Books of the Year 2023

Books of the Year 2023

2023 was a strange year for me, in that I read far less than I ever have before, due to work, using all my spare time to write, and then due to two months at the end of the year of dealing with a bad accident in the family. It means I have half the usual number of books to choose from but also two new categories, best audiobook and best newly discovered author. This may have missed the Christmas present buying period but will hopefully provide some inspiration for the dark winter nights ahead.

Best newly discovered author – Ann Cleeves. I stumbled across her by accident, then couldn’t believe how I hadn’t read her before, given my love of detective fiction and Northumberland. I have now listened to all of her Vera Stanhope series brilliantly read on audiobook and loved each and every one of them.

Most likely to change the world - Cracking the Menopause by Mariella Frostrop and Alice Smellie makes the case for the world to wake up to the impact of the menopause on family, work and society. I continue to be grateful to all those banging the drum and this is a great example.

Learned most from - These are Not Gentle People by Andrew Harding is a non-fiction book about what happened when two black men were killed on a white-owned farm in a town called Parys, south of Johannesburg, when they were set upon by a mob of forty suspects. A must read for anyone interested in post-apartheid South Africa.

Most captivating - Small Pleasures by Clare Chambers was completely captivating from start to finish. A beautiful, beautiful book about falling in love.

Most changed my everyday life - The Tools by Phil Stutz and Barry Michels is, as the title suggests, packed full of practical insight and strategies for dealing with the ups and downs of everyday life and made a huge difference to me in a year characterised by major change.

Most enjoyment from - The Paper Palace by Miranda Crowley Heller is a beautiful book steeped in place about a love triangle where the past disrupts the present. I absolutely loved every minute of it and was delighted by the ending.

Most able to make a complex subject easy to understand - Supercharged Teams by Pam Hamilton is a great book for anyone who works in, or manages, a team. It cuts the crap and is laser-focused on how we can all change the workplace for the better.

Most un-put-downable – The Ink Black Heart by Robert Galbraith. It is always such a joy to pick up a new book in the Cormoran Strike detective series and plough through the 900 pages to see if this time, Robin and Strike will finally get together.

Least enjoyment from - Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout. I realise it is me, not the book, but I just found it depressing and didn’t enjoy spending so much time with a character i just couldn’t warm to.

Most surprised by, in a good way - The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce. I had somehow resisted reading this for some time, unsure whether it was my kind of thing. It absolutely was – a wonderful story about hope and endurance, love and loss.

Would most recommend for holidays - The Last Remains by Elly Griffiths. I have adored the Ruth Galloway series and this last one (hopefully not for ever) is everything I wanted it to be.

Talked most obsessively about - Life in Five Senses by Gretchen Rubin. I always love Gretchen’s books and have, as usual, chatted to friends about this one and have made more effort to bring my neglected senses into my life this year.

Best audiobook - Spare by Prince Harry, the Duke of Sussex. This was a totally fascinating insight into life in the royal family, which probably shouldn’t have been written. It reminded me that whoever you are, surviving childhood trauma is very hard.