Tuesday, July 11, 2023

Best Books Of 2023 (So Far)

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Welcome to my favorite blog post of the year! These are the best books I've read so far in 2023. It's a short list because I've only read 40 books, so I'm just going to show off my top-top-top favorites. For extra drama, I organized the list countdown style.

Drumroll please . . . .

👉  Best Books Of 2023 (So Far)  👀

5. Out Of The Easy by Ruta Sepetys

Young Adult Historical Fiction

It's 1950, and as the French Quarter of New Orleans simmers with secrets, seventeen-year-old Josie Moraine is silently stirring a pot of her own. Known among locals as the daughter of a brothel prostitute, Josie wants more out of life than the Big Easy has to offer. She devises a plan get out, but a mysterious death in the Quarter leaves Josie tangled in an investigation that will challenge her allegiance to her mother, her conscience, and Willie Woodley, the brusque madam on Conti Street.

Josie is caught between the dream of an elite college and a clandestine underworld. New Orleans lures her in her quest for truth, dangling temptation at every turn, and escalating to the ultimate test.

Why I love it: Ruta Sepetys is a queen of historical fiction. How does she consistently find such interesting subjects to write about? She's amazing at immersing the reader in historical settings. I'm impressed.

I'm in love with the characters. When you're examining the underbelly of a city, you're going to uncover some dark things. The author shows the good and the bad side of her characters, especially the prostitutes. The women at the brothel become a family to Josie. They're just as dysfunctional as any family. The women don't love being prostitutes, but they're strong and funny and are doing whatever it takes to survive. I was completely invested in their lives.

If you like character-driven historical fiction, then I think you should pick up this book and meet Josie.

Buy it on Amazon

4. Cloud Cuckoo Land by Anthony Doerr

Adult Literary Fiction

Constantinople, 1453:

An orphaned seamstress and a cursed boy with a love for animals risk everything on opposite sides of a city wall to protect the people they love.

Idaho, 2020:

An impoverished, idealistic kid seeks revenge on a world that’s crumbling around him. Can he go through with it when a gentle old man stands between him and his plans?

Unknown, Sometime in the Future:

With her tiny community in peril, Konstance is the last hope for the human race. To find a way forward, she must look to the oldest stories of all for guidance.

Bound together by a single ancient text, these tales interweave to form a tapestry of solace and resilience and a celebration of storytelling itself.

Why I love it: This is a bizarre book, and I'm not sure how to talk about it. It's the kind of story I just want to shove into everybody's hands.

Cloud Cuckoo Land is a story about stories. It's a love letter to books and libraries. It shows how stories are passed down through generations and give us the courage to keep moving.

At the center of the novel is an ancient myth called "Cloud Cuckoo Land." Other stories branch off from that myth like spokes. In 1453 Constantinople, a farmer and a seamstress are trapped on opposite sides of the city wall during a war. In 2020 Idaho, an elderly librarian is directing a play when a teenager on a deadly mission walks into his library. Sometime in the future, a young girl is alone on a spaceship and searching for a new home for humanity.

I know that sounds confusing, but the stories actually work together beautifully because the author is great at juggling multiple points-of-view. I was equally invested in each story. It's amazing how real the characters feel. Their kindness and willingness to take risks kept me hooked.

3. Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir

Adult Science Fiction

Ryland Grace is the sole survivor on a desperate, last-chance mission—and if he fails, humanity and the earth itself will perish.

Except that right now, he doesn’t know that. He can’t even remember his own name, let alone the nature of his assignment or how to complete it.

All he knows is that he’s been asleep for a very, very long time. And he’s just been awakened to find himself millions of miles from home, with nothing but two corpses for company.

His crewmates dead, his memories fuzzily returning, Ryland realizes that an impossible task now confronts him. Hurtling through space on this tiny ship, it’s up to him to puzzle out an impossible scientific mystery—and conquer an extinction-level threat to our species.

And with the clock ticking down and the nearest human being light-years away, he’s got to do it all alone.

Or does he?

Why I love it: Read this book if you like plot twists because there are a lot of them. It's actually an impossible book to review because there are so many twists. Everything I want to say is a spoiler! The characters handle each twist with humor and optimism. It's kind of inspirational. These people are very, very determined to live. Every time they start to feel hopeless, they refocus and try a different way of solving their problems. Nothing is easy in space!

Buy it on Amazon

2. Carry On by Rainbow Rowell

Young Adult Fantasy

Simon Snow is the worst Chosen One who's ever been chosen.

That's what his roommate, Baz, says. And Baz might be evil and a vampire and a complete git, but he's probably right.

Half the time, Simon can't even make his wand work, and the other half, he starts something on fire. His mentor's avoiding him, his girlfriend broke up with him, and there's a magic-eating monster running around, wearing Simon's face. Baz would be having a field day with all this, if he were here — it's their last year at the Watford School of Magicks, and Simon's infuriating nemesis didn't even bother to show up.

Why I love it: The entire Simon Snow series belongs on this list, but that would be annoying and spoilery, so I'm just going to blather about the first book.

Carry On is ridiculous, but it’s ridiculous in the most epic way possible. Seriously, this book is over 500 pages, and I blew through it in two days because I loved it so much.

Rainbow Rowell does amazing things with fantasy tropes. She really lets you see how ridiculous and overused some of them are by flipping the tropes on their heads. Simon is an incompetent Chosen One. Baz is a loveable villain. The magic system is silly. The witches and wizards drive cars, own laptops, accidently forget their wands at home, rely on Google to solve their problems, and talk like modern teenagers. This book is full of literal laugh-out-loud moments.

This series is brilliant because of how average the characters are. They're normal kids who just happen to be wizards. It's a refreshing take on the genre. These characters aren't heroes. They're kids with magic. And dragon wings.

Buy it on Amazon

1. The Immortal Life Of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

Adult Science Nonfiction

Her name was Henrietta Lacks, but scientists know her as HeLa. She was a poor Southern tobacco farmer who worked the same land as her enslaved ancestors, yet her cells—taken without her knowledge—became one of the most important tools in medicine. The first “immortal” human cells grown in culture, they are still alive today, though she has been dead for more than sixty years. If you could pile all HeLa cells ever grown onto a scale, they’d weigh more than 50 million metric tons—as much as a hundred Empire State Buildings. HeLa cells were vital for developing the polio vaccine; uncovered secrets of cancer, viruses, and the atom bomb’s effects; helped lead to important advances like in vitro fertilization, cloning, and gene mapping; and have been bought and sold by the billions.

Yet Henrietta Lacks remains virtually unknown, buried in an unmarked grave.

Why I love it: Everybody should read this book. It's fascinating, and it brings up topics that society really needs to discuss.

Who was Henrietta Lacks? That's what the book is about. Henrietta's cells were taken after her death and used without her permission. Her children and grandchildren are living in poverty and have not gotten any money from the use of her body. Henrietta's grave doesn't even have a headstone. This all feels very wrong.

For me, the most interesting part of the book is the ethical questions it brings up. Who should profit from biological specimens? If you give a doctor permission to cut out your tumor, do you forfeit your rights to that tumor?

I couldn't put this book down. I loved learning about Henrietta and the people whose biological samples have made life better for all of us.

Buy it on Amazon

Do you want to know more about my reading year? Here's my mid-year check-in!

What's the best book you've read so far in 2023?


  1. I loved the books I read by Weir and Sepetys but for some reason have not picked up more by them!

  2. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks and Project Hail Mary were both very good!

    Here is my Top Ten Tuesday post.


  3. Out of the Easy sounds interesting for sure.

    Here is our Top Ten Tuesday.


  4. Nice list! I loved Carry On. I need to read the rest of the series.

    Lauren @ www.shootingstarsmag.net

  5. "Project Hail Mary" was incredible! Looking forward to what Weir produces next.

  6. I havem't read Rowell in SO long

  7. I've only read Project hail Mary, but that was several years ago and for me it was too much hardcore scifi. Honestly, I was bored. Like, I dropped physics as soon as I could in high school and this book contains so much of it.

  8. I haven't read any of these, but have considered Cloud Cuckoo Land and Hail Mary. And I absolutely want to read the Henrietta Lacks book, don't know why I haven't picked it up yet.

  9. Oh my, Henrietta Lacks, Out of the Easy, and Project Hail Mary are all books that I loved. One of my favorites this year was Claire Keegan's Small Things Like These.

  10. Oh I love Project Hail Mary (Rocky!) and Carry On. Some excellent choices. I really want to read Cloud Cuckoo Land too .

  11. I have not read any of these, but it's great to see you found some hits on your shelves.

  12. I've wanted to read Out of the Easy for a long time. Glad to see it's one of your faves this year!

  13. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks was incredible, and I've got Project Hail Mary on my TBR after seeing everyone and their mother raving about it. Cloud Cuckoo Land also defies description - your explanation nails it perfectly. Here's to a second half of 2023 that's as good as the first!

  14. Project Hail Mary is amazing! Great picks!

  15. Oooh! These books sound interesting! I really want to read Carry On! Great list!

    Here’s my TTT

    Rabbit Ears Book Blog: WORLD’S WEIRDEST BOOK BLOG!

  16. Great list! I loved PROJECT HAIL MARY, OUT OF THE EASY, and HENRIETTA LACKS. CLOUD CUCKOO LAND put me to sleep (literally), though. I'm glad you enjoyed all these.

    Happy TTT!

  17. I haven't heard of Out of the Easy and Carry On but the three others have been on my wishlist for a while now. Time to get them.

    Thanks for visiting my TTT this week.

  18. You have read so many amazing books this year---Cloud Cuckoo Land; the Ruta Sepetys book; Henrietta Lacks. I need to try Project Hail Mary, I think.

  19. I've heard so much good things about Project Hail Mary, I definitely need to get to it soon! And so glad to hear you loved Carry On, it was indeed so ridiculous but also ridiculously good :)

  20. I've always wanted to read Out of the Easy. You're making me want to push it up my TBR!

    Here's my TTT post.

  21. Out of the Easy sounds really good. So glad you enjoyed these!

  22. Great sounding books! I love that you told us why you loved them, it's made me want to keep an eye out for them.

  23. I love Ruta Sepetys' books (well mostly, The Fountains of Silence didn't really work for me and I had to DNF it) but Out of The Easy is the one I haven't read yet. It's on my TBR, so hopefully I'll get to it someday. I'd also really like to read the Henrietta Lacks book, I find her whole story fascinating and I just love learning about women whose stories have been hidden from history anyway, there's so many amazing women's stories that we just don't know because history has by and large been written by men.
    My TTT: https://jjbookblog.wordpress.com/2023/07/11/top-ten-tuesday-428/

  24. I really loved Project Hail Mary, and The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is one I read years ago but still think about often.

  25. Looks like you have an amazing year, great books here. Ruta Sepetys is one of my favorites authors, her stories are always emotional

  26. Perfect description of what I loved about Out of the Easy. It's still my favorite of her books.

  27. What great choices! I love the Simon Snow books so much, and really loved Project Hail Mary too!

  28. I have been wanting to read all these books for too long now, and this post is tempting me to make that happen soon..
    my ttt: https://www.ladyinreadwrites.com/how-to-say-im-still-writing-and-getting-better/

  29. Cloud Cuckoo Land is one of my all time favorites, happy to see it on this list. Happy reading! My TTT https://readwithstefani.com/my-top-ten-tbr-veterans/

  30. The only one I have read is Project Hail Mary, but I loved it! And I do want to read the others, too. Though I have read quite a bit about Henrietta Lacks in general, and her story breaks my heart, because like you said it just seems so wrong and unfair. Glad these were all so great for you!

  31. Carry On was such an excellent read. I read it over a week-end as well! I also loved Fangirl. I'm intrigued by Cloud Cuckoo Land, I'll give it a try!