The 10 Best Books I Read In 2023

January 18, 2024
best books of 2023,what to read in 2024

It’s no secret that I’m a total book-a-holic…the TBR (to be read) pile on my coffee table is legendary.  Okay, “piles” because there are four of them.  And my Kindle is no less epic—I think I have close to 2,000 books on it??

All that’s to say, I love books, and while I’m a bit late sharing it, I’m excited to share my list of best books of 2023 with you!

10 Best Books of 2023: What to Read in 2024 | My annual list of the 5 best non-fiction and 5 best fiction books I read in 2023 (not based on when they were published), a recommendation list for what to read this year!

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An important caveat as always…these are my best books of 2023, not based on when they were published but rather when I read them (which was…in 2023).  I didn’t get through quite as many non-fiction books last year (I was reading some pretty dense, long ones), but overall it was a great year of reading—I think all of these should be on your list for what to read in 2024.

If you haven’t read my past posts, you’ll find here that my tastes are fairly eclectic, and I’ll share half fiction and half non-fiction.  Within non-fiction I often gravitate toward history (I haven’t included the self-improvement and business books I loved but am happy to in the comments) and in fiction I tend more toward fantasy and romance since I’m usually reading fiction on a plane or by a pool.

See the past few years’ lists as well…the best books I read in 20192020, 2021, and 2022!

10 Best Books of 2023: What to Read in 2024 | My annual list of the 5 best non-fiction and 5 best fiction books I read in 2023 (not based on when they were published), a recommendation list for what to read this year!

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A quick note before we dive in—this post contains affiliate links, so I may make a small commission from any sales that come through clicks (which I appreciate, & at no extra cost to you). All opinions are, as always, completely my own!

Best Non-Fiction Books 2023

I read a lot of solid non-fiction this year, but there weren’t a ton of really *great* books that I would wholeheartedly recommend…a number were a bit on the denser side.

But these ones were definite winners!  You’ll see from the titles, I made a particular effort to increase my knowledge around U.S. history and politics, which has never been my strong suit.  Plus, I love a good peek behind the scenes, so books based on tons of declassified documents are definitely up my alley.

Beneath a Scarlet Sky: A Novel by Mark Sullivan

I realize that putting “a novel” in non-fiction is somewhat counterintuitive.  But to me this qualifies because it is still REAL-LIFE when it comes to it.

Set in Milan and the surrounding mountains, “Beneath a Scarlet Sky” relates the main character, Pino Lella’s, memories during the Naxi occupation of Italy during WWII, but does the Erik Larson thing and streamlines a bit (e.g. combining a few people into one character for easier storytelling).  It was a very engaging read, hard to put down.  The ending surprised and gutted me.  There were ugly tears.

This book does such a great job of making some of the events and realities of World War II real and human—I highly recommend you read it in 2024!

best books of 2023 - what to read in 2024 - beneath a scarlet sky

Drinking & Knowing Things by Michael Amon

This is the wine book you didn’t know you needed.  It’s not a book you should read straight through, but rather savor in small bites.  It started as (I think) a newsletter that a sommelier (“the world’s leading wine influencer” as he somewhat-jokingly calls himself) started sending his friends during COVID.

Each week for a year he highlighted a wine varietal or region that was “Dope AF” and talked about why.  Some are super esoteric and others are surprisingly mainstream but with a focus on what’s best within the category.  He provides specific brand or vineyard recommendations as well.

I didn’t really know what to expect from this one and don’t remember how it even came on my radar.  When I first started the book, I was like….ehhh, not sure about this.  But I really found myself loving it and getting more engaged, and coming to love the author’s over-the-top style.  If food and drink are a huge part of your travel ethos, you’ll enjoy this.

But be warned—it WILL make you want to start a wine club with your friends…

best books of 2023 - what to read in 2024 - drinking and knowing things

Destiny of the Republic by Candice Millard

GUYS.  Did you know that James Garfield was like, maybe the most impressive President with the best character/values ever??  I sure didn’t.  He was a complete non-entity to me before reading this book.

The subheader to “Destiny of the Republic” is A Tale of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a President.  And like…how did we not learn about this stuff in school???

A few months after his inauguration, he was shot in the back by a truly deranged/delusional guy named Charles Guiteau.  While Garfield initially survived the attack, there was a bitter struggle over both his medical care and the power of the Presidency.  His medical care was deeply botched as a result, which led to his death.

This was a gripping read, I’ve loved everything I’ve read of Millard’s so far!

best books of 2023 - what to read in 2024 - destiny of the republic

Blind Spot:  The Secret History of American Counterterrorism by Tim Naftali

This book was so interesting (and a little mind-blowing, and more than a little concerning).  Naftali relates the full backstory of America’s attempts to fight terrorism, beginning in the late days of World War II, through the mediocrity of the early Cold War years, to the rise of Palestinian terrorism and through to 9/11.

Did you know there used to be domestic-led plane hijackings multiple times a month in the US??  I sure didn’t.  It was just a fact of life at one point.  Mind blown.  If you want an eye-opening behind-the-scenes look at the US security apparatus (based on declassified documents and other research), this is a great place to start.

best books of 2023 - what to read in 2024 - blind spot

The Bureau: The Secret History of the FBI by Ronald Kessler

Haha, I just realized I had two “the secret history of” books.  Feels about right for this year.  This one was also mindblowing, really interesting, definitely a bit depressing/terrifying, and definitely worth your time.  It chronicles the history of the FBI from its founding in the early 1900s through to around 2015.

While written by an investigative journalist, very well researched, and definitely highlighting some of the organization’s failings, I sometimes felt like it held back at times (I’m assuming because he still needed cooperation and access to the FBI’s inner workings).  But still a really good, informative read!

best books of 2023 - what to read in 2024 - the bureau secret history of the fbi

Okay, now onto fiction!

open book on lap blue sweatpants cat belly rubs

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Best Fiction Books of 2023

When it comes to fiction, I read pretty much exclusively romance and fantasy, and almost entirely on my beloved Kindle.  Fiction is usually happening on a plane or by a pool—it’s meant to be happy and fun!

I definitely leaned more toward the urban fantasy series this year, but have made sure to include a few sweet contemporaries; my historical romances were good-not-great this year and I didn’t find any contemporaries on the spicy side that I loved.

Alice Worth series by Lisa Edmonds

As with many of the urban fantasy series I love, this one’s got interesting world-building, magic, a bit of mystery, a kick-ass heroine with more power than she knows, and a love interest that develops over time.  I ripped through this series in record time.

best books of 2023 - what to read in 2024 - alice worth series

Well Traveled by Jen DeLuca

I’ve found all the Ren Faire love stories in this series absolutely charming, and this new one is no exception.  Jen’s characters find the right balance between being a little quirky and specific, and still being real people—for contemporary romances I think that’s key.

This is the perfect kind of light, fun HEA that we all need sometimes!

best books of 2023 - what to read in 2024 - well traveled

The Bodyguard: A Novel by Katherine Center

Sure, it’s a trope…pretty, petite female bodyguard is hired to work for a famous actor.  But despite the silly setup, I thought this book had real heart.  It’s lighthearted and sweet (it’s a “closed door” romance), with main characters who I really loved and who had a believable arc.  This was a winner for me!

best books of 2023 - what to read in 2024 - the bodyguard

Grey Gates series by Vanessa Nelson

I could say a lot of the same things about this as about the Alice Worth series…fun, capable heroine who’s keeping secrets about her powers, crazy magical happenings, and more.  This one (like many in this genre) has a dash of post-dystopia society in the setting, vs. being in today’s exact “real world”.

If you’ve got long flights coming up, this series is a great way to while away the time without major relationship angst or anything depressing!

best books of 2023 - what to read in 2024 - grey gates series

Fake by Kylie Scott

This is another stereotypical setup (actor gets bad publicity, hires waitress to help rescue his reputation), but again, it’s all in the execution—this was a super sweet romance with realistic characters who seemed like real people!

I loved their chemistry and have now picked up more of Scott’s books, because I love finding a new dependable romance author.

best books of 2023 - what to read in 2024 - fake kylie scott

So there you have it, my 10 best books of 2023…the ones that I loved the most, was entertained by, or learned a lot from.  I think you should have all of these on your list of what to read in 2024 and beyond!

Other bookworm recos you’ll love:

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10 Best Books of 2023: What to Read in 2024 | My annual list of the 5 best non-fiction and 5 best fiction books I read in 2023 (not based on when they were published), a recommendation list for what to read this year! Whether beach reads or heavier history books, this list of book recos has got your back! #2024books #readinglist

Comments (2)

  • Judy Ericksonn

    January 29, 2024 at 6:13 pm

    Hi Jessica,
    It’s been too long since we saw you & your family. You are an inspiration! Good for you to just ‘do it’! Traveling is something I’m not crazy about, but it is definitely educational! The non-fiction books you read in 23 sure do look interesting. I’ve seen Mr. Naftali (author) I believe on News Max or Fox News…re: the FBI & some recent operations that were not-so-good.
    You look beautiful & we miss all of the Fergen family! Love from Stan & me : )

    1. Jessica

      February 1, 2024 at 7:52 am

      It’s so good to hear from you! And it has been SO long since I’ve seen you, I hope you and Stan are well. Yes, I think Mr. Naftali is a frequent commentator on world events, and I’ve enjoyed reading most of his books. Love to you both!

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