Bookstr Team Talks: The 2023 Novels that Changed Me for the Better

The Bookstr Team talks about the books we’ve read in 2023 and how these books have changed us for the better.

Fiction Non-Fiction Recommendations
An open book with colorful mists swirling around it. The book sits on a blue surface against a black background.

2023 is on its way out, and a new year will be ushered in. But before we say goodbye to 2023 for good, we look back on the books we’ve read and the imprint they’ve left. As we all know, words have a way of changing us, impacting the way we think and feel over time. They can leave an indelible mark in our minds and on hearts. And they can help us grow and make us better versions of ourselves. So, the Bookstr team came together to talk about the books we’ve read this year, and the impact they’ve left on us. Here are the novels that have changed us for the better.

Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut

Think of Something, Anything!

Yellow skull and crossbones sit against a red background. The title is underneath the skull and crossbones in black lettering. The author's name is at the top in yellow lettering.

The mind is a powerful tool, as exemplified in Kurt Vonnegut’s imaginative tale of war, alien abduction, and the human experience. Bursting with originality, this novel encourages its readers to see things differently. Dealing with themes of time and free will, Slaughterhouse-Five left a permanent mark on my perception of productivity. How can I justify doom-scrolling when this novel taught me more than any social media post? I can’t. Now, I spend my time writing stories with the aspiration of reaching the same uniqueness as this masterpiece.

Sam Zimmermann, Editorial

I’m Glad My Mom Died by Jennette McCurdy

Using Writing as an Outlet

A woman dressed in pink holds a pink urn. A pink square frame is around her. The pink frame sits against a pale-yellow background. The tile is at the top in pink letters. The author's name is in light pink and black lettering underneath the title.

This year, I finally got around to reading Jennette McCurdy’s bestselling memoir, I’m Glad My Mom Died, and it was an emotional ride, to say the least. The raw honesty that McCurdy showed throughout the book touched me. It inspired me to be more vulnerable in my own writing. Since then, I’ve been able to use my writing as an outlet for my negative emotions, and this has helped me to process and let go of some of those feelings instead of holding onto them and letting them affect me.

Lauren N., Editorial

Hood Feminism: Notes from the Women That a Movement Forgot by Mikki Kendall

The Intersectionality of Social Issues

The cover is white with a rainbow of colors along the left edge and in the title and author's name. Part of the title is in large letters across the center in colorful letters; the other part of the title is in plain black lettering. The author's name is at the bottom.

I don’t read a lot of non-fiction, but I’m trying to get better. I finally read Mikki Kendall’s essay collection this year, which I’ve had for a while. It was a good mix of personal anecdotes and social analysis based on events from the past decade that we’ve seen in the news. It was an eye-opening read about how several social issues are influenced by each other and that solving one would have positive impacts on others. I came away from the book with a different view of the world around me and a better understanding of the problems people, especially marginalized communities, face each day.

Abby Caswell, Editorial

The Stranger by Albert Camus

Nothing Really Matters

I read this book as a source of inspiration for a story that I’m currently writing. The protagonist, Mersault, is psychologically detached from society and, for that reason, is sentenced to death. The entire time, he genuinely does not care about the world around him. And in some ways — he is right. It doesn’t matter if you do certain tasks or live a certain way; it doesn’t matter.

There are black and white stripes all over the cover, except the right side, which is a white center. The title and author's name are in black lettering in the center of the white center.

As long as it serves you right, you’ve lived the life you deserve. I learned that it doesn’t matter what people think of you or the actions that you take because, in the end, that’s the path that you chose to get to this point in time. It’s up to you to live your life. It’s a book many people should read to get in touch with their reality.

Sierra Jackson, Editorial

The Princess and the Grilled Cheese Sandwich by Deya Muniz

Food vs. Gender Inequality

I came across this graphic novel around my birthday and just had to get it. The story takes place during the late 18th and early 19th centuries yet features modern aspects such as refrigerators, Nintendo Switches, and light bulbs. However, modern conveniences cannot hide the gender inequality that takes place as women are unable to claim land or love freely.

A woman is on the left side with blonde hair and red makeup and clothes. A man is on the right side with black hair and is wearing formal clothes. They are each holding a side of a cheesy sandwich. The title sits in between them in large yellow letters. The author's name is at the bottom in small, white letters.

This is where the beloved grilled cheese makes its entrance! Not only does this yummy sandwich develop bonds, cure depression, and mend relationships, but it also opens up the discussion of sexuality and gender inclusion. I have learned that making grilled cheese sandwiches before serious discussions is beneficial.

Jhade Gales, Graphics

Before the Coffee Gets Cold by Toshikazu Kawaguchi

Leaving the Past Behind

Over the course of the last few months, I have been in an ‘over the seas’ book club with my best friend from university. Though I do not get to see her physically, we organize a book and a time frame, and we read it together. It has been a great way of staying in contact, and our last book, Before the Coffee Gets Cold, really symbolizes a lot for my recent year. The book follows various customers at a coffee shop in Tokyo, all of whom have the chance to go back in time and change their pasts. But everything comes with a price.

Table and chairs sit at the top of the cover. A black cat sits near one of the chairs. The title sits under the table and chairs. The author's name is at the bottom in beige letters. The background is teal and off white.

To me, this book was an eye-opener on past reflection. I have had a lot of changes in the past year. Some great, some disastrous. I spent so much time wishing I could change my past mistakes, which, unfortunately, had taken a toll on my mental health. After nose-diving into this book, it really showed me the importance of accepting the past and looking toward the future. If I had the chance to go back and fix my mistakes, would I be a different person? I do not know, and I never will. And that is okay.

Erin Ewald, Editorial

Bright Young Woman by Jessica Knoll

Giving Victims a Voice

The top of a woman's face can be seen in a square space in pink. The author's name is above the square in black letters. The title is in large, black and pink letters. All of it sits against a dark yellow background.

The most impactful novel I’ve read this year has got to be Bright Young Women by Jessica Knoll. It’s a fictional retelling of the aftermath of the Ted Bundy FSU sorority murders from the sorority sisters’ perspective. Over the years, there have been plenty of documentaries and fictional movies about the life of Bundy himself. But there’s rarely anything solely about the women he brutally murdered or how the witnesses were affected. Knoll’s novel gives a voice to the women and how they were portrayed in the media at the time. This book made me look at the true crime genre and how female victims are portrayed. It changed my view of how female victims should be portrayed in the media. This book was so well written; it was my most memorable read of 2023.

Corinne Vergari, Social

Don’t Believe Everything You Think by Joseph Nguyen

Perspective, Perceptions, and Anxiety/Overthinking

The outline of a head with squiggles to represent the brain sit against a white background. The squiggle lines swirl outside the outlined head. The title is at the top in black letters. The author's name is at the bottom in small black letters.

I have issues with high-functioning anxiety and overthinking. I used to have a problem with my brain coming up with bizarre doomsday disaster scenarios that would make me more anxious until I read this book. This book helped me realize that none of those bizarre scenarios would ever actually happen. The book also helped me look at people, especially politicians, from a new perspective. I learned how to start to put aside my preconceived perceptions of people and be less judgmental. I’ve learned how to go with the flow and be more spontaneous.

Christina H, Graphics

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