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2023 Book Review (The Year of the Book Buying Ban)

books | year in review
Stock image of what looks like a woman clearly curled up in bed with a book and a mug of tea or coffee. We can only see her hands and the pink blanket covering her.

Sometime in 2022 I had a moment with Notion and decided to catalogue all the books I had waiting to read. For context, we have a spare bedroom that is now called the “reading room” because all it has in there right now is one very comfy armchair and a couple of bookshelves full of books. And I also read a lot of books digitally on my iPad. When I started compiling this list, I thought there’d maybe be, oh, 80 or so books. By the time I was done, I was horrified to learn there were almost 400. 400 books in my TBR pile. I realised that even if I managed 40ish books a year, I had enough books for 10 years of reading, which wouldn’t even account for all the new and wonderful books that would be published in the meantime. This is a bookworm’s idea of hell. What was a gal to do? I made a drastic decision and enforced a book-buying ban on myself for 2023. And this right here is my 2023 book review of all the books I managed to read (and NOT buy!) through the year. 

Stock image of what looks like a woman clearly curled up in bed with a book and a mug of tea or coffee. We can only see her hands and the pink blanket covering her.

Did I Make It?

The answer is… YES. 

I successfully managed not to buy more books OTHER THAN one which was specifically to help me work on my novel (Save The Cat! Writes A Novel by Jessica Brody – I highly recommend it!) and a signed first edition of Margaret Atwood’s newest short story collection, Old Babes in the Wood, which I bought when I went to see her speak in Vancouver earlier this year. I got permission and it was decided that I could hardly go and NOT buy a signed copy of her new book. 

I also had one book bought for me (thanks sis!) – The Constant Rabbit by my all-time favourite author, Jasper Fforde. 

Anyway, shall we dig into the books I read?

The Reading Challenge

This year I challenged myself to read 50 books. Almost a book a week which seemed like a hefty task. 

I was close. I managed 48 books this year. I’m pretty happy with that! 

The Facts and Figures

According to Goodreads, based on 46 books logged (I also read two yet-to-be-published books so couldn’t log those), I read 13,145 pages and the average book length was 285 pages. 

Reading List Breakdown

I read: 

  • 22 published novels
  • 2 UNpublished novels
  • 3 short story books
  • 4 general non-fiction books
  • 8 books about writing
  • 6 books about running a business
  • 3 memoirs

Notable Mentions

I won’t dig into every single book I read. But here are some notes about a few that stood out to me.

A display of 46 book covers I have read in 2023.

Magic Lessons by Alice Hoffman

I grabbed this book at a book fair back in 2022, mostly because I loved the cover and the raw edges of the pages. I had no idea it would turn out to be a story that sort of leads up to an old favourite film of mine, Practical Magic. This was such a beautifully written book and I adored the story. Well worth a read. 

The Testaments by Margaret Atwood

I’d had this book on my shelf for ages and was a bit wary of picking it up because I loved The Handmaid’s Tale so much that I couldn’t imagine where she’d go with the story. I wasn’t disappointed though. Definitely a favourite from this year. 

The Book of Longings by Sue Monk Kidd

Let me put it this way because if I explain what the book is about then I’m sure most of you will be like… ugh, why would I want to read that? But if you read The Red Tent by Anita Diamant and loved it, then I KNOW you’ll love this book too. The Book of Longings is a fictional story about Jesus’ wife during the times leading up to his death. It’s so beautifully told all from the female perspective and I adored it. 

Ten Steps to Nanette by Hannah Gadsby

I first watched Nanette in March 2022 on Netflix and I was utterly blown away. I’ve watched it multiple times since and it still gets me in the guts every. single. time. So when I saw Hannah Gadsby’s memoir pop up, I knew I had to read it and I wasn’t disappointed. Her voice is so strong all the way through this book that I basically read it hearing her speak the whole time. Amazing. 

The Enchanted Inc. Series by Shanna Swendson

Recommended by my friend, Carla, I picked up the first in this series as a download to my iPad. I read it and was utterly horrified by how full of typos and formatting issues it was. LOL, But I did kinda like the story. I started to read the next and then the next in the series. The typos improved. The story was engaging. And I became totally invested. I’ve read all bar the last one because I don’t want it to end! But if you’re looking for something light and fun (and can ignore all the horrific typos) then you’ll love this.

Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times by Katherine May

Oh, what a glorious book this was. Beautifully written, it just had an overwhelming sense of calm about it and felt like one long, beautiful sigh. Highly recommended for people who need to step back and take a break. 

The Constant Rabbit by Jasper Fforde

Of course I was going to talk about this one since JF is my favourite author! This book feels like a sign of the times. It’s highly satirical but still with a good dash of Fforde’s weird and wonderful world-building fantasy and good humour. I bloody loved it. 

Our Missing Hearts by Celeste Ng

This was a surprise for me. Stu bought me the book purely because we know the artist who created the image on the cover (his name is Nick Orr and yes, that feather is real and he hand-carved the design). I had literally no idea what the book was about but it blew my mind when I read it. Again, another novel that seems to be very much like a sign of the times. Set in a dystopian future that feels scarily believable. It was beautifully written.

The Unpublished Novels

I need to mention these because, honestly, they were two of the best things I read this year and I’m not just saying that because their authors are my friends! One was a historical, magical novel about a glass house set in Paris by my lovely friend, Kerrin. The other was a fun, racy novella that was an absolute riot to read by the wonderful Janine who organises our writer’s retreats. Needless to say, I have no doubt they’ll be appearing on the shelves at some point soon and I’ll be sure to share the links to them when they are!

A Final Word

I  want to mention that there were a lot of unfinished books this year too. Books I started but just couldn’t get into, and books that I realised I wasn’t quite ready yet to read. 

Here’s what I’ve learned about my self-imposed book-buying ban and wanting to read 50 books this year… I have had to get decisive about each book, especially any books that feel like a struggle to read. It’s my unending sadness and obvious realisation that I’ll never have time to read ALL the books. So… if a book doesn’t capture me in the first couple of chapters, I’m afraid it goes. Life is too short to try and force myself to read books I don’t enjoy! I’m aiming for 50 again this year. I’ll let you know how I get on!