2023 Reading Recap
2023 was quite a year! I did make it through my reading challenge, although my monthly updates here were few and far between. Determined to do better at that this year! So far I am at least writing this in the first week of the new year–so that seems like a good start!
In 2023 I read 132 books, in a variety of genres. 25 of those were chapter books I read aloud with the kids, and pretty much all of those were major highlights. I love reading the books that I loved as a child with my children, and finding new favorites too.
Favorite Read Alouds with the Kids
1-4. Harry Potter books 1-4. (Sorcerer’s Stone, Chamber of Secrets, Prisoner of Azkaban, Goblet of Fire) Harry Potter is still one of my favorite series. I still reread it on my own every year or so. Sharing it with my kids is a total delight.
5. By the Shores of Silver Lake by Laura Ingalls Wilder. Another favorite. Reading through Little House as an adult has been one of the best surprises. I knew I loved the story, but I love the grit of characters even more than I did as a child.
6. The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder. I have never been so grateful to be living in my house in this particular time as I was while we read this book. But what a great story.
7. Narnia Series by C. S. Lewis (except for The Magician’s Nephew and The Last Battle). I don’t know if I was just in the right mood to reread all of these classics this year, or what. But this was yet another one that I have read probably 10 times before, but the poignancy this year was hitherto unmatched.
8. Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery. If you haven’t read Anne of Green Gables, you should definitely add it to your reading list. Anne is witty, and at times comical, but the story is also full of drama, tenderness, and grief, underscored with achingly beautiful prose. Don’t be intimidated though. We found ourselves laughing out loud at Anne’s antics, and if tears were shed in the end, it was all worth it.
9. The Heart of a Samurai by Margi Preus. This one was a pleasant surprise. It follows the story of Manjiro, Japanese boy who finds himself shipwrecked with his fishing companions off the coast of Japan in the isolationist days of the 1800s. The story of how he and his companions were rescued and eventually made their way back to their families was riveting. Based on a true story, this is historical fiction at it’s finest!
10. On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness by Andrew Peterson. We dove into the Wingfeather series this year and read the first two books together before Sophia and Klaus raced ahead and we decided to all finish the series at our individual paces. It is a great adventure series. I suspect that it will end up being one of the cult classics that my kids want to read to their kids someday.
11. A Place to Hang the Moon by Kate Albus. This story of 3 children in a war torn England could easily be a classic as well. The characters are so nicely done and the story entirely pulled us in. A very sweet story, overall.
Moving on to my favorite fiction reads of the year! I read a lot of mediocre fiction this year. It was enjoyable, but there were just a few 4 or 5 star reads. Truthfully, the kids chapterbooks were probably my favorite fiction reads. But I’m going to try to give you a little more than that, so here goes 😉
- The Help by Kathryn Stockett. I have had this on my shelf for years and never read it, but I finally did and I’m so glad. It is such a great story and has some really excellent talking points if you happen to have a book club. I would have been happy to have a little more closure in the end, but all in all a great read.
- The Murder of Mr. Wickam by Claudia Gray. (Mr. Darcy and Miss Tilney, #1)This delightful whodunit is set in Jane Austen’s fictional universe. All of the characters are related to characters from Austen novels and while the story is unique, it’s a fun twist on fan fiction. Also, not going to lie, a little satisfying to see Mr. Wickham come to such a gruesome end.
- The Late Mrs. Willoughby by Claudia Gray. (Mr. Darcy and Miss Tilney #2) The second book in the series was as good as the first, and I am impatiently awaiting the publication of the third. Anytime now, Ms. Gray.
- The Last Rose of Shanghai by Weina Dai Randel. An interesting twist on WWII fiction, covering life in Shanghai as it was invaded by the Japanese. Quite tragic really, but it didn’t end as badly as it could have. At any rate, it covers a little-known segment of WWII history.
- Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier. I’ve been meaning read this novel for years, but I was still surprised by how much I enjoyed it. Du Maurier’s careful layering of subtle suspense is something I’ll be studying for a while.
- The Librarian of Burned Books by Brianna Labuskes. While there were aspects of this book that I could have done without, overall I thought it was an excellent book with a very good point. Freedom of speech is the foundation of liberty. If we once give into the idea of censorship of any person or political “side”, we have lost everything.
I read a total of 90 fictional books this year, including a few classics, rather a lot of ‘okay’ historical fiction, and a healthy portion of rom-com.
I definitely didn’t read as much nonfiction as I intended to this year, but I did successfully complete my 5×5 reading challenge (5 books in 5 categories) and read some really great nonfiction. Overall, I was very pleased with most of my nonfiction picks. I think nearly all 42 of them ended up being 4 or 5 star ratings in my opinion. Don’t worry, I’m not going to put them all up here! I shall endeavor to limit myself to 10 absolute favorites. You’re welcome! 😉
- Eve in Exile by Rebekah Merkle. Such a fantastic analysis of feminism, where it went wrong, and what we can/should do about it. I don’t agree with everything she says religiously, but the majority of this book was very interesting and enlightening.
- Atomic Habits by James Clear. This was a re-read in January. Spoiler: I’ll probably re-read it again this January. If you haven’t read it already, Clear’s insights into habit-building are second to none. Whether you’re trying to break bad habits or instill better ones, this book has loads of practical tips and tricks to help you out.
- A Thomas Jefferson Education by Oliver Demille. I really enjoyed this book. More than just a book about Thomas Jefferson, this is a book about how statesmen are educated and grown. Very interesting to consider the education of Jefferson, and all of the founding fathers of America really, and consider how that led to such strong leaders.
- How to Teach Your Children Shakespeare by Ken Ludwig. I had been really struggling to fit Shakespeare into our schooldays but this helped immensely. I decided to start following his advised order of study in Shakespeare and all I can say is, Wow. He was right. We finished a play for the first time ever (A Midsummer Night’s Dream), the kids all followed it and LOVED it. So excited to start reading Twelveth Night with them!
- The Brendan Voyage by Tim Severin. I pre-read this for Sophia’s school this year and it was totally riveting. Can a medieval boat, made of leather, sail across the Atlantic? You’ll probably assume the answer is yes, since there is a book written about it. But the story is nothing short of awe inspiring. Highly recommend.
- His Needs, her Needs by Willard F. Harley. I thought this was a really great book about marriage. I’ve read a few books on marriage and generally been underwhelmed by them, but this was a great break down of the differences between men and women and what they need from a marriage. Very good.
- William Cowper: Poet of Paradise by George M. Ella. Such a wonderful biography of the hymn writer and teacher, William Cowper. Ella is an author parallel to none, and he does an excellent job delving into the available resources about Cowper’s life, debunking myths, and declaring the gospel that Cowper so faithfully believed.
- The Golden Alphabet by Charles Spurgeon. A study of Psalm 119. Very encouraging and powerful!
- A Century of Wisdom- Alice HerzSommer, Caroline Stoessinger. A biography of a pianist who survived the Holocaust, and went on to be an incredibly accomplished piano teacher and lifelong musician. Very inspiring as a musician in particular, and as a human in general.
- Martha Washington: An American Life by Patricia Brady. This biography of Martha Washington was so well done. Although I daresay most American know OF Martha, she is really one of the lesser known influential female figures of the early American years. She burned all of her correspondence with George, and his to her, after his death. This drastically reduces the amount of source material for something like a biography, but Brady did an excellent job with what she had, and managed to give an enlightening, intriguing account that was still very thorougly researched.
Well, it was truly difficult to limit it to 10 books, so I may have to do another post at some point with a bonus list of favorites. Thanks for sticking with me!