1.3.24

The 10 Best Books I Read in 2023

I am excited to share the 10 best books I read in 2023 with you today! This is always a fun list for me to put together — and I always love hearing about what other people’s favorite books of the year were, so please drop them in the comments below. Reading has been a lifelong passion of mine — and after having put reading for pleasure on the back burner during undergraduate (2009-2013) and graduate school (2015-2016), I am glad that I rediscovered reading for fun in 2017. I’ve shared my tips for reading more before, but my number one tip is to find the type of books that you love reading, and read more of those. Don’t ever let anyone make you feel bad for reading what you love!

I read so many great books this year — and to make this “best of” list, it was bit of an art and a science. I went through all the books I rated five stars on Goodreads (the science part) and combined that data with the books I couldn’t stop thinking about long after I read them (the art part).

As a reminder, you can read fully summaries of all the books I read this year here, here, here, and here. (A note that moving forward, I am not going to be doing these quarterly recaps of what I’m reading — I’ll still be sharing my book reviews over on Instagram though!)

Before we dive in, I also wanted to share my reading stats for the year. I started keeping track of the number of books I read each year back in 2017, and setting a goal has helped me keep reading a priority in my life. While I used to increase the goal number of books I wanted to read each year, I’ve found a really sweet spot in the ~75 books per year range. If I try to read more than that, reading starts to feel like a chore and I have to sacrifice other things going on it my life in favor of reading — which I just don’t want to do! As much as I also love reading, I also love balance, which is why I am keeping my reading goal for 2024 the same as it was in 2023: 75 books. And, as you’ll note, 2023 was the first year since I started tracking the number books that I did not increase the number of books I read — and that is totally ok with me!

  • 2017 goal — 24, 2017 actual — 30
  • 2018 goal — 52, 2018 actual — 52
  • 2019 goal — 62, 2019 actual — 72
  • 2020 goal — 72, 2020 actual — 82
  • 2021 goal — 75, 2021 actual — 85
  • 2022 goal — 75, 2022 actual — 95
  • 2023 goal — 75, 2023 actual — 90
  • 2024 goal — 752024 actual — TBD!

I set my goal on Goodreads and it helps keep me accountable and tracks my progress for me — it will even tell me if I am behind, on-track, or ahead of meeting my goal. Feel free to follow me over there, too! And, if you’re curious about other books I’ve loved, you can see my past roundups of the best books I read each year here: 2022, 2021, 2020, 2019, 20182017.

Before we dive in, one housekeeping note — the list below is representative of the best books I read in 2022, but that doesn’t mean they were all published in 2023. Some of these are older reads I just discovered, and some of them were published this year. I know some people separate their “best of” lists to create one for books that were published in prior years and one for books published this year, but I chose not to go that route.

So without further ado, here are the 10 best books I read in 2023:

10. The Summer of Songbirds by Kristy Woodson Harvey

Nearly 30 years ago, in the wake of a personal tragedy, June bought Camp Holly Springs and turned it into a thriving summer haven for the girls.But now, June is in danger of losing the place she has sacrificed everything for, and begins to realize how much she has used the camp to avoid facing difficulties in her life. June’s niece, Daphne, met her two best friends, Lanier and Mary Stuart, during a fateful summer at camp. They’ve all helped each other through hard things, from heartbreak and loss to substance abuse and unplanned pregnancy. The three are inseparable, even in their thirties, when they each find themselves at a crossroads in their own lives.

But in spite of their personal problems, nothing is more important to these songbirds than Camp Holly Springs. When the women learn their childhood oasis is in danger of closing, they band together to save it, sending them on a journey that promises to open the next chapter of their lives.

9. The Mostly True Story of Tanner & Louise by Colleen Oakley

Tanner needs a place to live — preferably one where she can continue sitting around in sweatpants and playing video games all day. She’s got no credit or money, so when an opportunity to work as a live-in caregiver for an elderly woman, Louise, falls into her lap, she takes it. But the thing is — Louise wants a caretaker even less than Tanner wants to be one. So the pair start off their living arrangement happily ignoring each other until Tanner starts to notice weird things. Like why does Louise keep her garden shed locked tighter than a prison? And why is the local news focused on the suspect of one of the biggest jewelry heists in American history who looks eerily like Louise?

Thus begins the story of a not-to-be-underestimated elderly woman and an aimless young woman who — if they can outrun the mistakes of their past — might just have one of the greatest adventures of their lives.

8. The Next Great American City by Mick Cornett

Mick Cornett was a longtime sportscaster before becoming mayor of Oklahoma City, his hometown. In this fascinating non-fiction, he talks about all the ways they improved OKC under his tenure, and in each chapter, provides anecdotes about the ways other mid-size towns across America — like Charleston, Chattanooga, Louisville — are doing the same. When I visited Oklahoma City over the summer, I could  tell a difference in the placemaking that Oklahoma City had done compared to Wichita and Omaha — the two other mid-size cities I visited — and so learning more about the ways Oklahoma City thoughtfully revitalized their core downtown was very interesting. That being said, even if you haven’t visited OKC, I think this would be an engaging and interesting read for anyone who loves traveling and exploring new cities, especially across the US.

7. Mrs. Nashes Ashes by Sarah Adler

When Millie promised her elderly best friend that she’d reunite her with the woman she fell in love with nearly eighty years ago, she never imagined that would mean traveling from DC to Key West with three tablespoons of Mrs. Nash’s remains in her backpack. But Millie’s determined to give her friend a symbolic happily-ever-after before it’s too late.

But then, a computer glitch grounds flights and Millie is forced to catch a ride with Hollis, an also-stranded acquaintance from her ex’s MFA program. Hollis certainly does not believe in happily-ever-afters, and makes it quite clear that he can’t fathom Millie’s plan ending well for anyone. But as they contend with peculiar bed-and-breakfasts, unusual small town festivals, and a deer with a death wish on their roadtrip south, Millie begins to suspect that her reluctant travel partner might enjoy her company more than he lets on.

6. The Beach at Summerly by Beatriz Williams

The story is told across two points in time. In June 1946, the residents of Winthrop Island are preparing for the first summer season after the war, and a glamorous new figure, Olive, moves into the guest cottage at Summerly, the idyllic seaside estate of the wealthy Peabody family. To Emilia, the daughter of Summerly’s year-round caretaker, Olive opens a window of possibility. She’s traveled the world, fled the Germans, married fascinating men. As the summer wears on, Emilia develops a deep relationship with Olive, who encourages her to leave the island and see the world. At the same time, Emilia realizes Olive might not be exactly who she seems to be. Then, the story shows you that in 1954, Summerly is boarded up and Emilia has rebuilt her shattered life. As the narrative progresses, you learn bits and pieces about what happened “that night at the beach at Summerly” and the timelines converge in the most intriguing of ways.

5. The Good Part by Sophie Cousens

Lucy is 26 years old and tired. Tired of fetching coffees for senior TV producers, sick of going on disastrous dates, and done with living in a damp flat with roommates who never buy toilet paper. After another disappointing date, Lucy stumbles upon a wishing machine. Pushing a coin into the slot, Lucy closes her eyes and wishes to skip to the good part of her life.

When she wakes the next morning to a handsome man, a ring on her finger, a high-powered job, and two storybook-perfect children, Lucy can’t believe this is real — especially when she looks in the mirror, and staring back is her own forty-something face. Has she really skipped ahead like she’s always wanted? Or has she simply forgotten a huge chunk of her life?

4. The Boyfriend Candidate by Ashley Winstead

After getting dumped by her boyfriend, Alexis decides she needs a change. So she takes herself out to a hotel bar one night to try and find a one night stand. Enter a cute guy named Logan who helps her maneuver away from a creepy old guy and then buys her a drink. Just as they’re about to hookup, the hotel catches fire in a freak lightning storm. In their rush to escape, Logan carries her into the street and finds that people are waiting with cameras — so he promptly flees, leaving Alexis alone wondering what just happened.

Things start to make more sense when pictures of her and Logan fleeing at the fire are posted all over the internet. Turns out, Logan is none other than Logan Arthur, the hotshot candidate challenging the Texas governor’s seat. The salacious scandal is poised to sink his career _ and jeopardize Alexis’s job — until a solution is proposed: he and Alexis could pretend to be in a relationship until Election Day – in two months. What could possibly go wrong?

3. Fool Me Once by Ashley Winstead

Lee Stone is a 21st century woman: she kicks butt at her job as a comms director at a woman-run electric car company and after work she is “Stoner,” drinking guys under the table and never dating any of them seriously. That’s because Lee’s learned one big lesson: never trust love. Four major heartbreaks set her straight on this lesson, starting with her father cheating on her mom, all the way to when Ben Laderman broke her heart in grad school.

Unexpectedly, Ben shows back up in her life, this time working as a policy expert for the most liberal governor in Texas history, just as Lee is trying to get a clean energy bill passed. Things get complicated — and competitive — as Lee and Ben are forced to work together to pass the bill — and tension builds just as old sparks reignite.

2. Woman on Fire by Lisa Barr

Jules is a rising young journalist who talks her way onto Dan Mansfield’s legendary investigative journalism team. Only her first assignment is a secret from the newspaper he’s employed by. Dan asks Jules to help him locate a painting stolen from the Nazis more than 75 years earlier. World-famous shoe designer Ellis Baum wants the painting at any cost for highly personal reasons, and has enlisted Dan and his team to help find it. Only they don’t have much time as Ellis is dying. Meanwhile, in Europe, powerful art dealer Margaux de Laurent is also looking for the painting — and Dan and his team know they must get to it first.

1. Seven Days in June by Tia Williams

Eva is a single mother and bestselling author. Shane is a reclusive, award-winning novelist, who, to everyone’s surprise, shows up in New York City. That’s when Eva and Shane find themselves on the same panel at a literary event — and as the sparks fly, everyone around them takes note. But what they don’t know is that 15 years earlier, Eva and Shane spent seven days in June madly in love. And they’ve been secretly writing to each other in their books ever since.

///

And, honorable mentions go to Health at Every Size, Hello Stranger, Boom Town, Same Time Next Summer, Nora Goes Off Script, Romantic Comedy, Pineapple Street, Before We Were Innocent, The Man I Never Met, The Summer Wives, and Life’s Too Short.

Leave a Comment