Another year. Another list of favourite reads.
And gosh, do I have a list. I read over 100 books this year for the first time since I was a teenager! Honestly, this was so hard to do alongside a social life, working and other things.
It’s a goal I’m so extremely proud of.
Anyways, let’s get into my favourite books of 2023. Since as I read 100 books I’ve narrowed it down to 20.
20 books that touched me in some sort of way.
If you’re going to read any books next year, then please let it be these 20 books.
20. Sing Me to Sleep by Gabi Burton
Saoirse Sorkova survives on secrets. As the last siren in her kingdom, she can sing any man to an early grave – but her very existence is illegal, and if her true identity were ever discovered, it would be her life on the line.
By day, Saoirse disguises herself as a fae, pretending to be the perfect soldier-in-training. By night, she satisfies her darker urges working as an assassin for dangerous mercenaries. And all the while, she keeps the biggest secret of all: that she is not always in control of her Siren powers, or her desire to kill.
Then a blackmailer threatens her sister, and Saoirse’s investigation takes her to the royal palace, and her most dangerous job yet: personal bodyguard to the Crown Prince.
Saoirse expects to despise Prince Hayes. But he is kind, thoughtful, and charming, and she finds herself increasingly drawn to him . . . until he tasks her with investigating a killer plaguing the kingdom. The problem: the killer is Saoirse.
Trapped by her deadly double life, Saoirse can’t leave the palace until she saves her sister . . . but who will save her from herself?
I had such a great time reading this! It’s not often you get to read about Black mermaids and I’m very excited about the next book in the series. Also, this cover is stunning.
19. Portrait of a Thief by Grace D. Li
Will Chen, a Chinese American art history student at Harvard, has spent most of his life learning about the West – its art, its culture, all that it has taken and called its own. He believes art belongs with its creators, so when a Chinese corporation offers him a (highly illegal) chance to reclaim five priceless sculptures, it’s surprisingly easy to say yes.
Will’s crew, fellow students chosen out of his boundless optimism for their skills and loyalty, aren’t exactly experienced criminals. Irene is a public policy major at Duke who can talk her way out of anything; Daniel is pre-med with steady hands and dreams of being a surgeon. Lily is an engineering student who races cars in her spare time; and Will is relying on Alex, an MIT dropout turned software engineer, to hack her way in and out of each museum they must rob.
Each student has their own complicated relationship with China and the identities they’ve cultivated as Chinese Americans, but one thing soon becomes certain: they won’t say no.
Because if they succeed? They earn an unfathomable ten million each, and a chance to make history. If they fail, they lose everything . . . and the West wins again.
History nerds – this one is for you. I loved this whole idea of a historical, thriller, action heist novel? And it was SO realistic, which I surprisingly adored. I was really expecting it to go one way and when it didn’t…I found I enjoyed the ending far more. Highly recommend.
18. Everyone’s Thinking It by Aleema Omotoni
Within the walls of Wodebury Hall, reputation is everything. But aspiring photographer Iyanu is more comfortable observing things safely from behind her camera.
For Iyanu’s estranged cousin Kitan, life seems perfect. She has money, beauty and friends like queen bee Heather. But as a Nigerian girl in a school as white and insular as Wodebury, Kitan struggles with the personal sacrifices needed to keep her place – and the protection she gets – within the exclusive popular crowd.
Then, photos from Iyanu’s camera are stolen and splashed across the school – each with a juicy secret written on it. With everyone’s dirty laundry suddenly out in the open, the school explodes in chaos, and the whispers accusing Iyanu of being the one behind it all start to feel like déjà vu.
Each girl is desperate to unravel the mystery of who stole the photos and why. But exposing the truth will change them all forever.
Mean girls meets Dear White People? And it really was all of that in one novel. I honestly couldn’t put it down towards the end. If you’ve ever attended predominantly white schools, you’ll find yourself relating in some way to Iyanu and Kitan in different ways.
17. You Bet Your Heart by Danielle Parker
Sasha Johnson-Sun might not know everything–like how to fully heal after her dad’s passing or how many more Saturdays her mom can spend cleaning houses. But the one thing Sasha is certain of? She will graduate this year as Skyline High’s class valedictorian.
At least, she was sure before the principal calls Sasha and her cute, effortlessly gifted ex-best friend, Ezra Davis-Goldberg, into his office to deliver earth-shattering news: they’re tied for valedictorian and the scholarship attached…
This outcome can’t be left to chance. So, Sasha and Ezra agree on a best-of-three, winner-take-all academic bet. As they go head-to-head, they are forced not only to reexamine why they drifted apart but also to figure out who they’ve become since. With her future hanging in the balance, Sasha must choose: honor her family’s sacrifices by winning (at all costs) or give her heart a shot at finding happiness?
So many of us in the disapora living in western countries can relate to Sasha so much. It honestly broke my heart and was so achingly sweet to read about her journey. I loved Ezra and Sasha’s dynamic and I’m going to need more people to pick this up!
16. Only for the Holidays by Abiola Bello
City girl Tia Solanké is dreading the festive period. She’s on a break with her boyfriend and the last thing she wants to do is spend Christmas away from London. Arriving at Saiyan Hedge Farm, Tia takes an instant disliking to it. She falls in horse manure, is chased by sheep and the Wi-Fi sucks. How is she meant to stalk her ex now and concoct a foolproof plan to win him back?
Country boy Quincy Parker and his family run the farm, and this year they’ve been selected to host the biggest event in the town’s calendar – the Winter Ball. Preparations are underway, and Quincy is working around the clock to make it a success. The only problem is, he’s told everyone he has a date to the ball, when in reality that couldn’t be further from the truth.
At first, Tia and Quincy don’t see eye to eye, until they realise they both have something to gain by pretending to be a couple. But when a snowstorm threatens to cancel the Winter Ball, their fake relationship is put to the test. Will Tia and Quincy be able to keep up the pretence and save the day, or will real feelings get in the way?
I had a TIME reading this. Abiola really knows how to write very cosy christmas Black YA romances and I’m so here for it. I’ve written a full review of this book too!
15. Out on a Limb by Hannah Bonam-Young
Winnifred “Win” McNulty has always been wildly independent. Not one to be coddled for her limb difference, Win has spent most of her life trying to prove that she can do it all on her own. And, with some minor adjustments, she’s done just fine.
That is until she has a one-night stand with the incredibly charming Bo, a perfect stranger. And that one night changes everything.
While Bo is surprisingly elated to step upto the plate, Win finds herself unsure of whether she can handle this new challenge on her own or if she’ll need a helping hand.
Together, Win and Bo decide to get to know one another as friends and nothing more. But, as they both should know by now, life rarely goes according to plan.
Oh, this was fantastic. A heartfelt romance with disability representation that was written so well. There wasn’t a third-act break up and you’ll feel so achingly sweet reading this. Absolutely adored it and I can’t wait to get a finished copy when it’s traditionally published next year!
14. The Situationship by Taylor-Dior Rumble
When the love of her life shows up with a girlfriend, Tia decides it’s time to put herself out there.
Expectations of dating apps are low, so it’s a surprise when she instantly connects with handsome photographer Nate. He’s everything she’s looking for; he makes her feel safe, seen, and desired.
Tia assumes they’re on the same page – the only catch? They’re yet to have The Talk.
In a generation that’s normalised competing over who cares the least, can Tia overcome her fears and lay her cards on the table, in the pursuit of something real?
If you’re looking for a book to describe the mess of the Black British dating scene, this is the book for you. Not only, will it convince you to stand on business. But you’ll want to fling the book across the room a numerous amount of times. I went to the Candid Book Club discussion about this and had such a great time listening to everyone’s opinions. Absolutely loved it!
13. An Olive Grove in Ends by Moses McKenzie
Sayon Hughes, a young Black man from Bristol, dreams of a world far removed from the one in which he was raised. Far removed from the torn slips outside the bookie’s, the burnt spoons and the crooked solutions his community embraces; most of all, removed from the Christianity of his uncaring parents and the prejudice of law-makers.
Growing up, Sayon found respite from the chaos of his environment in the love and loyalty of his brother-in-arms, Cuba; in the example of his cousin Hakim, a man once known as the most infamous drug-dealer in their neighbourhood, now a proselytising Muslim; and in the tenderness of his girl, Shona, whose own sense of purpose galvanises Sayon’s.
In return, Sayon wants to give the people he loves the world: a house atop a grand hill in the most affluent area of the city, a home in which they can forever find joy and safety. But after an altercation in which a boy is killed, Sayon finds his loyalties torn and his dream of a better life in peril.
I read this book a while back and truthfully, I can’t stop thinking about it. It’s not just the way it was written and how homely the patois made me feel. It was the discussions surrounding religion and self. It was beautifully written and I’m very intrigued by the TV show.
12. It’s Not That Radical by Mikaela Loach
For too long, representations of climate action in the mainstream media have been white-washed, green-washed and diluted to be made compatible with capitalism.
We are living in an economic system which pursues profit above all else; harmful, oppressive systems that heavily contribute to the climate crisis, and environmental consequences that have been toned down to the masses. Tackling the climate crisis requires us to visit the roots of poverty, capitalist exploitation, police brutality and legal injustice. Climate justice offers the real possibility of huge leaps towards racial equality and collective liberation as it aims to dismantle the very foundations of these issues.
In this book, Mikaela Loach offers a fresh and radical perspective for real climate action that could drastically change the world as we know it for the benefit of us all. Written with candour and hope, It’s Not That Radical will galvanise readers to take action, offering an accessible and transformative appraisal of our circumstances to help mobilise a majority for the future of our planet.
Now, you’re probably thinking I’m being incredibly biased. For those that don’t know, Mikaela is my cousin and she’s written a book about climate justice and activism. I finished reading this book feeling so renewed and hopeful, despite how anxiety producing this topic can be. It was written so clearly and coherently. It’ll make you look at your privilege differently and start to question what more you can do.
11. A Sky Beyond the Storm by Sabaa Tahir
The long-imprisoned jinn are on the attack, wreaking bloody havoc in villages and cities alike. But for the Nightbringer, vengeance on his human foes is just the beginning.
At his side, Commandant Keris Veturia declares herself Empress, and calls for the heads of any and all who defy her rule. At the top of the list? The Blood Shrike and her remaining family.
Laia of Serra, now allied with the Blood Shrike, struggles to recover from the loss of the two people most important to her. Determined to stop the approaching apocalypse, she throws herself into the destruction of the Nightbringer. In the process, she awakens an ancient power that could lead her to victory – or to an unimaginable doom.
And deep in the Waiting Place, the Soul Catcher seeks only to forget the life – and love – he left behind. Yet doing so means ignoring the trail of murder left by the Nightbringer and his jinn. To uphold his oath and protect the human world from the supernatural, the Soul Catcher must look beyond the borders of his own land. He must take on a mission that could save – or destroy – all that he knows.
A thrilling conclusion to the An Ember in the Ashes Quartet. I shouted. I screamed. I almost threw the book across the room a number of times. There were plot twists I didn’t see coming. Characters I started off hating and ended up loving by the final book. I think that’s a testament to Sabaa’s phenomenal writing.
10. You Think You Know Me by Ayaan Mohamud
People like me are devils before we are angels.
Hanan has always been good and quiet. She accepts her role as her school’s perfect Muslim poster girl. She ignores the racist bullies.
A closed mouth is gold – it helps you get home in one piece.
Then her friend is murdered and every Muslim is to blame.
The world is angry at us again.
How can she stay silent while her family is ripped apart? It’s time for Hanan to stop being the quiet, good girl. It’s time for her to stand up and shout.
This was such a brilliant book. I can’t believe it took me so long to pick it up. Fans of The Hate U Give will love this beautifully written read and how it explores the dangers of Islamaphobia in society. There’s an emphasis on the importance of using your voice to speak up against injustices – one that will forever be important to the younger generation.
9. The First Woman by Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi
An intoxicating mix of Ugandan folklore and modern feminism, from a multi-award-winning author
As Kirabo enters her teens, questions begin to gnaw at her – questions which the adults in her life will do anything to ignore. Where is the mother she has never known? And why would she choose to leave her daughter behind? Inquisitive, headstrong, and unwilling to take no for an answer, Kirabo sets out to find the truth for herself.
Her search will take her away from the safety of her prosperous Ugandan family, plunging her into a very different world of magic, tradition, and the haunting legend of ‘The First Woman’.
Again – why did it take me so long to pick this up? The hype was so real with this book. I couldn’t put it down. I adored learning about the characters and Jennifer can write such vivid scenes. A messy, heart-aching read about Ugandan history, folklore, family dynamics and womanhood. I think fans of The Girl with the Louding Voice will adore this one too.
8. Babel by R.F. Kuang
Traduttore, traditore: An act of translation is always an act of betrayal.
The city of dreaming spires.
It is the centre of all knowledge and progress in the world.
And at its centre is Babel, the Royal Institute of Translation. The tower from which all the power of the Empire flows.
Orphaned in Canton and brought to England by a mysterious guardian, Babel seemed like paradise to Robin Swift.
Until it became a prison…
But can a student stand against an empire?
I’ve shouted and ranted in my review about how big brained you have to be to come up with a concept like this. I promise you if I was Rebecca, nobody could chat to me again.
7. Before I Let Go by Kennedy Ryan
Their love was supposed to last forever. But when life delivered blow after devastating blow, Yasmen and Josiah Wade found that love had its limits . . it couldn’t save their marriage.
Yasmen wasn’t prepared for how her life fell apart, but she’s finally starting to find joy again. She and Josiah have found a new rhythm: co-parenting their two kids and running a thriving business together. Yet, like magnets, they’re always drawn back to each other, and now they’re beginning to wonder if they’re truly ready to let go of everything they once had.
One stolen kiss leads to another . . . and then more. It’s hot. It’s illicit. It’s good – until it starts to hurt again. As old wounds reopen, Yasmen and Josiah wonder if it is too late for them to find forever.
Or could they be even better, the second time around?
Whew – WHO is writing Black romances like Kennedy Ryan? I’ve read her Kingmaker series, Hoops Series, Hollywood Renaissance series and it’s safe to say she has a fan for life. Her books read like art. I can’t even explain it. This was heart-achingly beautiful to listen to. I will be snatching up the next book in the series next year. If you haven’t read a Kennedy Ryan book yet, please do so in 2024. I promise you, you won’t regret it!
6. Happy Place by Emily Henry
Two exes. One pact.
Could this holiday change everything?
Harriet and Wyn are the perfect couple – they go together like bread and butter, gin and tonic, Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds.
Every year, they take a holiday from their lives to drink far too much wine with their favourite people in the world.
Except this year, they are lying through their teeth, because Harriet and Wyn broke up six months ago. And they still haven’t told anyone.
But the cottage is for sale so this is the last time they’ll all be here together. They can’t bear to break their best friends’ hearts so they’ll fake it for one more week.
But how can you pretend to be in love – and get away with it – in front of the people who know you best?
There’s some romance books that feel like more than just a romance. Emily Henry and Kennedy Ryan are the few authors that have mastered how to do it. Happy Place made me cry. It’s a story about second chances, friendship and the fear of moving forward.
5. Mika in Real Life by Emiko Jean
Penny Calvin has questions.
Placed for adoption sixteen years ago, she’s desperate to get to know the mother she’s never met.
Mika Suzuki just wants to hide.
Jobless, single and living in a chaotic flat share, she can’t bear her daughter knowing her life is a mess. So, when Penny gets in touch, Mika tells a few white lies, pretending to have it all – a career, partner and money.
Keeping up the pretence over the phone is one thing. But when Penny and her widowed adoptive father Thomas spring a visit on Mika, things get complicated.
By coming clean about the secrets in her past, will Mika finally get the life she dreamed of?
Or will she lose it all?
This book has sat on my shelf for two years. I picked it up this year and was SO MAD I took so long to read it. I was obsessed from start to end. This was SO SO GOOD and I think it deserves more hype. The way the author describes the complexities of motherhood and adoption… I’m going to need more people to read it. I will 100% be picking up a finished copy…I just hate the UK cover. So as soon as I find a way to get the US edition, I’ll be screaming about it so much more.
4. The Mountain is You by Brianna Wiest
This is a book about self-sabotage.
Why we do it, when we do it, and how to stop doing it—for good. Coexisting but conflicting needs create self-sabotaging behaviours. This is why we resist efforts to change, often until they feel completely futile. But by extracting crucial insight from our most damaging habits, building emotional intelligence by better understanding our brains and bodies, releasing past experiences at a cellular level, and learning to act as our highest potential future selves, we can step out of our own way and into our potential.
For centuries, the mountain has been used as a metaphor for the big challenges we face, especially ones that seem impossible to overcome. To scale our mountains, we actually have to do the deep internal work of excavating trauma, building resilience, and adjusting how we show up for the climb. In the end, it is not the mountain we master, but ourselves.
Oh, this book tore me apart. I don’t think I’ve been the same since. Once I realised how much I’ve been self-sabotaging myself, I promise there’s been a mental shift. I make very small choices daily that I wasn’t making before and I promise you it’s made a turning point in my life. I’m really hoping to put it into action next year with this blog and amongst other things.
3. All the Lonely People by Mike Gayle
In phone calls to his daughter in Australia, widower Hubert Bird paints a picture of the perfect retirement, packed with fun and friendship.
But Hubert Bird is lying.
Something has made him turn his back on people, and he hardly sees a soul.
So when his daughter announces she’s coming to visit, Hubert faces a race against time: to make his real life resemble his fake life before he’s found out.
Along the way Hubert renews a cherished friendship, is given a second chance at love and even joins an audacious community scheme. But with the secret of his earlier isolation lurking in the shadows, is he destines to always be one of the lonely people?
I think about Hubert daily. Gosh, did I cry for what felt like five chapters of this book. I’ve already written about how this book made me feel so read my review!
2. Maame by Jessica George
Maame (ma-meh) has many meanings in Twi, but in my case, it means woman.
Meet Maddie Wright.
All her life, she’s been told who she is. To her Ghanaian parents, she’s Maame: the one who takes care of the family. Her mum’s stand-in. The primary carer for her father, who suffers from Parkinson’s. The one who keeps the peace – and the secrets.
It’s time for her to speak up.
When she finally gets the chance to leave home, Maddie is determined to become the kind of woman she wants to be. One who wears a bright yellow suit, dates men who definitely aren’t on her mum’s list of prospective husbands, and stands up to her boss’s microaggressions. Someone who doesn’t have to google all her life choices.
But when tragedy strikes, Maddie is forced to face the risks – and rewards – of putting her heart on the line.
But will it take losing everything to find her voice?
I’ve never felt so seen as an older sister. I LOVED this book and adored interviewing Jessica George. I really wish I could emphasise how incredible this book was but truthfully, I think you all need to read it for yourself. And it had the BEST ending. I couldn’t have predicted it better myself.
1. Small Worlds by Caleb Azumah Nelson
Dancing is the one thing that can solve Stephen’s problems.
At Church with his family, the shimmer of Black hands raised in praise. With his band, making music speaking not just to their hardships, but their joys. Grooving with his best friend, so close their heads might touch. Dancing alone to his father’s records, uncovering parts of a man he has never truly known. His youth, shame and sacrifice.
Stephen has only ever known himself in song. But what becomes of him when the music fades?
And at number one is Small Worlds. Considering how much I adored this book, this really isn’t surprising. Small Worlds was lyrical, art and the most beautiful piece of fiction I’ve read in a long time. It’s a book I think about often. It’s a physical embodiment of Sonder. You’ll be thinking about other people’s ‘small worlds’ for a long time. It’s all I do.
And that concludes my top reads of 2023. There was fantasy, non-fiction, romance, literary fiction and much more. I think this may be my favourite list since I’ve started this blog. I feel like I read so widely this year and I really hope to continue that next year.
That being said, this is my last post of 2023. I’ll be back in the new year with some EXCITING announcements. I’ve taken enough time away from blogging and I’m back. I think I felt so stagnant since I took a break in 2021 but I’m calling 2024 the beginning of Phase 3 of The Black Book Blog.
Thank you so much for all your support and love. I’ve seen all the love from across the world e.g. Australia to the US to Fiji to China and more. I look at my blog stats in disbelief sometimes considering I’ve been so quiet for a while. I’m so incredibly thankful and appreciative.
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This has been a great reading year and I’m super excited for 2024. As per usual, I have my most anticipated books list coming out in the first week of January so stay tuned for that!
Have a lovely new year and wishing everyone the best for 2024!