02 January 2024

My Top 5 Books of 2023

In the second of my end-of-year round-up posts, I'm highlighting my five favourite books from among all of those I read in 2023. It was — for me — a relatively slow year for reading. I read 77 books in total, including a couple of re-reads, and I wasn't feeling very inspired for much of the year. This meant I defaulted to my usual reading favourites: crime and psychological thrillers and books set in New York City (where the photo below was taken). Sometimes both!

And yes, Jilly Cooper's latest book Tackle! is on the list, although it wasn't anywhere close to my top five. I devoured her books as a teenager and when I heard that her latest book would be set in the world of football and WAGs, I had to give it a read. She definitely enjoyed the team kits, walk-on music and history (and the, er, relationships) more than the actual football — kudos, though, for the in-depth explanations of financial fair play, offsides and Champions League qualification for the horsey set. The end result was Welcome to Wrexham, meets Footballers' Wives meets United. Make of that what you will, although I was pleased that Wolves was one of the few real Premier League clubs to get a mention ("Didn't you used to play for Wolves?" / "No, but I have been compared to a Wolf?").

Read on to find out which were my five favourite books of 2023 and my full reading list. As usual, I've included links to Bookshop.org, a UK-based online bookshop, although you should also be able to find them all in your local indie bookshop.

My top 5 books of 2023

1. Pineapple Street by Jenny Jackson. Set among the wealthy brownstones of Brooklyn Heights (not far from Books Are Magic), Jenny Jackson's keenly observed family drama pulls back the (expensive antique) curtain on the lives of  New York one-percenters. Smart, funny and poignant, Pineapple Street is an enjoyable read that didn't quite diminish my desire to move to the "fruit streets" neighbourhood, even if the Stockton family and the privileged world they inhibit are far from perfect.

2. Yellowface by R.F. Kuang. When June Hayward's almost-friend and literary superstar Athena Liu dies in a freak accident, June freaks out big time. But then she sees it as an opportunity to finally kickstart her own career as a writer by stealing June's unpublished and unseen manuscript so that she can edit it and have it published as her own. What follows is an addictive, razor-sharp and darkly comic tale that satirises the cutthroat world of book publishing. If you need to have likeable characters in novels you read, this one may not be for you. But if you can get past that, sit back and enjoy the wickedly funny ride.

3. This Time Tomorrow by Emma Straub. In Emma Straub's novel, protagonist Alice wakes up on her 40th birthday to find that she is 16 again — and has the chance to relive or revisit some of the moments in her life that may be keeping her from finding true happiness and love. As someone who also turned 40 last year I was, of course, intrigued by the blurb. And Young Adult it ain't. Present-day Alice's father is seriously ill and Alice is desperate to do right by him and their relationship. But will she find solutions in the past? Poignant and thought-provoking, This Time Tomorrow was also a great nostalgia trip for me, perfectly capturing the essence of coming of age in the late 1990s.

4. The Last Remains by Elly Griffiths. Regular readers will know that I've long been a fan of Elly Griffith's Dr Ruth Galloway series of books. Ruth is a Norfolk-based forensic archaeologist whose professional and personal life is constantly being dragged into the work of the local police force thanks to her assistance in solving murders with a historical bent and her relationship with DCI Harry Nelson. They are one of the best examples of the 'cosy crime' genre and I have greatly enjoyed the brief interludes I have spent in the world Griffiths has created. Unfortunately, as the name suggests, The Last Remains is likely to be the last in this particular series. And as you might expect, there are lots of throwbacks to characters and plot points from earlier in the series. The central case involves the discovery of the remains of an archaeology student who disappeared 20 years earlier. The plot is intriguing and cleverly constructed, although it was slightly overshadowed by the need for wrapping up at least some series loose ends. 

I'd recommend reading the series in order, if possible. And if you're craving more Elly Griffiths, I also enjoyed Bleeding Heart Yard, an excellent crime thriller featuring Detective Harbinder Kaur.

5. You, Again by Kate Goldbeck. Goldbeck's will-they-won't-they NYC millennial romance was the perfect holiday read for me. You, Again tells the story of Ari and Josh, who 'meet cute'. Almost. But they end up loathing each other before the night is over. Several times in fact. Is the timing just never right? Or are they just not right for each other? It's a tale as old as time but Goldbeck tells it with wit, warmth and a whole lot of relatability. I'd be very surprised if an adaptation didn't make it onto your favourite streaming platform before long. Oh, and if you're missing New York, You, Again will definitely help to fill in some of that void.

My full 2023 reading list*

  1. The Waiter — Ajay Chowdhury
  2. Bleeding Heart Yard - Elly Griffiths 
  3. Signal Fires — Dani Shapiro
  4. The Bullet That Missed — Richard Osman
  5. Night by Night — Jack Jordan
  6. The Twist of a Knife — Anthony Horowitz
  7. All the Dark Places — Terri Parlato
  8. The Romantic — William Boyd
  9. The Villa — Rachel Hawkins
  10. The Soulmate — Sally Hepworth
  11. Just the Nicest Couple — Mary Kubica
  12. This Time Tomorrow — Emma Straub
  13. The Word Is Murder — Anthony Horowitz 
  14. The Sentence Is Death — Anthony Horowitz
  15. All the Dangerous Things — Stacy Willingham
  16. Before Her Eyes — Jack Jordan
  17. The Only Suspect — Louise Candlish
  18. Moonflower Murders — Anthony Horowitz
  19. Regrets Only — Kieran Scott
  20. You Should Have Told Me — Leah Konen
  21. The Personal Assistant — Kimberly Belle
  22. The Cook — Ajay Chowdhury
  23. The Writing Retreat — Julia Bartz
  24. Bright and Deadly Things — Lexie Elliott
  25. It’s One of Us — J.T. Ellison
  26. I Have Some Questions for You — Rebecca Makkai
  27. The Wilderness Retreat — Jennifer Moore
  28. French Braid — Anne Tyler
  29. The Close — Jane Casey
  30. Close to Home — Cara Hunter
  31. Pineapple Street — Jenny Jackson
  32. The Theory of (Not Quite) Everything — Kara Gnodde
  33. Everybody Writes — Ann Handley
  34. The Last Remains — Elly Griffiths
  35. Romantic Comedy — Curtis Sittenfeld
  36. The Kind Worth Saving — Peter Swanson
  37. A Death at the Party — Amy Stuart
  38. Anywhere You Run — Wanda M. Morris
  39. A Perfect Vintage — Chelsea Fagan
  40. The Simple Truth — James Buckler
  41. Zero Days — Ruth Ware
  42. The Chateau — Jaclyn Goldis
  43. Bad Summer People — Emma Rosenblum 
  44. The Senator’s Wife — Liv Constantine
  45. Black Cake — Charmaine Wilkerson
  46. The Spare Room — Andrea Bartz 
  47. Her, Too — Bonnie Kistler
  48. The Five-Star Weekend — Elin Hilderbrand
  49. The Only Survivors — Megan Miranda
  50. The Rachel Incident — Caroline O’Donoghue
  51. Banyan Moon — Thao Thai
  52. Murder in the Family — Cara Hunter
  53. Have You Seen Her? — Catherine McKenzie
  54. Dark Game — Rachel Lynch
  55. Black Thorn — Sarah Hilary
  56. None of This Is True — Lisa Jewell
  57. Gone Tonight — Sarah Pekkanen
  58. Good Bad Girl — Alice Feeney
  59. Just Another Missing Person — Gillian McAllister
  60. Excavations — Kate Myers
  61. Dark Corners — Megan Goldin
  62. The Favour — Nicci French
  63. My Murder — Katie Williams
  64. Yellowface R.F.  Kuang
  65. The Coworker — Freida McFadden
  66. The House Hunt — C.M. Ewan
  67. The Other Side of the Door — Nicci French
  68. The Running Grave — Robert Galbraith
  69. Girls and Their Horses — Eliza Jane Brazier
  70. The Intern — Michele Campbell
  71. The Herd — Andrea Hartz
  72. Tackle! — Jilly Cooper
  73. Traitors’ Gate — Jeffrey Archer
  74. The Island of Lost Girls — Alex Marwood
  75. The Beach — Alex Garland 
  76. The Manor House — Gilly Macmillan
  77. You, Again — Kate Goldbeck
* Italics = re-reads

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