The Books that Changed Me in 2023

When I reflect on the past year, it feels like some of the greatest transitions of my life have taken place. The leap from my twenties into my thirties, a cross country move, a new job, and improved health. 

Although we are constantly changing as beings; each minute, hour, and day, the new year is when we finally look back and see the distance traveled. We think of where we have come from, how we have developed, and where we have ended up. We take time to appreciate our accomplishments and carve out a path for the year to come. 

For almost three years and some four hundred posts, I've delighted in writing about the books I've read on this blog. Each and every one has changed me in one way or another — bringing comfort, joy, entertainment, and expanding my knowledge on subjects I'd otherwise know nothing about.

I'm grateful to the publishers, authors, and friends who keep my shelf stocked, and to you, my readers, who join me from all corners of the globe. Thank you. 

The intention of this post is to reflect on my year of reading. I read sixty-six books last year, a good mix of fiction and non-fiction. There are sixteen books I'd like to highlight from this past year. Beyond closing the last page, these works have stayed with me. I hope you'll give them a read.

A Heart That Works by Rob Delaney

This is a heart-wrenching book about actor Rob Delaney's son, Henry, who was diagnosed with a brain tumour in 2016. Two years after his diagnosis, Henry dies, and in his intimate and at times funny memoir, Rob writes of the unimaginable grief he and his family are faced with. Beautiful and comforting words for anyone who has lost a friend or family member.

Please Report Your Bug Here by Josh Riedel

You can read the synopsis of Josh Riedel's debut here. I knew I wanted to read this as soon as I saw the cover. Doesn't it just pull you in? Once I read the blurb, I was totally sold. Cover designer is Gregg Kulick, by the way. 

The reason this one struck a cord with me was that I saw myself in the protagonist, Ethan. That's kind of a magical thing when reading a novel. This one took me out of my environment and allowed me to escape.

Two Nurses, Smoking by David Means

This truly is an exceptional collection of ten short stories. David Means took me on a journey of the human condition; the various ways we bond and break, love and lose, and grieve and heal.

I don't read a lot of shorts, but each story in this collection made me feel something strong. If you pick up a copy, I'd love to hear your thoughts. 

In Memoriam by Alice Winn

A book I suggest diving right into. This held me captive from the moment I picked it up, and I rarely stopped to take a note. 

It's 1914 and WWI is underway, meanwhile Henry Gaunt and Sidney Ellwood are at boarding school in England, a forbidden relationship budding between them. Soon they enlist and are sent to the front lines. This novel captures, stunningly — friendship, love, and the tragedies of war. It is magnificent.

Uneducated: A Memoir of Flunking Out, Falling Apart, and Finding by Worth by Christopher Zara

Another one on this list that I knew I had to read as soon as I came across. Zara's memoir is very special, especially for those of us (like me), who question whether it's too late to change careers (it's not), if we think our age or education will hold us back from opportunities, or if we struggle with imposter syndrome (like me, again). 

I strongly urge you to read this. It's an honest, courageous, and entertaining memoir. I felt hopeful when I finished this. I hope you do too.

The Men Can’t Be Saved by Ben Purkert

When I moved to Toronto in August, this was the first book I pre-ordered from my local bookstore, Type Books. It's many things — hilarious, totally unexpected, and brilliant. It’s a great novel to kick back and enjoy in one sitting. It made me think about toxic masculinity, loneliness, and family. I’d love to read more of Ben’s work. 

BFF: A Memoir of Friendship Lost and Found by Christie Tate

Christie Tate's book Group was one of the first books I read when I started this blog. As soon as I saw she had a new book, I knew I had to read it. Upon learning it was about friendships, relationships, and addiction — I was even more intrigued. 

With the same powerful writing as her debut, B.F.F is a reflective and heartening memoir about Tate's battles with sustaining long term friendships and the one special person who helps her forge the connections she seeks. 

While primarily about friendships, Tate also writes about sisterhood, becoming a mother, and the pivotal moments that occur throughout our lives as we grow older. This book made me think about the wonderful people in my life, near and far, especially as the past few pandemic years have driven a physical distance between us.

The Postcard by Anne Berest

The Postcard is unlike anything I’ve read before. It’s the translation of the award-winning French autofiction, La carte postale, based on the true story Anne Berest’s ancestors, the Rabinovitch family, who were murdered in the Holocaust. 

Following the delivery of an anonymous postcard to Anne's family home in 2003 baring her ancestor's names, she sets out on a journey to find out what exactly happened to them.

With alternating narratives from the 30s to present day, Berest’s latest is a staggering accomplishment. The Postcard is rich with detail, deeply moving, and is an absolute must-read.

Hello Beautiful by Ann Napolitano

I was immersed in this book from the moment I started reading. Similar to Christie Tate's Group, Anne Napolitano's Dear Edward happened to be a book I read in the early stages of this blog.

While I'd read the author's previous work, I was at first intrigued by the cover, painted by artist Jessica Miller. Isn't it gorgeous?

This is a beautiful story that spans decades — a powerful and affecting look at family and friendships. I couldn't put it down. 

The Best Minds: A Story of Friendship, Madness, and the Tragedy of Good Intentions by Jonathan Rosen

In the vein of The Centre Cannot Hold by Elyn Saks and Strangers to Ourselves by Rachel Aviv, this is one of the most fascinating books I've read in many years.

The true story of Jonathan Rosen's best friend, Michael Laudor, who was diagnosed with schizophrenia and killed the woman he loved. The book is mixed with research, interviews, and highlights the importance of mental health education, intervention, advocating, and treatment. 

Leg: The Story of a Limb and the Boy Who Grew From It by Greg Marshall

This memoir is deeply moving. It's brimming with hope, love, nostalgia, and the kind of humour that made me laugh so much that I had tears flowing down my face. Really! It’s one of those you read and can’t forget, a forever recommendation. I've already gifted to friends and recommended to many.

Buy a copy for you and someone you love!

Night by Elie Wiesel

A very harrowing and important book. There are no words, really, to capture the impact of this. Wiesel has left an imprint on my mind, and I will never forget this. 

Bright Young Women by Jessica Knoll

As soon as I started this one, I could not put it down. Knoll really knows how to hold her audience captive. Here we follow two women over the course of decades, from past to present day, coast to coast, both bound by the tragic losses they have endured at the hands of one of the country's most brutal killers. 

It's a disturbing and terrifying tale that takes a look at serial killers and society's sickening obsession with glorifying them in the aftermath of their killing sprees. Knoll's prose is incisive, electrifying, and all-consuming. 

All-Night Pharmacy by Ruth Madievsky

What a trip, seriously! I followed the hype for this novel for almost a year and scooped the last copy at my local bookstore. It had been on most anticipated lists just about everywhere, and for good reason. 

A home run of a debut that explore generational trauma, addiction, sisterhood, and survival. The writing in this one is truly outstanding. A gripping rollercoaster of a story.

Good Material by Dolly Alderton

Tell me an author who writes about love like Dolly Alderton and I promise you, I’ll devour their books as I did this one. Alderton’s latest, Good Material, is about relationships, heartbreak, and sentimental yearning. Even more, it’s about friendship, family, careers, taking chances, and growing older.

Alderton writes so beautifully and so humorously about love. I would read this again in a heartbeat. It is seriously good material.

My Friends by Hisham Matar

I finished the year with Hisham Matar. I read this and immediately after, read his Pulitzer Prize-winning memoir, The Return

What a high to end the year on. My Friends is one of the most stunning books I have read in recent memory. 

I feel incredibly lucky to have had the gift of an early read. It was published this week so I hope you'll see it on the shelves and find your way to Hisham's work. If you do, I'd love to hear your thoughts. 

The Year to Come

I've given some thought to what I'd like this year to look like when it comes to reading. I'm on the lookout for more investigative non-fiction and memoir, and I hope to explore and read the books I already own rather than buying more (ask me how I'm doing in a month). 

More trips to my local library would also be lovely. 

Sweater from Sunny's

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