My year in reading, 2023

Hello! It’s January, which means it’s time for my annual tradition of updating all three of you who read this about what I read this past year. Last year, I predicted that I wouldn’t have a spare moment for any fun reading this year since I would be starting my MFA program. A year later, I’m pleased to report that this prediction proved to be wrong! There have been several times in my life where people have warned me that I would not have time, anymore, to read for pleasure. Law school, for example. Or immediately after having babies. I know this warning rings true for many people, for whom reading becomes too much or not satisfying or feels like a chore when they’re under stress. But for me, reading is a safe haven, something I look forward to even more when I’m stressed and life feels chaotic and out of control. At the moment, my life does not feel particularly chaotic (hooray) and I am not even very stressed (I know, what?), and I am enjoying a nice mix of reading for school and reading for fun.

Speaking of school! Because I have spent the last year (whoa) in the MFA program at Warren Wilson (IYKYK), I’ve been doing a LOT of reading, even more than I do in a typical year. My program requires me to read approximately 1 book/week during the semester, for a total of 20-25 books/semester, but I end up reading more than that, since I’m also reading for pleasure each day, as well. So, let’s get into the numbers, shall we? In 2023, I read a total of 68 books! This year, about half the books I read were print and half were digital (meaning I got them on the Libby app, from the library). About 75% were fiction. In a typical year, I probably read a bit more nonfiction, but I think the demands of the program have weighted my reading more towards fiction this year.

Here are some highlights:

Best memoir

Stay True, Hua Hsu

Dumbest memoir(s)

Tie between Spare, Prince Harry and Bad Mormon, Heather Gay

Book that most blew my mind

The Transit of Venus, Shirley Hazard

Best short story collection

Tenth of December, George Saunders

Best novella

Foster, Claire Keegan

Most beautifully depressing

The Gathering, Anne Enright

Most overhyped

Tom Lake, Ann Patchett (I know this is a deeply controversial pick, but this book just did not work for me, and I consider myself a big Patchett fan!)

Most moving epic

Demon Copperhead, Barbara Kingsolver

Twistiest turniest

My Murder, Katie Williams

Tensest psychological thriller

The Quiet Tenant, Clémence Michallon

Most surprising

Birnam Wood, Eleanor Catton

Fastest page turner

The Guest, Emma Cline

What was your reading life like this year? What books stood out to you? Which disappointed? Let me know!


  • Hello Stephanie! What a wonderful update. So glad to see your life is going well!
    My questions would be about your comments on the non-fiction you read beyond the dumb memoirs.

    • I read quite a few dumb memoirs because I am in a dumb-memoir book club with a few friends. But beyond that, I read and enjoyed Trust the Plan by Will Sommer about the rise of Q-Anon, The Lost City of Z by David Grann (fascinating), and Good Girls by Hadley Freeman.

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