The best books I read in 2023

by Gigi Griffis
Books: The Girls I've Been, Vicious, Orleans, Bad Witch Burning, Dead End Girls, Let the Mountains Be My Grave

Well, hey there. It’s yet again time to take stock of what I’ve shoved into my brain via words in the past year.

In 2023, I read 47 books (quite a low number for me, if I’m honest), including some unpublished manuscripts that I can’t talk about publicly yet (boo). I also managed half of Persepolis (the graphic novel) in Portuguese, so will continue slowly making my way through that in 2024.

I also DNFed (Did Not Finish) 20+ books, of which I read anywhere from one chapter to half the book before putting it down (for a wide variety of reasons). I also read, skimmed, or spot-read some heftier history texts for research (though I generally only include commercial history books in my actual for-fun reading lists).

So, what were my favorites? What am I looking forward to next year? And why did I love what I loved? Read on to find out.

(Please note that links below are affiliate links, which means if you click through and purchase something, I get a small commission at no extra cost to you.)

(Books marked with an * were written by a writer from a marginalized group. By supporting these authors, you’re telling publishers we want more books from underrepresented authors.)

First up…did you know I wrote some books you can buy or pre-order now?

Not included in the above reading numbers is the ridiculous number of times I read and re-read my own work, honing each into a book ready to be in the hands of other readers. This year, that mostly meant re-reading We Are the Beasts (a monster book about saving girls, out this fall!) and the super-secret untitled project that comes out in 2025.

As for my books that are already out…

If you haven’t grabbed your copies yet, The Wicked Unseen is available now. It’s a comedic young adult horror novel set during the 1990s Satanic Panic, in which a new girl moves to town just before Halloween and then the pastor’s daughter disappears.

And for adult historical romance fans, The Empress (of Netflix fame) is also out now. It follows the story of Empress Sisi before she was empress. 

Alright now, onto my fav reads of the year…

Best new book you read (not including re-reads):

In fiction, I think this year’s favorite was She Who Became the Sun*. It’s a historical fantasy book about a girl who takes her brother’s abandoned destiny in order to pursue greatness. Incredibly beautifully written and compelling.

In non-fiction, it’s a tie between Emotional Labor (an incredible feminist look at emotional labor) and All the Living and the Dead (a gorgeous exploration of industries connected to death).

Most surprising (in a good or bad way) book you read?

Weyward. I did not expect the level of WEEPING I did at the end of that book. The emotional climax was masterful.

Favorite new author you discovered?

Jen St. Jude (author of If Tomorrow Doesn’t Come*) and Robin Alvarez (When Oceans Rise*) are new to me and both are gorgeous writers who I will be keeping an eye on as (hopefully) they publish more books in future.

Best book from a genre you don’t typically read?

I’ve mostly stayed within my genre comfort zone this year. I think the farthest I diverged was by reading one litfic novel: Yellowface*, which was very compelling.

Most action-packed/thrilling/unputdownable book of the year?

I re-read The Girls I’ve Been* (the story of three teens caught up in a bank heist) in a single day because it’s just that unputdownable. As for new reads, I think Dead End Girls* (a tale of two girls who fake their own deaths) was the one that kept me most on the edge of my seat

Which book would you be most likely to re-read?

Emotional Labor. I will 100% be reading it again and next time in paperback so that I can take notes (I listened on audio and sped through it while running errands the first time). I’ve already recommended it strongly to multiple people because I need to have my own personal feminist book club discussion on this book.

Most memorable character?

Noah from Dear Mothman*. That book will make you weep and want to hug the poor, precious protagonist as he processes grief and identity while trying to prove the existance of the famed cryptid.

Most beautifully written book?

The real winner is an unpublished manuscript I can’t talk about (damn it, damn it, damn it), but tied for a close second are probably Weyward and All the Living and the Dead.

Which book was most fun to read/put a smile on your face?

Mindbreaker! It’s an accessible sci-fi ROMP about a girl from an anti-tech cult who must become android to survive…and then uncover the mysteries of her missing memories and what exactly the tech firm did to save her life.

Any other books you want to tell us about?

In addition to the books mentioned above, Orleans* and The Hollow Places were both riveting, sad, scary, and dark. And Fight Like Hell is an interesting summary of US labor movements.

Books you’re most excited to read next year?

I’m dying to read Bethany Baptiste’s The Poisons We Drink*, Emily Varga’s For She Is Wrath*, and Vaishnavi Patel’s Goddess of the River*. Also, Sarah Mughal’s Hope Ablaze* comes out next year and I can’t wait to re-read that gorgeous book.

My goal to read more books by marginalized authors

For the last few years, I also challenged myself to read at least one book per month by an author of color, one book per month by a queer author, and one book per month by a disabled/mentally ill/chronically ill author. There are a number of reasons I made this specific goal, including the fact that publishing tends to give marginalized authors less marketing support and less PR coverage, which means if you aren’t seeking these books out, you might simply not hear of them, even though they’re great. 

I’ll be undertaking the same challenge next year and I hope you’ll join me, especially if you’ve never challenged yourself in this way before. 

And now, to you: what were your favorite reads of 2023?


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