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Becca's Top 23 of 2023

You can find all my recommended 2023 reads here! (Note: Our links are affiliated with, meaning we may earn a commission if you purchase something.)

From heroic quests that echo the epics of old to adventures that seamlessly meld mythological wonders with nods to modern-day references, these books transport readers into a realm where Olympus meets contemporary culture, offering an exhilarating fusion of ancient myth and present-day relevance. 2023 was quite the year for immersing myself in fantastical realms and reminiscing on some of my favorite pop culture moments!

I don't believe in ranking books, so these are in no particular order!

Fairy Tale by Stephen King

Dates Read: December 10 - December 13, 2023

Synopsis: Legendary storyteller Stephen King goes into the deepest well of his imagination in this spellbinding novel about a seventeen-year-old boy who inherits the keys to a parallel world where good and evil are at war, and the stakes could not be higher--for that world or ours.

I have a love/hate relationship with Stephen King. When he's great, he can't be beat. I was a bit skeptical when picking up this book. However, it's King at his absolute best. The story is emotionally impactful and incredibly immersive. I could hardly bear to put it down once I picked it up.

Welcome to the OC: The Oral History by Alan Sepinwall

Dates Read: December 3 - December 9, 2023

Synopsis: Welcome to the O.C., bitch: it's the definitive oral history of the beloved TV show The O.C. from the show's creators, featuring interviews with the cast and crew, providing a behind-the-scenes look into how the show was made, the ups and downs over its four seasons, and its legacy today.

The show introduced me to my favorite band, Death Cab for Cutie, and created my OG Bravo obsession, The Real Housewives. If you can't instantly hear this theme song in your head, I need you to stop reading this and watch the opening credits immediately. In 2003, The O.C. burst onto our TV screens and hearts. This incredible oral history takes you behind the scenes into the highs and lows of the show with the cast and creators.

60 Songs that Explain the '90s by Rob Harvilla

Dates Read: December 9 - December 19, 2023

Synopsis: The 1990s were a chaotic and gritty and utterly magical time for music, a confounding barrage of genres and lifestyles and superstars, from grunge to hip-hop, from sumptuous R&B to rambunctious ska-punk, from Axl to Kurt to Missy to Santana to Tupac to Britney. In 60 SONGS THAT EXPLAIN THE '90s, Ringer music critic Rob Harvilla reimagines all the earwormy, iconic hits Gen Xers pine for with vivid historical storytelling, sharp critical analysis, rampant loopiness, and wryly personal ruminations on the most bizarre, joyous, and inescapable songs from a decade we both regret entirely and miss desperately.

Welcome to my brain in book form. Harvilla hosts the incredible podcast that prompted this book, one of my absolute favorites. The book (and podcast!) covers every weird musical turn that the '90s took, from the irresistibly catchy chords of Smells Like Teen Spirit to the weirdly memorable dance moves of the Macarena ending with the power pop of Britney that brought us into the new millennium.

Emily Wilde's Encyclopaedia of Faeries by Heather Fawcett

Book 1 of the Emily Wilde series

Dates Read: December 8 - December 9, 2023

Synopsis: Cambridge professor Emily Wilde is good at many things: She is the foremost expert on the study of faeries. She is a genius scholar and a meticulous researcher writing the world's first encyclopaedia of faerie lore. But Emily Wilde is not good at people. She could never make small talk at a party or get invited to one. And she prefers the company of her books, her dog, Shadow, and the Fair Folk to other people. So when she arrives in the hardscrabble village of Hrafnsvik, Emily has no intention of befriending the gruff townsfolk. Nor does she care to spend time with another new arrival: her dashing and insufferably handsome academic rival Wendell Bambleby, who manages to charm the townsfolk, muddle Emily's research, and utterly confound and frustrate her. But as Emily gets closer and closer to uncovering the secrets of the Hidden Ones--the most elusive of all faeries--lurking in the shadowy forest outside the town, she also finds herself on the trail of another mystery: Who is Wendell Bambleby, and what does he want? To find the answer, she'll have to unlock the greatest mystery of all--her own heart.

This is such a delightful book! Emily is curmudgeonly but incredibly brave. She's a narrator that is nearly impossible to forget. We've all read some incredible dark academia fantasy in recent years, but Fawcett takes it out of the university and into the real world in the best possible way. I can't wait for the sequel next year!

Clytemnestra by Costanza Casati

Dates Read: December 8, 2023

Synopsis: A stunning debut follows Clytemnestra, the ancient world's most notorious villainess, and the events that forged her into the legendary queen. A blazing novel set in Ancient Greece, this is a thrilling tale of power, prophecies, hatred, love, and an unforgettable Queen who fiercely dealt death to those who wronged her.

I cannot resist a mythical retelling, as evidenced by multiple entries on this list. All queens are born to be hated or forgotten. Clytemnestra is born a princess and married to the brutal king, Agamemnon, who later goes to war to defend his brother against the betrayal of his wife, Helen. It is a story of heartbreaking betrayal and revenge that will absorb you from page one.

The Fragile Threads of Power by V.E. Schwab

Book 1 of Threads of Power

Dates Read: October 22 - October 28, 2024

Synopsis: Once there were four worlds, nestled like pages in a book, each pulsing with fantastical power and connected by a single city: London. After a desperate attempt to prevent corruption and ruin in the four Londons, there are only three:

● Grey London, thriving but barely able to remember its magical heritage

● Red London, ruled lately by the Maresh family, is flourishing and powerful

● White London, left to brutality and decay

Now, the worlds will collide anew--brought to a dangerous precipice by the discoveries of three remarkable magicians.

Schwab captures an electrifying narrative of parallel worlds teetering on the edge of chaos, tethered together by the enigmatic city of London. V.E. Schwab's vivid world-building shines as she paints a mesmerizing picture of the contrasting realms: the fading memories of Grey London, the vibrant power of Red London, and the cruel decay of White London.

The Woman in Me by Britney Spears

Dates Read: October 24, 2023

Synopsis: In June 2021, the world listened as Britney Spears spoke in open court. The impact of sharing her voice--her truth--was undeniable, and it changed the course of her life and the lives of countless others. For the first time, the Woman in Me reveals her incredible journey--and the strength at the core of one of the greatest performers in pop music history.

Growing up in the early 2000s was impossible without experiencing the power and destruction of the legendary Miss Britney Spears. She was loved, hated, and then destroyed by the media, but most of our knowledge came from other sources. The Woman in Me is Spears attempt to put her voice on record. While it doesn't always address everything, it's still an incredible reckoning from the singer.

Iron Widow by Xiran Jay Zhao

Book 1 of the Iron Widow series

Dates Read: October 11 - October 14, 2023

Synopsis: The boys of Huaxia dream of pairing up with girls to pilot Chrysalises, giant transforming robots that can battle the mecha aliens that lurk beyond the Great Wall. It doesn't matter that the girls often die from the mental strain. When 18-year-old Zetian offers herself up as a concubine pilot, it's to assassinate the ace male pilot responsible for her sister's death. But she gets her vengeance in a way nobody expected--she kills him through the psychic link between pilots and emerges from the cockpit unscathed. She is labeled an Iron Widow, a much-feared and much-silenced female pilot who can sacrifice boys to power up Chrysalises.​ She is paired up with Li Shimin, Huaxia's strongest and most controversial male pilot to tame her unnerving yet invaluable mental strength. But now that Zetian has tasted power, she will not cower so easily. She will miss no opportunity to leverage their combined might and infamy to survive attempt after attempt on her life until she can figure out exactly why the pilot system works in its misogynist way--and stop more girls from being sacrificed.

This debut is an electrifying rollercoaster of a novel that grabbed me from the first page and didn't let go until the end. The world-building is rich and immersive, blending sci-fi, fantasy, and historical fiction elements. But what truly stole my heart were the characters—bold, complex, and utterly captivating. The protagonist's journey is empowering, showcasing resilience, courage, and a powerful message of overcoming adversity. Zhao's storytelling prowess creates a gripping narrative filled with twists, turns, and a touch of romance that kept me eagerly flipping pages. It is a must-read for anyone seeking a thrilling adventure with depth, heart, and a strong, inspiring protagonist.

Carrie Soto is Back by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Dates Read: September 15 - September 19, 2023

Synopsis: Carrie Soto is fierce, and her determination to win at any cost has not made her popular. But by the time she retires from tennis, she is the best player the world has ever seen. She has shattered every record and claimed twenty Grand Slam titles. And if you ask Carrie, she is entitled to everyone. She sacrificed nearly everything to become the best, with her father, Javier, as her coach. A former champion, Javier has trained her since the age of two. But six years after her retirement, Carrie finds herself sitting in the stands of the 1994 US Open, watching her record be taken from her by a brutal, stunning player named Nicki Chan. At thirty-seven years old, Carrie makes the monumental decision to come out of retirement and be coached by her father for one last year to reclaim her record, even if the sports media says they never liked "the Battle-Axe" anyway, even if her body didn't move as fast as it had. And even if it means swallowing her pride to train with a man she once almost opened her heart to: Bowe Huntley. Like her, he has something to prove before he gives up the game forever.

TJR is one of those authors whose books I will always pick up. However, I haven't loved the last couple of books. So, this book felt like TJR was back in the best way! The book seamlessly blends nostalgia with new adventures, offering a perfect balance for longtime fans and newcomers. Reid's writing style is as engaging as ever, weaving a tale of depth, humor, and behind-the-scenes sports drama.

Legends & Lattes by Travis Baldree

Book 1 of Legends & Lattes

Dates Read: September 7 - September 8, 2023

Synopsis: After a lifetime of bounties and bloodshed, Viv hangs up her sword for the last time. The battle-weary orc aims to start fresh, opening the first-ever coffee shop in Thune. But old and new rivals stand in the way of success -- not to mention that no one has the faintest idea what coffee is. If Viv wants to put the blade behind her and make her plans a reality, she won't be able to go it alone. But the true rewards of the uncharted path are the travelers you meet along the way. Whether drawn together by ancient magic, flaky pastry, or a freshly brewed cup, they may become partners, family, and something deeper than she ever could have dreamed.

Baldree's book is an absolute gem for anyone seeking a delightful read! This book seamlessly weaves together the enchantment of mythical worlds with the warmth of a small-town setting. The characters are vibrant and endearing, drawing you into their adventures and making you root for them at every turn. What truly stands out is Baldree's skillful storytelling, effortlessly blending magic and everyday life in a way that feels both familiar and wondrous. It's a captivating journey that leaves you with a heartwarming feeling, much like savoring your favorite latte on a cozy, rainy day.

The Change by Kirsten Miller

Dates Read: September 2 - September 7, 2023

Synopsis: In the Long Island oceanfront community of Mattauk, three women discover that midlife changes bring a whole new type of empowerment...

Miller's book is a riveting journey into a world transformed by unforeseen circumstances. This captivating blend of fantasy and reality paints a vivid picture of resilience in uncertainty. With richly drawn characters and a narrative that intrigues and emotions, Miller's book is a compelling exploration of human strength and adaptation. "The Change" is a gripping read that stays with you.

The Shadow Cabinet by Juno Dawson

Book 2 of Her Majesty's Royal Coven

Dates Read: June 27 - July 1, 2023

Synopsis: In the second installment of Juno Dawson's incredible fantasy trilogy, a group of childhood friends and witches must choose between what is right and what is easy if they hope to keep their coven--and their world--from tearing apart forever.

Dawson's vivid storytelling and knack for character development shine, creating a world where dark secrets and personal growth intertwine. The Shadow Cabinet is a page-turner that keeps readers on the edge, delivering a rollercoaster of emotions and leaving them eager for more.

Demons of Good and Evil by Kim Harrison

Book 17 of The Hollows

Dates Read: June 16 - June 22, 2023

Synopsis: Rachel Morgan, a witch-born demon, suspected that protecting the paranormal citizens of Cincinnati as the demon Subrosa would be trouble. But it's rapidly becoming more trouble than she could have imagined. While Rachel and her friends may have vanquished the trickster demon Hodin, his mysterious associate known only as "The Mage" is eager to finish what Hodin started, beginning with taking down Rachel's power structure piece by piece. With her world falling apart, Rachel desperately needs help. But with all of her supporters under attack, her only hope is to make a deal with the unlikeliest of allies. . . .

The Hollows proves a long-running universe can keep delivering incredible stories. With richly developed characters and unexpected twists, this book delivers a spellbinding experience that fans of the supernatural won't want to miss. We both recommend you check this series out right away!

The Foxglove King by Hannah Whitten

Book 1 of The Nightshade Crown Series

Dates Read: April 17 - June 19, 2023

Synopsis: In this lush, romantic epic fantasy series from a New York Times bestselling author, a young woman's secret power to raise the dead plunges her into the dangerous and glamorous world of the Sainted King's royal court.

Whitten's enchanting fantasy tale sweeps readers into a world of magic, intrigue, and intricate relationships. The vividly painted landscape and Whitten's lyrical prose create an immersive experience, inviting readers into a realm where ancient prophecies and personal destinies collide. With compelling characters and a plot that intertwines mystery and adventure, this book is a captivating journey that lingers in the imagination long after the final chapter.

Romantic Comedy by Curtis Sittenfeld

Dates Read: May 10 - May 18, 2023

Synopsis: Sally Milz is a sketch writer for The Night Owls, a late-night live comedy show that airs every Saturday. With a couple of heartbreaks under her belt, she's long abandoned the search for love, settling instead for the occasional hook-up, career success, and a close relationship with her stepfather to round out a satisfying life.

But when Sally's friend and fellow writer Danny Horst begins dating Annabel, a glamorous actress who guest-hosted the show, he joins the not-so-exclusive group of talented but average-looking and even dorky men at the show--and in society at large--who've gotten romantically involved with incredibly beautiful and accomplished women. Sally channels her annoyance into a sketch called The Danny Horst Rule, poking fun at this phenomenon while underscoring how unlikely it is that the reverse would ever happen for a woman. Enter Noah Brewster, a pop music sensation with a reputation for dating models, who signed on as host and musical guest for this week's show. Dazzled by his charms, Sally hits it off with Noah instantly, and as they collaborate on one sketch after another, she begins to wonder if sparks might fly. But this isn't a romantic comedy--it's real life. And in real life, someone like him would never date someone like her . . . right?

Sittenfeld's witty exploration of love and relationships behind the scenes at an SNL adjacent show is incredible. Through sharp and clever prose, Sittenfeld brings to life a charming yet relatable cast of characters navigating the complexities of modern romance. This novella captures the essence of romantic comedies while offering a fresh and insightful take on the genre. With humor, heart, and astute observations, "Romantic Comedy" is a quick but immensely satisfying read that leaves a smile and a warm feeling in your heart.

Atalanta by Jennifer Saint

Dates Read: April 25 - May 5, 2023

Synopsis: A reimagining of the myth of Atalanta, a fierce huntress raised by bears and the only woman in the world's most famous band of heroes, the Argonauts. Princess, Warrior, Lover, Hero.

Saint once again writes a captivating reimagining of a legendary figure, skillfully weaving together myth and vivid storytelling. With lyrical prose and a deep understanding of Greek mythology, Saint breathes new life into the tale of Atalanta, a fiercely independent and compelling heroine. The novel beautifully explores themes of bravery, identity, and the complexities of love while immersing readers in a world of gods, heroes, and untamed landscapes. "Atalanta" is a triumph, offering a fresh perspective on a timeless myth inviting readers on an exhilarating journey that celebrates the strength and resilience of a remarkable woman.

Babel: An Arcane History by R.F. Kuang

Dates Read: March 31 - April 16, 2023

Synopsis: 1828. Robin Swift, orphaned by cholera in Canton, is brought to London by the mysterious Professor Lovell. There, he trains for years in Latin, Ancient Greek, and Chinese, all in preparation for the day he'll enroll in Oxford University's prestigious Royal Institute of Translation--also known as Babel. Babel is the world's center for translation and, more importantly, magic. Silver working--the art of manifesting the meaning lost in translation using enchanted silver bars--has made the British unparalleled in power, as its knowledge serves the Empire's quest for colonization. For Robin, Oxford is a utopia dedicated to the pursuit of knowledge. But knowledge obeys power, and as a Chinese boy raised in Britain, Robin realizes serving Babel means betraying his motherland. As his studies progress, Robin finds himself caught between Babel and the shadowy Hermes Society, an organization dedicated to stopping imperial expansion. When Britain pursues an unjust war with China over silver and opium, Robin must decide...

With breathtaking prose and intricate world-building, Kuang crafts a tale of war, sacrifice, and the blurred lines between power and morality. The depth of character development and the morally complex choices they face add layers of intrigue and emotion to a gripping narrative. Babel may take a while, but it's an incredible read by the end!

House of Sky and Breath by Sarah J. Maas

Book 2 of the Cresent City series

Dates Read: March 18 - March 27, 2023

Synopsis: Bryce Quinlan and Hunt Athalar are trying to get back to normal--they may have saved Crescent City, but with so much upheaval in their lives lately, they mostly want a chance to relax. Slow down. Figure out what the future holds. The Asteri have kept their word so far, leaving Bryce and Hunt alone. But with the rebels chipping away at the Asteri's power, the threat the rulers pose is growing. As Bryce, Hunt, and their friends get pulled into the rebels' plans, the choice becomes clear: stay silent while others are oppressed or fight for what's right. And they've never been very good at staying silent.

I love Sarah J. Maas. I always look forward to her books, but I haven't exactly been quiet about my meh feelings on the first book in this series. Despite my feelings, I firmly believe in giving the series room to grow and improve. Boy, I am glad that I made that choice! The last 100 pages of this book are pulse-pounding, and it ends on an epic cliffhanger. Please pick up her A Court of Thorns and Roses and Crescent City books as soon as possible!

The Adventures of Amina Al-Sirafi by Shannon Chakraborty

Book 1 of the Amina Al-Sirafi series

Dates Read: March 15 - March 24, 2023

Synopsis: Amina al-Sirafi should be content. After a storied and scandalous career as one of the Indian Ocean's most notorious pirates, she's survived backstabbing rogues, vengeful merchant princes, several husbands, and one actual demon to retire peacefully with her family to a life of piety, motherhood, and absolutely nothing that hints of the supernatural. But when she's tracked down by the obscenely wealthy mother of a former crewman, she's offered a job no bandit could refuse: retrieve her comrade's kidnapped daughter for a kingly sum. The chance to have one last adventure with her crew, do right by an old friend, and win a fortune that will secure her family's future forever? It seems like such an obvious choice that it must be God's will. Yet the deeper Amina dives, the more it becomes alarmingly clear there's more to this job and the girl's disappearance than she was led to believe. For there's always risk in wanting to become a legend, to seize one last chance at glory, to savor just a bit more power...and the price might be your very soul.

As I put this together, it became clearer that this was my favorite read of the year. I received this in a book box and randomly grabbed it from my shelves in March. The minute I started, I could feel that this would be one that stuck with me. Amina is gruff but hilarious and loves her people deeply. This book is an adventure, and I cannot wait for the next installment.

Ithaca by Claire North

Book 1 of the Songs of Penelope Series

Dates Read: March 14 - March 18, 2023

Synopsis: This is the story of Penelope of Ithaca, the famed wife of Odysseus, as it has never been told before. Beyond Ithaca's shores, the whims of gods dictate the wars of men. But on the isle, the choices of the abandoned women--and their goddesses--will change the course of the world.

Most of us know the story of Odysseus, but his wife, Penelope, has a story to tell. As a fan of Margaret Atwood's The Penelopiad, I am always eager to read books from her perspective. Claire North weaves an incredible tale about the cost of war and the Gods' fury on the women of Ithaca.

Stone Blind by Natalie Haynes

Dates Read: February 20 - February 27, 2023

Synopsis: The only mortal in a family of gods, Medusa is the youngest of the Gorgon sisters. Unlike her siblings, Medusa grows older, experiences change and feels weakness. Her mortal lifespan gives her an urgency that her family will never know. When the sea god Poseidon assaults Medusa in Athene's temple, the goddess is enraged. Furious by violating her sacred space, Athene takes revenge--on the young woman. Punished for Poseidon's actions, Medusa is forever transformed. Writhing snakes replace her hair, and her gaze will turn any living creature to stone. Cursed with the power to destroy all she loves with one look, Medusa condemns herself to a life of solitude. Until Perseus embarks upon a fateful quest to fetch the head of a Gorgon . . .

I've loved Haynes previous books. She writes about Greek myths with humor and insightful takes. Her interpretation of Medusa is no different. Incredibly well done and I look forward to the next book!

Hell Bent by Leigh Bardugo

Book 2 of the Alex Stern series

Dates Read: January 30 - February 14, 2023

Synopsis: Find a gateway to the underworld. Steal a soul out of hell. A simple plan, except people who make this particular journey rarely come back. But Galaxy "Alex" Stern is determined to break Darlington out of purgatory--even if it costs her a future at Lethe and at Yale. Forbidden from attempting a rescue, Alex and Dawes can't call on the Ninth House for help, so they assemble a team of dubious allies to save the gentleman of Lethe. Together, they will have to navigate a maze of arcane texts and bizarre artifacts to uncover the societies' most closely guarded secrets, and break every rule doing it. But when faculty members begin to die off, Alex knows these aren't just accidents. Something deadly is at work in New Haven, and if she is going to survive, she'll have to reckon with the monsters of her past and a darkness built into the university's very walls.

With her signature blend of dark fantasy and compelling characters, Bardugo plunges readers into a world where secrets, power, and the supernatural collide. The depth of character development, particularly the protagonist's journey, is as spellbinding as it is emotionally resonant. Bardugo's vivid prose and intricate world-building create an immersive experience that keeps the adrenaline pumping until the very end. "Hell Bent" not only delivers thrilling action and twists but also explores themes of redemption, sacrifice, and the complexities of human nature, cementing Bardugo's place as a master storyteller in the realm of fantasy literature.

Rap Capital: an Atlanta Story by Joe Coscarelli

Dates Read: December 23, 2022 - January 27, 2023

Synopsis: From mansions to trap houses, office buildings to strip clubs, Atlanta is defined by its rap music. But this flashy and fast-paced world is rarely seen below surface-level as a collection not of superheroes and villains, cartoons and caricatures, but of flawed and inspired individuals all trying to get a piece of what everyone else seems to have. In artistic, commercial, and human terms, Atlanta rap represents the most consequential musical ecosystem of this century so far. Rap Capital tells the dramatic stories of the people who make it tick, and the city that made them that way. The lives of the artists driving the culture, from megastars like Lil Baby and Migos to lesser-known local strivers like Lil Reek and Marlo, represent the modern American dream but also an American nightmare, as young Black men and women wrestle generational curses, crippled school systems, incarceration, and racism on the way to an improbable destination atop art and commerce. Across Atlanta, rap dreams power countless overlapping economies, but they're also a gamble, one that could make a poor man rich or a poor man poorer, land someone in jail or keep them out of it.

Coscarelli, a New York Times reporter and a favorite podcaster of mine, writes an immersive and insightful journey into the heart of hip-hop culture, offering an engaging exploration of its evolution and impact. Through meticulous research and vibrant storytelling, Coscarelli brings to life the intricate tapestry of personalities, events, and societal influences that have shaped rap music into a cultural powerhouse. The book's narrative effortlessly navigates between historical context and present-day relevance, providing a comprehensive yet accessible narrative for both enthusiasts and newcomers to the genre. Rap Capital not only celebrates the genre's legends but also delves into the complexities and controversies that have shaped its trajectory. Coscarelli's passion for the subject shines through, making this book an essential read for anyone seeking a deeper understanding of the pulsating heart of hip-hop.

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