The Best Books I’ve Read So Far This Year (2023)

I put out a poll on my Twitter the other day asking if people would be interested in reading an article about the book best books I’ve read so far this year.

The Best Books I've Read So Far Thjis Year 2023. Selection of books: Atomic habits, Of Fire and Blood, The Ember Blade, Before They Are hanged, Beartown, lessons in chemistry, anxious people, the four winds, the two towers, still life.

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Obviously, with most of my followers being bookish folk and me offering them a free list of good books, most of them came back and overwhelmingly voted “f*ck yeah”.

So then I had to go out and have a look at my StoryGraph and have a look at the books I’d rated the highest throughout this year.

I’ve then picked out ten books from these highly rated ones that I feel I want people to know I absolutely rated this year. These aren’t in any specific order, they’re just as I wrote them down from my StoryGraph.

What I’ve then done is write a quick summary as to why I rate the book so highly and obviously given a link to the said book on Amazon and a link to read my full review of the book if you wish to do so.

Also, if you want to see what books I’m always reading, feel free to follow me on StoryGraph.

So then, let’s get into the top ten books I’ve read this year so far with a little reason why and in no particular order (maybe I should have made that the title – it’s so catchy!)

Atomic Habits by James Clear book cover

Atomic Habits by James Clear

Atomic Habits was a book that I’d seen all over the internet. I follow a fair few productivity YouTubers and Atomic Habits kept popping up as one of the better out there. So when one of my friends kindly bought me it for my birthday, I picked it up in the hope it would prove my doubts that I was going to get lectured wrong.

It mostly did. It didn’t just say “be better or do more”, it offered actual genuine techniques and science behind the techniques to help you build small habits to improve the way you go about life. 

If you have something you want to improve upon or eliminate in your life, the techniques utilised and the plan in this book may be a great starter to help you with those.

Of Blood and Fire by Ryan Cahill book cover

Of Blood and Fire by Ryan Cahill

Similar to Atomic Habits, prior to reading it, Of Blood and Fire by Ryan Cahill (and his whole series so far really) had been constantly popping up on my feeds, especially my Twitter feed as a fantasy series well worth getting into. So when I randomly hopped onto the reselling app Vinted and found a copy for £2 (yes, £2!) I gladly swept that up and began reading it instantly.

The book is one of the most approachable fantasy books I’ve ever read with a story and characters that you genuinely end up caring about. It’s, without a doubt, one of the strongest fantasy debuts I’ve ever read.

The Ember Blade by Chris Wooding book cover

The Ember Blade by Chris Wooding

I randomly received a copy of The Shadow Casket from Gollancz a while back and after having a look into it saw that The Ember Blade was the book before it and that it was apparently an absolute banger.

Fact check: it is. The Ember Blade feels like a modern-day Lord of the Rings – you’ve got a great band of characters, an epic journey that they all go on and growing evil. I’m not saying it’s as good as Lord of the Rings just based on this first novel but I will say it feels very similar to the premise.

A great fantasy novel that I think any fantasy fan would enjoy!

Before They Are Hanged by Joe Abercrombie book cover

Before They Are Hanged by Joe Abercrombie

Whilst we’re on the fantasy hype why not let’s talk about another? Before They Are Hanged by Joe Abercrombie is the second book in the first law trilogy and is better than the first in almost every way.

I note in both my reviews of The Blade Itself (the first in the trilogy) and Before They Are Hanged that they don’t have the most gripping storylines or great arching, journey plots. However, the characters Abercrombie has written are some of the most complex and brilliantly written of any genre, not just fantasy.

His dark sense of humour and easy but intelligent writing also add to a book that I came away having really enjoyed.

Beartown by Fredrik Backman book cover

Beartown by Fredrik Backman

Fredrik Backman is one of my favourite authors full stop, he’s always writing stories that are easy to read but that cover quite complex situations and still add in humour too.

Beartown and the subsequent books are always spoken about in such high esteem. Therefore, when I got this for my birthday, I knew I had to pick it up quickly and so did so and I am so glad I did.

It’s a slow burner but the final third of the book is so incredible and after thinking about it, it’s how Backman writes all of his stories. He often spends the first ⅔ of a book building the characters and the setting and then the final third giving you all the emotion, sudden plot moments and ramping up the excitement.

Still Life by Sarah Winman book cover

Still Life by Sarah Winman

Most of these quick summaries so far have spoken about why I picked up the book. I picked up Still Life by Sarah Winman because Bert’s Books had had someone ask for a refund despite it not being their fault the book hadn’t been returned. I went on their website and found a great selection of books but saw Still Life was in their “Pyramid of Popularity” and had heard some very positive things so picked it up.

Still Life has a fairly slow plot and nothing mind-blowing ever really happens. However, Winman has written some absolutely brilliant characters into the book that make you care so much more about the story that’s unfolding.

One of the things I noticed straight away about the book was that there weren’t any quotation marks for any of the speech and so this, at first, was very jarring as it was difficult to know who was speaking and when.

However, Winman may be one of the most beautiful writers I’ve ever read and she writes in such a flowing way that you always kind of know when speech has started and who is speaking. Plus I listened to a lot of the book on audiobook (narrated by Winman herself) and so that made it way easier.

Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus book cover

Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus

Lessons in Chemistry has such an appealing front cover and (like many of my other book choices) had received such positive comments online, when I saw it for only £5 in my local ASDA, I knew I had to pick it up.

The story itself is of Elizabeth Zott, a genius in the 1960s where all of her male colleagues think women shouldn’t be dealing with science and stick to admin work. However, when she starts to shine and gets her own show, she continues to rebel and continues to impress, paving the way for intelligent women to express themselves.

The story isn’t just inspiring but is also filled with humour and at times will pull on your heartstrings too. It’s a fantastic book that offers an incredible story, some loveable characters and a whole range of emotions.

Anxious People by Fredrik Backman book cover

Anxious People by Fredrik Backman

As I wrote above, Fredrik Backman is one of my favourite writers of all time. He’s a brilliant writer who always manages to write a book that has both heart and great characters.

Anxious People is a unique book where essentially someone goes to rob a bank, panics after being told they don’t keep cash in banks anymore, escapes into a building opposite and ends up in the middle of a house showing unintentionally turning it into a hostage situation. What then ensues is a whole bunch of fascinating conversations. In tandem, a father and son police duo are trying to help these people get out safely whilst also dealing with their own history and problems.

Anxious People covers so many topics with a lot of different people in this book and so there are a lot of different stories in this book as different couples and families have discussions as well as deep discussions with the robber himself.

The Four Winds by Kristin hannah book cover

The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah

I’ll be honest, I wasn’t expecting The Four Winds to be such a brilliant book. I’d seen some very positive things about it beforehand of course but didn’t realise how wholesome of a story it was going to be.

The Four Winds focuses on the story of Elsa Martinelli in 1930s America and her tough beginning and continued struggles through life with her family and the world changing around her. She and her family must find a way to survive the Great Depression during the Dust Bowl era (when there was hardly any rain in South America for a very long time). It’s a story of hope, inspiration and some really powerful, emotive moments.

Hannah is a fantastic writer who developed some genuinely wonderful characters in The Four Winds. They not only add layers to the story with their personalities but their interactions and developments as people are also well worth sticking around for.

The Two Towers by J R R Tolkien front cover

The Two Towers by J.R.R. Tolkien

I’m not sure The Two Towers needs an introduction, but just in case you’ve landed from space: The Two Towers is the second book in the phenomenon that is the Lord of the Rings trilogy. I enjoyed the first one (The Fellowship of the Ring) a lot but The Two Towers builds and improves upon the first in almost every single way.

The Two Towers has one of the most epic worlds, epic stories and a fantastic cast of characters you’re likely to read in any book, let alone a fantasy novel. There’s a reason that almost 70 years later these books are always on people’s list for the best fantasy books of all time. It’s also why you’ll find the series on the lists of the greatest books of all time full stop.

The Two Towers ramps up the plot and the tension as the world that we were introduced to in the first book is expanded upon. There’s absolutely no doubt that The Two Towers is the best fantasy book I’ve read this year and therefore features on my books of the year. Who knows, if I’d finished the trilogy at the time of writing this article, I may be putting The Return of the King on this list instead!

So there you have it…

That’s my list of the absolute best books I’ve read this year. I’m sure we can all agree that I’ve read some absolute bangers this year. I’m not sure if I can quite pick out my absolute favourite yet and I know I have a couple on my TBR that I’m incredibly excited to read and which may yet feature in my final list at the end of the year.

If you want to see which books I thought were the best halfway through the year last year, you can read that here. Or if you want to see what I finally voted as the best books I read all year last year, you can read that here.

Until the final list is out, I always want to know what your favourite books are and what you’re reading at the moment, so comment below or let me know on socials!

If you’re interested in picking any of these books up from Amazon, here’s a nice handy list:

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