Last year (2022) was the year that I got excited about reading for the first time in my life. I think I had finally undone all the dislike for reading from being forced to read so many terrible books in school. The idea of reading books for enjoyment was something that I never really appreciated until last year. Now, I love reading and I read 26 books in 2023!
I use GoodReads to track the books that I read throughout the year, but I wanted to create a list of my favorite books of the year to document some of the amazing books that I discovered this year. All the books in this list are fiction... I did read some non-fiction books (self-help and software/programming) this year, but I'm not including them here.
Here are some books that I really enjoyed, but didn't make it into my top 10 this year...
The Last Thing He Told Me by Laura Dave
I loved this book for the first 80% of the book. I thought it was going to be a top 5 book for me this year, but then the ending just left me so frustrated. I would still recommend this book, as it is so well written and the story is great.
Also, this book turned into a TV series on Apple TV+ starring Jennifer Garner and I think I liked the TV series even better than the book (that never happens, as usually a book is better than the subsequent movie/show). I think the TV show made me appreciate this story even more.
Murder in an Irish Village by Carlene O'Connor
This book is set in a small village in Ireland and they use so many incredible Irish phases throughout the book which brought my Irish heritage joy! While this book would be considered a murder mystery, it's not scary at all and it has just a light amount of suspense to keep you engaged in the story. This book is a fun read. You'll want to learn how to bake brown bread and enjoy it with a cuppa after reading this book. I actually baked an Irish Soda Bread after finishing this book!
It's the first in a series of almost 10 books. I also read the second book in the series (Murder at an Irish Wedding). I don't think I'll continue with the series, as it's getting a bit redundant and I read a lot of reviews about the 3rd book in the series being bad.
The Soulmate by Sally Hepworth
This book had a great level of suspense (not overly scary or going to keep you awake at night). The mystery of this story is so interesting and the ending of this book is great.
Wrong Place, Wrong Time by Gillian McAllister
I don't like time travel, either for books or movies. This book is the exception, as it involves time travel, but in such an interesting way. The main character has to try to solve and hopefully change the course of events after seeing her son murder someone outside their house. It's a complex story that keeps getting unraveled, with so many incredible twists and turns.
The fact that this book didn't make it into my top 10 this year is really because I read so many great books. Let's get into these incredible books...
Top 10 Books of 2023
Number 10 - Mr. Wrong Number by Lynn Painter
This book was one of those books that you just know you're going to like after the first few pages. The main character (Olivia) is such a likable character and her falling for her brother's best friend (Colin) unfolds in a predictable way, but it's just so enjoyable to read.
There is a second book (The Love Wager) in this series which is about Olivia's brother (Jack) falling in love with Hallie (another great character) is a very good book, but I didn't enjoy it as much as the first book. However, I thought it was so cool to have characters in both books, and the scenes with Olivia and Colin in the second book were great to read, after learning about how they fell for each other in the first book.
Number 9 - You, With a View by Jessica Joyce
I didn't expect to enjoy this book as much as I did after reading the synopsis of the book. The challenges faced by the main character (Noelle) hit home for me: she's struggling with her career not working out as successfully as she would have hoped for after being so successful in high school and she's dealing with the grief of her grandmother (her best friend) having passed away just six months ago. What makes this book shine is the likable characters and the story woven together so beautifully as the three main characters take a road trip across the Western US (California, Nevada, Utah, and Arizona).
This book falls in the "rivals to lovers" category. Noelle had a big rivalry in high school with Theo. On the outside, they seemed to always be competing against each other (school, tennis, and later careers), but there was always a spark between them that they never really understood until meeting again in their late 20s. While Theo appears to have an incredible career (CFO of a travel app start-up), not all is as positive as it seems.
Meanwhile, Noelle has just had a tough go of it since high school, including a terrible boss who just crushed her dreams of turning her passion (photography) into a professional career. Her story is so relatable with the real world just being so difficult, especially dealing with horrible people at work and not being able to find a true direction for something you want to do. I thought about the song "This is Me Trying" by Taylor Swift (from her incredible Folklore album) so many times when reading this book.
The road trip that Noelle, Theo, and Theo's "Granddad" take over two weeks is told in such an enjoyable light. Even while there are a lot of struggles during the trip, it turns into the trip of a lifetime for all three. I thoroughly enjoyed this book from start to finish.
Number 8 - The Guest List by Lucy Foley
I think Lucy Foley is an incredible writer (I loved The Paris Apartment until the disturbing ending) and the story that she creates with The Guest List is just so immersive. I remember feeling so engrossed in this story about a wedding weekend off the coast of Ireland. Even months after reading this book, I feel like I was there at the wedding observing these characters.
But the ending, OMG! Incredible! After becoming so connected to the characters (for better or worse!), seeing how each character reacts to the murder mystery at a wedding on a remote island. Add in the ominous weather, this book becomes so suspenseful. This book is a must-read.
Number 7 - The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Schaffer
Full disclosure: I watched the movie on Netflix first and then I read the book because I loved the movie. And the book was just as incredible as the movie. Perhaps it's the combination of the book and movie, but I thoroughly enjoyed this historical fiction book.
The book is written as a series of letters between the characters following the end of World War II. Juliet is an author who discovers a book club that formed during the Nazi occupation of the island of Guernsey in the channel between England and France. The characters in this story come to life in a series of letters, which I still don't know how the authors were able to do. The book is so interesting to get a glimpse of life after WWII and how devastating the Nazi occupation of Guernsey was and all the lives that were forever changed (for the worse).
I thought I couldn't appreciate this story anymore and then I read how the author (Mary Ann Shaffer) got sick during the editing process of the book and she asked her niece (Annie Barrows) to finish the editing. Unfortunately, the original author passed away before the book was published. I think everyone who reads this book can see the joy and passion that Mary Ann Shaffer put into this book!
I'd recommend reading the book first and then watching the movie on Netflix. It's an incredible story and I think the combination of the book and movie make this story so enjoyable.
Number 6 - One True Loves by Taylor Jenkins Reid
This is the first of three books in the top 10 by my favorite author, Taylor Jenkins Reid.
This book is about Emma who believes her husband (Jesse) has been killed in a helicopter crash (after only 1 year of marriage). After a few years, she moved on and got engaged to Sam. However, her husband survived the helicopter crash and stayed alive in the Pacific Ocean three years before finding rescue. While the husband surviving for three years in the Pacific Ocean feels like a stretch, the conflict of Emma having to decide between her husband and her fiancé makes for an excellent book. As with all the Taylor Jenkins Reid books that I've read, the story is so immersive and the characters are just brought to life.
I loved how this book focused on Emma needing to decide what kind of person she is now, instead of deciding whether to choose her husband or her fiancé. Just an incredible book!
Number 5 - Before We Were Strangers by Renee Carlino
I had no expectations for this book, but I knew after the first chapter that I was going to love this book. This book is in the category of long-lost lovers who reconnect after a long period of time. I really enjoy this category of books (it's also the category for #3 on this list), as there is always something mysterious that happens to cause them to break up and so much of the book is teasing this mystery.
There was something about the relationship between Grace and Matt in this book that was so intriguing. They seemed so in love during their senior year at college, but then jumped to the present day when they haven't seen each other in 15 years is just so surprising. What happened? Why didn't they work out? It's a great book that explains how they fell in love and then jumps to the present day when they reconnect. There are so many questions that get unraveled and I thought the ending was excellent.
Number 4 - Carrie Soto is Back by Taylor Jenkins Reid
The second book by Taylor Jenkins Reid on this list. This book is a pure joy to read!
Carrie Soto is a tennis player who has won the most Grand Slam tournaments. The book starts with a retired Carrie sitting in the stands watching the next big tennis star (Nicki Chan) break her record. She turns to her dad (who is also her coach) and says that she's coming back out of retirement to defend her record. By the end of the first chapter, you're rooting for Carrie. While a lot of this book talks about tennis matches, it's written in a way that explains how tennis is scored as the story unfolds.
As with all of Taylor Jenkins Reid's books, you get immersed into the world that is created in this book. From rooting for Carrie, learning about her complex relationship with her father, and even liking her rival, Nicki, who doesn't seem like the antagonist that she is portrayed at the beginning of the story, every page of this book is just so exciting.
There are lots of Christmas books and even more summer/beach books, but I think this book is perfect to read in the Spring when the weather starts turning nicer. I cannot recommend this book enough!
Number 3 - Every Summer After by Carley Fortune
This book could easily be #1 on this list. It is an incredible book about two people (Percy and Sam) who seemed perfect for each other when they were best friends growing up next door during the summer at their lake houses. But something happens to cause them to not talk for years, until Percy returns to Sam's town for the funeral of his mother.
The back story of how Percy and Sam met, became best friends, and eventually fell in love is told in such an incredible manner. They just seem like the perfect pair, but there are hints about something disastrous happening around one Thanksgiving that caused them to never see each other again. Their reunion after years apart just confirms how perfect they are for each other. This story is just incredible and this book is the one that I want to re-read first, as I just enjoyed every page of this book.
It's a great summer/beach book, but I think it could be read at any time of year. This book is the first book by Carley Fortune and I'm excited to read her second book, Meet Me at the Lake.
Number 2 - Nora Goes Off Script by Annabel Monaghan
I read this book in 2 days. I could not put this book down. It's such an enjoyable book to read and I'm still so surprised by the ending (it's great).
This book is about Nora, who writes scripts for a romance channel (think of the Lifetime or Hallmark channel). I can still picture the writing bungalow that Nora has in the back of her property. After she gets divorced from her terrible husband, she writes a screenplay about the experience which gets turned into a movie with part of the movie being filmed at her house. She and the lead actor of the movie (Leo Vance, Hollywood hunk) fall for each other and he turns out to be much more decent than his exterior image suggests. They seem like a great couple, but... sorry, no spoilers.
I wanted to know what happened with Nora and Leo so badly. This book was a joy to read and it was not predictable (at least to me). I can't say enough good things about this book... read it!
I thought this book was going to be my #1 book of the year, until I read...
Number 1 - Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid
AMAZING! I still don't know how Taylor Jenkins Reid can create such immersive stories that just take you to a different world with such fascinating characters. This book is absolutely incredible!
This book is about the Riva family and how different events for the four siblings (Nina, Jay, Hud, and Kit) come to a head at this huge end-of-summer party at Nina's house. The back story of the Riva family is told in a manner that just makes you root for Nina and her siblings and absolutely hate their father, Mick Riva (who is a famous singer). This book touches on so many complex topics: alcoholism, sexism, parenting, divorce, fame, sexuality, and struggles with money. The story of Nina taking on the maternal role to her siblings just makes you root for her. She's an incredible character as she takes care of her siblings and guards them from their deadbeat father. I can't tell you how much I despise Mick Riva, even if he is only a character in a book.
This book, along with Carrie Soto is Back, The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, and Daisy Jones & the Six are all part of a literary world that Taylor Jenkins Reid created. There are overlapping characters in each book, such as Carrie Soto being in Malibu Rising. I can't wait to read the remaining two books in this universe next year...
Favorite Author: Taylor Jenkins Reid
Favorite Book: Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid
First Book I Will Re-Read: Every Summer After by Carley Fortune
Light Book to Get out of a Reading Slump: Mr. Wrong Number by Lynn Painter
Most Enjoyable Book to Read: Carrie Soto is Back by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Something Different (i.e. a literary palette cleanser): Wrong Place, Wrong Time by Gillian McAllister
Most Immersive Book (i.e. you are transported into a different world): Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Book that was amazing for the first 80% and then I hated the ending: The Last Thing He Told Me by Laura Dave
Best Book Involving Travel: You, With a View by Jessica Joyce
Best Book Adapted into a Movie or Show: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Schaffer
Best Summer Book: Every Summer After by Carley Fortune
Best Christmas Book: The Twelve Dates of Christmas by Jenny Bayliss
Best Ending: The Guest List by Lucy Foley
Books in 2024
Some books I'm looking forward to reading in 2024:
- Maybe in Another Life by Taylor Jenkins Reid
- The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid
- Daisy Jones & the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid
- In Five Years by Rebecca Serle
- Meet Me at the Lake by Carley Fortune
- In the Likely Event by Rebecca Yarros
- Better Than the Movies by Lynn Painter
- Love, Theoretically by Ali Hazelwood
- Same Time Next Summer by Annabel Monaghan
- The Spanish Love Deception by Elena Armas
I suspect Taylor Jenkins Reid will dominate my top 10 in 2024 as well!