I read 47 novels this year. That’s three shy of my goal of 50, but I’m enormously proud of myself for getting that many read! Also, this year I wrote my own non-fiction book, signed with an agent, and secured a book deal with a publisher. It’s been a truly wonderful year of reading and writing for me—one I will never forget.
As we head into 2024, I want to share with you my top-rated book for each month of 2023. All of these received 5-star ratings from me. Most of them I would give more stars if I could. I recommend adding any of these to your 2024 reading list if you haven’t read them yet! So, without any further ado, here they are:
January Pick: The Change, by Kristin Miller
A beautiful and adventurous story of three women grappling with middle age in a culture that sees less and less value in women as they get older. When these three women are united by a spree of abductions in their small town, they harness each of their unique powers to find the perpetrators and the missing women. It has great pacing, a decisively feminist voice, and a story that will keep you turning pages until the end.
February: The School for Good Mothers, by Jessamine Chan
Get your tissues ready, and please make sure to read the content warnings before getting started. This novel describes a dystopian future that, to be honest, doesn’t feel all that inconceivable, where mothers are held to deeply impossibly standards for raising children. In the face of losing her only child, one mother must attend a Big Brother-like institution to prove that she can learn how to be a suitable mother. This book explores the pains of motherhood in a culture that expects too much from women. It is an emotional read, but I believe it is an important one.
March: Fairy Tale, by Stephen King
This was easily my favorite book of the year. I understand many avid Stephen King readers didn’t enjoy this book, which is precisely why I think I loved it so much. It is a significant departure from his more horror/thriller works. It recounts a beautiful story of a boy and his dog overcoming impossible evil in a fantasy world that exists beneath ours.
April: Adelaide, by Genevieve Wheeler
Anyone who has found themselves in a situationship where everything feels uncertain and hard will deeply resonate with this one. Adelaide explores one woman’s incredible journey through love and loss, and ultimately, her path to finding herself again. It addresses something incredibly close to my heart, which is the way women often find themselves having to navigate pain, grief, and even mental illness while continuing to take care of others instead of themselves.
May: The Collected Regrets of Clover, by Mikki Brammer
I fell in love with this book on page one. Clover is a death doula in New York City who is obsessed with death. She keeps journals of her client’s last words as a way to gather learnings about the meaning of life from people who are at its end. When one of her clients asks her to fulfill a last wish before she passes, Clover is sent on a journey that may teach her more about herself than her client.
June: Ink Blood Sister Scribe, by Emma Torzs
This one has all my favorite elements: magic, dark academia, books. It is truly a mysterious and exciting page turner from the very start. Two sisters, whose sworn duty is to protect their family’s collection of magical books, must work together to uncover a dangerous world of magic that they never knew existed and bring its power to an end.
July: As Long as the Lemon Trees Grow, by Zoulfa Katouh
Given current world events, this one is incredibly resonant and timely. Salama, a young woman living in war-torn Syria, works in her local hospital to serve her community that has been ravaged by the war. When she meets Keenan, a young boy determined to do his part in the Syrian Revolution, she is torn between her desire to flee to safety, and her conviction to stay and fight.
August: Happiness Falls, by Angie Kim
This beautiful family drama asks the question: what would we do to protect our families? When Mia’s father goes missing after a hike with her non-verbal brother Eugene, questions about what might have happened start to arise. As the investigation becomes increasingly focused on Eugene as the primary suspect, Mia and her family must manage their grief while doing everything in their power to protect their family.
September: Starling House, by Alix E. Harrow
I had the privilege of meeting Alix Harrow at a book signing this year. What a truly incredible woman she is! I have read several of her books and will happily devour anything she writes. In Starling House, we meet Opal, a young girl with a troubled past who would do anything to get her and her brother out of town to a better life. But when she discovers Starling House—the abandoned home of the author of her favorite book The Underland, who disappeared mysteriously years ago—she finds herself uncovering a secret world of magic she never knew existed.
October: Untitled for Now, by Desiree Moore
At its roots, this book is about overcoming unbelievable circumstances and breaking cycles. Helen wakes up one day in a mental hospital with no memory of how she got there and who she was before her arrival. As the hospital’s psychologist walks her through her shattered memories, she discovers the memory of a daughter. Through dual timelines, we learn of Helen’s harrowing history, her painful circumstances, and how she finally found herself without her memories. Based on a true story, this book will grip you from the moment you open it.
November: All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr
You’ve perhaps seen this title pop up on your Netflix Home Screen recently. Netflix made a beautiful film based on this book, which is what inspired me to read it myself. The book takes place in Nazi occupied Paris and Saint-Malo, where a young blind girl named Marie-Laure and her family do what they can to help with Resistance efforts against the occupation. We meet Werner, a young and promising member of the Hitler youth, who finds his way to Marie-Laure through her nightly radio broadcasts. It is a sad, beautiful, and heart-rending story that reminds us of our resilience in the face of evil.
December: The Paris Dressmaker, by Kristy Cameron
This unexpectedly feminist novel tracks the activities of who Parisian women who did what they could to subvert Nazi occupation in Paris. Using the means they had available to assist the Resistance, Lila and Sandrine engage in great acts of bravery and personal sacrifice. Finally, as the Allies enter Paris and freedom is on the horizon, we see these two women’s stories intersect in a heart-rending conclusion that highlights the often untold stories of women’s courage in horrific circumstances.
Amber Wardell is a doctor of psychology and author who speaks on women’s issues related to marriage, motherhood, and mental health. Subscribe to the free newsletter to get exclusive content delivered to your inbox and to never miss an upload.