Favourite Five Books of 2023

I have barely managed to make a dent to my TBR pile this year. I keep getting waylaid by one book or another. Which, to be fair, is absolutely fine. So here’s my top five reads of the year, in no particular order. How about you? I’d love to hear your top reads.

The Love Song of Queenie Hennessy by Rachel Joyce

If you haven’t yet discovered the joys of Rachel Joyce, I urge you to do so. A few years back, I picked up an unassuming-looking book called The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry and, judging by the cover and the blurb, I didn’t hold particularly high hopes. How wrong could I be. It was the story of one man in his sixties who goes out to post a letter to an old friend whom he has heard is dying and lives the other side of the country, but once he reaches the post box, he decides to keep walking. And walking. And walking, to hand deliver the letter instead. This sequel tells the tale from the point of view of Queenie, the letter’s recipient. Heart warming and life affirming, go and grab a copy of Harold Fry when you can, and then read The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy.

Cider with Rosie by Laurie Lee

I came very late to this book and, once I’d read it, was shocked I was only getting to it in my mid forties. An auto-biographical account of Lee’s childhood and adolescence in rural Gloucestershire, this is a glorious account of a lost world and way of life. Poignant and tragi-comic, Laurie Lee’s prose is both poetic and deeply moving. The copy I read was interspersed with his own wonderful sketches, an unexpected bonus.

The Future We Choose by Christiana Figueres and Tom Rivett-Carnac

Anyone who has been reading my blogs for a while will know that the climate emergency is something that plays on my mind a great deal. I bought this book rather ridiculously because Tom Rivett-Carnac is the husband of one of my friends I’m in my book club with and it sat on my shelf for a couple of years before I pulled it out and devoured it. I am always looking for different narratives on the climate crisi and ways to engage with it that will not lead me to feeling filled with despair. Christiana Figueres and Tom Rivett-Carnac led negotiations for the UN during the historic Paris Agreement of 2015 and this is a fabulous book that helped me to look clearly at the challenges humanity faces with our changing climate and also what personal steps I can take.

Hope in the Dark by Rebecca Solnit

I read some of Rebecca Solnit years ago and have only recently come back to her, reading and adoring a couple of her books this year. She is one of the smartest, most thoughtful writers out there in my opinion who draws rich and disparate links and connections from the most surprising of places from her decades-long involvement in environmental, political and cultural activism. Similarly to the previous book, despite the challenges we face, Solnit refuses to give into despair, making a powerful and case for hope as a radical commitment to being in this world. I even took one of the lines from this book to use as my email signature which I normally change every few months, but I don’t think this one is going anywhere for some time:

‘We write history with our feet and with our presence and our collective voice and vision.’

Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver

This Pulitzer-prize winning modern day re-telling of David Copperfield was chosen by a friend for our online book club, which was formed in lock down. We are scattered around the globe in the UK, Norway, Kenya and the Netherlands and I absolutely meeting with them. I read The Poisonwood Bible by Kingsolver a number of years ago and thought it was fantastic but Demon Copperhead is even BETTER. I could not get enough of this book; it is big and chunky but I raced through it, then promptly headed out to get hold of a copy of David Copperfield (I found a gorgeous 100 year old vintage copy from a second hand bookshop 😀) to see how Kingsolver had made the transition between the original version and her own story. I don’t even want to tell you anything about this book, I just want you to read it. But ok, here’s the tiniest flavour: think childhood poverty in rural Appalachia and how one young boy keeps getting knocked down again and again for reasons beyond his control, but he absolutely refuses to give up. Simply stunning.

Thank you for reading this blog post. Go well into the Christmas season, keep hold of yourself and hunker down with a good book.

To compliment this blog, see what my favourite reads of 2022 and 2020 were, plus what an Icelandic Book Flood is and how my family have woven this into our family Christmas traditions.

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