2023 was a year of incredible highs and some fairly challenging lows, which was great in the sense of personal growth – but when it came to my reading life meant that I often found myself struggling to find the time/brain space that I usually have. In total, I read 45 books last year – a totally fine number but low for me lately (the least I’ve read since 2019!) and much of that was in the first half of the year before things really went off the rails in the second half. All that to say, I’m really excited for the year ahead when I can reset and get back into the swing of my more usual reading routine. But before I do that – a look back at the books I loved in 2023. In no particular order, below are my top 10.

It was interesting to see that 7 out of 10 were backlist titles (published over a year ago) and 4 out of 10 were from authors I’d read and loved on past year’s lists. A great reminder to explore back into an author’s catalogue and also to not be afraid to look beyond shiny new releases to find books I might have missed (or never even heard of!) for the chance at discovering things I’ll love.

For even more great reading recs, here are my ‘best of’ lists from 2022, 2021, 2020 and 2019! What a fun tradition to look back on.

Now for the list:

The Patron Saint of Liars by Ann Patchett – I read 3 titles by Ann Patchett last year (I’m clearly a fan) and had a hard time deciding as I honestly loved them all – but her debut novel was absolutely stunning to me from a story-telling point of view. The main characters will remain in my mind for a long time to come. Honorable mention though to Truth & Beauty (a memoir on friendship) and These Precious Days (an incredible collection of essays).

Last Summer in the City by Gianfranco Calligarich – This book might have been the biggest surprise read of the year. I picked it up on a whim one day and took it with me to Central Park to read. I ended up devouring it and the story of a young restless man spending a hot summer in Rome has stayed with me. It was originally published in the 70s in Italian before going out of circulation and only much later was translated and re-published. Those in the literary world have since compared it to The Catcher in the Rye or The Great Gatsby though and regard it as a ‘lost classic’. It’s not a happy story but there was so much depth and truth in it and I found it really accessible for a translated work.

I Was Told There’d Be Cake by Sloane Crosley – I love a good essay collection for when I’m in a reading slump. This one had Crosley’s signature self depracating wit – and while not all of the essays have held up fully since this was published in 2008, for the most part it was a fun time, and sometimes that’s just exactly what I want a book to be. Especially loved the essay on being a bridesmaid!

Strip Tees: A Memoir of Millenial Los Angeles by Kate Flannery – You might have had to have been an American Apparel wearing early 20 something in the years 2008-2012 for this to really hit home, but if you were – read this. This memoir follows the spectacular rise and crashing fall of AA during the early Aughts and the general Indie Sleaze (dying over this term but it’s truly so accurate) of that particular time in New York and LA. It was a wild time. I had fun reading this while also being horrified by the inner workings of that company.

Flight by Lynn Steger Strong – I read this right at the end of last year, and while it takes place over the holidays I think it would be a great winter read in general. It’s short but packs a punch as it immediately dives into a complicated family dynamic and is set over the course of a few tense days. If you liked the sort of quiet drama found in Commonwealth by Ann Patchett or Olympus Texas by Stacey Swann – I think you’d really like this.

Slow Days, Fast Company by Eve Babitz – This is my third Eve Babitz and I still find myself falling under the spell of her uniquely ‘Los Angeleno’ voice. Originally published in 1977 and the only other non-fiction that made my list this year, if you want to know what it was really like to find yourself young and restless in LA in the ’60s/70s – you want this collection of essays.

Eve in Hollywood by Amor Towles – A different Eve in LA! Last year I read and loveddd Amor Towles’ Rules of Civility. This hard to find novella follows one of the main characters from that novel, Eve, out to LA in a series of short vignettes. His writing was captivating as always and I loved getting a chance to revisit this character. (Note: this book is hard to find but it looks like it’s being re-published this spring along with a collection of his other short stores – preorder here)

Hello Beautiful by Ann Napolitano – Based very loosely on the structure of Little Women this story follows a group of sisters in a tight-knit family and a boy who intersects their lives – told over decades. I really loved this story – such rich and complex characters. If you’re a fan of The Dutch House, I think you’d like this one.

Rodham by Curtis Sittenfeld – When I think back on the books that really stuck with me from 2023, this one is high on the list. I don’t know that I’ve ever read something that so archly bends the lines between truth and fiction – this story is an ‘alternate reality’ in which Hillary Rodham doesn’t end up with Bill Clinton and their political lives diverge and intersect throughout the decades to come. I thought it was brilliantly executed.

Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin – If I had to play favorites, this one would sit in the #1 spot. A novel about two childhood friends that go on to design video games together. It’s about love and ambition and creative pursuits and work and friendship and ego and.. just read it. I don’t care about video games at all and I loved this.