Holly's Top 10 Reads for 2023

Being a Word Nerd means I’m also a Book Worm by default. I love reading. I adore it. It’s something I love to do *almost* more than anything else in the world. Each year I read at least 52 books a year, almost always a whole lot more, and for the past nine years I’ve shared a round up of my favourite ten for the year – you’ll find them all at the bottom of this blog. I don’t actually recall why I started this annual wrap up, perhaps because I’m always giving (unsolicited) book recommendations, so why not do them in blog form?

I haven’t read as much this year. I had almost a month away from reading like a mofo in May when I went to France with la maman and wasn’t reading as much. I also ran a marathon which ate up a lot of sitting on the sofa reading time, and I’ve been writing a ton which also limited time. At the time of writing this piece I’m sitting at 74 books read – I don’t count books that I started and DNF’d. Clearly, they wouldn’t make my top 10 if I haven’t read them! My favourite reads are usually removed from the world of business, branding and communications, but as I said in one of my favourite business books for the year – this one – writers should read across genres. I wholeheartedly believe that when you read good fiction, for example, your writing will improve by osmosis. 

As always, this top ten list doesn’t share necessarily ‘new’ books, but new reads to me. And as always, maths isn’t my strong point and so there’s more than ten as I’ve grouped several titles by the same author and called them one entry. So maybe I should call it my top 10 reading paragraphs? My list, my rules. Here we go, with links (no affiliate codes for the ninth year running because couldn’t be arsed), in no particular order:

Preservation, The Burning Island and The Settlement by Jock Serong. Oh, and On the Java Ridge.  When I find an author and/or a story I love has a series I’m a happy gal – which makes sense, given my preteen obsession with series such as Trixie Belden and Sweet Valley High. I read The Burning Island first out of Jock’s incredible series, then saw him speak at a writer’s festival, then went back and read the other two pieces from the trilogy. So, so good and more than a little creepy. The description of the survivors on Skull Rock alone gave me the heebie jeebies! On the Java Ridge is a contemporary story (the trilogy are set in the time of colonisation) and he’s an incredible writer. Enjoy! 

Release and Stolen by Lucy Christopher. These were two interesting YA novels that told the story of an abduction of a teenage British girl to Outback Australia and the aftermath ten years later. 

Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger. This is a classic, described as ‘dark and delicious,’ it’s a gothic-esque literary fiction about identical twins inheriting a house on the boundary of a London cemetery. I really loved the London vibe and read it ahead of my London trip in May. 

Fourteen by Shannon Molloy. This was a difficult read in that it’s a memoir of bullying from the same era as my adolescence and I could too painfully see the unfolding of toxic masculinity, homophobia and small country towns. 

Hagitude by Sharon Blackie has become my go-to gift for friends hitting the big 5-0. The title says it all! 

Sorry I’m Late, I Didn’t Want to Come by Jessica Pan was uproariously funny and the perfect antidote for, well, the heaviness as well as the faux-positivity that’s bandied around sometimes. It’s a non-fiction read chronicling the author’s year of putting herself out there as an introvert. 

Words in Deep Blue by Cath Crowley – a YA novel about grief. Sublimely beautiful. Buy it for your kids, read it for yourself. 

Eligible, Rodham and Romantic Comedy by Curtis Sittenfeld. Three different novels, the first is a retelling of Pride and Prejudice (fork yes!), the second is a reimagining of Hilary Rodham Clinton’s life and career and the third is a, well, romantic comedy that *could* be an insight into Saturday Night Live. All are fabulous examples of great, tight writing. 

Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus. I read this when I came home from beautiful France after a lady I met in Honfluer who was a former bookseller recommended it to me. I was sold when I read an author interview where she described returning to her desk after yet another meeting where her ideas were stolen by a colleague and belted out that experience via fiction. It’s beautifully written and the screen version has done a beautiful job with the retelling.  

Salt and Skin by Eliza Henry-Jones is a sublime, witchy story about the aftermath of trauma, of witches and of living on the edge of the world, in this case, the Scottish Islands. Eliza is a beautiful writer, I’d buy her shopping list just to read it. 

OK, so that’s my top ten for 2023 but speaking of witches I’m a generous witch, so here’s some more titles for you:

My Life as a Hashtag by Gabrielle Williams is a YA contemporary novel that shows in excruciating detail how social media can impact our kids. 

The Seven Skins of Esther Wilding by Holly Ringland is another ode to grief, written so beautifully. I saved this one for my Bali holiday and I blame it for some pretty decent sunburn because I couldn’t put it down to reapply sunscreen. 

The Mother by Jane Caro was also impossible to put down. It asks the question – what would you do to protect your daughter and is a scarily accurate insight into Australia’s domestic violence climate and how women are able to navigate protection. 

The Girl in the Gold Bikini by Lisa Walker is the girl detective novel I would have devoured as a teenager, and so I devoured it as a fifty year old. 

The Wild Silence by Raynor Winn. I shared my love of Winn’s The Salt Path in a previous list, and this is the follow up non-fiction that talks about the impact of nature. 

I also shared a ton of writing books and resources in Writing with Moxie which are worth checking out, but at a baseline go for Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg. 

A wee plea: if you’re buying books as gifts (yay!) go to your local independent bookstore if possible. Booksellers are magical people and if you tell them a sentence or two about who you are buying for they’ll hand you the perfect book. Bonus points if you buy oz literature – we have incredible authors across all genres and they’ve had a tough year, what with a certain program stealing their work and calling it ‘data’ to be churned out on masse… 

And that shall probably do! If this list has wet your whistle and you want more, more, HOLLY GIVE ME MORE, here’s my 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019,  2020 , 2021 and 2022 best reads lists. That’s nine years of reading, including this year, can you believe it?

Tell me, what’s been your favourite read(s) this year?

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