Dena's Favorite Books of 2023

By Dena RSS Wed, December 27, 2023

It's the 12th annual list of my favorite books — the 2023 edition! This year was a good reading year; I read over 300 books for the first time since 2019 (although my TV watching decreased dramatically). There's something to be said for a comfy couch, a cup of tea, and a good book. It's a cliche for a reason!

If you've been following me on my reading journey over the last decade or so, you know I'm a sucker for a good genre book. This year you'll find some amazing science fiction, fantasy, and romance books with some detours into mystery, science, and food (another great love of mine). I hope you find something on this list that you will love too!


1. Molly Molloy and the Angel of Death by Maria Vale

When the Angel of Death makes a mistake and accidentally saves Molly instead of taking her soul, things get complicated fast — an odd, compelling romance.

2. Oh My Mother! by Connie Wang

This is a funny, touching, and heartfelt memoir in essays exploring the author’s complicated relationship with her mother and both of their places in each other’s life and the world.

3. Bitter Medicine by Mia Tsai

A Chinese immortal and a French elf team up in this urban fantasy. Elle and Luc both have secrets from their past that they’re trying to hide. When they’re compelled to work together, will their chemistry overcome the ties of family and duty?

4. Nuts and Bolts: Seven Small Inventions That Changed the World in a Big Way by Roma Agrawal

The nuts and bolts that make up our world may be tiny and are often hidden, but they've changed our lives in dramatic ways. A fascinating look at the history of seven inventions — the nail, spring, wheel, lens, magnet, string, and pump.

5. Something Wild and Wonderful by Anita Kelly

When Alexei decides to hike the Pacific Crest trail solo, he does not expect to keep running into outgoing Ben over and over along the way. Over the course of 2500 miles, the two men find that they will need to face their past to build a future together.

6. A Power Unbound by Freya Marske

The powerful and satisfying conclusion to a wonderful queer historical fantasy/romance trilogy (read A Marvelous Light and A Restless Truth first). Against a backdrop of treachery, power, and the fight for all the magic in England, a reluctant aristocratic ally and a frustratingly attractive opportunist find their enmity becoming something else entirely.

7. Thief, Liar, Lady by D.L. Soria

In this fairytale reimagining Cinderella is running a grift on the royal family in order to secure a future for herself and her family. But with war looming and the wrong prince inconveniently entering the picture, she’s in danger of losing control of the scheme — which could prove fatal.

8. The Wake-Up Call by Beth O'Leary

Izzy and Lucas are hotel receptionists and arch-rivals. When a scheme to return a lost wedding ring turns into the last hope to keep their faltering hotel afloat, the competition between them intensifies. As hostilities become more complicated, more than the future of the hotel seems to be at stake.

9. Invitation To A Banquet by Fuchsia Dunlop

Fuchsia Dunlop’s magnum opus explores the history, philosophy, and techniques of Chinese culinary culture, weaving together history, mouthwatering descriptions of food, and on-the-ground research conducted over the course of three decades.

10. We Could Be So Good by Cat Sebastian

Nick is a scrappy reporter in 1950’s New York and Andy is the unwilling heir apparent to the newspaper he works at. This is a historical romance filled with the little charms of daily life and a couple coming to terms with who they are and what that means.

11. Witch King by Martha Wells

When the demon Kai wakes up after being murdered, he will have to pull together his allies and try to find out what happened to both him and the world. This is a lyrical fantasy of trust, friendship, power, and betrayal from the author of the Murderbot series.

12. Sweeten The Deal by Katie Shepard

This is the Sugar Daddy trope turned on its head — Caroline hires Adrian on an escort site so she can get a little culture (and he can get a lot of cash). This is a surprisingly sweet and thoroughly entertaining opposites attract romance.

13. The Witchwood Knot by Olivia Atwater

This is a sharp gothic romance about a governess who’s more than she seems determined to steal her young charge back from the faeries.

14. Highly Suspicious and Unfairly Cute by Talia Hibbert

Celine and Bradley used to be best friends, but now they're arch-rivals. When they’re forced to work together while competing for a grand prize, they’re forced to confront their messy past and discover whether a new relationship can grow.

15. The Celebrants by Stephen Rowley

A group of friends reunites over the years to honor a decades-old pact to throw each other living “funerals” in order to remind themselves that life is worth living and that their lives mean something, to one another if not to themselves.

16. Rook by William Ritter

Abigail Rook is the new bridge between the supernatural and the mortal world, but she has no idea what she's doing. The world isn't slowing down for her though, so she'll just have to figure it out as she goes. This is a standalone book set after the events of the Jackaby series, but you should really read the first books first.

17. The Marquis Who Mustn't by Courtney Milan

When Naomi Kwan invents a fake engagement, the last thing she expects is for the handsome stranger to play along. But Lui Ji Kai has his own reasons for the fraud, although the engagement might be the only thing that’s not a lie.

18. Vera Wong's Unsolicited Advice for Murderers by Jesse Q. Sutanto

Lonely widow Vera Wong discovers a corpse in her tea shop and takes it upon herself to solve the crime since the police clearly don't know what they're doing. Along the way, the murder mystery becomes the catalyst for creating a found family that she didn't know she was missing.

19. The Secret Lives of Country Gentlemen by K.J. Charles

When Gareth inherits a house and a title from the father who abandoned him, he never expected to find that an old lover is also in Romney Marsh — the leader of a family of smugglers. Now old secrets and dangerous foes threaten them both.

20. Behind The Scenes by Karelia Stetz-Waters

Business consultant Rose (who has a secret hobby) might be the only chance for filmmaker Ash to complete her last movie. And while their attraction is immediate, Ash's painful past might turn everything into a disaster.

21. Charm City Rocks by Matthew Norman

Billy is living a fine life as a music teacher and Margot is a reclusive former rock star he had a crush on when he was young. When Billy's son schemes to bring Margot into his dad's life, they both might realize that life could be so much more than what they have now.

22. The Adventures of Amina al-Sirafi by S.A. Chakraborty

Amina Al-Sirafi is living a life of quiet retirement after a career as the most infamous pirate on the Indian Ocean. When she’s persuaded to do one last simple job, it quickly becomes clear that the last thing she’s facing is simplicity.

23. Thornhedge by T. Kingfisher

Toadling was sent to the mortal world to protect a newborn child. Centuries later the castle is surrounded by brambles and cursed — but when a knight finds his way there he discovers that Toadling will do anything to keep the curse intact. This is Sleeping Beauty from the perspective of the wicked fairy.

24. 10 Things That Never Happened by Alexis Hall

Sam Becker knows he and his staff are about to be sacked. So when the opportunity arises for him to fake a light case of amnesia to get out of it he takes it. But he gets more than he bargained for when he ends up living with his grumpy boss...

25. Check and Mate by Ali Hazelwood

Mallory is done with chess. But when she reluctantly agrees to one last tournament, she inadvertently wipes the floor with the reigning champion. Now the thought of sorely needed cash prizes is beguiling her back into a world that almost broke her, and her rival might be her biggest ally.

26. Translation State by Ann Leckie

Set in the same world as the Imperial Radch series, the disappearance of a missing translator sends three lives on a collision course. If you have a chance to listen to the audiobook the narration is a masterpiece.

27. If Found, Return to Hell by Em X. Liu

Wen is an intern at a magical call center, and when one of their clients calls for help Wen gets more involved than they dreamed possible. The client has been possessed by a prince of Hell, who has no intention of leaving.

28. Some Desperate Glory by Emily Tesh

This is a brilliant queer space opera about the wreckage of war, the family you find, and who you must become when every choice is stripped from you.

All of these titles are available in our Catalog in print and/or digital and audio. Check out previous years' lists of favorites and enjoy!

Have a question for Free Library staff? Please submit it to our Ask a Librarian page and receive a response within two business days.

Leave this field empty

Add a Comment to Dena's Favorite Books of 2023

Email is kept private and will not be displayed publicly
Comment must be less than 3000 characters
Thanks so much for sharing this list! I added many of them to my "next up" reading list.
Sunday, January 21, 2024