Friday 12 January 2024

My Top 10 Fiction Books of 2023

Happy 2024! I’m so excited about what this year could bring. It’s my first full year outside of education, having finished my Master’s back in September, and I’m just now fully getting into the swing of reading whatever I want to for fun. Despite completing my dissertation last year, I still managed to have some good non-uni-related reads (although several books I mention here are uni-related, but I really loved them otherwise they wouldn’t be included). I also ended up revisiting a lot of old favourites, particularly in the second half of the year. I decided not to include these in my top reads of this year, just to include books that were new to me. Some of these books have also appeared on previous editions of these lists before and kind of thought it was unfair to include established faves amongst new ones. 


I reread all of The Hunger Games series and rewatched the films about a week during the summer and fully returned to my 13/14-year-old obsessive state. This series never gets old and still has so much for us today. Seeing parallels between the Capitol and Israel at the moment has been chilling. 


I also reread The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid, The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkein whilst I was ill with Covid, and just before Christmas, Love, Rosie by Cecelia Ahern (also known as Where Rainbows End). All of these books are so comforting to me – the characters just feel like coming home. Something I want to prioritise when it comes to reading this year is fun and ease. I don’t need to be reading hard-hitting serious things all the time. I want silly and fluffy love stories in with discussions about justice and power. I’ve already read 2 books this year and I’m just so excited about stories again.

Death on the Nile by Agatha Christie


An Agatha Christie classic. I have seen the most recent film adaption of this book several times and I love it. The story is so intriguing and complicated. There’s so much about human desires, connections and power in there. Ugh I love it. I got so into this book. I read it while I was in Sweden in October and ended up reading most of it whilst I had an evening to myself. I love it when I completely get fully absorbed in a story. 


Open Water by Caleb Azumah Nelson


God this book healed my heart and then broke it again. This novel focuses on the romantic relationship between two young Black British people in South East London trying to make their way in creative industries. I won’t say anymore otherwise I will discuss the whole plot. It is gorgeous and raw. I don’t really know how else to describe it to be quite honest with you, but wow Caleb Azumah Nelson is just such a brilliant writer. I know he’s written a few other things as well and I would love to read more of his work.

Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell


Hamnet made me baby cry. It follows the story of Shakespeare’s wife, Anne, and his children. It is, afterall, named after his only son. I love any book that flips perspective to lift up the voices of the most marginalised in history and Maggie O’Farrell did this beautifully. A loving tale of family, care, isolation and grief. 


Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler


Parable of the Sower is THE climate novel. I’d been meaning to read it for ages but had got prompted to do so by studying ecocriticism at uni. I really enjoyed it and think it feels like a much more contemporary novel than it is, having been published in 1993. A post-apocalyptic world (starting in 2024, lol), we follow Lauren, a 16-year-old girl, as she navigates family, religion, and survival in a world and society that is crumbling into chaos.


I’d also add trigger warnings for sexual assault and murder. 


The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins


As self-proclaimed Hunger Games girlie, I was very nervous about reading the prequel in case it didn’t live up to the original trilogy. However, after my re-read of the series I decided it was time to finally give President Snow’s story a crack. And I did really enjoy it. I loved the way she built up and hinted at how different elements of the society had progressed and become more extreme. I also thought the characters were really interesting too. Don’t get me wrong though, I do still prefer the originals. 


Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier


I spent a lot of time with Rebecca this year, mostly due to the fact I wrote about it for my dissertation. The title of my dissertation was “For Manderley was ours no longer”: power, control and the natural world in Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca” and I absolutely loved working on it. Despite spending around nine months of the year with this book, I still love it. There’s so much nuance, the characters are so interesting, and the world descriptions for fascinating. It’s a tale of intrigue, murder, deception, patriarchy, class and power struggles.

Weyward by Emilia Hart


Weyward was actually the first book I read last year, and I started the year off very well indeed. The story follows three women across three different time periods: 1619, 1942 and 2019. However, each of these women has some connection to nature they can’t quite explain. Emilia Hart completely sucked me in and made me feel involved in these women’s experiences. It’s a powerful story of female solidarity, women’s power, connecting to nature and our history. 


There are however several trigger warnings I would bear in mind before you read. These are for domestic violence and abuse, sexual assault, pregnancy loss and suicidal ideation. 


Lady Chatterly’s Lover by D. H. Lawrence 


Lady Chatterly’s Lover is known as a smutty book, as controversial and as, well, post-WW1 porn. I didn’t exactly think it was the smut-fest history and popular culture has made it out to be. It does however have a fair bit of problematic language and that can’t be excused. There’s a lot that I think is still so valuable about this this book however, particularly by looking at this novel as climate fiction. In fact, there’s more discussion and depiction of nature than there is of sex. I very nearly wrote about this book while at uni but didn’t end up doing so. There’s so much to say about capitalism, class, gender and the environment in this book. I think it’s fascinating. 


The Body in the Library by Agatha Christie 


Another Agatha Christie! Her books are so easy to read and plots so gripping. I read The Body in the Library very quickly. I was absorbed and didn’t figure out whodunit. I just enjoy a good Christie murder story. This is probably lower down on my faves rankings, closer to 10 to be honest. It didn't blow my mind or make me feel incredible things but it was fun and engaging.


Variations by Juliet Jacques


In this beautiful collection of short stories, Juliet Jacques tells stories of trans people in Britain throughout history. I nearly went to put this book in my non-fiction faves post but remembered partway through that it’s actually fiction. The characters feel so real, I guess because they’re based on real people and are supposed to portray real experiences. Each story uses a different form, such as blog posts, diary entry, film script, and is set in different areas of the UK in different time periods. Each is brilliant and I love Jacques’ way of writing. She is so skilled. If you want brilliant well-written stories to dip into, Variations is for you. 


I am so excited about reading more novels this year. I’d love to hear your recommendations and your favourite reads of 2023!


This blog has been neglected somewhat while I completed my Master’s, but now I have so many ideas for blog posts I would love to share with you and I hope to post more regularly in 2024. To help me have more time to spend on this blog, it would be amazing if you could buy me a cuppa or two to keep me going! It would mean the world to have your support and would also help keep my cat warm. 


See you soon and Happy New Year!


If you liked this post you might like: Me at 23

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