Tuesday, January 2, 2024

Read-at-Home Mom's Top 23 Books of 2023

It's that time of year again! In 2023, I read 294 books, and from those I have chosen a top 23 plus a bonus list of my favorite children's and teens books I read this year. Books that were published in 2023 are marked with *. 

My Writing Community 

This year, several of the friends I have made through Flash Fiction Magic on Instagram have published novels. Though these are not necessarily in my preferred genres, it was wonderful to be able to read their work and share my thoughts with them in real time. 

Unleashed* by Amber Kirkpatrick is a fantasy romance with a grumpy coffee-addicted hero, Fen, who lives in a futuristic world where some people have super powers and are persecuted (and sometimes killed) because of it. There is great Catholic representation in this book, and Fen is a beloved favorite character in my writing group who stole my heart right along with everyone else's. 

Glass Helix* by Katee Stein is a young adult dystopian romance also set in a fascinating futuristic world. I fell in love with Mae and Khai and I was completely invested in the world of the story from beginning to end. There is darkness in this book,  but also so much light and hope. 

Where Darkness Dwells* by Andrea Renae is the first book in a fantasy trilogy set in a world immersed in darkness. A variety of points of view give us glimpses into different aspects of this world, and there is something for every reader, including family dynamics, romance, and adventure. I'm excited for book two!

Favorite Nonfiction 

I didn't realize how much nonfiction I was enjoying this year until I sat down to make this list and found so many five-star ratings.

The Habit of Being by Flannery O'Connor is the best book I read this year, and probably in my top three books of all time. These letters about her writing, her friendships, and her faith are such a treasure, especially for a Catholic writer. I felt as though I was getting to know this beloved author intimately, and I wanted to highlight every single bit of writing advice. I will definitely be re-reading this at some point. 

These Precious Days by Ann Patchett has stuck with me for months. It's an essay collection, and the most memorable piece in it is the essay she writes about quarantining with a friend who had cancer during the pandemic. There is a lot of Covid-related stuff I can't stomach even nearly four years later, but this managed to capture both the personal and universal experience of 2020 and I don't think a more perfect piece of writing about that time period exists.

The Nineties by Chuck Klosterman was a great nostalgic throwback to many of the fads and pop culture figures of my late childhood and teen years. It was interesting to view all these things with the benefit of hindsight and to look at how certain phenomena shaped the lives of people my age. 

It Was an Ugly Couch Anyway* by  Elizabeth Passarella is ostensibly the story of how the author and her husband nearly lost their minds trying to buy an apartment in New York City, but it's also just a memoir of New York City living that I really enjoyed. 

The Mind of the Maker by Dorothy L. Sayers is a book I'll need to reread to get the full impact, but it's a beautiful, philosophical reflection on how we, creatures made by God, ought to create. I read this with the Literary Life podcast, and it has converted me to a full-time listener. 

A Swim in a Pond in the Rain by George Saunders is a college-level short story writing class in a single volume. I had a set of book darts on hand when I read this one, and I ran out and had to switch to post-its. There is so much valuable insight in every section, and I know I will want to revisit it. 

Times Three by Phyllis McGinley is a poetry collection by a 1950s housewife who enjoyed being a housewife. Her poems are very funny, and this collection is a Pulitzer winner. 

Finally, Credo* by Bishop Athanasius Schneider was a gift from my husband. It's a great explanation of the teachings of the Catholic faith explained in a no-nonsense and straightforward tone. 


I feel like I didn't read that many mysteries this year at all, but these two were excellent. 

The Likeness by Tana French involves an undercover investigation, which I always love. 

The Appeal by Janice Hallett is told entirely in documents and I was so pleased with myself because I figured out one aspect of the story before the characters did. 


I wrote a lot of romance this year, and I read a lot of romance to keep me in the right mindset. 

Yours Truly* by Abby Jimenez stood out because of its believable male protagonist whose introversion and social anxiety felt very real. 

The Road to Roswell* by Connie Willis is a hilarious sci-fi romance involving an alien and a road trip. It was delightful.  

Brynn and Sebastian Hate Each Other* by Bethany Turner is an enemies-to-lovers small-town romance with an important message about the price of fame. 

The Happy Life of Isadora Bentley* by Courtney Walsh features a quirky heroine who struggles to make friends but finds love when she begins to step out of her comfort zone. 

Arabella by Georgette Heyer is a Regency romance that made me laugh out loud with clever turns of phrase. 

Faking Christmas* by Kerry Winfrey is a hilarious and festive holiday romance that I loved almost as much as my favorite by this author, Very Sincerely Yours. 

Other Fiction 

The Optimist's Daughter by Eudora Welty has stuck with me for months after reading it with Close Reads. I love the way Welty observes and comments upon human nature. 

Tom Lake* by Ann Patchett is a beautifully written family story set during the pandemic and involving a mother, her daughters, and stories of her past. The audiobook narration by Meryl Streep is impeccable. 

A Lot Like Christmas by Connie Willis is a wonderful collection of Christmas short stories that I will definitely revisit in future holiday seasons. 

The Unselected Journals of Emma M. Lion Volume 1 by Beth Brower is a delightful historical novel told in diary entries and the last book I read in 2023. I can't wait to read the rest of the series!

Top Ten Favorite Children's & YA Books  

  • Seven Percent of Ro Devereux* by Ellen O'Clover 
  • Borrow My Heart* by Kasie West 
  • Roland West, Loner by Theresa Linden 
  • ...And Now Miguel by Joseph Krumgold 
  • Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls
  • Shadow of the Hawk by Geoffrey Trease 
  • The Labors of Hercules Beal* by Gary D. Schmidt 
  • My Family and Other Skaters* by Fiorella de Maria 
  • The Lost Library* by Wendy Mass and Rebecca Stead 
  • Squished* by Megan Wagner Lloyd 
Reading plans for the new year are coming in a day or two! 

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