For a few years now, I’ve been lamenting that I wasn’t reading at the pace I was accustomed to in the past. This year, I’m happy to say… I’m baaaaaaaaaacckkk!!! :p

It was a good reading year, ya’ll. I enjoyed myself thoroughly and encountered so many new authors and new ideas. Today’s post features some of my favorite books of 2023, among which are some of my new all-time favorite books, both fiction and non.

I hope you’ll find something new to read here. Be sure to leave me your suggestions for next year!

Total books read: 95

Fiction to non-fiction ratio: 66:29

Number of books per rating: 5 stars (8), 4 stars (33), 3 stars (36), 2 stars (8), 1 star (0).

(Note: All links are Amazon affiliate links.)

Writing Books

The Anatomy of Genre by John Truby

Thank God I live in a world with John Truby. Thirteen years ago, I read his Anatomy of Story and immediately knew I was connecting with a mind that spoke the language I so deeply wanted to speak. Thirteen years later, he’s touched me with another book that once again speaks to me exactly where I’m at as a writer and a person, both reflecting and broadening my perspectives of the craft. This is not a simple glossary of genres with the standard how-to beats. This is a revolutionary examination of story as the archetype of all life. It will teach you how to write (and transcend) your genres, but more than that, it will take you on a profound journey through history, sociology, and philosophy. Truly masterful.

Writing for Your Life by Deena Metzger

This is one of those books I think I shall need to read more than once in order to tap every drop of goodness. Although more focused on memoir-type prompts rather than fiction (but there’s some of that too), this is a tool for recognizing and using story as a deep-dive into one’s self and the meaning of life. Rich, beautiful, and provoking in all the best ways, this is a book that will stay with me for a long, long time.

Writing for Your Life by Deena Metzger (affiliate link)

I quoted Metzger in the following posts this year:

General Non-Fiction

Identity: Youth and Crisis by Erik H. Erikson

Someone put me onto Erikson after noticing that I, too, speak about “life cycle archetypes” in my teachings about archetypal character arcs (although in a totally different way from Erikson). Written in the late 1960s, I feel the book has weathered the test of time well and offers deep insight not only into its contemporary generation, but also into the timeless struggles of the human growth arc into individuation. The prose is dense (he apologizes to his editor wife in the acknowledgements), but very juicy and worth the read.

The Five Personality Patterns by Steven Kessler

This book was, in a word: a revelation. I’ve been studying personality theory and models for decades, and this exploration of the five security patterns that develop in early childhood is by far one of the most insightful, useful, and practical. It showed me things about myself that shocked me, even after all these years of study, and it offers some of the most practical, embodied tips for getting out of negative patterns that I’ve ever seen presented. I’m buying copies for everyone I know. Highly recommend.

Brussels: A Cultural and Literary History by André de Vries

A great little primer on Brussels in particular and Belgium by extension. It’s a fast read, but well-organized, entertaining, and interesting.

American Nations by Colin Woodard

One of the best overviews of American history I’ve ever read. I’ve been fascinated by the theory ever since hearing it summarized in a podcast years ago. The book fleshes out the main theory (of eleven distinct North American subcultures) by exploring their causal impact from the earliest European colonization efforts through the War of Independence and the Civil War to present day. Brings nuance and insight to many aspects of American life, everything from personal relationships to political tensions.

The Cottage Fairy Companion by Paola Merrill

I started watching Paola’s beautifully earnest YouTube channel last year and couldn’t get enough of the gorgeous Northwestern settings and the simple but profound insights she shares from her rural life. The book is a lovely extension of everything she presents in her videos—her own beautiful spirit above all. Wise beyond her years, vulnerable, honest, but always positive, her thoughts on quiet intentional living inspire and uplift.


Beloved by Toni Morrison

Honestly, I have no words. I hardly feel qualified to even offer an opinion on this book, except to say it may be the single most masterful story I have ever read. The topic is so raw and powerful and serious, and yet the story never loses itself in its message. The writing is poetry of the highest sort. The characters are authentic and real and always surprising. Nothing about this book feels rote; it feels channeled. A truly incredible experience.

The Alchemist by Paulo Coehlo

Sometimes when I finally get around to reading a book that has been in the popular consciousness forever, I end up wondering, Where has this book been all my life? And yet, so often it turns out that the book was the one waiting for me, until the perfect time in my own life. (I suppose Coelho would say that is the Language of the World.) I’m glad I got to wait until now to read this simple, profound, fun, deep little book. I understand it now in ways I never would have had I read it earlier. I will return to its wisdom again and again, I am sure.

The Salt Grows Heavy by Cassandra Khaw

A macabre poem written with blood in the snow. This is a can’t-look-away dark fairy tale that rises above itself through its resonant nightmarish symbolism and imagery and its incredibly rich prose.

The Once and Future King by T.H. White

I don’t know quite what I was expecting when I picked up this epic saga of Arthurian legend—but it wasn’t this quirky, almost Pratchettesque blend of tragic irony and good-natured humor. Each section was published as its own book when it first came out, and each has its own flavor. Like most people, I suspect, I was most enchanted by the first volume (“The Sword in the Stone”) about young Arthur’s boyish misadventures under his tutor Merlin. Overall, a tour de force, highly entertaining, and a rightful classic. My only regret is that I missed out on growing up with it.

Watch Your Mouth by Kandi Steiner

One of the author’s best. A deep, situational romance that rises above its own tropes to feel like a true exploration of emotions. For once, the breakup in the Third Act (one of my least favorite tropes) is actually heart-wrenching and feels true.

My Books

And if all these goodies aren’t enough to fill your To Be Read pile next year, here are a few more! 🙂

Wordplayers, tell me your opinion! What were your top books of 2023? How many books did you read? Tell me in the comments!

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