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My Top 10 (12) Books of 2023

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Still gift shopping? Books are a great option that fit through my anti-clutter filters (depending on how your recipient likes to consume them.)  They are experiential, good for your brain and you are guaranteed to find one that is appropriate for every person on your list.

I read 38 books in 2023, I listened to 17 on audio, read 16 on my iPad and the 5 were physical books I held in my hand. I usually have 2 books going at a time, one I’m listening to and one I’m reading before bed. The physical books get read when I’m on vacation as screens don’t go well with sunshine and a lounge chair. 

I have low tolerance for reading books I don’t like and rely on a few key sources for recommendations. My friends Karen and Lauren from college who are kind enough to post what they read on Instagram, my bestie Allison and her oldest Phoebe also have great taste, Reese Witherspoon and Oprah’s book clubs are pretty reliable, one or two come from NYT Best lists and the rest I get from hearing about them on one of the many podcasts I listen to. I appreciate a good filter as decision-making can be paralyzing and I always like to have my next book waiting in the wings.

I tried to whittle my 38 down to my 10 faves and had a really hard time. I do consider myself a good editor in most cases but this year there were too many great books, so my Top list is actually 12, not 10. Apologies! Below are the 12 books and why they made my list, plus excerpts from reviews since I’m too lazy to write my own!  Please enjoy and Happy Last Minute gift shopping (links included!)

Mad Honey

By Jodi Picoult & Jennifer Finney Boylan

I loved this book not just because it’s a gripping mystery but also because it enlightened me to the experience of trans youth and specifically the experience of transitioning. The characters are real, sympathetic and interesting – this was a fast read for me.

Heart-pounding and heartbreaking. This collaboration between two best-selling authors seamlessly weaves together Olivia and Lily’s journeys, creating a provocative exploration of the strength that love and acceptance require.

– The Washington Post

Broken Horses

By Brandi Carlile

I listened to this book, which I highly recommend as Brandi includes lots of music at the end of each chapter. I liked Brandi’s music before I read this book but now I’m definitely a fan and looking forward to seeing her live, hopefully in 2024!  Plus she is a PNW native and still lives here!

If you’re already a Brandi Carlile fan (I don’t think there’s any musician I’ve listened to more in the last five years), there’s an excellent chance you’ll find “Broken Horses” charming, funny, illuminating and poignant. If you’re not a fan, “Broken Horses” might well make you into one, especially now, because the book feels like the antithesis of social distancing — replete with Carlile and her identical twin collaborators Tim and Phil Hanseroth touring in vans and buses (more recently with their wives and children in tow) and performing songs they’ve written together to celebratory crowds. Carlile’s warmly colloquial tone evokes listening to stories, possibly in a bar, told by a friend who leads a life far more interesting than your own. Each mostly chronological chapter concludes with a plethora of photos, handwritten captions and song lyrics by Carlile and others.

– New York Times


By Peter Attia, MD

I am a bit obsessed with Longevity and healthspan so of course I had to read Peter Attia’s take on it after I heard him on Armchair Expert. The middle chapters were long on medical lingo but otherwise I found it to be a convincing blueprint for aging well. Many folks on my Christmas list are getting this book this year!

“In Outlive, Peter Attia has delivered the definitive look at the complex subject of longevity. Comprehensive and rigorous, Outlive is full of surprising insights into the diseases of aging that will likely kill most of us, and the tactics and techniques that can help us live longer and in better health. Attia’s writing surprises and delights us, while provoking a new way to think about longevity.”

-Siddhartha Mukherjee

Remarkably Bright Creatures

By Shelby Van Pelt

This book was a delight and the Octopus was my favorite character. I also recommend this one as a listen because the person who voices the Octopus is just perfect.

I had my doubts about this detecting duo of janitor and tentacled gumshoe: I thought it might be too cute. But, as Marcellus might joke, I was a sucker for thinking so. His voice, which alternates with chapters featuring Tova and other characters, is scornful and sad. 

Like a noir detective, Marcellus looks the ultimate deadline of death in the eye and doesn’t blink. Both of these strange and freshly-imagined stories go deeper into uncharted territory for the mystery novel.


Think Like A Monk

By Jay Shetty

I heard about this book from my son Brooks, and then I heard Jay ona  podcast. The thing I loved most about this book was learning about the concept of Dharma – I’m pretty sure I’ve found mine!

“Grab this book, find a comfortable chair, and let Jay Shetty take you on a life-changing journey. Jay guides us with warmth and clarity on a path to greater joy and purpose, offering wisdom that can be put into practice right now. You will want to share it with everyone you love.”

ROBERT WALDINGER, MD, professor of psychiatry, Harvard Medical School, and director, Harvard Study of Adult Development

The Good Life

By Robert Waldinger, MD & Marc Schulz, PhD

I can’t remember where I heard about this book but it was amazing to learn about the power of relationships as the primary contributor to a happy life. I already treasure my relationships but now I have a new appreciation for their role in my life.

“Fascinating. . . . Combining intensive research with actionable steps, this penetrating testament to the power of human connection offers gems for almost anyone looking to improve their happiness.”

– Publishers Weekly

Hello Beautiful

By Ann Napolitano

No offense to my brother who I love, but this book made me want SISTERS! Once again the characters drew me in and I’m such a sucker for interesting family dynamics in a story. I hope they make this one into a movie!

It’s like LIttle Women, but with basketball. In “Hello Beautiful,” Ann Napolitano puts a fresh spin on the classic story of four sisters.

– New York Times

Demon Copperhead

By Barbara Kingsolver

Oh how I love this book and its protagonist, Demon Copperhead. I’ve taken in a lot of opioid pandemic content over the past few years, all of which was tragic and gripping but this book is by far my favorite. If you want to understand the heart of the opioid pandemic and the Appalachian community read this one.

In “Demon Copperhead,” Barbara Kingsolver offers a close retelling of Charles Dickens’s “David Copperfield,” which is either a baffling choice or an ingenious maneuver from a novelist who has been nominated for a Pulitzer Prize and selected for Oprah’s Book Club and regularly — inevitably, even — appears on the best-seller list of this newspaper, all while reaping a surprising quantity of stinging pans from critics.

– New York Times

The Secret Book of Flora Lea

By Patti Callahan Henry

Another mystery that takes a few turns before wrapping everything up with a big bow – and I loved the WWII backdrop. It’s always so interesting to learn about stories from the war that I didn’t know, this one echoed C.S. Lewis with the child evacuees shipped out of London to the countryside.

“[A]ffecting…Henry’s offering shines most in its exploration of the ways relationships grow and adapt to time and trauma, making for a poignant meditation on the bonds of sisterhood. This captivates.” —Publishers Weekly

Romantic Comedy

By Curtis Sittenfeld

This book was so good I read it TWICE. I loved the Inside Baseball-like view of Saturday Night Live and of course the Rom-Com-perfect premise of the plot. This is the perfect Beach read, or just a great book for if you need a mood-lift. It’s FUNNY.

All straight women of a certain age were sold a trio of lies by romantic comedies — that love conquers differences, that we can have it all (whatever “all” is) and that perfect men fall from the sky just as our emotional acidity starts to become permanent.

Curtis Sittenfeld’s latest novel, “Romantic Comedy,” is a love letter to the prototypical rom-com. Perhaps inevitably, it shares some concerns with her earlier books, most notably “Prep” (2005), which is about a teenage girl who is a new student at an elite private school, and “Rodham” (2020), an alternate story of Hillary Clinton’s life, had she decided not to marry Bill. So much of Sittenfeld’s work exists in the dissection and comprehension of female desire: what we want, what we absolutely don’t and, maybe paramount, what we’re even allowed to have.

-New York Times

The Chinese Groove

By Kathryn Ma

Like Mad Honey, this book took me inside a Chinese American Immigrant experience, with sweet characters and generational-divides to navigate. And it takes place in the city of my birth so of course it had a leg-up to start!

Immigrant novels are so frequently tales of devastating woe, but Ma’s iteration of the young migrant story is imbued with inherent optimism. Shelley’s buoyancy is frustratingly naïve, and often completely foolish if you have any understanding of how brutal living in America actually is, but you root for Shelley in part because Shelley is rooting for Shelley. Ma finds wry humor in Shelley getting to know the mores of his new country (Ted biking to work seemed to be particularly surprising to him), but his belief in his own success is unwavering. He believes he can have whatever he wants, and in spending time with him back home in China or as he sleeps outside in San Francisco, you believe he can have it all too. By the end, he does indeed come out on top, even if it’s in ways neither he nor the reader could have predicted.

-New York Times


By Geraldine Brooks

I enjoy a good time-hopping novel and this one delivered. What a poignant reminder of how many legacies exist out there, lost to time and systemic racism. It’s hard for me to remember specifics since I read this one WAY back in January but the feelings it evoked stayed with me. I loved it.

The title of Geraldine Brooks’s new novel, “Horse,” alludes to Lexington: the real and extraordinary late-19th-century Kentucky bay stallion who drives its plot. The subtext, if not the subtitle, is “Race.” Not for the contests Lexington won, though those are recreated in detail suitable for both the sports and society pages, but for the book’s confrontation of relations between Black and white people over the course of two centuries.

Valuable legacies can disappear, is the underlying message — for years, this celebrity thoroughbred’s skeleton languished at the Smithsonian, shoved in an attic and marked only equus caballus — even as barbaric ones linger.

– New York Times

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