My top reads of 2023

Another year is (almost) over. The fifth to be rounded up on this blog too, somehow.

My plan for 2023 was to ‘be more intentional with my writing’, and I’ve achieved that in the sense that I wrote four new pieces for my quarterly Emotional Madness performances, and took part in a bunch of writing challenges.

I didn’t win any competitions, or get published anywhere competitive (though the first Emotional Madness Anthology is a thing of beauty!), and I’m thinking of sacking off the challenges for 2024.

While, on the one hand, they mean that I write something, I feel like the personal, unforced pieces people seem to like should be my focus. It’s also quite frustrating when I’m uninspired by the prompt I’ve been given.

I continued to write overly-involved book reviews, got into a ton of new-to-me music, and played many, many board games.

As ever, I read a lot of books — in the region of 160, according to Goodreads (if it makes any difference, I’ve only watched, like, five TV series this year, six if you count Top of the Pops from 1995…) — and I’ve somehow narrowed them down to 20.

As I’ve read across such a range of genres this year, as well as quite a few books that don’t fit comfortably in one genre, it made sense to group together the top ten books that absolutely made my heart sing, then have two “best of the rest” lists of five — one for novels, and one for short stories.

And so, without further ado…

Overall top 10

(N.B. these are in order of date read, earliest to latest!)

Our Missing Hearts, Clara & Olivia, The Rules of the Road, Soul Music, Refusing Compulsory Sexuality

Our Missing Hearts, by Celeste Ng — simply sublime.

Clara & Olivia, by Lucy Ashe — could barely put it down.

The Rules of the Road, by C.B. Jones — quite possibly the horror novel I’d been looking for my whole life.

Soul Music, by Terry Pratchett — as if this needs any explanation!

Refusing Compulsory Sexuality: A Black Asexual Lens on Our Sex-Obsessed Culture, by Sherronda J. Brown — I didn’t read as much non-fiction as usual this year, but even if I had, I can’t imagine anything topping this.

The Polite Act of Drowning, Life Among the Savages, Sea of Tranquility, Crow Face, Doll Face, The Rift

The Polite Act of Drowning, by Charleen Hurtubise — my review says it all, really.

Life Among the Savages, by Shirley Jackson — hilarious.

Sea of Tranquility, by Emily St. John Mandel — mind-bending and haunting: time travel writing at its best.

Crow Face, Doll Face, by Carly Holmes — contains multitudes, can’t recommend highly enough.

The Rift, by Nina Allan — is it sci-fi? Is it horror? Is it literary? Why not all three? Original and inspiring.

Best of the rest: novels

Greywaren, Hogfather, Voices of the Dead, The Apartment Upstairs, The Tyranny of Lost Things

Mostly new/new-to-me books from established favourite authors (Greywaren, by Maggie Stiefvater; Hogfather, by Terry Pratchett; Voices of the Dead, by Ambrose Parry; The Apartment Upstairs, by Lesley Kara), but also The Tyranny of Lost Things, by Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett, whose journalism I was familiar with, but not her fiction.

Best of the rest: short stories

Mouthful of Birds, Things We Say in the Dark, Normal Rules Don't Apply, Bloodchild and other stories, Let Them Float

More of a mixture of old favourites and new-to-me authors. Kirsty Logan (Things We Say in the Dark) and Octavia Butler (Bloodchild and other stories) are just two of the exciting authors I’ve belatedly discovered this year and am looking forward to reading more of in 2024.

I’d already read one collection by Samanta Schweblin (Mouthful of Birds). Kate Atkinson (Normal Rules Don’t Apply) has been one of my favourite authors for almost 12 years now. Let Them Float, by Katy Wimhurst very much lived up to expectations set by her previous collection, Snapshots of the Apocalypse.

Looking ahead

My TBR remains ridiculous, not least because I hit the Waterstones sale yesterday (six hardbacks I’d had my eye on for £54, thanks to half-price deals and my accumulated stamps! Can you really blame me?!).

I’m looking forward to reading more from authors I’ve discovered in 2023, and my blog tour/review diary for 2024 is already filling up nicely. Here’s to another year of reading (and writing, and board games, and music).

Alice Violett's Picture

About Alice Violett

Writer of blogs and short stories, reader of books, player of board games, lover of cats, editor of web content, haver of PhD.

Colchester, UK