Ah, the end of another year... Another chance for me to dust off this blog and use it for its sole purpose once more.
2023 was a great reading year for me. I actually read less this year than the last two years (105 books in 2022 and 106 books in 2021). That being said, I put significantly less pressure on myself this year than in years past.
I'm ending 2023 having read 76 (technically 77 since I was a Beta reader for a book that couldn't be logged on my reading apps) books.
After getting back into reading during the pandemic in 2020, I set a goal for myself to read 100 books during 2021 and 2022. While I enjoyed reaching those goals and reading all the books that I did, I was stressed. I felt like a failure if I didn't reach that goal and I read books in a panic rather than just reading for fun.
I also ventured onto Bookstagram (book Instagram) in the last two years and felt some self-induced pressure from some amazing readers over there. There are people that are reading 200+ books a year. How!?
So, this year, I set my reading goal at 12 books. I knew reading a book per month was an achievable goal for me, and if I ended up reading more it would just be a bonus.
I am extremely proud of my 76 reads for the year. I actually listened to myself and didn't read when I didn't want to. There were times this year where I didn't pick up a book for a whole month. There are other times where I read 5 books in a week. I really tried to tune into how I was feeling. If I didn't want to read, I just didn't. In that way, I actually think I enjoyed my year of reading more than I did in previous years.
So, all that being said and my long-winded soliloquy that nobody asked for finished, here are my 5-star recommendations from 2023:
Favorite Read of 2023
Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver
I'm starting this list with my absolute favorite read of 2023. If you stop reading this blog here or only pick one book off my recommendations to read, I encourage you to read this book. This novel was so well-written. That's probably one of the reasons why it won the Pulitzer Prize. The author, Barbara Kingsolver, took the classic story of David Copperfield and made it into a modern-day tale. It's a hard novel to read. The main character, Demon, has a tough life. From drug addiction to parental neglect to homelessness to poverty, Demon can't seem to catch a break. I loved this novel because it really examines issues that our society is facing today, and it does it in such a heartfelt way. I was rooting for Demon the entire time I was reading, and I couldn't put this novel down. Truly, this novel is a masterpiece. Read it.
Favorite Romance Reads
Adelaide by Genevieve Wheeler
This book was heartbreaking and beautiful all the same. I was enchanted from beginning to end.
Happy Place by Emily Henry
I am nothing if not an Emily Henry fan. The consensus around this book seems to be that it isn't as good as her first three novels. I, however, thoroughly disagree. I loved this, and I am eagerly awaiting Henry's next novel.
The Seven Year Slip by Ashley Poston
I had no expectations going into this book, and I was very, very surprised. I LOVED it. This is a romance book with a little bit of magic--a magic apartment to be specific. I usually hate magical elements in my books, so it's really saying something that I enjoyed this read.
Favorite Historical Fiction
First Ladies by Marie Benedict and Victoria Christopher Murray
This book is about the friendship between First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt and activist Mary Bethune. The novel explores the unlikely friendship between these two ladies as they navigate politics and race relations. I am a sucker for historical fiction, and Marie Benedict is one of the best.
What Lies in the Woods by Kate Alice Marshall
2023 was not my favorite year for the thriller genre. My criteria for a solid thriller is one that keeps me guessing until the very end. Not many thrillers did that for me this year, but this was a thriller I genuinely enjoyed.
Betty by Tiffany McDaniel
If I had to rank my 2023 reads, this book would be in the top 3. This book is heartbreak after heartbreak. Genuinely, this was a hard read. It was the only book from this year that made me cry while reading. It explores Appalachia circa the early 1900s, racism, poverty, and abuse. Again, it's a hard read. But, wow, was it fantastic.
Someone Else's Shoes by Jojo Moyes
This was part romance and part tale-of-friendship, and I loved it. Jojo Moyes is genuinely such a tried and true author, and I'm convinced everything she writes will be likable.
Pineapple Street by Jenny Jackson
This is a novel I never expected to enjoy so much. It tells the story of an ultra rich family in Upper East Side New York. That whole sentence I just wrote is everything I don't care about... and yet, I loved this story. To make me have empathy for selfishly rich individuals? That's talent.
A Year of Re-Reads
The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, and Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
I haven't ventured back to The Hunger Games series since I was in high school. I did a reading challenge through Ohio State's Alumni Association this year, and one of the prompts was to re-read a favorite book. I picked up The Hunger Games with low expectations. How good can a young adult series be that you enjoyed at age 13? Well, these books hold up. I highly recommend rereading or picking this series up for the first time if you missed The Hunger Games bandwagon all those years ago.
The Woman in Me by Britney Spears
I'm rounding out this list with my favorite memoir of the year. This book was raw and honest and engaging. I have always been a Britney fan, and this truly is a behind-the-scenes look at all the parts of her life we weren't privy to. It's a good one.