every book I read in 2023 ranked

4 Jan 2024

I mentioned in my last post that I didn't read as much this year as in some other years. Also since I haven't posted on here in over a year, you're also unaware of what I did read since I last told you about The Kingdoms by Natasha Pulley which I read back in August 2022! 

I thought in order to rectify that I would do a whistlestop tour through the 24 books that I read in 2023 ranked in order of my least favourite to my favourite. Who knows, maybe you'll find something to pick up this year.  I also reread The Invisible Life of Addie Larue by VE Schwab this year for a book club which is one of my all-time favourite books but I didn't want to include it in this list but just know that she's still perched nicely at the top.

I used The Storygraph to help me with this list - it's my favourite way to keep track of the books I read each year (you can follow me here).

23) Once Upon A Broken Heart

Stephanie Garber

Evangeline Fox has always believed in true love but when the love of her life becomes engaged to her sister she makes a deal with the elusive Jacks, The Prince of Hearts, that the wedding will be prevented, but in exchange for three kisses of his choosing. This leads her away from the comfort of her hometown to the Northern Kingdoms a land steeped in magic and mystery where she ends up in the middle of an ancient prophecy in the court of the crown prince.

This book is set in the same world as Caraval and maybe it's due to the fact that I haven't read that series but I just really did not like this book. I did enjoy it - it's a fun flirty little romp but it just pained me so much that Evangeline was such a naive lead character, she was too trusting and just kept making ridiculous decisions throughout. The plot was just so obvious and just felt very juvenile. I'd seen it hyped by lots of people whose reviews and thoughts I generally respect so I was very disappointed that it didn't hit for me. I may be persuaded to read the second book because even though I didn't necessarily enjoy this I have some level of interest to find out how the story concludes.

22) Giovanni's Room

James Baldwin

In 1950s Paris, American man David struggles with societal pressures, masculinity, and his feelings towards other men in his life. Specifically, his complicated relationship with an Italian man called Giovanni with whom he strikes up a physical relationship while his fiancee Hella is exploring Spain. David tries to keep this side of himself confined to this one room and in doing so damages the relationships between himself and Giovanni, himself and Hella and even his relationship with himself and his identity.

I read Swimming in the Dark by Tomasz Jedrowski back in 2021 and it was one of my favourite books of the year and it's heavily influenced by Giovanni's Room so I've been meaning to read it ever since, However, it just didn't do it for me. I know it's a beloved book but I just couldn't connect with it, but it's not my story so maybe that's okay. My main issue is that whenever books have these enigmatic characters that everyone is drawn to I just tend to find them very annoying and do not see the appeal - case in point Giovanni. It's a similar issue I had with Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro.

21) Lessons in Chemistry

Bonnie Garmus

Elizabeth Zott is a chemist living in 1960s America, a time when being a female chemist was borderline unheard of. Working in a male-dominated environment leads to Elizabeth losing her job and taking on a new challenge. Presenting a cooking show called Supper at Six. Through this channel, she uses her knowledge to teach other women fundamental chemistry disguised as cooking and in turn starts a revolution of women choosing their own paths and challenging the patriarchal society that they found themselves in.

This is one we read for book club - I enjoyed elements of it. As a science graduate, there was a lot of it that I could relate to and I really enjoyed the early part of the book, I think it set the tone well. I just however found myself not really enjoying my experience with it. 

20) Under The Whispering Door

TJ Klune

After he dies unexpectedly of a heart attack Wallace Price finds himself at his own sparsely-attended funeral. He ends up at a halfway house that doubles as a tea shop called Charon's Crossing where he forges new friendships and family and finally in death, he learns how to live.

Having LOVED The House in the Cerulean Sea I was super excited to pick up another TJ Klune book. They are traditionally the cosiest fantasy stories - low stakes, comfort and wholesome. This one I struggled with though. there were parts I loved but there were also parts I didn't love as much and to be honest, by the halfway mark I was very close to dnf-ing. I think my biggest problem was Wallace's redemption arc because he was so sweet and nice in death but he was so horrible in life that we're just supposed to forgive him? It picked up a little more towards the end and I did find myself enjoying it.

19) Solitaire

Alice Oseman

Tori Spring sees herself as a bit of a social outcast, she's eighteen now and things in school are different, friends have moved onto new exciting things and she feels quite lonely, that is until Solitaire, an anonymous blog with an aim to rally the student body but seems specifically targeted at Tori. Oh, and there's the new and elusive Michael Holden.

Having been a Heartstopper fan for YEARS, I thought it was finally time to read Solitaire after the second season of the show aired in preparation for season three. I love Tori as a character and I loved following her journey. This is a little darker than Heartstopper and covers some quite serious themes but it's still full of so much heart. This was Alice Oseman's first published work and you can tell how much she's grown as a storyteller and a writer since then.

18) The Hobbit

JRR Tolkien

Bilbo Baggins lives a happy comfortable life in Hobbiton so when wizard Gandalf and a group of Dwarves turn up and convince him to go on an adventure to retrieve some gold from a dragon he could not be less excited. However this unexpected journey takes him further than he could have ever dreamed, encounters he could only imagine and teaches him things about himself along the way.

Yes, I only read The Hobbit for the first time this year! I obviously love this world and this story and I'm actually hoping to finally read The Lord of The Rings this year but this is a book that is meant to be read aloud as a bedtime story and that is its truest form. Me just reading it by myself didn't give the same feel. 

17) Vicious

VE Schwab

Victor and Eli were college roommates, both set on discovering the secret behind people developing extraordinary abilities. When things move from theoretical to experimental things start to take a turn for the worse and ten years later with Victor fresh out of prison Eli is ready to destroy him.

Victoria Schwab's brain is like no other. This story is so clever I love the alternating timelines as you discover more and more about Victor and Eli's past and the rivalry they have. I think I prefer other Schwab books more but I still had the best time with this one and I'm eager to pick up the sequel soon.

16) Happy Place

Emily Henry

Harriet and Wyn have always been the perfect couple except they broke up six months ago and none of their friends know. When their friend suggests one last hurrah at the old cottage where they have so many memories they both end up going, sharing a room, and lying to their friends. But maybe there were some things left unresolved and maybe by pretending to be together, they can rekindle some of what they lost.

Emily Henry is the queen of romance right now, if you haven't read anything by her where have you been? I was actually in Waterstones recently and overheard someone ask at the desk for "Anything by Emily Henry". This was actually my least favourite of her books so far and I think it's because I didn't overly relate to Harriet and I wasn't super fussed on Wyn, I also just didn't really care about any of the friends, and caring about characters is super important to me with books. I know I'm in the minority because most people absolutely adore this book. It's definitely worth picking up though because it's still a great read regardless I think just maybe my hopes were too high.

15) Business or Pleasure

Rachel Lynn Solomon

Chandler Cohen is a ghostwriter. and her latest signing is to ghostwrite a memoir for a teenage heartthrob who was famous for being on a Werewolf show. He also happens to be her worst one-night stand ever. She travels around with him to various conventions but when they're not working on the book, Finn persuades Chandler to give him sex lessons - and he's a very good student. Can they keep this relationship strictly professional or will bad things happen when you start to mix business with pleasure?

I want to kick things off by saying that this book opened with a quote from Maps by Lesley Roy which was Ireland's Eurovision song in 2021 that didn't even make it out of the semi-final so to say that blindsided me is an understatement. It's actually what made me keep reading this book that I was only really reading to sample. It's very steamy, but it's also got a lot of heart and I really enjoyed it. Rachel Lynn Solomon is one of my faves. Everything she writes is just so fun and this was just such a romp. I also love the fandom side of things because that's a culture I was very much immersed in so it's fun to see it fictionalised like this.

14) Carrie Soto is Back

Taylor Jenkins Reid

When Carrie Soto retires from professional tennis she is the greatest of all time. She has the grand slam record and the accolades, even the reputation but six years later when Nikki Chan equals her record Carrie decides to come out of retirement and prove that she is the best once and for all.

I read this so long ago that it doesn't feel like it was this same year (it was January). I'm a big Taylor Jenkins Reid fan and a massive tennis fan so this should have been exactly up my street. And don't get me wrong I did love it (I gave it 3.75 stars) but I think because Carrie appears in Malibu Rising, and I didn't like her in it, I think we got off on the wrong foot. I also had issues with the way tennis matches worked because it wasn't how tennis matches worked at the time. But I loved the drama of the tennis tour and the blossoming relationship between Carrie and Bowe. Not my favourite TJR but still a great read.

13) A Marvellous Light

Freya Marske

When Robin Blyth gets promoted to parliamentary liaison to a secret magical society he finds himself embroiled in a situation far bigger than him and ends up being cursed and plagued with visions. To try and get out of this mess he enlists the help of his new acquaintance Edwin Courcey and his household of magical relatives and extensive library to solve the mystery of Robin's curse.

Alternative magical Edwardian England, what's not to love! This fun and steamy little adventure was just that. Fairly inoffensive yet the ending left me with so many questions - I feel it could have been 100 pages longer because the ending just felt very rushed. The sequel is sapphic and set on a boat though and that's very my vibe so maybe I'll also read that one. 

12) Still Alice

Lisa Genova

Dr Alice Howland is a lecturer at Harvard University but one day when she starts to forget things it leads to an unexpected early onset Alzheimer's diagnosis. The story follows Alice and her family as she comes to terms with what this means for her and her career.

Another book club read. This is one I've obviously heard of but had never actually read. It's poignant and heartbreaking and again as a biomedical science graduate it's super interesting from a scientific perspective. Being written from Alice's perspective is very interesting as well because due to her deteriorating mind, she is an unreliable narrator. Definitely worth reading if you haven't gotten around to it already.

11) The Magic Fish

Trung Le Nguyen

Tiến lives with his Vietnamese parents and they read books together from the library to help improve their English. But Tiến is also struggling with his identity and finds it tricky to explain to his parents due to their different languages. The stories in the books they read together help them to navigate these conversations as the stories start to mirror real life and show that no matter what we can have a happy ending.

I love graphic novels. I think they have such a magical and unique way of telling a story. This one was just so wholesome and I'm such a sucker for a story within a story. The twists on the classic fairytales within this book were so fun and it's such a cosy heartwarming story. A true must-read if you like fairytales and coming-of-age tales.

10) All The Light We Cannot See

Antony Doerr

The lives of a blind French girl named Marie-Laure and a young German soldier called Werner collide in Saint-Malo at the tail end of the Second World War. Through interweaving stories of Marie-Laure and Werner the overarching picture is how choices must be made when darkness tries to extinguish the little light that remains and how just a few people choosing to be good to each other can keep that light alive.

I buddy-read this one back in January with Macey from Brine and Books. This is such a poignant story and the prose is so elegant in contrast to the devastating backdrop in which the story takes place. There's also a little magical realism thrown in which as a magical realism girly I very much appreciated. There's a big focus on good and evil and right and wrong and the fine line between the two when not even the characters know which side they're on. 

9) Sea of Tranquility

Emily St. John Mandel

The lives of four people centuries apart seem inexplicably linked through a strange shared experience. This leads Gaspery-Jacques Roberts a detective from a new colony on the moon to set out on a mission to discover how this anomaly came to be and what all of these completely different people from completely different times have to do with each other.

A transcendent escape Emily St John Mandel weaves together stories of art, travel, and love to show humanity is always at the core regardless of whether it's Vancouver Island in 1912 or on the moon in 2403. This book had me so shook at parts and revealed things that I didn't see coming. I read quite a bit of sci-fi this year which is unusual for me but I had a really good time with it. Maybe it's a new favourite genre?

8) Heartstopper Vol. 5

Alice Oseman

If you're unfamiliar with Heartstopper it's a graphic novel series following Charlie Spring and Nick Nelson as they navigate their blossoming relationship in high school - this is part 5, there's not much else to say really. 

Listen, I love Heartstopper, I'm always going to love Heartstopper. There's nothing Alice Oseman could put in there that's going to make me not like Heartstopper. Cosy, wholesome, a delight.

7) The Picture of Dorian Gray

Oscar Wilde

When artist Basil Howard paints a portrait of his muse Dorian Gray, Dorian strikes an unknowing deal - he will not age and his body will retain its perfect nature as depicted in the portrait while the portrait develops more and more heinous bearing all of his sins as he sinks into a life of hedonism and deceit. 

This was my first Oscar Wilde and I was shocked by how funny it was but also I was captivated by the language. Combining my love of minor fantasy elements elevating a literary piece this was always going to be a book I could get behind and I'm surprised that it took me this long! I'm definitely keen to pick up some more gothic fiction moving forward.

6) This is How You Lose The Timewar

Max Gladstone and Amar El-Mohtar

Red and Blue are on two opposing sides of a time war. Rival agents aim to secure the best future for their factions. Using various different forms of communication spanning centuries these two star-crossed lovers send each other letters while trying not to leave a trace of their union because if they were found out it could mean disastrous things for their factions and for them.

One thing about me is if something has letters in it, I will eat it up (this will be further evidenced by the books yet to show up). This one is so short and compulsively readable that I finished it pretty much in one sitting on the plane. I didn't fully understand what was happening at parts but I very much enjoyed my time being immersed in this world.

5) See You Yesterday

Rachel Lynn Solomon

College was supposed to be a fresh start for Barrett Bloom but after a disastrous first day, she finds herself caught in a time loop and forced to repeat the same day over and over but Miles, a know-it-all from her physics class, is trapped too, can they find their way out and finally make it to tomorrow?

As you can tell by her second appearance on this list, I love Rachel Lynn Solomon books. I love her YA books more than her Adult ones as evidenced by this one's placing (Today, Tonight, Tomorrow is one of my favourite books ever). I loved that this one moved away from her usual strict romance genre and added a little sci-fi twist, something that is always up my street. She truly never misses and I can't wait to read more from her next year.

4) Divine Rivals

Rebecca Ross

Iris and Roman are rivals, they work for the same newspaper and they're both gunning for the same promotion. When tragedy strikes Iris she decides to go and make a name for herself as she heads to the frontline of a war between gods to become a reporter. Meanwhile, she's been writing letters to and forming a connection with an anonymous recipient using a magical typewriter who unbeknownst to her is her rival Roman Kitt.

This book was the definition of screaming, crying, throwing up, giggling and kicking my feet. I mentioned that I love letters and this book obviously had them in abundance. I've just got my hands on the sequel so I cannot wait to delve back into this world and find out how Iris and Roman's story ends.

3) The Weather Woman

Sally Gardner

When Neva is orphaned as a toddler she is taken in by the eccentric clockmaker Viktor Friezland. Neva possesses a special ability to be able to predict the weather not only days but years in advance. In regency England, a girl has her place in society but Neva - a scholar and far brighter than her male peers is desperate to prove her worth so she and her adopted father set about making an elaborate male persona who will grant her the freedom of being able to share her thoughts without seeming mad.

I wanted so badly to be able to give this five stars because by the halfway mark I was convinced this was going to be my new favourite book - I was obsessed with the beautiful, intricate, interweaving of so many different stories, different characters' loves and fears and struggles as each question their identity and place in society with a fantastical backdrop of a girl who can predict the weather. What's not to love? (for me anyway, this is traditionally my favourite genre). I just felt that the last quarter just didn't enchant me as much as the rest of the book to be able to give it the full five stars 

2) Begin Again

Emma Lord

Andie Rose has a plan for her life, Graduate from Blue Ridge and become an iconic self-help figure. But when she fails to get into her dream school, she hatches a plan to transfer mid-year and to surprise her boyfriend Connor. Imagine her shock when she arrives to find out that Connor has transferred out to surprise her. Regardless Andie throws herself into college life at Blue Ridge State and even becomes the voice of the anonymous Squire, giving advice on the campus pirate radio station. But as things start to change at Blue Ridge and as she grows closer to her RA Miles it causes all sorts of complications and she begins to question her life plans.

I am so obsessed with this book. I'm trying to convince every single person I know to read it. I listened to the audiobook while I was on holiday in Italy and I was on a three-hour long bus journey and it made me want to get on another three-hour long bus if it meant I could listen to more of this story. Truly a delight from start to finish. I spent the entire trip updating my friend about every single thing that was happening as if these were real people that I knew personally. Utter Perfection.

1) The Starless Sea

Erin Morgenstern

Zachary Ezra Rawlins is a master's student, who discovers a book in the university library that contains stories from his life, written long before he was born along with tales about a mysterious place beneath the surface of the earth called The Starless Sea. This sets him on an adventure to discover just what is The Starless Sea, is it real and what other secrets does it hold?

THIS BOOK! It got me thinking about how strange it is that we might never get to read our favourite book, like the book that we would love the most might never reach us because we don't ever pick it up because this book was sitting on my shelf for two and half years untouched just waiting to be read and I would have never known the secrets that it contained within its pages. It's full of magic, mystery and prose that leaps off the page and stories that bury themselves inside your very soul. I'm so utterly and completely obsessed with this book as I mentioned stories within stories and letters and intertwined narratives are some of my favourite things to read and this had it all. I read it while I was in Copenhagen for my birthday which just added to the enchantment. I don't think this book is for everyone but it was very much for me. I remember reading it on the plane and my friend turning to me and saying something along the lines of "You're enjoying it right, I can tell" and that's testament enough.

So that's my 2023 reading recap - have you read any of these books? What was your top read of 2023? What do I need to read in 2024? Let me know down below!

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