Best Books of 2023 — My Favorite 15 Fiction & Top 3 Nonfiction Reads Over the Past Year

In 2023, I started the year with my favorite reads from the previous year and I was surprised (and excited) by how many of you enjoyed the post. Since then, I’ve continued to share book recommendations and hope to only increase the ratings and reviews I share here on KN. Along with my personal enjoyment and fulfillment, the feedback, community, and connection surrounding books has motivated me to become more of a resource moving forward. Last year, I read 194 books — the majority having been read in the second part of the year. That’s a lot of books and this year, I don’t have a goal to read more, but to connect more with what I read. Last year, I wasn’t driven by the volume/number of reads, but by finding books I loved and could then share with you all. And with such a big year in reading, I am stoked today to share my top reads from 2023; after much deliberation, I finally settled on my very favorite 15 fiction books (and series) and top 3 nonfiction reads.

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A few notes before we get to my favorite books over the past year…

  • Some of the books included in the list were published last year, others were not. This isn’t a list of best books published in 2023, but a list of my favorites that I read in 2023. Moving forward, I will continue to try to read current books but I’ll also be reading books and series that aren’t as current. And, once I find an author I connect with, I love going back and reading their entire catalogs.
  • I won’t defend “how I read” the number of books that I do every time I talk about books. It’s become my primary form of entertainment and even when I’m doing chores, driving, walking, etc., I’m always listening to a book and consuming them how I can. The way we spend our time is a personal choice and our degree of concentration and flexibility isn’t universal. And, like I already mentioned, in addition to personal enjoyment, entertainment, and escapism, I’m also motivated because I love sharing books I love with you all (and want to only do more of that).
  • We aren’t going to debate why I did/didn’t like a book. That isn’t fun for me — you can head straight to book review sites for that. I rate books based off a feeling and personal connection. Sometimes, I think I would have enjoyed books more/less based on reading them with my eyes vs. ears and vice versa. There’s a lot of factors that go into my personal preferences but I like connecting over books I love, not over trying to justify my stance on a book. (This is more of an Instagram message thing 😉 ).
  • Read what you love and don’t judge me (or others) for what I/we read! 😉

After the recap of my 2023 favorites, you’ll find what I use to track my books and a list of every book I read over the past year, separated by month, along with their individual ratings!

Bookish Essentials & Faves

  • THIS rechargeable, dimmable book light that has three light settings
  • THIS book seat book holder that keeps your pages in place and lets you read, hands free
  • THIS Kindle remote control page turner that makes walking and reading, eating and reading, and laying in bed without moving my arms out from underneath the covers easy and possible.
  • AirPods Pro (currently 24% off on Amazon) for noise cancelling ingenuity that lets you seamlessly listen while doing noisy chores (like dishes)
  • THIS Kindle Paperwhite — I am so glad I finally made the move from my iPad (yes, there is a difference)
  • Laying down with THIS Nodpod weighted face mask while listening to an audiobook is the pinnacle of relaxation.
  • AirPods Max for LONG listening times without having to recharge (also fantastic to give your ears a break from the inner ear earbuds)
  • THIS custom book spine mug went viral when I shared it on Instagram over the holidays! I sent my preferred 16 books and she sent a mock-up back quickly. She closed her shop a few times to catch up but is back with semi-custom book mugs HERE.
  • Whether it’s the weight, softness, or stretch, THIS blanket is unmatched and is pretty much my exclusive “reading blanket”,
Book Spine Mug
Custom Book Spine Mug

Top 15 (Fiction) Books (& Duologies/Series) of 2023

It was beyond difficult to narrow these down and they’re in random order, but these are my favorite books that I read over the past year! As always, you can see the books I’m currently reading that I’ve rated with 4+ stars HERE.

Best Books of 2023

NO. 1
Yours Truly by Abby Jimenez
Contemporary Romance

In my book (no pun intended 😉 ), Abby can do no wrong. And this one was an endearing, slow burn, rom com masterpiece. She currently has 5 published books with one on the way, releasing April 2, which I will drop everything to dive into. Her characters are my favorite and her latest book shows exactly why. If you haven’t read Part of Your World yet, I recommend reading that one first as there are repeat characters and a little background provided — it was also a 5 star read for me last year!

Best Books of 2023 (Women's Fiction)

NO. 2
Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus
Historical Fiction

Unlike what I typically gravitate toward, I had to see if this set-in-the-mid-century debut STEM novel was worth the hype. Spoiler — it is. I loved using my imagination with this one and don’t know that I would have loved it as much on audio so I definitely recommend reading with your eyes on this one. It’s quirky, girl power, and takes a humorous look at some unfunny topics. Apple TV has released it as a TV show — I haven’t tuned in yet, but definitely will.

Best Books of 2023 (Fiction Romance)

NO. 3
The Soulmate Equation by Christina Lauren
Contemporary Romance

This is Christina Lauren at their best, with some of my favorite rom-com tropes included. A warm take on what happens when matchmaking and genetics meet, I loved the journey. I actually prefer this book, over the follow-up (The True Love Experiment), released earlier this past year.

Best Books of 2023 (Contemporary Romance)

NO. 4
The Bodyguard by Katherine Center
Contemporary Romance

I adore Katherine Center’s writing style and this closed door rom-com puts the FMC in the unexpected bodyguard role. The banter and family are great and this was easily one of my most favorite poolside reads this past summer. Charming and deliciously feel-good.

Best Books of 2023 -- Suspense Thriller

NO. 5
None of This is True by Lisa Jewell

Probably my favorite Lisa Jewell suspense to date, the creep factor is high on this one when a woman inserts herself into a stranger’s life in an intimate and invasive way. Top tier twists and emotions til the very end on this one!
*Check your trigger warnings.

Best Books of 2023 (YA Romance)

NO. 6
Better Than the Movies by Lynn Painter
YA Romance

I can’t explain how enjoyable Lynn Painter’s sweet, YA novels have been this past year. I’ve devoured several of them (including The Do Over and Betting On You) but this one was probably my favorite. Think — girl next door who sets her sights on a longtime crush and enlists the annoying boy next door for help. For an even more enjoyable experience, look up the accompanying playlist on Spotify or Apple Music. I get a lot of questions on whether certain books are appropriate for younger audiences, and this would be a top recommendation!

best book series of 2023 (contemporary romance)

NO. 7
When in Rome & Practice Makes Perfect by Sarah Adams
Contemporary Romance

Possibly my favorite sweet small-town series, which currently stands at two published books with more on the way! Set in Rome, Kentucky, you get the Gilmore Girls feels with genuinely good guys and likable FMCs with totally individual personalities. In the first book, we have a pop-star-seeking-normalcy-vacay and a pie shop owner; in the second, a bodyguard and florist. These are easy reads and will definitely help you get back into reading if it’s been a while and I bet, like me, you’ll be addicted to this author and these characters!

Best Books of 2023 (Fantasy)

NO. 8
Fourth Wing by Rebecca Yarros

Another unlikely read for me that I had to check and see if this raved-about dragon war college fantasy was worth the hype. It was. And then, I made my mom and Dave read it too, haha. I loved searching reader-generated playlists on Spotify/Apple Music for this one too, making it dramatic with a background vibe reminiscent of Game of Thrones. I will say — I read this one with my eyes and then listened to Iron Flame (the second book in the series) and liked the first book WAY more. I may have liked the second book more if I’d read it with my eyes also, but I have higher hopes for the third book in this will-be-5-book-series. But the first, with twists and constant emotions and excitement, without a doubt, I can’t recommend enough.
*Includes graphic content.

Best Books of 2023 (Contemporary Romance)

NO. 9
Love and Other Words by Christina Lauren
Contemporary Romance

Queue the summer nostalgia! After reading this, I would actually bump Every Summer After way down on the list. There are uncanny similarities (with this novel being published first), and I think I prefer this story and writing more. There are dual timelines, spanning 10 years, between two friends-turned-loves that lost touch and are reconnecting and learning about the root of heartbreak from years earlier. This one is beautiful, emotional, and so so good.

Best Book Series of 2023

NO. 10
Lovelight Farms & Mixed Signals by B.K. Borison
Contemporary Romance

I know I’ve talked about this series, most specifically the first book in the series, a LOT but it is just too enjoyable and still not well known. I included the first book and third book (the third is probably my favorite thus far) but the second was great too — just a 4.5 instead of 5 star read, for me. Another small town series that shares characters and focuses on newly-formed-loves in a Christmas tree farm. There is a fourth and final book releasing this summer and I’m probably the most excited about this one!
*Includes some graphic sexual content.

Best Books of 2023

NO. 11
Archer’s Voice by Mia Sheridan
Contemporary Romance

This one is one of the few books that literally made tears stream from my eyes. I loved the setting, the character development, and the perseverance, mercy, and grace of the FMC. Both main characters have a history of substantial tragedy that has affected them both in different ways — I loved watching them come together to help carry each other through their traumas.
*Includes graphic sexual content.

Best Books of 2023

NO. 12
His & Hers by Alice Feeney

This dark mystery will leave you guessing til the very end — a whodunnit where no one can be trusted. It’s addicting and I didn’t want to put it down! I also really enjoyed this audio version of this book so while audio can be hit or miss for me, this one is great.
*Check triggers and graphic content.

Best Books of 2023

NO. 13
The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
Historical Fiction

Two sisters and their different roles and journeys during WWII France. Heartbreak abounds but so does the inspiring stories that will leave you sobbing. The ending got the best of me — so beautifully written, told from multiple POVs, spanning multiple timelines.
*Check potential triggers.

Best Books of 2023 (Mystery/Suspense/Thriller)

NO. 14
The Housemaid & The Housemaid’s Secret by Freida McFadden

I’ve gone through Freida’s entire library this year and my first books of hers are still my favorite. Easy to read and totally binge-able, I love the twists and unlike a lot of books, the second totally stands up to the first! I can’t wait for the third to be released this summer.

Best Books of 2023

NO. 15
Drowning by T.J. Newman

One of my final books of the year, this gripping suspense gave me so much anxiety but it was such an awesome journey and I was all in. The gist of the story — what happens when a plane crashes in the ocean, sinks to the bottom, and still has survivors on board. I read this one after reading Falling (also a great read) but preferred this one of the two.

Top 3 (Nonfiction) Books of 2023

Best Nonfiction Books of 2023

NO. 1
Irresistible by Andy Stanley

This wasn’t the only book I read this year written by our pastor, but it was the most personally influential. (BTW- I also highly recommend Parenting: Getting It Right.) It was actually one of the most significant books I’ve ever read. I would 100% recommend the audio version — if you enjoy Andy’s sermons or speaking appearances, you’ll understand. With his audible dialogue, the most important points are further emphasized. If you are looking to broaden/deepen/strengthen your view of Christianity and the Bible– more specifically the relationship between Jesus and the old and new covenants, this is a must read!

Best Books of 2023

NO. 2
Decluttering at the Speed of Life by Dana K. White
Personal Improvement

This book was one of the most significant helps and affirmations when I set out to start down a path of simplifying and minimizing. If you’re in a similar place of overwhelm and struggle with your relationship with stuff, I can’t recommend enough giving this book a quick read! Great methods, practices, and support included.

Best Books of 2023

NO. 3
Atomic Habits by James Clear
Personal Improvement

This will be one that I go back and re-read more than once. Such a fantastic way to think of how we set up our days, prioritize, and what goes into helping us build the kind of intentional life we want, filled with the things we want most. Great tips included (like habit stacking), and I can confirm that habits are easier to build after reading this book.

Check out all my recent reads I’ve rated with 4+ stars HERE.

The Book I Read Every Day in 2023

2023 was the first year I committed to reading the Bible every day and actually finished it, in its entirety. After starting and stopping this type of initiative several times, I am thrilled. And, I 100% credit the program and reading plan I used to do it. I’ve talked about it here before at some point, but if you’re interested in reading the Bible, I can’t recommend The Bible Recap enough. Head to their website for first steps, to download the daily reading plan, and for the q&a. Each day, I would read the prescribed readings, and follow it up with The Bible Recap episode for that day, summarizing what I read. Tara Leigh Cobble is amazing and instrumental in my understanding and answering questions. Broken down into daily bits, the program is totally manageable (the readings AND podcast recap take no more than 30 minutes/day — maybe less).

I’ve had questions about which Bible I use and that isn’t important. I use a NIV version but honestly, most days, I would just read from my bible app (Holy Bible) which has TONS of versions included — many of them have the option of playing audio, too, if you prefer to listen in the car.

You can start the program at Day 1 at any time. I got so much out of it but still feel like there’s so much more I can get from it and will likely repeat the same program all over again.

What I Use to Track My Books

I have been asked many many times if I have a Goodreads account. I always said I didn’t have the inclination to manage another account, but here we are, and I’m eating my words. I like browsing others’ accounts and getting recommendations so starting this year, I decided to do the same. Since we’re only a few days into the year, you won’t find much, but my plan is to keep everything I’m reading current and posted to my Goodreads account HERE. I’d love for you to give me a follow if you have an account!

2023 Reading Log by Month

Towards the end of last year, I found the app Bookmory and loved adding it to my tracking methods so I could see, at a glance, all I was reading from day to day. While I only have four months work of tracking, it’s fun to see. Here are the last four months of the year.

Best Books of 2023
Best Books of 2023
Best Books of 2023
Best Books of 2023

But the primary way I track my books and what I’ve read is a good ‘ole self-developed Excel spreadsheet. There was so much curiosity when I shared a snap of it before, so I promised I would share the entire thing at the end of the year. Each month has its own tab, and you can easily make your own, but here’s what mine looks like. My categories are based on what I read and occasionally I would have to add/modify as my genres expanded. As the year went on, my logging got more elaborate and my reading (and the time I dedicated to it) got more extensive. You may have to zoom in for the details 😉 I’ve come to the conclusion that I like physically reading the most, but am thankful for audio reading as it allows me to read way more than I would otherwise be able to.

2023 Reading Log
2023 Reading Log
2023 Reading Log
2023 Reading Log
2023 Reading Log
2023 Reading Log
2023 Reading Log
2023 Reading Log
2023 Reading Log

How I Keep Reading Affordable

I use our local library and take full advantage our library’s virtual Libby access. Our library doesn’t have access to the similar app — Hoopla — but yours may. I read a TON of Kindle Unlimited books and a lot of KU books now come with included accompanying Audible downloads. I had cancelled my Audible subscription but recently renewed it during a fantastic holiday deal.

BTW: If your library has a long waitlist on a title, check to see if they also have it in the large print version. People don’t tend to think to check that and it’s usually available/has a substantially quicker wait!

I’m looking forward to reading more in 2024, sharing more, and hearing more from you all about the books you’re loving!

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  1. 1.4.24
    Joanna said:

    Wonderful list! Like you, I devour books. I’ve sent it off to my daughter who is also an avid reader.

    • 1.5.24

      Thank you for taking the time to visit, Joanna, and I hope your daughter enjoys the list, too!

  2. 1.4.24
    Lory Bernstein said:

    Great list, Kelley! If you don’t already get it, I highly recommend subscribing to James Clear’s weekly ‘3-2-1’ email. I’m a huge Atomic Habits fan… 🙂 I do find your reading log fascinating. So if I’m understanding it right, on any given day you’re ready several books at a time? I can do that with a personal development or non-fiction in the morning, for instance, and fiction in the evening, but I’ve never really tried to read several different fiction books at the same time. Not sure why since we do that with television shows all the time. Love delving into other people’s reading habits! Thanks for sharing.

    • 1.5.24

      Thank you, Lory, for taking the time to visit. And yes, I do have several different books in progress at once. My activity at the time, whether doing chores, exercising, driving or relaxing, dictates the method I use to “read.”

  3. 1.15.24
    Michele said:

    So happy you did an end of year review. I’ve looked forward to your other reviews throughout the year. You are now my, “Go To” when I am in search of a new book. Love that you’ve included your Excel sheet, so easy to find a book based on the type I feel like reading at the time.

    • 1.16.24

      Hi Michele, Your kind comments mean the world to me! I’m so happy to be reading again and love to share my favorites. There are so many great books out there! xoxo