Melody's 2023 Reading

Fifty-eight books in 2023! Breaking all the records since 2013.

‘Twas a pretty even split between fiction and non.

Two of the fiction books are re-reads (Countess Below Stairs, by Eva Ibbotson, and Surviving the Applewhites, by Stephanie S. Tolan), and the rest are brand new to me! Some thoughts about this graph and the number of books:

  • E-books continue to make up the bulk of my reading. I check them out from my local library (that is indeed a thing). And yes, I read them on my phone. If you can scroll Instagram, you can read a book on that oh-so-tiny screen. It's not that different.

  • Print books once again got a bump from the online book club.

  • I didn’t prioritize 30-minutes-a-day of print reading this year, but the habits I formed in 2022 carried over. Settling in for a chapter or two of a print book is now something I know to make time for!

  • I set aside (quit) 18 books before finishing them. That’s more than twice as many as last year, which was its own record. I’m trying to get better at quitting things I don’t need to finish. And it looks like that mentality isn't harming my book count!

Anyway, let’s dive into awards and genre shout-outs. That’s why we’re all here! :)


Non-Fiction Gold

Without question, the best non-fiction book I read this year was All My Knotted-Up Life, by Beth Moore. Now, I’ve done exactly one Beth Moore Bible study in my life and have never considered myself her target audience, but this book was excellent in every possible way. Turns out, she’s a wonderful writer with a life I can (and did) learn so much from. I cried. I laughed. I’m grateful for her vulnerability. She doesn’t take herself too seriously…but you certainly should.

Non-Fiction Silver

It took me months and months to read, but second place goes to the whimsical and winsome Surrender: 40 Songs, One Story, by Bono. The book is best for those who know his music well (I am a fan, though not a super fan), but it is still a fascinating and inspiring foray into the life of a man who takes himself too seriously (and knows it). He writes extensively and poetically about his faith, his marriage, his family, his causes, and of course…U2.

Non-Fiction Bronze

I’m definitely not the first to give it a medal, but Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI, by David Grann, deserves its place here. This book makes it onto the list not because of the tragic story it tells but because of the fascinating structure of the book. Grann does his best to immerse you in the facts as they were known at the time and as they are discovered over time, which means mystery, twists…and chills.

Non-Fiction Honorable Mention

I recommended Rebecca Burgess’ Fibershed: Growing a Movement of Farmers, Fashion Activists, and Makers for a New Textile Economy to so many people that it would be bizarre to leave it off! I picked up this book because of my interest in ethical and sustainable fashion, and it blew me away with the in-depth analysis of everything from the current chemicals and dyes used in our clothing to detailed, multi-goal farming techniques. You won’t look at your closet the same way again.

Alright. Non-fiction genre shout-outs!

What kind of history was I reading this year?

  • Revolutionary War: The Revolutionary: Samuel Adams, by Stacy Schiff

  • Civil War: Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln's Killer, by James L. Swanson

  • 1917-1927 (definitely a deep dive this year):

    • American Midnight: The Great War, a Violent Peace, and Democracy's Forgotten Crisis, by Adam Hochschild

    • 1920: The Year of the Six Presidents, by David Pietrusza

    • Killers of the Flower Moon, by David Grann

    • One Summer: America, 1927, by Bill Bryson

  • World War II: D-Day Girls: The Spies Who Armed the Resistance, Sabotaged the Nazis, and Helped Win World War II, by Sarah Rose

  • Varies (primarily the mid-to-late 20th century): Broad Band: The Untold Story of the Women Who Made the Internet, by Claire L. Evans

  • Cold War: Rawhide Down: The Near Assassination of Ronald Reagan, by Del Quentin Wilber

You can tell it was a marvelous deep dive into the early 1920s. It’s a fun thing when you start recognizing names and events across books…and it also reveals how one history book is just…one history book. I’m pleased by all my new knowledge of this time period, but the foray left me humbled by how much I still do not know.

What would I recommend from the history list? Well, all of it, honestly, but here are some quick thoughts:

  • Page-Turning History: Manhunt and Rawhide Down

  • Science History: Broad Band

  • Important History: American Midnight and Killers of the Flower Moon

That should be enough to get you started. :)

What about the other genres? In addition to what was medaled above, here are some shout-outs:

  • Gender & Sexuality

    • Embodied: Transgender Identities, the Church, and What the Bible Has to Say, by Preston Sprinkle (finally, someone simultaneously humble, intellectual, and confident)

    • The Men We Need: God’s Purpose for the Manly Man, the Avid Indoorsman, or Any Man Willing to Show Up, by Brant Hansen (anything by Brant Hansen!! always!)

    • She Deserves Better: Raising Girls to Resist Toxic Teachings on Sex, Self, and Speaking Up, by Sheila Wray Gregoire (the discussion questions were actually good!)

  • Memoir: A Walk with Jane Austen: A Journey into Adventure, Love, and Faith, by Lori Smith (it's basically like being in England)

  • Philosophy: You Are What You Love: The Spiritual Power of Habit and How to Inhabit Time: Understanding the Past, Facing the Future, Living Faithfully Now, both by James K.A. Smith (discovering the gently intellectual and spiritual Smith this year was a great thing!)

  • Scripture: Advent: He Alone Is Worthy, by She Reads Truth (I didn’t know I could be impressed by passage curation until this devotional)

  • Unity & Division

    • Losing Our Religion: An Altar Call for Evangelical America, by Russell Moore (if you read one book to understand deconstruction, this is it)

    • Uncommon Ground: Living Faithfully in a World of Difference, by Timothy Keller and John Inazu (a beautiful compilation of essays by the man himself)

    • The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion, by Jonathan Haidt (the book that started it all)

Okay, that’s enough (and that’s not even all the non-fiction I read this year!). Let’s get to fiction.


Fiction Gold

You know you’re late to the party when your husband reads it first (looking at you, Project Hail Mary), but I’m glad his rave review finally lit the fire for me to pick up Daisy Jones and the Six, by Taylor Jenkins Reid, which multiple friends had recommended to me. At its core, this oral history of a fictional 1970s band (musicians, managers, friends…and of course, Daisy Jones herself), is a fun, fun time. You’ll gasp, you’ll laugh, you’ll turn page after page to find out why…at the height of their success, the band vanished.

Fiction Silver

I’m not sure how I found Code Name Hélène (I think I found it in a bookshop?), but we need to talk about how the craziest and saddest parts of this book actually happened. It’s definitely a novel but based on the true story of Nancy Wake, a French-speaking Australian who spied for the British in France (yep, all those things) during World War II. She is both badass and compassionate, with flawless red lipstick, and her story will leave you inspired and quite possibly in tears. (And if you were wondering, yes, I couldn't get enough of this topic and thus picked up D-Day Girls.)

Fiction Bronze

This year, I stumbled upon Emily Henry in the best way, with Book Lovers. I initially picked it up because of the premise--what if the main character is the big city girlfriend who gets dumped when her boyfriend has his Hallmark movie moment in a small town--and the promise of enemies-to-lovers romance. However, I soon found that this magnificently titled gem was hiding real characters and real growth. So good. (I’ve since read Henry’s Happy Place and her knack for depth-hidden-in-a rom-com does not seem to be a one-off.)

Fiction Honorable Mention

Another book I’m late to the party for: Ella Minnow Pea: A Novel in Letters, by Mark Dunn. This is the most delightful, heartwarming dystopian you are ever going to read. And if you like words, well, Dunn draws on an expansive vocabulary (and likely a thesaurus) to tell the story of a town losing its alphabet and falling under the control of those who claim to revere Nevin Nollop (creator of ‘The quick brown fox…’ sentence). If you’re looking for clever fiction that warms you better than a bowl of chicken noodle soup, you’ve found it with Ella Minnow Pea

And as if that all wasn’t enough, here are some genre shout-outs.

Yes, Romantasy is a genre! Goodreads says so! (But when are we going to have roman-stopian? Doesn’t quite have the same ring to it.)

So what else would I recommend from my fiction reading this year?
  • Dystopian

    • Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley (not troubling at all -sarcasm-)

    • The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood (much better than both the critics and the fans make it sound)

  • Historical: A Tale of Two Cities, by Charles Dickens (got to read the classics sometime!)

  • Mysteries: Yep, these were mostly all cozies (formulaic for the win) from the following series:

    • Bakeshop Mystery series, by Ellie Alexander

    • Literary Pub Mystery series, by Sarah Fox

    • Noodle Shop Mystery series, by Vivien Chien

  • Romantasy: The Princess and the Scoundrel, by Beth Revis (a sweet Star Wars standalone)

I’m going to stop us in that galaxy far, far away, because that is so many books. If you really want to see more, you can see all the books I read in 2023 (with some stats) and then keep up with my 2024 progress on Goodreads. This year, I’m hoping to add a few more classics to my repertoire and will attempt to integrate audiobooks into my life (we'll see how that goes...audiobooks and I have a shaky relationship). Send me a Goodreads friend request and let me see what you’re reading!


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