Bookstr Team Roundup: Our Favorite Reads of 2023

2023 was a great reading year for many of us book lovers here at Bookstr. Read on to find out what our top books of the year were!

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Carrie Soto is Back cover by Taylor Jenkins Reid, The Bone Witch cover by Rin Chupeco, and Chalice of the Gods cover by Rick Riordan on top of a purple polka-dotted background.

One of the best parts of the end of the year is getting to reflect on everything you’ve accomplished throughout the past 12 months. For bookish people, this includes looking back at all of the books we’ve read throughout the year. The Bookstr team has read some incredible books this year, and now we want to share them with you! Let’s check out what the team’s favorite reads of 2023 were.

Carrie Soto Is Back by Taylor Jenkins Reid

I read a lot of incredible books this year, but my favorite book of 2023 has to be Carrie Soto Is Back by Taylor Jenkins Reid. The book tells the story of renowned tennis player Carrie Soto, who comes out of retirement to defend her record against a new rising star in the sport. I fell in love with the story’s protagonist instantly — while she comes off as abrasive and cold on the surface, her hard edges are armor Carrie uses to protect her vulnerable heart. Throughout the book, she has to learn to open herself up to love, discover her self-worth in the face of defeat, and navigate a tragic loss, all while trying to accomplish a feat no one seems to believe she’s capable of.

Carrie Soto Is Back cover by Taylor Jenkins Reid, Carrie leaning her head back with her eyes closed as she wears a calm expression.

Carrie’s indomitable spirit and her emotional personal journey endeared her to me and made her one of my favorite book characters to date. I cried along with her when she faced the worst of hardships, and I celebrated with her when she bested the odds and succeeded in spite of all the naysayers and critics. This is certainly a book that will stay on my mind and in my heart for a long time. I can’t recommend it enough!

Lauren Nee, Editorial

Caraval by Stephanie Garber

This is a book that I can’t get enough of! It’s truly whimsical, magical, and darkly delicious. I would have to say that it is my favorite book of 2023. This book takes you on an adventure with Scarlett and Julian to find Scarlett’s sister, Tella, who has been taken by the Legend, the mysterious creator of Caraval.

Caraval by Stephanie Garber, pointed star in front of a dark starry sky.

Caraval is set on an island where a magical game to win Legend’s coveted prize happens over the course of six nights. The island doesn’t show up in the same place twice, and you must have an invitation to come. Scarlett has wanted to go to Caraval since she was a child, but as she’s gotten older, the idea of going dims, and now she simply seeks a way off of her home island away from her abusive father. A mysterious duke writes her letters and wants to marry her. This is a dream for Scarlett, who wishes to be taken away from all of her misery. But when Julian and Tella kidnap her and take her to the island, Scarlett is furious and wants to get back home. She has to get married to the mysterious man of her dreams. Then Tella goes missing on the island, and Scarlett is dragged into the game anyway!

Talk about a whirlwind adventure; there’s a beauty about Garber’s writing, the vivid details of Caraval, and the unexpected twists and turns that left me breathless. It’s not a new book, but it’s one that I will reach for over and over again. It’s a gorgeous story that I think about often. And that’s why it is my favorite book of 2023.

Quiarah B, Editorial

Girls and Their Horses by Eliza Jane Brazier

This is the kind of book I’ve been waiting for, and I didn’t even realize it. I love horses. I think there should be more books about teenagers and young adults in the horse world that tackle issues like bullying, sex, the pressure of competition, greedy/domineering coaches, and other real-world issues.

Girls and Their Horses cover by Eliza Jane Brazier, girl wearing all-leather outfit and sunglasses holding the reins of a white horse.

The book is set in California and centered in the high-stakes world of competitive equestrian sports. The book is set up to show different perspectives of various characters in the book as events unfold. The surprise twists that you didn’t see coming will keep you turning the pages. I couldn’t put the book down. I really relate to Piper as a character trying to figure out who she is as a young adult and her relationship with her parents, her sister, and the boys.

Christina H, Graphics

A Little Like Waking by Adam Rex

The book follows Zelda, who is stuck in a dream. A really weird dream. With Patches, her talking cat that she thought was dead, a wizard, and a boy. A really cute boy. Who feels more real than anyone in town. But as much as she would love to stay, Zelda knows that all dreams must end, and she thinks that this one has lasted for days. So, as she and her two companions set on a quest towards the edge to find the dreamer of the dream and wake them up, Zelda begins to question if she truly is the hero of her own story.

A Little Like Waking cover by Adam Rex, girl laying down on a pillow and looking up at a boy whose eyes are closed.

Admittedly, it did take me a couple of chapters to get into this book because I didn’t quite understand what was happening, but after that, it became an Alice in Wonderland type of book that I adored (sans Carroll’s obvious critiques of people he knew), and there were these really beautiful illustrations laid throughout. And there’s a talking cat who’s convinced he’s the boss of everything. It was also a bit of a tear-jerker with a plot twist that shocks you and makes you miss all the quirky characters you met along the way.

Overall, it was a perfect read that reminded people that while you may not feel like the hero of your own story, you might be the hero in someone else’s.

Ashley Lewis, Editorial and Social Media

The Magicians by BlexBolex

I have always admired the amazing collection of BlexBolex comics and children’s books. His original illustrations are always quite impressive, and I never doubt his stories will amaze me with their packed adventures. I have been patiently waiting for a new BlexBolexs book since 2018 when he released his iconic The Holidays novel, which was one of my favorite children’s books from that time. Finally, after five years, he released The Magicians, and it was worth the wait.

The Magicians cover by BlexBolex, children standing around a half-lion, half-dragon creature.

The book follows three shapeshifters and their journeys to discover what they are here for. Though the three have much to uncover, they are on the run from two shape-shifter hunters. Will they make it to their Destinys? Or will The huntress and dragon-lion seal their fate and catch their prey? This is a fantastic adventure that will make your next bedtime story a night to remember. I recommend this for children, of course, but I also recommend it to any adults out there who consider themselves big fans of art and illustration. The book is crowded with beautiful designs and clever artwork. As an artist myself, it has given me so much inspiration already, and I can imagine it will do the same for you.

Erin Ewald, Editorial

A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki

This book is the story of a 16-year-old girl living in Tokyo intertwined with the story of Ruth and her husband Oliver, who live on a small island off the coast of British Columbia. The narration switches off between Nao, the 16-year-old girl, and Ruth, who is a writer. Partway through the book, Ruth finds Nao’s diary while walking by the beach and immediately becomes engrossed in Nao’s story.

A Tale for the Time Being cover by Ruth Ozeki, collage of ocean waves, a landscape with pine trees, a book, an airplane, and the top half of a woman's face.

This book was definitely a page-turner and did not have the lull that some books tend to have in the middle. As a beginning Japanese speaker, I enjoyed learning about elements of Japanese culture as well as unfamiliar words. I honestly thought this book was amazing, and it had a unique writing style. I also enjoyed how the concept of time was explored throughout the book!

I would recommend checking the trigger/content warnings before reading, as this book includes some heavy topics.

Julia Lie, Graphics

Chalice of the Gods By Rick Riordan

My favorite book I read this year was the new Percy Jackson book. As someone who read the series as a kid, it was a dream come true when I heard that Riordan was writing a new one. I had accepted for years that the series had been over, but now it isn’t. Not only is it a continuation of the Percy Jackson & The Olympians series, but it features the original trio: Annabeth, Percy, and Grover. The OG trio is where it’s at, and we finally got another adventure with them.

Chalice of the Gods cover by Rick Riordan, green snack rising out of a golden chalice, surrounded by two chickens.

The book was hilariously funny, as Riordan’s books usually go, and the shenanigans these three get into never fail to make me laugh. I’m also just a huge fan of #Percabeth, so any book where Percy and Annabeth are together is one I definitely have to read.

Alexandra Mellott, Editorial

The Bone Witch Trilogy by Rin Chupeco

I am a lover of fantasy novels, and this trilogy was the epitome of everything I want in a book of my favorite genre. The world-building is exquisite, the characters are diverse and inclusive, and the plot kept me on my toes the entire time. I want a bit of human nature in my fantasy, emotions, and the mundane intermixed with the fantastical. Those qualities make fantasy more relatable, and Chupeco’s series delivered everything.

The Bone Witch cover by Rin Chupeco, woman sitting on the edge of a jagged cliff overlaid by a skull and swirling purple design.

The romance interwoven in this epic fantasy was subtle and made the story that much more enjoyable and realistic. I can’t say more because…spoilers, but just wow! What made this story even more intriguing and alluring was the culture and influences not being of European descent. It’s really not like the “typical” fantasy novel.

Kristi Eskew, Editorial

Where The Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

This book is a combination of a coming-of-age story and an intense murder mystery. The story centers around the protagonist, Kya, and jumps between her past and present reality.

Where the Crawdads Sing cover by Delia Owens, woman kayaking as the sun sets on a body of water.

Abandoned by her family, Kya is forced to face the cruel world at a young age. She makes the most of her situation and develops a strong persona capable of fending for herself. In an effort to protect herself, she refuses to rely on anyone else and enjoys her time alone living in a marsh in North Carolina. One thing that I really enjoyed in this book was the incorporation of scientific language and nature descriptions throughout. Kya’s knowledge of the native plants and animals is fascinating, and I definitely learned a lot. All in all, this book combines themes of romance and mystery to explore the trauma of abandonment and the complexity of relationships.

Pluma Haarstad, Editorial

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

Celia and Marco looking wistfully at each other while the main tent of the night circus looms in the background.

This book charmed me from the very start. The Victorian Era setting. A duel between two talented magicians. Rivals to lovers trope. And twists and turns at every corner. I couldn’t put it down. The hypnotic descriptions of the magic between the main characters and within the circus tents teleported me to front-row seats in every chapter. Acts in this story go far beyond pulling a rabbit out of a hat. The magicians are challenged and inspired by each other’s abilities, and the love that blossoms between them is a bonus. The circus made me feel like a child poking my head inside every tent in awe, eager to witness the unimaginable!

Olivia Mason, Editorial

Did you read any of our team’s favorites this year, too? Did they make your favorites list? Be sure to let us know!

For more of the Bookstr team’s favorites, click here or here.