my top five books of 2023
one last bookish letter to see out the end of 2023
Before we start today’s letter, happy holidays! I hope you’re all having a wonderful holiday season and enjoying yourselves with LOTS of food. Exercise? Who’s she? Pass me my eighth mini apple pie, NOW.
Anyway, I’m popping in out of schedule this week to tell you about my favourite books. Feel free to comment with your favourite books of the year too. Maybe we had similar books we liked, or some that you recognise that didn’t make your list, I’d love to hear about them!
I’m going to make this exciting by ranking them and saving the best for last. Okay, here we go…
5. Yolk by Mary H.K. Choi — 4.5🌟
I’m a little shocked seeing what I rated this book in my Storygraph review below, I don’t remember this book being that amazing or resonating so much with me. This is why writing down my thoughts after I read is going to become a habit in 2024 because this is the most annoying feeling ever.
I did enjoy this book a lot though and I’m still kind of salty that I read it on my Kindle and don’t have a physical version of it. This one is definitely for my sad girl lit girlies out there. Nothing much happens but following Jayne along in her 20-something-year-old life, filled with overthinking, boys and complicated relationships with her family. It definitely moved me a little now that I think about it. Why are families so difficult?
My first thoughts review:
wowww I really really liked this. I almost teared up a bit at the end too. I loved reading along Jayne's journey, her thoughts aligning similarly with my own, how she saw the world around her and the descriptions of Texas almost make me want to visit just to see that big vast night sky :')
Jayne is such an interesting character that I saw so much of myself in unfortunately lol but she's just a young gal going through it, too in her head all the time, it was almost like reading my own thoughts at times, especially her relationship with her mum oof.
this was a journey. I just feel really happy that this book exists, I don't know how to put it into words but I feel connected to this novel somehow. it just got me.
I kinda wish the ending was a little more fleshed out but I also don't mind too much.
loved it and I'm off to read more some of mary's books! [note from present me: I have yet to read more of mary’s books.]
4. You Made a Fool of Death with Your Beauty by Akwaeke Emezi — 4.5🌟
I remember this one being really funny, like I actually laughed out loud reading this. This is also the book where I discovered that I’m a bit over the top when it comes to rating books. Although I really liked this book, I can’t in good faith rate The Secret History by Donna Tartt and this five stars. They’re just not the same at all. And I don’t mean genre-wise, but overall it feels weird to me for some reason. I think this is what happens when you’re really into a thing. Like, I’m not a big film person, I’ll rate the Phineas and Ferb movie five stars and Pulp Fiction five stars no problem.
Mark Kermode is somewhere flipping a table I’m sure.
(Btw, I’ve been seeing a lot of discourse on bookthreads about how you “should” be rating books, and I think it’s all a bunch of nonsense. Rating a book is personal, it’s literally your opinion. No one should be telling you there’s a “right” and “wrong” way to rate a book. Go away.)
This one is a good light(ish) romantic read which usually isn’t my typical read, but I enjoyed it nonetheless! The book is essentially the mess of dating in your 20s with the added layer of grief and wanting to have fun but feeling guilty about it, as well as not being sure where your boundaries are but doing things anyway, and also, older men. It’s certainly a journey.
I’d also say this would be a great book to read during the summer as Feyi jets off to a stunning mansion in a hot country I can’t remember the name of and the outfits, the food and the overall vibe just scream reading this under the sun.
First thoughts review:
although this isn't usually the type of book I read, I loved it!! I tried to read another romance book before this and couldn't get past the first 30 pages so I thought I was done with that genre but I actually ended up enjoying this one.
the characters are so likeable you just must find out what happens with everyone, they're so real I could see them all acting out what was going on so vividly, where's the TV show already?!
and joy and feyi's friendship is so cute and hilarious! I've absolutely had those same conversations with my friends verbatim it made me actually laugh out loud
also the spice 👀👌🏾
if you're looking for a nice romantic read but with a touch of depth (topics on grief and loneliness) this is the right one for you!
3. The Premonition by Banana Yoshimoto — 5🌟
Okay, this one was amazing. I wrote an entire piece about this book because it spoke to me so much and the prose was just beautiful. This was my first read by Banana Yoshimoto and she did not disappoint. I’m going to think about this book for a long time.
Following Yayoi on her journey of figuring out forgotten childhood memories and working out why everything feels so off was felt like a privilege to witness. The characters were intriguing, and the settings were blissful. I don’t know how she did it but the entire book feels so light, like I was floating whilst reading it. I’ll say it a million times but there’s just something about Japanese literature. I adored this.
First thoughts review:
okay I read this in one sitting I loved this a lot. the story was quite deep but told so effortlessly. it was really easy to get immersed in Yayoi's thoughts and follow her mind as she figured out what was bothering her all these years. this was a short read but so much happened and the whole thing felt so dreamlike and beautiful. this was my first banana yoshimoto and I can't wait to read another one of hers.
also the cover is stunning I feel like it captures the book so so perfectly.
2. Sorrow and Bliss by Meg Mason — 5🌟
This one! This book is incredible. I’ve never read anything like this before and I need to read it again. This is a book about mental health but written in such a fascinating way that you feel like you’re right there in the midst of it all.
It’s written almost in stand-alone excerpts which at first I thought was a little overwhelming and confusing but I'm so glad I kept going because I came to love this format. The depictions of mental health were so real and the writing style !! This is why I love literature and language and reading and art!!
[Note: I’m noticing I’m not really giving plot overviews in this letter which I know is not exactly my strong suit, but I’ve also just realised that my favourite type of books are the ones where *nothing happens*, so maybe that’s why I always struggle to tell people about the books I read. That and my awful memory, hence why I’m including reviews from my storygraph which I write immediately after reading a book.]
First thoughts review:
firstly, this was one of those "I'm buying this mainly for the cover" and thank god I did!
this is definitely one of the best books I've read this year if not ever?? I absolutely loved the style of writing even though it was a little tricky to follow at first, I quickly learned to appreciate the excerpt style.
after finishing the book I went back to the start and had a little skim through and found how cyclical and thought out this novel was which honestly bumped it up to 5 stars. the dedication, the planning, the thought behind every word, I am in awe.
I could go on and on, Martha and Patrick's relationship is just heart wrenching, Ingrid is just so funny, Martha's relationship with her dad nearly made me cry, not a spoiler really but Martha and her mother on the phone, how Martha's mental illness is described, just the language and the way this book is written, I feel like I want to frame it.
1. She and Her Cat by Makoto Shinkai — 500🌟
This book was an entire moment for me this year. I genuinely teared up after reading this and not because of the book itself, although it did have some tough topics crop up.
I finally found my comfort book. I’ve never had one of those before even though I read a lot, and now I get it. I am absolutely, without a doubt, going to read this book 500 times. There is so much safety and loveliness in this tiny hardback about talking cats, it’s everything I’d want and more. There are even cute illustrations to go with every story. PERFECTION.
This was also the start of me collecting Japanese books about cats. I’m on board and I’m never getting off.
First thoughts review:
this is the BEST book I've ever read!!! oh my god I loved every minute reading this I'm sobbing. this is literally perfect. such beautifully wrapped little stories with perspectives from cats!! what could be better?! I'm giddy.
And that’s my top five of the year.
I read 24 books this year which I’m over the moon about since I got off to a massively shaky start by only reading about three books for the first half of the year. Then I got a Kindle for my birthday at the end of July (still so happy I have wonderful people in my life to give me such a thoughtful gift) which rekindled my love for reading again and then read about 20 books in five months. I also finally started a bookstagram account which I’ve always wanted to do!
Next year I won’t be setting a reading goal, instead just a minimum of two a month to make sure I hold myself a little accountable and to make sure I’m reading books because I want to read them instead of trying to meet a numerical goal (sorry to The Goldfinch, A Little Life and Out by Natsuo Kirino).
What were your top five books of 2023? I’d love to hear about them! Leave a comment so we can discuss.
This will be my last letter until the new year so I will wish you all a lovely holiday season and a happy new year! I look forward to writing so much more for you all in 2024. Thank you for joining me on this journey <3
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