Literary Highlights: 5 Standouts and Notable Mentions of 2023

In the famous words of Julius Caesar, “I came, I saw, I conquered” my New Year’s reading resolution of 2023 of reading two books per week. With a new year approaching, here’s a recap of a few of my favorite reads: 

Note: I’ve chosen to highlight a particularly memorable read from the genres I typically read (history, parenting, memoirs, self-improvement, and fiction).

History- The Woman’s Hour: The Great Fight to Win the Vote (Elaine F. Weiss)

I may be fitting the “history-nerd” stereotype here, but The Woman’s Hour was a can’t-put-it down thriller for me. Even though I knew the outcome (women got the right to vote), Weiss’s reconstructing of the intense political struggle for suffrage had me on the edge of my seat. It was both a broad overview of the women’s movement and a detailed account of the culminating ratification vote in Tennessee.

Her meticulous research brought to life the complex dynamics between suffragists, anti-suffragists, and politicians. She captivates readers by highlighting the intersectionality within the movement, the complexity of various strategies utilized, and the tireless efforts in the face of opposition. Overall, The Woman’s Hour is an insightful and compelling read about the relentless pursuit of women to attain voting rights that I recommend especially for history teachers looking to improve their coverage of women’s history.

Similar to: Vanguard: How Black Women Broke Barriers, Won the Vote, and Insisted on Equality for All (Martha S. Jones)

Runner-Up: Desk 88: Eight Progressive Senators Who Changed America (Sherrod Brown)

Parenting: French Kids Eat Everything (Karen Le Billon)

This year, I’ve enjoyed books that explore Americans raising children abroad or immigrants navigating parenthood in America. I have found the cultural differences in parenting to be fascinating, freeing, and empowering in my parenthood journey. In my all-too-typical struggle to get my toddlers to try new foods and eat anything green, this title grabbed my attention.

I learned from Le Billon’s practical approach and description of the mostly unwritten rules around food in France and enjoyed reading about her faux pas as she navigated French culture as a transplant. When I implemented some of her tips, including Taste Training, and scripts for when I changed our eating habits, I felt more confident in my approach and my kids adapted fairly quickly. Overall, French Kids Eat Everything is an interesting read about how parents in France instill healthy attitudes about and habits around food and is recommended for parents hoping to raise adventurous eaters.

Similar to: Bringing Up Bébe (Pamela Druckerman)

Runner-Up: Good Inside: A Guide to Becoming the Parent You Want to Be (Becky Kennedy)

Memoir: Solito (Javier Zamora)

As someone who tries to stay apprised of current events, I attempt to be intentional about inserting humanity back into the onslaught of the difficult and disturbing news cycle. The political debate over American immigration issues is extremely contentious and I find that the data flaunted and antagonistic rhetoric has often left me feeling overwhelmed and numb to the crisis.

 I picked up Solito when my local library did a community book club reading event. Zamora recounts the story of his traumatic migration from El Salvador to the United States. His poetic style of writing drew me in as I learned of the difficulties he faced along the journey. Overall, Solito is an emotional read about a young boy’s attempt to reunite with his parents across the U.S. border and is recommended to those hoping to understand the impact of border crossings on the individuals pursuing a better life.

Similar to: A Thousand Miles to Freedom: My Escape from North Korea (Eunsun Kim)

Runner-Up: Angela Davis: An Autobiography (Angela Davis)

Self-Improvement: How to Change: The Science of Getting from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be (Katy Milkman)

In the self-help category, I can be a little critical of books that promise quick-fixes or solutions guaranteed to increase productivity and achievements. However, Milkman’s How to Change, provided strategic science-based methods to overcome the obstacles of impulsivity, procrastination, and forgetfulness.

The inclusion of case studies were so memorable that I found myself regularly sharing the information I gleaned with my friends and family. Overall, How to Change would be a great read for those looking to kickstart their new year with habits that will actually stick.

Similar to: Atomic Habits (James Clear)

Runner-Up: The Knowledge Gap: The Hidden Cause of America’s Broken Education System- And How to Fix it (Natalie Wexler)

Fiction: The Reading List (Sara Nisha Adams)

I have always enjoyed reading books where the chapters alternate between the perspectives of different characters. In The Reading List, Adams touches on topics of loneliness and community, grief and joy, and friendship that transcends typical boundaries.

A list of books turns up in various places around a London suburb. Readers are injected into the lives of Mukesh, a recent Indian widower, and Aleisha, a part-time teenage librarian, as they navigate many personal and familial struggles. Overall, The Reading List is a unique novel that would be enjoyed by those looking for a heartwarming story about the ways that people can support each other through difficult times.

Similar to: The Sentence (Louise Erdrich)

Runner-Up: Glass Houses (Louise Penny)

If you are like me and are considering setting a New Year’s reading resolution, I hope this roundup of my favorite reads was helpful as you make your reading choices for 2024.

For more book recommendations, check out our Executive Director, Zach Cote’s top 5 books from 2022.