My Top 10 Favorite Books of 2023

Here are my favorite 10 books that I read this year per category (in no particular order).

1. Category: MEMOIR

Uncultured: A Memoir
by Daniella Mestyanek Young


Young writes of her experience in the religious cult “The Children of God.” Her stories are harrowing of physical, emotional, and sexual abuse. But at fifteen years old, she walked away. Her story continues through her years in the Army. I hate that her stories are true, but we need to hear them and bear witness.

Other favorite memoirs: Spare by Prince Harry and All My Knotted-Up Life: A Memoir by Beth Moore.


The Science of Stuck
Breaking Through Inertia to Find Your Path Forward
by Britt Frank

The Science of Stuck

We all get stuck sometimes in life, whether it be in an unhealthy relationship or a boring job or just a bad habit. This book is a fascinating (and very organized!) look at the science behind what keeps us stuck, and what works best to break out of it. One takeaway for me is to identify the perks of staying stuck, one of the first steps toward change.

Another favorite in the Stress Management category: ACT Made Simple: An Easy-to-Read Primer on Acceptance and Commitment Therapy by Russ Harris.

3. Category: POLITICS

Why We’re Polarized
by Ezra Klein

Why We're Polarized

We know the things we’re polarized about in America. But we do we know why? Ezra Klein will change the way you interpret politics. I didn’t feel more hopeful after reading this book, but I did feel more informed. Hopefully that counts as a move in the right direction. This is an excellent book with fascinating content, whether you’re a Republican, Democrat, or could really care less.

4. Category: GRIEF

A Guidebook for Your Journey Through Ambiguous Grief
by Stephanie Sarazin


Not all grief comes from someone dying. Ambiguous grief results from divorce, broken friendships, estrangements, infertility, dementia, etc. Yet our culture typically responds inappropriately or not at all to these losses. Sarazin Stephanie writes, “Grief is not a condition to cure; rather, it is a human condition to be honored.” I especially benefited by Stephanie’s differentiation between external hope and internal hope; one is harmful and one is helpful.


The Book of Awakening
Having the Life You Want by Being Present to the Life You Have
by Mark Nepo

The Book of Awakenings

Every morning this year I would read the day’s short essay from Mark Nepo. It helped me get through the day a little better, a little brighter, a little more authentically. I will let this book lie fallow for 2024, but I will return to it again in some future year for my daily readings because it is worth repeating.


I Never Thought of It That Way
How to Have Fearlessly Curious Conversations in Dangerously Divided Times
by Monica Guzmán

I Never Thought of It That Way

This is an excellent book on how to have better conversations with those we disagree with. Guzmán suggests starting with these three things:

  1. Stop sorting each other (getting together in our own little groups)
  2. Stop othering each other (pushing against groups that seem opposed to us)
  3. Stop siloing from each other (sinking so deep into our own groups that we can’t bear to hear anything else).

Another favorite in the communication/conflict resolution category: The Art of Nonviolent Communication: Turning Conflict into Connection by Micah Salaberrios.


I Didn’t Sign Up for This
A Couples Therapist Shares Real-Life Stories of Breaking Patterns and Finding Joy in Relationships, Including Her Own
by Dr. Tracy Dalgleish

I Didn't Sign Up for This

This book by couples therapist Dr. Tracy Dalgelish enlightens us not only on how she does therapy with her clients, but also how she needs to apply the principles in her own marriage. Dr. Tracy brilliantly guides us back and forth between the stories of four couples in her therapy practice and her own story of problems with her husband. If you’d like a true behind-the-scenes look at therapy—plus get advice for your own partnership—I highly recommend this book.

Another favorite relationship book: Forgive for Good: A Proven Prescription for Health and Happiness by Fred Luskin.

8. Category: INEQUITY

Poverty, by America
by Matthew Desmond

Poverty, by America

Data shows that despite the United States being one of the richest countries on earth, we also have more poverty than equally democratic countries. Sociologist Matthew Desmond dives into why. In this book he both lays out the problems but also provides some imaginative solutions. There are no easy fixes. But we can do much better to alleviate poverty versus perpetuate it.

Another favorite book on inequity: My Body Is Not a Prayer Request: Disability Justice in the Church by Amy Kenny.

9. Category: SOCIAL ISSUES

American Idolatry
How Christian Nationalism Betrays the Gospel and Threatens the Church
by Andrew L. Whitehead

American Idolatry

In this book, Whitehead explains everything you want to know (and even things you’d rather not know) about Christian nationalism. He makes the case that the greatest threat to Christianity in the US may be coming from within. Maybe you agree with Whitehead. Maybe you don’t. But in American Idolatry you’ll likely appreciate how he lays out his premises that Christianity should at least reflect Christ.

Another favorite book on social issues: Saving Us: A Climate Scientist’s Case for Hope and Healing in a Divided World by Katharine Hayhoe.

10. Category: FICTION

Big Lies in a Small Town
by Diane Chamberlain

Big Lies in a Small Town

This is an excellent murder mystery novel about a 22-year-old artist in 2018 serving a prison sentence until she’s freed to restore an old post office mural in a North Carolina town. The story flips back and forth between 2018 and 1940 when the mural was originally painted.

More favorite fiction: The Measure by Nikki Erlick, Anxious People by Fredrik Backman, Call Your Daughter Home by Deb Spera, and Mad Honey by Jodi Picoult.

What’s a book that made your Top 10 list for 2023? Share in the comments.

Read More:

30 thoughts on “My Top 10 Favorite Books of 2023

  1. Lory @ Entering the Enchanted Castle

    Lisa, you read so many good books! Many healing threads here, along with hard looks at situations that seem insoluble, but at least facing them with awareness is better than denial and may in time lead to a way forward.

    I particularly want to read “I Didn’t Sign Up for This” but my e-library doesn’t have it. Hopefully it will be acquired at some point. The title makes me laugh as it’s what I ended up feeling about my own marriage … I’m not sure we ever know what we are getting into, when we make that commitment! Thankfully, with us the problems could be worked through, but I sympathize with anyone who’s having difficulties in marriage, and am thankful for the counselors who are trying to help. It’s really challenging.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I think most of us could agree with you that we didn’t fully know what we were getting into when we got married. lol. Or any kind of relationship that involves human beings. ha. (And our spouses would say the same!) We’re such an unpredictable lot! Thanks again for leading the memoir challenge this year. It prompted me to read some really great books that I might not have read otherwise.

  2. Donna Connolly

    Hi, Lisa – Thank you for sharing your top selection of books that you have read this year. I greatly appreciate your recommendations. Hands down, my favourite book read this year (although it was published in 1939) was Grapes of Wrath. My favourite book read that was published this year was Philly Barker is on the Case by Joanne Tracey.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Uncultured was very heart-wrenching indeed. I’m so glad that Daniella was able to escape the cult and overcome her trauma enough to lead a fulfilling life. It’s such a crazy story.

  3. Lesley

    I enjoyed reading about your recommendations, Lisa! So many of these sound good. I think the only one I’ve read is the Diane Chamberlain one, which I also enjoyed. I have just shared a top ten list on my blog, but my most recent recommendation is Practicing The Way by John Mark Comer.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I’ll have to catch the list on your blog soon, Lesley! I love seeing what everyone is reading and finds enjoyable. I read John Mark Comer’s book, “The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry” a couple years ago and got a lot out of it.

  4. Linda Stoll

    Dear Lisa … you are so well read, always giving us a wide range of subjects and authors. I always arrive here expectant and leave enriched and nudged to break out of my tried and true favorite genres. Thanks for the way you pour into our lives.

    Looking forward to heading into another year together. Grateful for you, girl …

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Agreed; Uncultured was very disturbing. The redeeming factor was hearing that she was able to escape such horrible conditions. It’s hard to even imagine what it was like.

  5. Sue from Women Living Well After 50

    Hi Lisa, I’ve not read or heard of any of your top 10 books but I know that some will fit nicely into prompts for the 52 Book Club Challenge. Thank you for sharing and supporting #WBOYC during the year and I look forward to continuing our connection in 2024. Happy New Year!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Thanks, Sue. I haven’t decided on which, if any, book challenges I’ll do in 2024, but they always help me expand my choices when I choose some! Good luck with your 52 Book Club Challenge.

  6. Joanne Tracey

    I know I’ve said it before but I love how much nonfiction you read (but also glad a murder mystery made it onto the list). Once comment you made about how you hate to know that something is true but know you need to know about it – I get that. Thanks for linking up with us.

  7. Kirstin

    I’m excited to join the WOYB party. My making my way around to see what everyone else is reading. Some of those books sound interesting. I read a book that was called A language of healing for a polarized nation that was so interesting.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *