Reading Roundup: Our Writers’ Favourite Books of 2023
With the surge of reading roundups flooding our social feeds, we polled our writers on their favourite books of 2023.
These books, diverse in genre and style, were the ones that most spoke to our writers and inspired them to both read and write more. No matter your preferred genre, each book on this list deserves its place on your must-read list for the new year.
Boy Swallows Universe by Trent Dalton
Trent Dalton’s Boy Swallows Universe is a captivating mix of coming-of-age story and magical realism. Set in 1980s Australia, it follows young Eli Bell, whose life is anything but ordinary.
With a cast of complex characters, from drug-dealers to ex-convicts, the novel delves into themes of love, crime, and the pursuit of one’s dreams. While not entirely autobiographical, the novel is rooted in Dalton’s childhood and experiences in Brisbane’s tough suburbs. It reflects on his parents, the individuals he knew, and the transformative journey he underwent to become an award-winning journalist.
Dalton’s electric writing and immersive storytelling make this novel a must-read.
Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir
Andy Weir, acclaimed for The Martian, returns with Project Hail Mary, an adventurous tale with his signature blend of scientific detail and wit.
The story revolves around Ryland Grace, the sole survivor on a spaceship with a critical mission to save humanity. While Project Hail Mary is full of science and is very detail-oriented, it is also so much more. It’s about finding hope and making connections in surprising places, overcoming fear and challenges, and unlocking your true potential.
Full of twists, mind-bending science, and humour, Weir’s book will be an instant hit among both science fiction aficionados and general readers looking for an exhilarating story.
The Good Girl’s Guide to Murder series by Holly Jackson
Holly Jackson’s A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder series has captured the imagination of young adult and adult readers across the globe, and it’s great to see it appear on our roundup list for a second year!
This three-book series follows Pippa Fitz-Amobi as she investigates complex murder cases, often finding herself in dangerous situations. Jackson’s ability to weave suspenseful storytelling with relatable teenage dilemmas has made this series a go-to recommendation for fans of mystery novels, no matter their age.
Despite its often serious subject matter, A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder still manages to have fun, likeable characters, and a story that keeps you guessing to the end.
Children of Time by Adrian Tchaikovsky
Adrian Tchaikovsky’s Children of Time is an ambitious tale that whisks its readers to the farthest reaches of space. This epic science fiction explores themes of evolution, survival, and the very essence of humanity.
Desperate to escape a decaying Earth, the last members of humanity embark on a quest to find a terraformed world capable of sustaining human life. They find an abandoned planet, but in the years since it was first terraformed, a new civilization has emerged. Now, both civilisations are on a collision course, testing the boundaries of what they will do to survive. As the fate of humanity hangs in the balance, who will inherit this new earth?
Tchaikovsky’s masterful world-building and thought-provoking plot have garnered acclaim, establishing Children of Time as a must-read for both sci-fi lovers and anyone who adores great writing.
Ten Thousand Stitches by Olivia Atwater
Olivia Atwater’s Ten Thousand Stitches transports readers to a world where historical fiction meets fantasy. It is the second in Atwater’s Regency Faerie Tales series which has been described as “Bridgerton meets Howl’s Moving Castle.”
Ten Thousand Stitches is a Cinderella retelling that tells the story of Euphemia Reeves who has fallen in love with the son of a gentleman. Effie, the housemaid for the gentleman in question, is stuck on what to do. An encounter with the Faerie realm and the enigmatic Lord Blackthorn, he offers to help her for a price; ten thousand stitches sewn into his favourite jacket. She now has one hundred days and ten thousand stitches to make Mr. Ashbrooke fall in love and propose.
Atwater’s novel has been praised for its charming characters, enchanting world, and a plot that skilfully balances light-hearted moments with deeper social commentary.
The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang
R.F. Kuang’s The Poppy War is the first in a gripping fantasy that delves into the harrowing aspects of war and the power of shamanic magic.
Inspired by Chinese history, The Poppy War follows a young war orphan, Rin, who works to earn her place at an elite military school and subsequently finds herself at the heart of a devastating war. It is a dark, but perfectly plotted book that tackles big subjects, like racism, classism, war, and colonialism. It can at times be brutal in its depictions of violence, but whenever it appears, it’s used carefully with respect for its place in the story.
Kuang’s raw and unflinching narrative has earned critical acclaim, making The Poppy War a transformative read that perfectly blends fantasy and history in way that will stay with you long after you turn the final page.
Written in Red by Anne Bishop
Anne Bishop’s Written in Red is an urban fantasy that gives a new refreshing take on traditional fantasy tropes.
Meg Corbyn, a blood prophet, is on the run. As a blood prophet, she is able to see the future when she cuts her skin. Held in captivity by those who wish to profit from her gift, she soon escapes and seeks refuge with a group know as the “Others”.
Bishop’s imaginative setting and character-driven story offer a fresh take on the urban fantasy genre. With good world building, likeable characters, and genuinely touching moments, it’s an enchanting read.
Yellowface by R.F. Kuang
It was hard to choose only two of R.F. Kuang’s books for the list this year, but Yellowface was definitely a stand out novel for 2023. It is a powerful narrative that tackles important themes of diversity, racism, and cultural appropriation, as well as the alienation of social media.
The story revolves around two writers, the wildly successful Athena Liu, and the less successful June Hayward. After Athena’s sudden death, June steals Athena’s unfinished manuscript, finishes it, publishes it, and takes full credit. Profiting from Athena’s stolen success, June must confront the consequences of her actions and see how far she will go to keep the success she believes she deserves.
Kuang’s novel is particularly timely, providing profound insight into the complexities of publishing and literary world. There are no clear heroes and villains in Yellowface. The characters are messy and make messy decisions, because the real world is messy. It is a book-lover’s book that will stay with you.
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