My Top 6 Adult Reads For 2023Nov 26, 2023
I often joke that I don’t read many books written for adults because I’m not mature enough to understand them, but here I am doing a top 6(ish) books for adults list.
Look at me being a grown up!
These six books are ones that have either kept me glued to their pages or kept me thinking about them long after I turned their last page.
Each of them would make a great Christmas present for a friend or a terrific read over the summer school holidays.
Fourth Wing by Rebecca Yarros
I’m not sure how I even came across this book. I was deep in my ‘I’ve run out of Sarah J Maas books depression’ when I saw this and thought I’d give it a go.
The blurb revealed that it ticked 3 of my key boxes: spicy romantasy (romance + fantasy), contains dragons and has a strong female lead. Tick, tick, tick. Note: The spice factor in this book is high. It’s not as spicy as Sarah J Maas’ writing, but still, it’s not for kids.
I could not put this book down! It left me with countless nights of minimal sleep as I read ‘just one more’ (more like five more) chapters night after night. This is precisely why I do NOT recommend starting this book if you have other pressing needs in your life (such as report writing).
This book is about a 20-year-old girl who passes a deadly entrance exam for a school that teaches her to be a badass dragon rider. She goes through countless trials in her time at the school, including falling for a guy, battling against her peers and having to fight against dangerous and unknown enemies.
I was thrilled to find out the wait for the sequel to this novel was less than six months and have (this week) finished reading that one too. It’s called Iron Flame and is even spicier than Fourth Wing and just as good overall. Unfortunately, the wait for the third novel is going to be a lot longer.
Quit Like A Woman by Holly Whitaker
I read this book for the first time in 2021 and pulled it out for a cover-to-cover reread halfway through this year.
It’s about one woman’s journey to quit drinking alcohol and it was so thought provoking that it made me stop drinking alcohol the minute I finished reading it. In this book, the author explains the impact of alcohol on our bodies and, fascinatingly, goes on to explain how alcohol consumption is actually a feminist issue (this was the part that really got me!) She highlights the strategies the global alcohol industry has used to normalize the drug and points out how these strategies come straight from the cigarette industry’s playbook. As my ferocious highlighting can attest to, I was equal parts awed and enraged by this exploitation.
One of the things Holly talks about in the book is how other people view those who no longer drink alcohol. Just as she mentions, I haven’t turned into a boring nun who doesn’t know how to have fun just because I no longer drink! I can now have fun AND wake up early the next morning without a headache. Win-win!
Stolen Focus: Why You Can’t Pay Attention by Johann Hari
I read this book at the very start of the year and haven’t stopped thinking about it since. In this book, Johann Hari studies attention and focus by looking at the factors that impact these and suggestions for what we can do about it. Spoiler alert: he says big tech companies have a lot to answer for in terms of stealing our ability to focus!
Thankfully, Hari is a realist. He doesn’t suggest we boycott technology or go back to using ‘dumb phones’, instead he recommends we learn to control how much we let technology distract us and steal our precious focus.
I feel like this book needs to be reread at the start of every year!
Bonus book: After reading this, I read another great book by Hari: Lost Connections: Why You’re Depressed and How To Find Hope. I picked it up because I read the title, Lost Connections, and thought it too was about technology. Turns out it was actually about our connection with ourselves, our communities and the natural world around us. It was another thought-provoking read that’s worth adding to the holiday list.
Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus
I added this adult fiction book to my Kindle in preparation for my French holiday. I’d heard people raving about it everywhere and thought I’d give it a go, despite my usual avoidance of adult fiction. I have to say, I loved it!
The main character was a highly intelligent neurodiverse female who was suffering her way through working in a male dominated industry. She is funny, quirky and refreshingly unique and I was totally engaged by her views on the world.
I laughed out loud several times while reading this book and couldn’t wait for the next opportunity to open my Kindle and read a few more pages.
It’s not a heavy read – despite containing lots of scientific ideas- and I strongly recommend adding it to your TBR pile.
The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
Prior to June, I went on a France-based-books bender in preparation for our big French trip. This book came up on all the ‘books you must read before visiting France’ lists, so I thought I’d have a read.
The Nightingale is a historical fiction about the German occupation of Paris. The strong female lead (are you seeing a theme in my book choices here?) joins the resistance and puts herself in danger to protect her countrypeople. Meanwhile, her sister is forced to live with a German army officer in her own home.
This was an engaging and well written book. I put it on Laurie’s TBR (To Be Read) pile once I’d finished reading it and he enjoyed it too.
We saw on the cover that this book had apparently been turned into a movie but when we sat down to watch it one night (as per our household rules of ‘every person watching the movie must have read the book first’) we were disappointed to see that the movie idea seems to have fallen through.
Bonus books: Other books I read in preparation for our France trip included: Almost French, Pardon My French, A Waiter In Paris and The Paris Library.
How Decent Folk Behave by Maxine Beneba Clarke
I made a conscious effort to read more poetry this year and this was my top poetry related read.
This author’s name is probably familiar to you as she’s also the author of a range of children’s picture books, including: The Patchwork Bike, When We Say Black Lives Matter and We Know A Place.
I absolutely love Maxine’s writing so, after listening to her speak on the Garrett podcast, decided I’d start reading through some of her adult books, starting with this one.
How Decent Folks Behave is an anthology of poems that Maxine wrote mostly during the lockdown years. The topics are far reaching, and I love that she never shies away from tackling the big stuff head on. This collection features poems on lockdown, the 2020 bushfires, the Me Too movement and the Biloela family, among other things.
Maxine’s superpower is noticing the small and important details in the world around her, as well as injecting humour into that view. I enjoyed every poem in this book, so much so that I think I read the entire thing in two sessions. It will definitely be a book I’ll be rereading over and over again.
Bonus book: I’ve started reading another one of Maxine’s books, The Saturday Portraits. This contains each of her weekly ‘creative portraits’ that she wrote for The Saturday Paper in 2014. She features a different personality in each one and I’m rationing out my reading of these, so I get to experience her humorous, warm and insightful writing over a longer period of time.
There you have it, my top 6(ish) adult reads for 2023.
Let me know if you’d like to read my top reads in the other categories (namely professional and children's books). Also, I'd love to hear which books you think I should add to my pile for 2024.
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