My 21 Favorite Reads of 2023

2023 faves - book cover photo collage

Happy 2024, everyone! Another year behind us; another year I continued to be lucky enough to read and write and edit for a living. Living the dream, baby!

If you don’t read my monthly Thunder Thighs newsletter, I’ll give you a little rundown here of all the literary goodness that’s gone down this past year.

First off, there are my regular gigs. It was a rough year financially, and I lost half of my regular income suddenly and unexpectedly. But that’s the freelance life, I suppose. Still, I continue to be a senior contributor over at Book Riot, and I also continue to do copywriting work for Cute Little Fuckers, a queer-owned sex toy company with a lot of heart (it may not be a literary gig, but I get to write words for a company whose values align with my own, so I’m mentioning it). And while most new content is paused at Feminist Book Club, I’m excited for where things are going there. Right now, I’m on their transition team as we evolve into a worker-owned coop.

I’m also still the Essays Editor at Hippocampus Magazine, which I so enjoy. This year, we started holding regular virtual events while the big in-person conference is on hiatus, and I’ve already participated in an evening of mini sessions, during which I gave a flash presentation on how to survive that angsty first year after your book pubs. In the new year, I’ll be moderating a reading and discussion with Chantha Nguon and Kim Green, the authors of Slow Noodles. This is especially exciting for me as, back in 2021, I worked with them to edit an excerpt of their book for publication in the mag. The piece was later included in a Longreads roundup of the best of the web, after which they landed their book deal, which makes me feel like a proud mama. You can read “The Gradual Extinction of Softness” here.

What else? I had new pieces published in oranges journal and Romper. I found out that an essay that was published in under the gum tree last year was listed as a Notable Essay by Best American. I had a horror story accepted by Coffin Bell, which is slated to run on New Year’s Day, plus I have a piece on book sanctuaries coming out in Poets & Writers. And in addition to the abovementioned Slow Noodles event, Emily Nagoski asked me to join her in Philly to chat with her in front of other human beings as part of her book tour for Come Together.

Finally, thanks to a big push from my writing group, I’ve started working on an essay collection. It’s nice to have another big goal to focus on.

My god, I feel as if I’m writing one of those Christmas newsletters. Let’s move on to the books.

Once again, I aimed to read 175 books and, this time, I just made it! Out of those 175 books, I loved 21 of them. Regular readers may notice that this number is lower than usual. I’m not gonna lie. All of 2023 felt like one big book slump. But that’s why y’all are gonna read through this list and give me some books recs. Right? Right?? Onward.

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My 34 Favorite Reads of 2022

fave books 2022

I just looked back at my favorite reads posts from 2020 and 2021 and, my god, I’ve been a downer, haven’t I?

This past year hasn’t been much better. But when I hone in on my literary life, I have to acknowledge that things have actually been looking up.

Back in March, I attended my very first AWP conference, appearing on a panel about female friendships in literature, doing a book signing at the Hippocampus Magazine booth, and engaging in general conference shenanigans. I doubt I’ll attend again, but I came out of the experience with a brand new writing group.

In August, I returned to my favorite writing conference, HippoCamp, for the first time since 2019. It felt like coming home.

At around the same time, I stepped in as the interim Editor in Chief of the Feminist Book Club blog and that, in addition to my work as Essays Editor at Hippocampus, really drove home to me that I quite enjoy editing others’ work.

Hmm… what else? I got bumped up to Senior Contributor status at Book Riot. I found out that a piece that was published last year was listed as a Notable Essay of 2021 by Best American. And even though I find that I rarely have the time for my more creative, personal work, I had personal pieces published in under the gum tree and The Offing. This in addition to my regular writing for Book Riot, the Feminist Book Club, Pure Romance, Giddy, and the Rewire News Group.

Good stuff, right?

And on top of all that, I enjoyed some damn fine reads.

On that note, here are the 34 books (out of the 173 I managed to read to completion) that made life worth living this past year. Hope you find some new reads in there for your own TBR pile.

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My 34 Favorite Reads of 2021

book cover collage

I was just reading the intro to my 2020 post and, my god, it reads like a twisted version of one of those holiday newsletters sociopaths send out every December. Like, here’s this terrible thing my child had to deal with because of the pandemic. Here’s a story about how I left my job and lost my main source of income. Here’s this thing I launched that has not been monetized, but which brings me joy. Hopefully it will be sustainable? LOLOLOLOLSOB.

Anyway. Not much has changed since last year beyond getting vaccinated and boosted and sending my child back to in-person schooling. I’m still making significantly less money than I have in previous years. I still haven’t monetized this thing that nevertheless brings me joy. I’m still leaning heavily on genre fiction because super-serious nonfiction makes my head hurt. (Seriously. I have a low-level headache right now.)

At least I’ve taken up embroidery?


Here are the 34 books (out of the 172 I managed to read to completion) that made my heart sing this past year. Hope you find some gold nuggets in there with which to fill your own days.

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My 31 Favorite Reads of 2020

Favorite Books 2020

This year has been a weird horrific one. A global pandemic that’s killed over a million people. Rampant bigotry that’s risen to a boil. A near-miss with what was starting to look like an autocracy. How could one possibly have the wherewithal to read? And for pleasure?

And in fact, many readers reported that they couldn’t focus on books this year, what with all the anxiety and grief and fear swirling about.

As for me, I found that I could no longer read serious cultural commentaries about how terrible life was for women / minorities / everyone ever. I mean, if I wanted that, I could just look at my various social media and news feeds.

Instead, I leaned hard into genre fiction.

Other than that, it’s been quite the year. My 6-year-old daughter has been fully remote from school since March. I left a long-term part-time editing job — my primary source of regular income — in July. I launched a sex ed site in September. I ramped up my freelance writing again, despite having felt like I was in a writing slump for the past two years. And in the midst of all this, I still managed to read 150 books.

My favorites are below. As per usual, this list includes both new publications and backlist bumps. I hope you discover something new here that knocks you out of your own reading slump!

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My 35 Favorite Reads of 2017

Since becoming a contributor to Book Riot last year, my reading horizons have really broadened. There was a time when I could place most of my books into three main categories: horror, freelance writing how-tos, and sex. But when I put together my first favorite reads roundup last year, it was clear that things had shifted. I had become more open to celebrity memoirs, magical realism, YA, comics… all things I’d assumed weren’t for me. And because of Book Riot’s diversity requirements, I’d also moved away from reading 95 percent white chicks.

This year, I read even more (if you can believe it), and I also tracked some of the trends in my reading. Out of 157 reads this year (not including single-issue comics), I read a whopping 69 trade paperbacks (multiple comic issues collected into a single volume), with some additional graphic memoirs, novels, and anthologies sprinkled in (clearly, my new favorite medium). Next runner-up? Literary fiction (21), followed pretty closely by memoir (19). And then there was a general smattering of essays, horror, how-tos, narrative journalism, sci-fi, self-help, short stories, thrillers, and YA.

The authors I read were more diverse, too. I read 65 percent women, 24 percent authors of color, and 18 percent queer authors. Slowly, I’m trying to boost the number of books I read that allow me to learn more about the experiences and perspectives of others.

So which books did I lose my shit over?*

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