This year I’ll have read about 50 books, which is about the norm for me. It’s a pace that I’ve found is comfortable enough to keep me reading without reading turning into a chore. As someone who used to try (and succeed occasionally) to read 100 books a year, let me say I’ve found the number of books you read doesn’t matter. What matters to me is reading consistently both to relax and for self-improvement — and for me, 50 books gets me to that place where I’m always picking up another book after I put one down.

And that’s the trick to reading more — you have to be excited about the books you’re going to read and have a list of the next books you want to read so that you keep up the habit. I’ve kept a “next up” list for books for a few years now, and I find I’m a lot less likely to fall into a slump where I’m not reading regularly and instead scrolling on my phone at night. I’d much rather spend that time reading and I’ve found over the years that I feel better when I do.

For those who are also keen to have a list of upcoming books at their fingertips, I’ve put together some of my favorites from 2023. I don’t usually go into the year with any kind of plan for my reading, I’ll have a few books I want to read and leave it at that to see what else comes up. I selected these books because either the lessons they shared or the stories they told resonated with me and feel like they’ve lasted throughout the year regardless of when I read them.

So, here are some of my favorite reads from this year and some I’m already planning on reading next year. I hope a few of them make it onto your reading list and I’d love it if you commented with a few of your top reads so I can check those out, too.

Top books of 2023

Life Admin: How I Learned to Do Less, Do Better, and Live More by Elizabeth Emens

I still think about this book regularly, and I’m sure I’ll reread it in the future. Life Admin helped me think more critically about how I treat admin, how I create the space to complete admin, what counts as admin or work, and invisible admin. If this sounds interesting at all to you, it’s probably a good one for you to read. Habbi and I also discussed this book and what we took from it in-depth in MWW45.

Do Nothing by Celeste Headlee

I read this book as a part of a book club and had the chance to virtually hang out with the author after we’d read it. The timing of reading this book was excellent for me. This is a book about how to combat overworking that questions long-held assumptions about how we best work as humans and encourages you to live a more full life. One of my favorite quotes from this book was, “Most of us become obsessed with means goals and completely lose sight of the more important end goal that should motivate all our efforts: living a good life.”

Digital Zettlekasten by David Kadavee

If you do any writing, pick up this book. This is a very quick read (79 pages) about how to set up the Zettlekasten method digitally. Zettlekasten, which was a new term for me, is a way of organizing your thoughts and ideas into concrete notes that you can easily turn into longer pieces of writing. The practice was used in a letterbox by a 16th-century German sociologist to write 70 books and hundreds of articles. There is lots more to come from me next year on how I’ve set up my Zettlekasten, as it has been in the works for a while now.

How to Take Smart Notes by Sönke Ahrens

Similar to Digital Zettlekasten, this is another short (178-page) book on how to use note-taking to turn it into longer pieces of writing. This is a very practical book, and I’m already applying the principles to my own Zettlekasten.

How to Calm Your Mind: Finding Presence and Productivity in Anxious Times by Chris Bailey

This was a pretty busy year for me for many reasons — I talked in MWW47 about how my summer was filled with hiring, and more recently I shared that my husband and I are expecting our second baby early next year. All that to say, a book about calm was appealing to me and I enjoy a lot of this author’s other writing. Overall, I left with a lot of different tools for achieving a more calm state of mind, so it was well worth the read. The trick now will be continuing to incorporate some of these new practices and build them into habits.

The Four Agreements by Miguel Ruiz

I’ve read this book before, and it was very profound at the time. I picked it up again this year thinking that it might be helpful as I wrap up the year and that has been accurate. This book presents four agreements you can make with yourself, and though this is a shorter book and it feels simple to have just four agreements — each of them is so powerful and I’ve found it makes such a difference to keep them top of mind as I go through life.

Waiting To Be Heard: A Memoir by Amanda Knox

I didn’t grow up in the U.S. (though, as of very recently, I have American citizenship), so I entirely missed the news cycle about Amanda Knox when it was happening. I came across Amanda Knox on social media and immediately bought the book and couldn’t put it down — this was a captivating memoir about strength and self-discovery in an extremely difficult situation and I’ve recommended it to a lot of friends.

Woman on Fire by Lisa Barr

This book sat on my digital shelf for a year before I read it, but when I finally picked it up, I couldn’t put it down. Woman on Fire is a thrilling novel that includes art, travel, and investigative journalism. It’s an easy and delightful read if any of those topics are up your alley.

And finally, only two fantasy series, because I can’t mention them all:

Rook and Rose by M.A. Carrick

This year, the third and final book in this series came out, so I reread the first two books before enjoying the third. This is unlike other fantasy novels I’ve read before, perhaps because it was written by two authors instead of just one. Either way, I absolutely love the depth of the characters and the detail in this whole series.

The Emperyan by Rebecca Yarros

This series took the world by storm when the second book came out just last month. I’ve seen it mentioned everywhere, and for good reason. This is akin to Throne of Glass for me in terms of series that are well-written with captivating stories and characters. Be warned, the series isn’t over, but there are two incredible books that are out that I would recommend to any fantasy reader.

On my 2024 reading list

There are a few books I already have my eye on for 2024 that I wanted to share early.

The other book top of mind for me is The Daily Stoic. I’ve read it several times and have recommended it a lot over the years — in 2024 I’m planning on reading The Daily Stoic again every day and I highly recommend it a as a daily grounding and reflection exercise. Daily might seem like a high-frequency to complete something, but I’ve found it’s actually easier to do something daily, especially as the habit builds over time.

If you’ve read any of these and either recommend or don’t recommend them, please reply and let me know! If you’d like even more suggestions, I have a book list from 2019 and a book list from 2020 you can check out.

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