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We buy them in bulk and sprinkle these colourful stickers in books and cookbooks ­­– marking quotes we want to remember, paragraphs we want to re-read and recipes we want to make. Our books are filled with them, and it’s always fun being handed an already read book to see what little nuggets the other thought was worth tagging.

In Hidden Genius, one of the tags marked a quote from Matt Haig that feels apropos a list of our favourite reads of 2023 and highlights just one of the many reasons we love reading.

People don’t just read books for escape. We read to find new paths for ourselves. We think we are in this one-room house. Books helps us realize we are in a mansion. Reading is a way to find the lost parts of us.”

Below are our favourite books of 2023 (in the order we read them). These are the ones we raved about, the ones we’d recommend without being asked, the ones that opened a new door in our “mansion” and the ones we immediately handed off to the other when we finished. 

Before we get into the list of books, we’d like to thank the incredible teams at the various publishing houses, particularly Pan MacMillan, Penguin Random House and Jonathan Ball Publishers who have made it possible for us to discover books we never would have (bookmail never gets old!) and have given us opportunities to chat to authors (meeting Prue Leith was an absolute highlight) and discover new worlds.

Fiction

The Theory of [not quite] Everything by Kara Gnodde

The Theory of Not Quite Everything by Gara Knodde
Recommended by Zissy

They say don’t judge a book by its cover, but one look at this cover and I decided this book would be a delightfully quirky read I’d gobble up. It follows brother and sister, Mimi and Art who live together in their childhood home where they are bound by the tragic death of their parents and devotion to each other.  It is part mystery, part romance with a touch of drama. My initial judgement held true. It’s got the depth that makes it more than just a cute book and a storyline that keeps you on your toes.

Read the full review here.   

On the Savage Side by Tiffany McDaniel

On the Savage Side by Tiffany McDaniel
Recommended by Feige

On the savage side is an intensely dark and heartbreaking read, but one that is written brilliantly with an ending that will smack you in the face. It follows twin sisters Arcade and Daffodil. With an unbreakable bond, they try to escape the generational ghosts of addiction and prostitution that haunt their family. 

Read the full review here

The Other Side of Night by Adam Handy

The Other Side of Night Adam Hamdy
Recommended By Feige

The Other Side of Night has the best intro of any book I read this year. David Asha has a story to tell about his son Elliot, his trusted friend Ben & retired detective Harriet Kealty. Part romance, part mystery part science fiction – the story line is excellent and will keep you engaged. Despite knocking some points off the total score, it’s turned out to be a story that has stood out months later as unforgettable, and I’d happily read it again.

Read the full review here

Homecoming by Kate Morton

Homecoming by Kate Morton
Recommended by Zissy

This epic slow-burn generational mystery starts when Jess returns home after her grandmother falls ill. There she discovers a true crime book detailing a long-buried police case: The Turner Family Tragedy of 1959. A discovery that sends her down a rabbit hole of long buried family secrets. The story flits from past to present, slowly and deliciously uncovering each layer. It’s the type of book that keeps you up at night, turning page after page after page.

Read the full review here

No life for a lady by Hannah Dolby

No Life For a Lady by Hannah Dolby
Recommended by Feige

This adorable quirky read has a distinctive Enola Holmes feel. When 28-year-old spinster Violet refuses to marry any of the suitors her father presents, and instead insists on finding her missing mother of 10 years, she sets her world of 1896 on fire. It’s light and whimsical but equally filled with substance and great writing.

Read the full review here

Going Zero by Anthony McCarten

Going Zero by Anthony McCarten
Recommended by Feige

If there is one mystery novel you’re going to invest in, make it this one – it is quite simply brilliant. Ten people have been selected to beta test a ground breaking piece of spyware called Fusion. It can track anyone wherever they are on earth.

Each participant has two hours to go zero which means go off the grid and disappear. There on, for thirty days they must elude the highly sophisticated capture teams sent to find them. Any zero that beats fusion wins $3 million in cash. If Fusion prevails, its creator wins a $90 billion contract with the CIA.

Read the full review here  

The Ghost Ship by Kate Mosse

The Ghost Ship {Book Review}
Recommended by Zissy

It takes a talented author to open a book with the ending and still make a reader desperate to know how they got there. Kate Mosse manages just that in The Ghost Ship, a thrilling love story inspired by the Hugeunot Diaspora and two eighteenth-century female pirates who feature in Kate Mosse’s book – Warrior Queens and Quiet Revolutionaries. A masterfully written tale, it brings to life the world of the early 1600s in a way that is both beautiful and frightening.

Read the full review here.

The Consultant by Im Seong-sun

The Consultant by Im Seong-sun
Recommended by Feige

I didn’t expect a thriller to make my best books of the year list, but here we are! The Consultant specialises in restructuring. Nothing obvious or messy. Certainly nothing anyone would ever suspect as murder. It is elegant, well written, witty, complex and succinct.

Read the full review here

The Wake-Up Call by Beth O’Leary

The Wake-Up Call by Beth O’Leary
Recommended by Zissy

If a Christmas rom-com was a book it would be The Wake-Up Call. A delightful book following the (mis)adventures of the staff (namely Izzy and Lucas) of the Forest Manor Hotel as they try to keep the hotel from quite literally falling apart. It’s got everything you want from a holiday rom-com – loveable characters, charm, heart and of course the budding romance you can’t help but root for.

Read the full review here.

Non-fiction

Warrior Queens and Quiet Revolutionaries by Kate Mosse

Warrior Queens & Quiet Revolutionaries {Book Review}
Recommended by Zissy

Warrior Queens & Quiet Revolutionaries is a detective story and celebration of unheard and under-heard women’s history. It introduces the reader to nearly 1000 women who have in their own way made history and paved the way for the women of today. A valuable bit of history, this book gives you a glimpse of what history could look like if more women’s stories were included. What struck me in reading this, was the care she took to include women from almost every religion, continent, race and period of time. It is next to impossible to read the book and not learn about a woman you can identify with, be it the country she was born in, her religion, race or simply her work.

Read the full review here

Thrive by Richard Sutton

Thrive: 7 Powerful Resilience Skills we can learn from Champions
Recommended by Zissy

This is my second favourite Richard Sutton book (after the Stress Code). In Thrive, Sutton changes the way you think about resilience through the use of stories and practical tips to incorporate into your own life. It’s one of those books that makes you richer with not only knowledge, but actionable steps you can include in your own life to make it richer in health and potential.

Read the full review here

The Bezos Blueprint by Carmine Gallo

Lessons on Reading from The Bezos Blueprint
Recommended by Zissy

This was the best learning book I read this year and the one that had the biggest impact on me. In the Bezos Blueprint, Carmine Gallo shares the communication secrets that power Amazon’s success. Communication is one of the most important skills regardless of whether you are building a company or working for one. The way we communicate affects how people respond to us, how persuasive we are and how successful we can become. This book is a treasure chest of insights and drills that can help you change the way you talk, write, sell and inspire others to action. It’s made me rethink the way I write and give over information. It’s made me understand why some books are memorable and others unreadable. It’s a book I think everyone should read because we all have stories to tell, but we don’t all know how to tell them.  

Read the full the review here

How to Calm your Mind by Chris Bailey

How to Calm Your Mind by Chris Bailey
Recommended by Feige

Looking back on the year that has passed, it’s interesting to me that I finished reading this book around the time I started shifting the balance of my day-to-day life from burnt out to calm. This is the first year in too many to count that I have entered my December holiday feeling calm and energised and this is despite the rush of work that inevitably lands on your lap a week before shut-down. In this book, Productivity expert Chris Bailey takes us along on his journey of uncovering what he calls “a critical missing piece to mastering productivity” – Calm. I tagged a whopping 75 paragraphs but the one that really gave me the aha moment that in hindsight I can say had a profound impact on me was something he calls the “Accomplishment Mindset.” If you’re looking to enter the new year with a new mindset, give this book a read.

Read the full the review here

The Snakehead by Patrick Radden Keefe

The Snakehead by Patrick Radden Keefe
Recommended by Feige

This is one of those excellent investigative journalism books that reads as a novel. It tells the story of the rise and fall of surprising crime boss Sister Ping, who from a tiny shop in New York’s Chinatown, managed a multimillion-dollar human-smuggling ring. It is expertly researched, structured and written and is the best way of educating yourself on a topic you have no prior knowledge.

Read the full review here

Hidden Genius by Polina Marinova Pompliano

Hidden Genius by Polina Marinova Pompliano
Recommended by Feige

You might be familiar with the newsletter THE PROFILE, in which Polina Marinova Pomliano has shared in-depth lessons from some of the world’s most successful and interesting people. In Hidden Genius, she uncovers and outlines the mental frameworks they use to excel by weaving themes from them all. It’s a gem of a book that you can read fast or slow, in order or at random, with quotable quotes you’ll want to keep coming back to. My favourite and one that sums up why we read and review books, is this:

One of the biggest realizations I’ve had in the last few years is simple but overlooked: What you eat is who you are, and what you read is who you become.” 

Read the full review here

While these are all the books we raved about, if you’re only going to choose one fiction and non-fiction book to read, these would be our top picks.

Zissy

Homecoming & The Bezos Blueprint

Feige

Going Zero & How to Calm Your mind

Which do you want to pick up? And, what were your best books of 2023?

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