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Best Books of 2023?

I read 74 books in 2023. Here are my top 10 favorites!

By Maureen Y. PalmerPublished 3 months ago 7 min read
Top Story - January 2024
My Top 10 (photo by me)

How can someone possibly compare the relative merits of Toasty (a picture book about a piece of toast that wants to be a dog) vs. Death on Gokumon Island (a mystery of grisly multiple murder)? Well, I've made an attempt!

I read 74 books in 2023, across a wide variety of genres. To put together my top 10 list, I first created a shortlist of 20 contenders. It was very difficult to narrow this down further, so I decided to get technical and use a pairwise comparison tool to calculate a ranking.

After a couple hours of pairwise debating, followed by some reshuffling, here are my top 10 favorites of the year!...I think... (and yes, Toasty and Death on Gokumon Island are both on the list.)

(Disclosure: Links to are affiliate links; the rest are not.)

10. The Sign of the Twisted Candles (revised edition)

I read 7 Nancy Drew books in 2023, and two of them made it to this top 10 list. This book features a dramatic family feud, an inheritance dispute, and plenty of action, along with this great quote about Nancy's driving, lol:

Mr. Hill leaned back in the seat without speaking, although his eyes traveled nervously from time to time to the speedometer.

(Note: I have not read the original (©1933) edition of this book, so I don't know how it compares.)

9. Toasty

This book features the EXTREMELY CUTE adventures of Toasty, a piece of toast who wants to be a dog.

Toasty tried to run like a dog, but when he got on his two hands and two feet, all he was able to see was the ground.

Toasty chased a cat, but he was no match for it.

And when Toasty rolled in a puddle, he ended up soggy.

But of course, everything ends up happy in the end :). I have reread this book many times.

8. Wonder Cat Kyuu-chan #8

The latest installment in my all-time favorite manga series. It is SOOO CUTE!!! The cuteness is so powerful, you might feel like it's going to melt your eyes right out of your head.

A weird thing in this book is that they started calling Kyuu-chan (the cat) "she", whereas in the previous 7 volumes it was "he." However, I found it pretty easy to ignore, so it didn't affect my enjoyment much.

This book is pretty evenly matched with Toasty (#9), but I give Kyuu-chan a slight lead because in this one, Hinata (the human) starts his own business and Kyuu-chan cheers him on--so I also feel the power of Kyuu-chan cheering me on from this book ^_^.

If you want to read something extremely cute and relaxing, I highly recommend this entire series! (here is book 1)

7. The Clue in the Crumbling Wall (revised edition)

I've read 20 Nancy Drew Mystery Stories in total, and The Clue in the Crumbling Wall (revised edition) is among the best. Features include a decrepit castle with overgrown grounds, lots of guard dogs, both Nancy and Bess getting knocked unconscious, explosions, a treasure, and a touching conclusion. If you want to try reading Nancy Drew for the first time or get back into it as an adult, this is a great one to start with.

(Note that this revised version (©1973) is significantly better than the original (©1945). It has basically the same plot, but content that was offensive and/or made no sense in the original has been fixed.)

6. Bad News for Outlaws

If you haven't heard of icon and legend Bass Reeves, you are missing out! He was "the most feared deputy U.S. marshal that was ever heard of" in the Old West and arrested over 3,000 outlaws during his career, but only killed fourteen in the line of duty. Instead of resorting to violence, Bass often captured criminals using hilariously clever schemes and disguises. For example, here's what happened after he disguised himself as an outlaw and trekked to a cabin where fugitives were hiding:

When the outlaws' mother answered the door, Bass said he was tuckered out and hungry. Showing the woman the bullet holes in his hat, he claimed a posse was after him. She took Bass in, fed him some vittles, and even let slip that her boys were on the lam. When the two arrived, they agreed to partner up with Bass, and after sharing some laughs, everyone went to sleep. Everyone except Bass.

At sunup, the brothers awoke in handcuffs. They were dumbstruck, but their mother was fit to be tied. As Bass led her sons away, she followed for three miles, calling him every bad name she knew.

As you can see, the writing style of this book is very "Old West," which really fits well with the material. Very fun!

5. The Magic of Tiny Business

This book is about how to get a business off the ground, and keep it going through economic downturns, all while maintaining your sanity and work/life balance. If this is relevant to you or your goals, I highly recommend this book! The author founded Eco-Bags, which now sells millions of dollars of product every year, with minimal initial resources and she has maintained her commitment to keeping her business feeling "tiny" this whole time.

4. And Then There Were None (the play)

As you may know, I am slightly obsessed with And Then There Were None :). This is the stage play version. I recommend this to any of my fellow intense Agatha Christie fans :)-- it's really cool to see how she adapted the book for the stage, and to see how it compares to the original.

And now we enter the top 3! Please note that all three of these books are extremely strong contenders for my favorite of the year; it was very hard to decide on this ranking!

3. Death on Gokumon Island

Death on Gokumon Island is an And Then There Were None-inspired mystery (probably my favorite "genre" :)). I have read several books in this category, and Death on Gokumon Island is my favorite, other than And Then There Were None itself. I call Seishi Yokomizo "the Japanese Agatha Christie," and I do not say that lightly!

I would recommend this book/the series in general to fans of the Hercule Poirot series, and to anyone who likes their mysteries both thrilling and intricate. (The Honjin Murders is the first in the series, and it's one of the most gripping books I have ever read, with a stunning locked-room premise, too.)

2. Empty Smiles

Another one of my favorite genres is middle-grade horror. It has great spooky vibes and thrills, yet because it's intended for children, it's not too disturbing and it has wholesome, motivational messages about believing in yourself. It's very sweet.

This is the final book of the Small Spaces quartet, so if you think it sounds good, definitely check out the first book, Small Spaces, which features great spooky-forest energy and threatening scarecrows.

1. Paddington Abroad

So far, I've read five of the Paddington novels, and although I've loved all of them, this one is definitely my favorite! It feels fitting for this to also be my #1 book of the year.

Paddington's itinerary for the first day of the trip is exactly how I like to live my life :) :

7 oh clock - Large Breckfast

8 oh clock - Leave Home (32 Windsor Gardens)

9 oh clock - Snak

11 oh clock - Elevenses

12 oh clock - Arrive at airplane - lunch

and, Chapter 3 features the most surprising twist I've seen in a Paddington book. I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to read about an adorable bear having cute travel mishaps :)


Thank you for reading! Have you read any of these books? If so, let me know in the comments!

If you'd like to see more of my book recommendations, you can check them out HERE! And if you'd like a personalized book recommendation (since not everyone has the same preferences as me), comment below and I will do my best to recommend a book you (or someone else in your life) would enjoy :).


(P.S. In case you're curious about what kinds of books I don't like: My least favorite books of the year (only including books I finished reading) were A Crime in the Neighborhood by Suzanne Berne, Blank Spaces by Cass Lennox, The Fourth Courier by Timothy Jay Smith, and Stolen Tongues by Felix Blackwell. I read three out of four of these to fulfill Read Harder prompts, which is definitely not a coincidence; I don't force myself to finish books I dislike unless there is some reason for it.)

NonfictionReviewRecommendationReading ListGenreFictionBook of the Year

About the Creator

Maureen Y. Palmer

Reading • Writing • Murder!

I'm an avid reader and aspiring author, currently working on my first mystery novel. Here, I write essays about reading and writing, as well as short mystery/thriller/horror fiction.

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Comments (10)

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  • Mark Graham5 days ago

    Good work. I am a children's and youth book reviewer for a print magazine and have read many books from picture books to youth books to adult books. I have posted critiques on pretty much all the books I have reviewed and I am hoping you will read them for I would really appreciate it. I have also read Nancy Drew novels and Paddington.

  • Whoa that is some serious variety. And fascinating that you read the PLAY version of And Then There Were None. I was a huge Christie fan and knew the book well when I auditioned for the play, and yes, it was fun to see how she had to make adjustments for the stage and save a few lives in order to make the ending "upbeat" for the theatre crowd.

  • Alyssa2 months ago

    I really need to try Yokomizo! I have a few of their mysteries collecting dust on my shelves. Perhaps this is the year I finally read them!

  • ROCK 2 months ago

    Oh, so many sweet tips! I am a fan of children's books and collect them. I am excited to read "Paddington Abroad"! Loved this!

  • Test3 months ago

    Splendid work! Keep the momentum—congrats!

  • Celia in Underland3 months ago

    I have not read a single one of these! Though I did read a lot of Nancy Drew as a kid. Feel like I have much to catch up on! Thanks for sharing - They sound great

  • Toby Heward3 months ago

    Quite a few good books here. Thank you.

  • You got me with Toasty, Maureen. Excellent job and great reviews on some great books!!!

  • sleepy drafts3 months ago

    Ouu this sounds like a great collection! I will definitely have to add "And Then There Were None" to my 2024 reading list!

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