovery. Rosen reads the audiobook (a key requirement for me – I have no interest in an audiobook not read by the author) and I have wonderful memories of sitting on the pier in Saltburn listening, as I watched the last of the day’s surfers out riding the waves as it grew dark.

BEST MEMOIR: cheating already, you see? For Rosen’s was a memoir but I’ve fit him in another category, so that I can award this category to We Could Make This Place Beautiful by the poet, Maggie Smith. Gosh, what a book. Stunningly honest and raw and beautiful, this is Smith’s memoir based around divorce, unexpected life change, and charging forward to create something truly beautiful out of the ruins.

BEST EDUCATIONAL: A Girlhood by Carolyn Hays documents their experience of raising a transgender child, and includes such shocking details as relocating their family in order to keep their child safe in a Trump-led USA where rights for those who are ‘different’ are being stripped away. Everyone should read this book, whether you know or love a transgender person, or not.


  1. Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus – a million thank yous to the employee in Bradford Waterstones, who just before the end of 2022, encouraged me to add this book to my purchases. I was put off by the science word in the title (urgh!) and she encouraged me not to be.
  2. Vacationland by Meg Mitchell Moore
  3. Olympus, Texas by Stacey Swann – I requested this one from the library on the recommendation of Kelsey from The Girl Next Door, and after a considerable wait for it, I was eager to dive in. It did not disappoint. Dysfunctional family sagas are my jam, and this was definitely my jam
  4. To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee – my first time reading this classic, and it’s one of those books I mentioned, where the characters have stayed with me
  5. Mercury Pictures Presents by Anthony Marra – oh my gosh, the characters!! The characters!! Two very different point of view characters, and both were utterly believable, like I could have met either of them for lunch. If I wasn’t a person who likes to stay home and read
  6. Romantic Comedy by Curtis Sittenfeld – Sittenfeld is one of my all time favourite authors, and I was a little suspicious about this book. I don’t really read romance, or romantic comedy… but this book was just a joy
  7. Pineapple Street by Jenny Jackson – loved, loved, loved
  8. The Woman in The Library by Sulari Gentill – this cozy mystery was an absolute page turner
  9. Hello Beautiful by Ann Napolitano – this book is on everyone’s favourite list, and it’s on mine too… dysfunctional family saga, hello!
  10. Bad Summer People by Emma Rosenbaum – privileged people on expensive islands is another of my jams and I was here for every page of this
  11. I Have Some Questions For You by Rebecca Makkai – murders and mysteries at elite private schools is another of my jams, and this one did not disappoint
  12. Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver – my best friend urged me to read this one, which didn’t appeal right away for some reason. It took a good few pages for me to get into Demon’s voice, but with my best friend suggested this book may even be on a level with her all time favourite book (The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt), I knew it was serious, and continued on… and wow. What an incredible book. I also listened to Kingsolver being interviewed on The Ezra Klein Show about the book and that interview gave an extra depth to my enjoyment of the novel
  13. In Memoriam by Alice Winn – a heartbreaking novel about two young men, friends and lovers, who are sent off to war. We asked too much…


  1. Columbine by Dave Cullen – a fascinating and incredibly thorough analysis of the Columbine school shooting
  2. Love, Pamela by Pamela Anderson – loved this book and also the documentary about her; she’s such a fascinating person, and for bonus points look at the ways her sons cheer for her and support her on all of her Instagram posts, it’s the sweetest
  3. Bookends by Zibby Owens – Owens is something of an idol to me; a book mogul and a woman who comes from incredible wealth and is using that privilege for the best thing in the world… a literary life! I eMailed her after reading this, which I very rarely feel called to do, and she responded warmly, and within minutes!
  4. Forever Boy by Kate Swenson – Kate is the creator of Finding Cooper’s Voice, a popular blog and social media platform detailing life raising her non-verbal son, Cooper. As a special needs mom, I avoid most books about special needs parenting, but this was uplifting
  5. Girlvert by Oriana Small – I love a porn memoir, and this one was fascinating
  6. This Is Not a Book About Benedict Cumberbatch – I read this as part of the Best of Both Worlds’ Patreon book club; it’s a book about women’s hobbies and interests and passions, and I loved it
  7. On Writing by Stephen King – I’ve read this several times but this year I listened to the audio. It’s just a fabulous book for any writer or aspiring writer, even if you don’t enjoy King’s fiction (I’ve read very little of it myself – just The Dead Zone, I believe)
  8. How To Be Sad by Helen Russell – a really helpful book about the wide array of our emotions and why all of them, even the negative ones, are vital. In a world that can be consumed by toxic positivity, I really appreciated this outlook
  9. Monster Loyalty by Jackie Huba – this was a fascinating book about how Lady Gaga has built such loyalty from her Little Monsters (fans)
  10. Still Writing by Dani Shapiro

I need to end here, because the more I look over my books read list, the more I want to add to these lists!!


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