I've had a number of conversations recently with friends and coworkers. They go something along the lines of "Remember in 2016, when we didn't know what was coming?" followed closely by "Remember in 2020, when we didn't know what was coming?" This shared and recurrent haunting that we seem to be collectively living is simultaneously comforting and unnerving. Which is, perhaps not coincidentally, also a fairly apt description of my adult life. The conversation I have been having primarily with myself this month has gone something along the lines of "Remember in January, when you didn't know what was coming?"
I am actually not all that given to vast quantities of rumination in December regarding how the year has gone. I tend to reserve those thoughts for my reading year, where they trend in the fundamentally happy and filled to the brim with gratitude direction. But this year was somewhat ferociously unique in that my life as a whole was well and truly hijacked in January and, since then, we've been essentially running full-scale battle sprints. At a certain point, I cried "'Havoc!' and let slip the dogs of war." This entailed, among other things, taking a new job and moving my family across the country.
And just as those things we all didn't see coming in 2016 and in 2020 significantly impacted my reading life, so did the things I didn't see coming in January. For that reason, the books listed below do not (even remotely) encompass the full picture of the reading that I did this year. I think I'll address the highly specific (and massively unexpected) way my reading was impacted in a separate post. But the books listed below brought joy and respite and for now, as always, I record my list of published books that carried the day for me these past twelve months.
These authors. Their beautiful written words. You never let me down.
(listed in order in which I read them)
We Could Be So Good by Cat Sebastian
How to Tame a Wild Rogue by Julie Anne Long
Love, Theoretically by Ali Hazelwood
Knockout by Sarah MacLean
Unfortunately Yours by Tessa Bailey
Jane & Edward by Melodie Edwards
The Unselected Journals of Emma M. Lion, Vol. 7 by Beth Brower
Codename Charming by Lucy Parker
Thornhedge by T. Kingfisher
A Curse for True Love by Stephanie Garber
The Marquis Who Mustn't by Courtney Milan
Georgie, All Along by Kate Clayborn
Divine Rivals by Rebecca Ross
The Fragile Threads of Power by V. E. Schwab
Romantic Comedy by Curtis Sittenfeld
Wreck the Halls by Tessa Bailey
The Gentleman's Gambit by Evie Dunmore
FYI, that's 7 contemporaries, 6 historicals, and 4 fantasies. Of those, 10 are romances, 2 are retellings, 2 are fairy tales, and 1 is a mystery. Interestingly (possibly only to me), this list includes 6 standalones, while the other 11 are part of a series or duology. Of the 16 authors featured, one is a debut author (which always thrills me) and one appears twice (always a rare treat). Seven authors from my Best of 2022 list make appearances on this year's list as well.
Best New Discovery of 2023
She's been on my radar as long as everyone else's, and I would just sort of read a chapter of her previous works here and there, never committing fully for some (likely unworthy) reason or other. Then this month, in fact, I picked up Romantic Comedy and could not put it down. I could not put it down. Reading it was a breathless and emotional experience for me. I think it spoke to a lot of my previously mentioned thoughts regarding things we don't see coming, being a woman who works with words who is also deeply mistrustful of putting a voice to feelings in general, and then just being a human who is existing in this specific world as this singular moment in time. I loved it beyond reason. No notes.
Best Books I Read in 2023 That Were Published in a Different Year
Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver
The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton
Happy New Year!