Happy New Year, Dear Reader! Can you believe we are already in 2024? For this first post of the new year I thought I would share my favourite books I read in 2023. Last December, I decided that I wanted to finally read some of the books on my To Be Read list that had been there for a while, as well get through all of the unread books on my bookshelf. (I think that’s my goal every year, and I always fail, but I still keep trying…) I compiled a shortlist of 14 books, some of which were available in the library and some I needed to buy or borrow from others. Then, to accomplish the other goal, I pulled all of the unread books off of my bookshelf (they get lost amongst the other books) and dedicated a shelf specifically for them. As I purchased and borrowed new books throughout the year, they joined the others on that shelf and then as I read them, they went back onto my main bookshelf. (Or into the donation bin for a few I didn’t enjoy!)
This method helped keep me focused and I was able to get through quite a lot of them, while still giving me the freedom to read what I was in the mood for. I know some people like to schedule books to read each week/month, but I would rather have an array of choices and pick what appeals to me the most in the moment. I like to read a variety of genres, but I’m not necessarily always in the mood for all of them.
While I did read almost all 14 of the books I had planned on, I didn’t make it through The Slave Trade by Hugh Thomas. It was a lot thicker of a book than I anticipated, so if I finish it in 2024, then I will consider than an accomplishment! I did read more than those 14 books this year, but this list is a bit on the smaller side, since not very many ended up being ones I “loved” and wanted to share. But now, onto the books that I did like in 2023, in no particular order…
Amazing Grace by Eric Metaxas
I said they weren’t in particular order, but we’re starting off with what was, by far, my favourite book of the year. Last year I read Hitler’s Cross by Erwin Lutzer… which then led me to read Bonhoeffer by Eric Metaxas… which then piqued my interest in more of Metaxas’ books… which then led me to this volume about William Wilberforce. This book was published in conjunction with the 2006 film of the same name. While I am familiar with Wilberforce, I loved learning more about him as well as the other Reformers and Abolitionists. This is one of those books where a good subject is made even better by a great author. Here is a small example of Metaxas’ writing style, in his “Acknowledgements”, so you can get a feel for what I mean.
“Life is a collaborative effort. That books are is a cliche, but not a fiction. I wish first and foremost to thank my typist, yours truly, for quite literally transcribing my thoughts as I thought them, a feat hardly to be explained, and yet quite literally true.”
While the book chronicles a serious topic, it is not depressing. Metaxas explores both Wilberforce’s personal and political life, his Christian faith and how that propelled him in his work, and the ups and downs of the Abolitionist movement. I found this to be an extremely encouraging and uplifting book, akin to the the way I feel about The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom; it is definitely one I will pull out and read again. If you have never watched the accompanying film Amazing Grace, then I also recommend it!
Laura by Donald Zochert and the Little House Series
Alright, so this wasn’t one book but 10, but I’m including them all in one review. I hadn’t read the Little House series for probably 15 or more years, so when I picked up this biography of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s life, I was inspired to read them again. I liked the biography because it filled in some of the areas of her life, clarifying details (such as which States “the West” were, or specific years events happened) and shared Laura’s story from an adult perspective. Then, after I finished the biography, I read the Little House books, spacing them out throughout the year, with other books in between, so I wouldn’t get tired of them as sometimes happens when you read a series too fast. Because they are children’s books, they are quick to read, but they are so enjoyable. As I read them, I just keep thinking about how glad I am that I am not a homesteader, because I would definitely be dead before the first snow came!
Les Miserables by Victor Hugo
I’ve had this book on my list for years, but was always intimidated to start it because I thought it was probably a difficult read which would take me too long to get through in time, if I got it from the library. I found a copy at a second hand book store last year and discovered that I could have borrowed it from the library years ago because I read the story in under a week! However, I am glad to have my own copy now, because I love the story so much I will definitely re-read it in the future.
I was familiar with the general storyline since I have seen the musical both performed live and as a movie, but I was pleasantly surprised with how much more I liked the book. Hugo has an excellent writing style and, obviously, delves deeper into the characters and events than a musical could ever sum up. I thoroughly enjoyed this one: if you liked the musical, then you will love the book too.
Adorned by Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth
I was simultaneously encouraged and convicted when I read this book, which is a study on Titus 2 about Biblical womanhood and the importance of “older” and “younger” women learning from and teaching one another. She talks about how that learning and mentoring can only happen when we are involved in each others lives, and dives deep into this passage of Scripture (it’s a 14 week study). I liked the book so much that I am actually now reading it for a Bible study with several women from my church. However, even if you don’t have a group to go through it with, I still recommend it to read by yourself as there is plenty of food for thought and opportunity for personal reflection. (I also love the cover design of this book!)
David Copperfield by Charles Dickens
This is the only audio book I listened to this year. I really meant to listen to some more, but just got busy listening to other things, like podcasts, in the evenings and forgot all about audio books (even when it would have been nice to listen to while I was sewing and crafting). This was Dickens’ personal favourite of the books he wrote and while I wouldn’t say it is my favourite, I do love to read his stories- or rather listen to them because I love his style of writing and storytelling, and the characters are always so loveable. I listened to this version. I already briefly mentioned this in a post earlier this year, but it is worth repeating again this wonderful quote, which is so typical of Dickens’ wordy descriptions,
“The pigeon-pie was not bad, but it was a delusive pie: the crust being like a disappointing head, phrenologically speaking: full of lumps and bumps, with nothing particular underneath.”
I got very frustrated with this story about halfway through, because I didn’t like where he was taking the story, but then he brought it around and resolved it with a strong and satisfying conclusion.
What Kitty Did Next by Carrie Kablean
This was another book that had been on my “To Read” list for a few years, recommended to me by my book and Jane Austen loving friend, but it wasn’t available at the library, so I had to get it secondhand. It was on my Thrift Books wish list, but was always out of stock, until one day in October when I checked and it was in, so I quickly grabbed it! This story follows the Pride and Prejudice character Kitty Bennet after Elizabeth and Jane’s marriages. It was written in the style of Jane Austen’s writing and I enjoyed the characterization of Kitty; I thought she was quite believable when compared to the original work. It was a meandering story, which I liked, however, I thought that Kablean’s climax/crisis was a bit weak and could have been resolved a bit more believably. Despite that flaw, I am sharing this one in my list because I like reading about the Bennet family from different perspectives (I’m not sure there is a more famous historical, fictional family than the Bennets) and if you like Jane Austen fan fiction, then I think you will too. I also really liked the cover design of this one! (Ps- if you like reading about the Bennet sisters, then you will probably also like The Other Bennet Sister by Janice Hadlow, which has a completely different storyline to this one!)
Well, there are my favourite books of 2023. As for this year, I don’t have any particular reading goals other than to finish the few that I didn’t get to this year. I’ve also got quite a few Classics on my list, so maybe I will listen to more audio books of those. I’ve started listening to Wuthering Heights (it’s been so long since I last read it that I can’t remember any of the story) so I’m already off to a good start on that.
What books are on your list for this year? What were your favourite books of last year? Have you read any of these and if so, what did you think of them?