My Favorite Books of 2023: Books I Want to Talk About All the Time

Published by The Connected Reader on

A list of 15 of my favorite books from 2023

Earlier this month, I got to share my top five must read books over on The C Word, but, of course, I have more favorites than that. I have 15 books on this list because I truly loved 15 books of the nearly 100 I read this year and I just want to talk about them all the time.

I do understand that most people are not going to read a list of 15 books and my reasons why I love them – so, don’t worry, I’ve made a top three list.

Also, you know how when you love something with all your heart you just want to talk about it all the time and find more people who also love it with all of their heart so that you can just look at each other and go, RIGHT?!?! 

Well that’s how I feel about these books. If you have even the smallest smidge of a spark of interest, read them and then message me because I’d love to talk more with you about them. Seriously. I won’t even mind if you did not love them as much as I do.

My Top Three Books of 2023

Image of the book Hijab Butch Blues by Lamya H.

Hijab Butch Blues by Lamya H.

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I read this toward the beginning of the year and it has stayed with me since. This is a marker of a great book for me. This is a memoir, written by a queer, Muslim author writing under a pseudonym. The author shares a journey of evolving identity through the lens of stories from the Quran. It is a combination of beautiful writing, unique structure, and the power of agency, reflection, and found family.



Image of the book Aniana Del Mar Jumps In by Jasminne Mendez

Aniana del Mar Jumps In by Jasminne Mendez

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I picked this one up in the summer because it is written by a local Houston author and set in Galveston – and I love reading books set where I live or in places I love. This is a middle grade novel written in verse about a 12-year-old Dominican American girl, Aniana, who is newly diagnosed with a chronic illness. I expected it to be good; I did not expect to be absolutely immersed in the beautiful language and structure, and so invested in the evolving relationship between Aniana and her mother.


Image of the book The Widely Unknown Myth of Apple and Dorothy by Corey Ann Haydu

The Widely Unknown Myth of Apple and Dorothy by Corey Ann Haydu

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I heard about this book on the From The Front Porch podcast, and despite how I am not interested in mythology – I can’t keep them all straight and have given up trying to – I found myself drawn to it. This is a middle grade novel about Apple and Dorothy, 12-year-old girls – are 12-year-old-girls my Person of the Year? – and descendants of the Greek gods living in a community of other descendants, on Earth. Dorothy’s mother, Penny, disrupts the order of things in the community, and Apple and Dorothy are left to make sense of their identities and relationship with each other. I thought this was one of the best representations of grief I have ever read.

Plus 12 More Books Because I am Me And Can’t Bear To Not Share These As Well

Image of the book Family Lore by Elizabeth Acevedo

Family Lore by Elizabeth Acevedo

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I hosted a reading getaway weekend for 12 women in October of this year. As part of the weekend, I had to choose a book we would all read and discuss. I felt the pressure; how do you choose something that will spark interest for such a large, varied group? This book was the answer for me. It follows four sisters, all immigrants to New York City from the Dominican Republic, and two of their daughters. One sister decides to plan a living wake for herself, which sends the family into a frenzy of preparing, remembering, and worrying, all culminating with the big event at the end.


Image of the book The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo

The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo

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After loving Family Lore, I decided to go back to Acevedo’s award winning – look at all those yellow medals! – first book for young adults. I listened to this and I highly recommend reading it that way because Acevedo, the author, narrates this novel in verse about Xiomara, an Afro-Latina teenager in New York City making sense of self and family through poetry. It is for sure a “sit in your car in the driveway to finish” kind of listening experience.


Image of the book Pomegranate by Helen Elaine Lee

Pomegranate by Helen Elaine Lee

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We should be hearing about this book in more spaces. Ranita is a woman in Massachusetts, transitioning home after time in a correctional facility. As she navigates therapy, understanding the past, and working to reunite with her children, we get flashbacks to her time in prison. Lee’s writing makes you deeply feel Ranita’s struggle, how hard it is to make the choice to move forward, and the scenes between Ranita and her children are just … so much.


Image of the book The Last Devil to Die by Richard Osman

The Last Devil to Die by Richard Osman

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This is the fourth book in a cozy mystery series that follows a group of four friends who solve mysteries in a retirement community in England. It is, apparently, the final book in the series and it is an absolute delight. The epitome of this word. It is funny, it has a compelling mystery, and it has the most beautiful moments between two characters that resolve an ongoing storyline. It had me weeping on my walks through the neighborhood, y’all.


Image of the book The People's Hospital by Ricardo Nuila

The People’s Hospital by Ricardo Nuila

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I still feel enraged thinking about this book, and I read it back in August. This is a nonfiction book written by a physician at a “safety net” hospital in Houston. Nuila takes a look at the state of healthcare in the United States three tensions – medicine, science, and capitalism – that pull it in different directions. It is told through vignettes of different patients Nuila treats and it is just infuriating. This is not a productive takeaway, but basically I’m weary of paying another medical bill because the money part of medicine is quite literally made up.


Image of the book What Ever Happened to Ruthy Ramirez?

What Happened to Ruthy Ramirez by Claire Jiménez

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In this book, we meet a mother and two daughters ten years after a third daughter in the family went missing and was never found. Then the sisters watch a reality show and are convinced one of the contestants is their missing sibling. This is not a thriller or a mystery. It is a portrait of the women who are left behind to figure out how to move forward. I can picture one scene toward the end of this book. It’s the culmination of the book’s driving force; it wasn’t what I, or the main characters, were expecting, but it was real life. It was joy through grief. It was wild.


Image of the book Burial Rites by Hannah Kent

Burial Rites by Hannah Kent

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This is a book from 2014 that I picked up for a Reader Retreat book club discussion that I attended. It is about a woman convicted of murder in Iceland in the 1800s. I am not generally a historical fiction reader, so I never would have picked this up on my own. And I was entranced. I’m not usually one for nature and atmospheric writing, but this was top notch. I thought the multiple perspectives propelled the story and the author explored so many complicated questions that made for great discussion with a group.


Image of the book The Book fo Extraordinary Tragedies by Joe Meno

The Book of Extraordinary Tragedies by Joe Meno

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A marker of a great read, for me, is that I feel something; I laugh, or cry, or can’t breathe because something resonates so much. This book met all the criteria. In this novel, a young man navigates coming of age along with understanding his family’s past as immigrants, the loss of his father, his mother’s health issues, and caring for his sister and her daughter. It’s one of those stories that makes you feel seen when you have so much going on and it all feels impossible.


Image of the book Empire of Pain by Patrick Radden Keefe

Empire of Pain by Patrick Radden Keefe

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I opened the year listening to this book about the Sackler family – the family that led Purdue Pharma and the development and sale of OxyContin. It is 18 hours long, and I thought I might need to listen to it in chunks with breaks in between. I ended up finishing it in a week. It is the perfect blend of narrative journalism that makes you forget you are reading nonfiction. At the same time you can’t forget that this is real; and it was a good thing I was listening to it because my brain exploded 57 times and all I saw was red.


Image of the book Good Inside by Dr. Becky Kennedy

Good Inside by Dr. Becky Kennedy

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This is a parenting book focused on supporting your child – and yourself – to regulate emotions. When I read this in January I took extensive notes. Like I basically could have written the CliffsNotes version of this book. I have been implementing pieces of it since – I even wrote about this in my contribution to Imperfect Parenting: Global Stories from Honest Parents – and while it can be exhausting, I’ve found that it works for me and my family. Most of the time, anyway, since we are all imperfect.


Image of the book Pet by akwaeke emezi

Pet by Akwaeke Emezi

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There aren’t even words for this book. Emezi writes an allegorical story representing all of the evil that we attempt to keep out of our communities. It is literally breathtaking and the suspense and foreboding made me so uncomfortable almost from the first page. There are several trigger warnings here, but if you are able to handle the content, it is a masterful story.


Image of the book Unlikely Animals by Annie Hartnett

Unlikely Animals by Annie Hartnett

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This one has been on my list to read since the beginning of the year, and I finally got to it in December. I’m glad I did because the unique structure was a great way to end my reading year. In this novel, a young woman, Emma, returns to her small New England hometown, where her parents’ marriage is falling apart, her brother is living at home after completing rehab, and her father is dying from an unexplained illness. If that isn’t enough, a chorus of ghosts, who are former residents of the small town, what over the current inhabitants, and one of them befriends Emma’s father, Emma has a special healing gift, there is a missing person who happens to be Emma’s high school best friend – and the list goes on. If you like something a bit different and don’t mind suspending a reality for a good story, this is for you.


What are your favorite books from 2023? Share in the comments!

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, meaning I get a small commission if you decide to make a purchase through my links, at no cost to you. Even if you don’t use the links, I highly recommend checking out Bookshop.org and Libro.fm for access to tons of titles while still supporting an indie bookstore.

Categories: Book Lists

1 Comment

Kaitlyn King · January 11, 2024 at 12:19 am

Thanks for this awesome list! I added quite a few to my want to read list. My favorite books that I read in 2023 were Lessons in Chemistry, Tom Lake, The Perfectionist’s Guide to Losing Control, and The Silent Patient. I also loved Birdie & Harlow but you may have to be a Taylor Wolfe follower to love it as much as I did.

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