As we bid farewell to another year, it’s the perfect time to reflect on the books that have left an indelible mark on our hearts and minds.

pictures of my favorite books of 2023

I’m excited to share my favorite books of 2023, which includes a diverse collection that profoundly resonated with me.

This has been a good reading year for me. My reading life had taken a back seat to an intense couple of years I was dealing with in my personal life. As I was starting to realize that those situations had passed, it occurred to me that I had more time to read again.

In addition to a better reading year, I also decided to create this blog, which has been a lot of fun. I hope to bring you even better and more insightful content this year.

My reading journey in 2023 has been guided by a simple yet powerful realization: the importance of empathy in characters. While relatability is a bonus, it’s the ability to empathize with at least one character that truly elevates a book in my eyes.

This epiphany struck me while reading “Ordinary Grace” by William Kent Krueger, a story about two young boys whose experiences are far removed from my own, yet their empathetic portrayal deeply connected with me.

In addition to empathetic characters, the quality of writing is paramount. A well-written book can transport us to different worlds, times, and experiences.

Let’s dive into some of the gems that have made my year in reading so memorable.

My Favorite Books I Read in 2023

the hiding place book by Corrie Ten Boom

The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom

This book reads like any well-written historical fiction book but is even better because it’s 100 percent true. This is a first-hand memoir written by a woman who first hid Jews in her house, how she was arrested with her family, and how she survived living in a Nazi prison. The lesson I took from this book is how to survive the hardest of situations and how there are blessings in the most unlikeliest places. I also loved how she was almost in a constant conversation with God. I will definitely be rereading this one. So good!

The Wish Book Christmas by Lynn Austin

The Wish Book Christmas by Lynn Austin

This book exceeded my expectations. What I thought would be a book about teaching kids how to appreciate the real meaning of Christmas turned out to be about so much more. The main characters are two post-World War II widows raising their young boys together. They are complex and flawed, making them both authentic and relatable. Do they deserve a better life than what they have? Can they move on? And yes, I love how they decide to teach their boys that Christmas is about more than all the toys they want in the Sears toy catalog their boys are obsessed with.

no 1 ladies detective agency

The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith

What would you do if you inherited a herd of cattle? Sell them and open a private detective agency, of course. I remember seeing this book sitting on my mother’s bookshelves for years, and I can’t believe I’m just now picking this up. Mma Ramotswe is so endearing; I love her quirky ways. I loved learning about her father and childhood and how she became who she is. My favorite part about this book is that it’s a mystery novel with no murders. It doesn’t mean that there are no deaths, but the deaths are from other causes. I also loved learning about life in Botswana and the African bush. I look forward to reading more of these delightful books in this series.

Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger

Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger

This is my second William Kent Krueger novel, and both were five-star reads for me. (The other one is This Tender Land.) This book tells the story of two brothers who live in a small Minnesota town where tragedy strikes. While there is a focus on the tragedies that happen. This book is also about coming of age, a complicated family, loyalty, and so much more. William Kent Krueger is a great storyteller. He writes such interesting and empathetic characters. This is a good one to add to your summer reading list as it takes place across an entire summer.

the reason for God book by Timothy Keller

The Reason for God by Tim Keller

If you are skeptical about the existence of God and Christianity specifically, this book is for you. Tim Keller (who died this year on May 19, 2023) planted a church in New York City in the 1990s, and that church is still thriving today. As you can only imagine, he faced harsh criticism of Christianity there. This book offers a response to such critics. Most importantly, Keller makes the case for why we need Jesus in the first place. I always find Keller to be thoughtful and easy to understand.

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

This book was not only one of my favorite books of 2023; it will go down as one of my favorite books of all time. You think you know this story because you’ve seen a movie or a play based on this book, but I strongly encourage you to pick it up if you haven’t read it. I was personally blown away by how much this story moved me. I look forward to rereading it next year. If you enjoy audiobooks, Audible has several great renditions available. This book works well in that format.

The Fountains of Silence book by Ruta Sepetys

The Fountains of Silence by Ruta Sepetys

This book follows the lives of several characters who live in Franco’s Spain and the visiting Americans who only see a curated version. As the name implies, one of the themes of this book is silence — because silence is how you survive living under a totalitarian regime. If you do anything to draw attention to yourself, it’s a recipe for disaster. I read this book knowing very little (if anything) about post-World War II Spain. It opened my eyes to this fascinating part of history. The book switches between the different characters, slowly revealing the truth about some of the incredulous actions and projects the government is working on. It is interspersed with excerpts from U.S. government documents about life in Spain during this time. It gives the impression that Sepetys did her homework.

becoming duchess goldblatt

Becoming Duchess Goldblatt by Anonymous

“Becoming Duchess Goldblatt” is a memoir written by a woman who created a Twitter account for a fictional character named Duchess Goldblatt. The book is written anonymously, and very few people know her real identity. Duchess became popular worldwide and gained thousands of followers, including celebrities like Lyle Lovett, Celeste Ng, and a senator’s wife. Fans like to go to Duchess for her unique advice. Apart from the development of Duchess, the book also touches upon various topics such as grief, divorce, mental illness, parenting, loneliness, and friendships. I recommend the audio version of the book, which features Lyle Lovett playing himself. This is one of the few books I read this year that I was dying to find someone to talk to about it. I remember asking around if anyone had read it. Of course, no one had. If you read it, please tell me what you think!

Read my full review here.

remarkably bright creatures book by Shelby Van Pelt

Remarkably Bright Creatures

I never thought I would love a book partially narrated by an octopus, but I did. In fact, it was one of my favorite parts! The story centers around Tova Sullivan, a widow and cleaning lady at the Sowell Bay Aquarium, who forms a unique bond with Marcellus, the resident octopus. Tova, grappling with losing her son and husband, finds solace in her conversations with Marcellus. As other characters are revealed, so are their surprising connections. This narrative, set in the Pacific Northwest, is about grief, family, and unlikely friendships. I love found-family novels, and this book definitely falls under that category. Such a heartwarming novel!

now is not the time to panic book by Kevin Wilson

Now is Not the Time to Panic by Kevin Wilson

I loved this book and am surprised I haven’t heard more people talk about it. This is a 1990s-era coming-of-age novel that takes place over a summer when two teenagers decide to create a poster as a joke during their summer break. The poster becomes a sensation and causes chaos throughout the town. As someone who grew up during the 90s, this book resonated with me and perfectly captures the nostalgia and essence of a 90s summer. I loved how Kevin Wilson brought that era to life.

Honorable Mentions

  • The Violin Conspiracy. A Stradivarius violin goes missing. Who would steal it and why? This book also touches on themes of race, family, history, and the world of classical music. 
  • Me Before YouThis is a book I still think about. I’m still shocked by the ending. 
  • Eight Perfect MurdersA perfect example of an unreliable narrator. 
  • Lucy by the SeaSome day, when your kids or grandkids ask you what it was like living during the COVID pandemic, hand them this book. Read my full review here.
  • Tom LakeThis book made me want to watch a production of Our Town. There are so many great lessons in this story. I think it especially teaches a great lesson about fame.

What did you read this year? What were some of your favorites? I would love to hear about them in the space below.

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