Avid readers know that it's impossible to keep up with the pace of publishing. Even if you read professionally (and if you do, please let me know where to apply), there's NO way to read all the things. And while some readers, avid or not, might hear about a new title here and there, not everyone is scouring the NYT Best-seller list for new books to read. Most rely on word of mouth, suggestions from friends, or nudges from book influencers. So, people like me (who LOVE to talk about the books they read) curate lists like these to help fellow readers sift through the many to find a few of the best books of the year. I'm checking in mid-year to share my selections for Best Books of 2023, all of which get my stamp of approval.
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No matter how you ended up here, let me first THANK YOU for reading. Next, this is a list of the best books I've read in 2023 so far. While I am not able to read all the books, I've carefully curated a selection of newly released books I think readers with similar tastes might enjoy.
Now, if you're new to this book blog, you might be wondering who I am. Hi, my name is Carlie 👋🏻, and I'm a huge fan of historical fiction, literary fiction, and women's fiction. If you enjoy those genres, you'll definitely enjoy at least one (but probably more) of the books on this list.
I've read 75+ books so far in 2023 (as of July 10), and there've been some REALLY great books along the way. But each one of the books below stood out to me and has stuck with me long after "The End." So, without further adieu, here are my nominations for best books of 2023 (mid-year edition).
By far one of the most beautifully written books I've read in a while, Hello Beautiful is a deeply moving novel about family, loyalty, and love. The story focuses on a family of four sisters in Chicago and the young man who marries the eldest daughter. It follows the sisters over the course of several decades, creating richly developed characters and relationships. Thought-provoking and richly detailed, Hello Beautiful should be on every literary fiction lover's reading list. But, be sure to check trigger warnings!
To Die Beautiful
If you've been following me for any amount of time, you know I live for World War II books. I read A LOT of them, both new and old, so I have a pretty good sense of which ones are worth reading. And I swear I'm not lying when I say this debut novel knocked my socks off! If you're looking for an action-packed WWII novel that you won't want to put down, To Die Beautiful is it! Based on unsung WWII heroine Hannie Schaft, this book is everything I want in a WWII novel and then some. Intense, pulse-pounding scenes give way to tender moments of the heart and flesh (closed door), while the ending rips your heart out of your chest. I want to read more books like this, please!
I will never stop recommending this book. Ever. Rowley has penned one of the most beautiful homages to friendship that I've ever read. The Celebrants is truly a celebration of life, death, and everything in between. The book follows the lives of five college friends shaken by the untimely death of their friend/roommate just before graduation. With his trademark wit and warmth, Rowley weaves an intricate blanket of love and strength that I want to wrap around me and never take off. As I said in my Bookstagram review, it's simply breathtaking.
The Three Lives of Alix St Pierre
I knew within the first few chapters that I would love The Three Lives of Alix St Pierre. Post-WWII Paris. Fashion. Romance. Spies. What more do you need? Seriously though, this book has something for everyone. But at its heart, this book is a feminist novel that vividly portrays the post-war female experience. During WWII thousands of women left the home to work in male-dominant roles, both in the US and abroad. And many proved that women were not only competent, they can excel in all fields. Sadly, many found it hard to break into the workforce after the war's end despite their experience and skill. This book is about that fight. Alix is determined to define her own future, and no man is going to stand in her way! Read my full review here.
Looking for Jane
Gosh this book, y'all. I had a general idea of the premise, but I feel like nothing can prepare you for Looking for Jane. It's intensely powerful and thought-provoking. This book hit me like a ton of bricks, and I'm still thinking about it months later. The content is not for the faint of heart, and everyone should read the trigger warnings before undertaking the journey. Regardless of where you stand on the issue of abortion, this book will make you reflect on a woman's right to choose and the lengths many will go to make that choice, regardless of the risk. Read it. Then read the author's note.
And now for the dark horse of the group. Trespasses was unexpected. It's the kind of book that sneaks up on you, crawls into your brain, and just won't leave. I loved it when I finished it, but I think I love it even more now, months later. Kennedy's characters are so richly crafted that it's hard to not feel drawn to them and impacted by their stories. This debut is a powerful glimpse of the Irish experience circa 1975 during the height of The Troubles. It's melancholic and measured, gritty and unyielding, hopeful yet dark. And I loved every word.
It was REALLY hard to narrow the list down to six. While some of my favorite reads above may not appeal to all, I had to go with the books that moved me the most. The following books were also excellent and deserve just as much hype, so be sure to add them to your To Be Read list, too!
Well, there you have it! This is my mid-year check-in, so be sure to bookmark this page so you can come back to find out which six books round out my list of the best books of 2023. With so many highly anticipated fall releases I'm sure it will not be easy to narrow it down, but I've got money on a few already. ☺️