My Favorite Books of 2023

My 2024 is off to a…slow start. My past week was completely gobbled up by a stomach bug that’s been going around town. Noto virus? Roto virus? I guess it doesn’t matter.

Thankfully I have my Kindle, my Moutain Berry Blast Powerade and the softest bread on the planet – Casa Pan Dulce hamburger buns. (The only things I could keep down for 4 days…ugh)

I’m starting to feel a bit better. SO I thought I’d complete this list of my best books of 2023.

In total, I read 53 books. And I LOVED…5-star-loved…15 of them. Here’s that list.

My #1 reason for putting out this list is to get aYOUR list! Send me the books that you loved. I’m especially soft on historical novels but I like a wide array of fiction books. I’ll throw a non-fiction or a biography in there once in a while but novels are my true love.

Here are prior years’ lists.

Best of 2020 (92), Best of 2022 (63) I’m not sure what happened to 2021!

Also: 15 Books that Make Me Want to Travel NOW and Great Books about Ambergris Caye and Belize

And here are my top books of 2023. And I’m going to start with my favorite…though North Woods is a close second…this one is incredible.

CLOUD CUCKOO LAND by Anthony Doerr

It’s hard to believe that a single human wrote this book. You can read the descriptions, the reviews and the summaries but they don’t do it justice. Love, love, love. One of the best books I’ve ever read.

I’m going to read it again when I finish my current book.

NORTH WOODS by Daniel Mason

This is really a chronological series of short stories that all take place at one rural property in New England over the centuries (from Puritan times to the near-future). They are all griping and so cleverly wound together…it’s almost miraculous. Magic. His writing is also beautiful…really incredible. I loved this book sooo much.


John Boyne is one of my favorite authors. I not only pre-ordered this book but I paid full price. (I’m usually a Kindle Daily Deals kinda book shopper)

I love everything he has written but I haven’t read his most famous book: The Boy in the Striped Pajamas. (The subject of children and concentration camps is so hard…I just can never seem to read it)

I didn’t know, until I was partway through this one, that All The Broken Places is a sequel to that book. And tells the story of 91-year old Gretel living in a large London apartment for decades who is grappling with a past that has been haunting her for over 70 years. SO good.

TOM LAKE by Ann Patchett

Ann Patchett is also one of my favorite writers…if you haven’t read Commonwealth or Dutch House or Bel Canto, I’m jealous!

Lara and her husband own a lush cherry orchard in Michigan. During the pandemic, she tells her curious girls – her three grown daughters – about her younger years. When she performed in summer stock theater at Tom Lake and dated a now very famous author.

It makes me want to go live the rest of my life in a cherry orchard in Michigan (in the summer of course!) So good. It also makes me want to listen to my first audio book. Meryl Streep narrates this one!

LOOT by Tania James

I was probably lured in by the pretty cover but stayed for the great book. A sweeping historic novel set in India in the 1700s? Caste, colonialism, gorgeous scenery, juicy characters, and really interesting historical setting…I read this one quick.

ROMANTIC COMEDY by Curtis Sittenfeld

Romantic Comedy

A cynical NYC female comedy writer on a late-night sketch comedy show doesn’t have time for a love life – her job is everything. All of her time, all of her relationships, it’s all-consuming. But then she meets a charming rock star who hosts the show one week.

THAT makes it sound like a boring romance but this is SOOO much more. It’s a fictional inside look at working at SNL, it’s the pandemic. It’s a REALLY good book.

MYSTIC RIVER by Denis Lehane

Three childhood friends in Boston…different…but they hang out on the streets every day until a horrific event shatters their world. Fast forward 25 years, one of their daughters gets murdered and all the childhood trauma comes rushing back. I was glued to this one. And totally clueless that a movie was made with Sean Penn, Tim Robbins, Laura Linney and other big stars. What a great book.

THE COVENANT OF WATER by Abraham Verghese

A Kerala, India family is cursed – someone in every generation dies from drowning. And, they live in a land of water – all marshes, lagoons and canals. This book takes you to Kerala, India (and makes me want to go back!)…generations with love and loss and the caste system and colonialism. Oprah picked an AMAZING one here. (She also picked Hello Beautiful by Ann Napolitano last year which I liked…but it got a bit slow…like not love.)


I like a book that takes you to another place and another time…and this one is like spending a week on the Italian Riviera in the 50s. A glamorous, star-studded world where a charismatic journalist named Hal stumbles upon a rooftop party hosted by the mysterious Countess. She invites him to her seaside villa where he meets Stella…

I was totally into it and it had me travel planning to Italy for hours.

BEARTOWN by Fredrik Bachman

I read A Man Named Ove a few years ago and I didn’t like it. I found it repetitive, kinda boring and very hard to finish. A jerk of an old man becomes…slightly less of a jerk and it’s supposed to be heartening?

So I’m not sure why I picked up Beartown – probably a Kindle Daily sale. It’s about teens and ice hockey and cold weather. 3 of my least favorite subjects but…this story is pretty incredible. This small Swedish town obsessed with their hockey team hit on all my emotions. It’s a great read.


Recently widowed Pival is 60 and has never left Kolkata – she hasn’t even left her well-to-do neighborhood. Her late husband had told her that their son died in Los Angeles but Pavil never really accepted the news and now she is planning her first trip ever to find out the truth for herself.

She books a private tour of the US with a dodgy tour company from Queens. Joined by a Bangladeshi tour guide and a young American companion, this is just a beautiful story of clashing cultures and generations and understanding and forgiveness.

THE LOVE OF MY LIFE by Rosie Walsh

Leo’s wife has had a brush with death and he starts to look into her past. He’s an obituary writer at a national paper and he just can’t help himself from starting hers just in case. What he learns is that she’s not who he thought she was, and she’s got more than one BIG secret…

THE RACHEL INCIDENT by Caroline O’Donoghue

This is such a lovely book (and a great cover). An Irish woman looking back on her early 20s. Back to graduating with a seemingly useless English degree, a crush on her professor, no jobs in sight… self-obsessed and insecure. Wanting to move away from a small city in Ireland but scared.

This book is beautiful and funny and heartbreaking with beautiful characters and makes me glad I’m not in my early 20s anymore!

MOUTH TO MOUTH by Antoine Wilson

I like to know what’s coming. During a movie, I can hardly pay attention because I’m trying to figure out the ending. But I could never figure out what was going to happen next in this book…and I love that.

Picture this…you run into an old acquaintance (some guy who was in one of your college classes) at the airport, he brings you to the 1st class lounge and just starts telling you this story about how he saved someone’s life…

I can’t describe this book but I loved it.


This novel takes you to an upper-class seaside English manor in the late 1920s and follows young Cristabel. She almost raises herself…directing epic plays for the village in a theater made of the bones from a whale that washes up on the beach. A coming of age story. A spy during WW2 story. It’s a beautiful book.

Send me all recommendations please!

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  1. Frank J on January 14th, 2024 at 10:14 am

    FYI Beartown was on HBO a few years ago. I enjoyed the acting. Not sure how closely it follows the book but I guess I’ll have to find out! Thanks.

  2. Bob Barr on January 14th, 2024 at 11:40 am

    Edward Abby,

  3. Mary Almaraz on January 15th, 2024 at 11:26 am

    Thanks for sharing your list, Rebecca.
    I order audio books from the Houston Public Library. Some of my favorites from 2023 are:
    The Little Liar – Mitch Albom
    The River We Remember – William Kent Krueger
    The Choice – Dr Edith Eva Eger
    Remarkably Bright Creatures – Shelby Van Pelt
    The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek – Kim Michele Richardson

    • San Pedro Scoop on January 15th, 2024 at 4:33 pm

      Thank you! I just looked up the first one quickly and it looks great.

  4. Hannah Tickle on January 20th, 2024 at 5:31 pm

    Awesome list!

    In no particular order I really loved:

    The Great Alone, Kristin Hannah
    The Seven Year Slip, Ashley Poston
    Yours Truly, Abby Jimenez
    Hello Beautiful, Ann Napolitano
    Happy Place, Emily Henry
    Hang The Moon, Jeannette Walls
    Fourth Wing, Rebecca Yarros
    Go As A River, Shelley Read
    Carrie Soto Is Back, Taylor Jenkins Reid
    Lessons In Chemistry, Bonnie Garmus
    Someone Else’s Shoes, Jojo Moyes

    • San Pedro Scoop on January 21st, 2024 at 7:20 am

      Thank you! I’ve read a few but you remind me that I’ve been wanting to try Rebecca Yarros. I’m going to add a bunch of these to my “Wish List”

  5. Trisha Clark on January 31st, 2024 at 2:40 pm

    Lessons In Chemistry was my favorite in 2023. Someone Else’s Shoes was a fun read.
    Other favorites for 2023:
    When the Apricots Bloom…Gina Wilkinson
    Personal Librarian…Marie Benedict
    Looking for Jane…Heather Marshall
    The Gown…Jennifer Robson
    Well Behaved Wives…Amy Sue Nathan
    Chanel Cleeton books about Cuba: there are 5 in the Perez family series. (I have always had a fascination with Cuba & hope to visit there someday)
    Gilded Dreams…Gilded Summer…Donna Russo Morin. Being from the Newport, RI area, I was familiar with the summer “cottages” along Ocean Drive & Bellevue Ave.
    The Housemaid…The Housemaid’s Secret…Freida McFadden
    The Hotel Hamilton..Tanya Williams
    Fifth Avenue Glamour….Renee Rosen
    I’m loving reading about strong, independent women & historical fiction….
    Currently reading A Beautiful Rivel…Gil Paul

    • San Pedro Scoop on January 31st, 2024 at 4:12 pm

      I really like Chanel Cleton’s books…thank you for this list!

  6. Emily S. on February 12th, 2024 at 2:08 pm

    Your list is great, and I’ve added a few of them to my WTR list – thanks! Have read a few on your list already and agree. A few of other faves from last year to add:
    * Go As a River by Shelley Read
    * When the Jessamine Blooms by Donna Everhart (published in Jan. 2024, but I received an ARC and read in late 2023)
    * My Friend Anne Frank by Hannah Pick-Goslar
    * None of This is True by Lisa Jewell
    * The Wishing Game by Meg Shaffer
    * Beautiful Trauma by Rebecca Fogg

    • San Pedro Scoop on February 12th, 2024 at 3:51 pm

      Thank you! I know I’ve read Lisa Jewell and liked the book – now I see she has a bunch more. This is perfect 🙂