Starcat’s Best Books of 2023

Just what my fellow bookwyrms need during this wintry month: my annual Best Books post. Once again, I couldn’t pick just 10, so I’m featuring my 14 favorite books from 2023.

As always, please note that these aren’t necessarily books that came out in 2023, just ones that I encountered and very much enjoyed.

I read 84 books in 2023. Like last year, this is more than usual – in the past I’ve often averaged about a book per week. I’m not sure what made this such a great year for reading, but I’ll take it!

Here are the books that stood out the most and became my 2023 favorites:

The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern. Last year I told you that Morgenstern’s The Night Circus is among my top favorite books of all time. Well, who knew? The Starless Sea is even better! Truly a masterpiece of lyrical prose. The writing, the characters, the setting, the world-building – all are perfectly exquisite. If I could only recommend one novel to you, out of all the ones I’ve read over the course of my life, it would be this one.

Traveling with Pomegranates by Sue Monk Kidd and Ann Kidd Taylor. Part of the reason I loved this book so much is that it’s written by authors, about their creative process. However, it’s also about travel, and aging, and relationships. If you like memoir and you’re interested in personal growth, you’ll enjoy these musings.

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt. I didn’t know much about this book other than it was rather popular when it came out. What a story! It has one of those narrators that you don’t necessarily like that much, but somehow you end up sympathizing with them. I love books that take me along for a wild ride, and this novel certainly fits the bill. I also learned some new things about the art world, which was a bonus.

The Beekeeper of Aleppo by Christy Lefteri. This is a heartbreaking book about the far-reaching effects of war. I’m amazed by the horrors and losses that we humans can survive. This well-written novel gives us a window into the experience of those whose world is destroyed, and what it’s like to immigrate to a whole new culture. Powerful.

Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir. I already liked Weir’s sci-fi writing, after reading The Martian. This one blew my mind! Seriously, it’s one of the best works of science fiction in recent memory. If you enjoy this genre and haven’t read Project Hail Mary, it deserves to be on the top of your TBR stack.

Wild Feminine: Finding Power, Spirit & Joy in the Female Body by Tami Lynn Kent. I’ve been reading a bunch of books on menopause and related topics, and this is one of the absolute best. How is it possible that I’ve lived in this body for 54 years and I’m still discovering new things? One reason is that we are creatures of continual change. Another is that we’re still being fed a huge bunch of BS about being a woman, thanks to the legacy of the patriarchy. Kent’s book goes a long way toward healing deep wounds and dispelling old myths. This is one I’ll be returning to again and again.

Earth Alchemy by Glennie Kindred. In this densely-packed volume, Kindred takes us on a journey around the wheel of the year that she pairs with the phases of alchemical transformation. We get to witness her personal journey, as well as discover ways we can enrich our own spiritual work. A valuable addition to one’s metaphysical library.

Ink Blood Sister Scribe by Emma Torzs. BlackLion got me this book for my birthday, and it’s right up my alley. Books, magick, mystery, romance… What’s not to love? It’s a delightful book that will keep you up late, turning just one more page. I’m looking forward to reading more by Torzs.

City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert. I love Gilbert’s nonfiction. I didn’t expect to enjoy her fiction quite as much as I do; I’m not sure why. This was an excellent historical novel. Very enjoyable. I love how the protagonist evolves throughout the story.

Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler. This book is intense, sometimes depressing, but absolutely brilliant. I’ve read other works by Butler, but this is my favorite so far. It’s set in a dystopian not-so-distant future, and is believable enough to be downright scary. I especially love the protagonist and her tenacity.

Dawnshard by Brandon Sanderson. This is actually a novella, set in between the longer volumes of Sanderson’s The Stormlight Archive series. Another flawless tale, in a complex but believable world, that makes you stop and think. He’s on top of his game. I’m looking forward to reading his new series, Secret Projects.

Writers & Lovers by Lily King. It’s hard to describe this book. On the surface, it’s a tale of a young woman’s love, grief, and creativity. It could also be said to be about the heroine’s journey, the archetypal awakening to one’s true power. The writing, though, is luminescent, and it upgrades the whole experience. That’s the best I can do. You’ll have to just read it for yourself.

The Narrow Road Between Desires by Patrick Rothfuss. On the one hand, I’d rather Rothfuss put his creative energies into finishing the long-awaited third book of The Kingkiller Chronicles. On the other hand, this is an exquisitely-written faery tale. It brought me to both tears and laughter. Take yourself along on the amusement park ride that is The Narrow Road Between Desires. You won’t regret it.

What did you read last year that you loved? What’s on your to-read list for 2024?

Tell me what you think!

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