I read at total 72 books last year. That’s an average of six books a month. Nearly three-fourths of those titles were audiobooks and two-thirds of the books I finished were non-fiction. Below are my top 10 books, not including the Bible (which I re-read in its entirety each year using this Bible reading plan).
My Top 10 Books of 2023
Here are my ten favorite reads of last year, in the order I finished them:
1. Deep Work by Cal Newport
Cal Newport’s Deep Work is all about reducing distractions and improving focus. The first part discusses why it’s so important we learn how to work this way, and the second part of the book offers practical advice for doing so.As I began implementing changes to how I work based on Newport’s research, I saw rapid and marked improvement in focus and reading speed.
But the book also revolutionized the way I memorize scripture, enabling me to easily recall addresses for individual verses, even in the middle of lengthy passages. (Newport was discussing a method for quickly memorizing decks of random cards as a way to strengthen memory muscles, but the technique adapted beautifully to Bible memory, as well).
2. Range by David Epstein
In his fascinating book Range, Epstein paints a compelling case for widening rather than narrowing our focus in academic, athletic, and artistic pursuits as a way to cultivate innovation and breakthrough thinking. Reading this book made me especially thankful for homeschooling.
It’s not that one CAN’T learn to think broadly in a traditional classroom — it’s just that our modern educational system favors benchmarked learning and early specialization, often at the expense of making interdisciplinary connections or pursuing tangential topics. Modern classrooms have little time or patience for the kind of “mental meandering” and experimentation that is essential to creativity and innovation.
3. Essentialism by Greg McKeown
Greg McKeown’s transformative classic, Essentialism, is all about editing our lives of non-essential stuff so as to give our time, energy, and attention to the things that matter most.
McKeown addresses several helpful topics, including the necessity of learning to say no graciously, how to increase productivity and effectiveness by removing obstacles, and — my favorite — the vital importance of play.
The author argues convincingly that when we preserve margin for play (as when we get sufficient sleep), we are far more productive in our waking, non-leisure hours than when we skimp on either of those often under-appreciated pursuits.
4. Never Split the Difference by Chris Voss
The author of Never Split the Difference takes the principles he has learned as the FBI’s lead international kidnapping negotiator and applies them to ordinary, everyday exchanges such as negotiating a raise at work or haggling for a better price on a new car. He offers proven and effective tips for almost any kind of bargaining you might need or want to do while giving readers an incredibly interesting inside look at what goes on during high-profile hostage negotiations.
6. Barking up the Wrong Tree by Eric Barker
The surprising thing about Barking Up the Wrong Tree is not that so many common beliefs about success are, in fact, wrong, but that curious scientists took the time to test the mistaken theories and report on their findings. Barker gathers all the pertinent results of such studies and stitching them together into a fascinating and beautifully easy-to-follow book.
Our family listened to the audiobook version of this book on a road trip but we were compelled to stop the recording every few paragraphs to discuss and expand upon what we were learning. The book is bursting with great food for thought! For more on one of those discussions, check out this post on the connection between storytelling and good mental health.
7. Smarter, Faster, Better by Charles Duhigg
Smarter, Faster, Better is every bit as riveting as Charles Duhigg’s New York Times bestseller, The Power of Habit. In this thought provoking book, the author talks about our psychological need for closure, and how people who become too focused on closure when setting goals often tend to stick with superficial, easily finished tasks, sometimes to the neglect of deeper, harder, more meaningful work.
That’s why we need to set stretch goals AND smart goals. Dream big, then break those big dreams into manageable chunks of well-defined short-term goals. Duhigg gives great advice for doing this, and practical tips for achieving more than you ever thought possible.
8. Hard is Not the Same Thing as Bad by Abbie Halberstadt
My dear friend Abbie Halberstadt’s new book examines many of the challenges women face in all their various roles — as wives, mothers, daughters, friends — and offers practical strategies for thriving in the midst of the hard.
Hard is Not the Same Thing as Bad reminds us to face what trials inevitably come our way with grace and intentionality, recognizing them for the character-refining agents they are. What makes Abbie’s book particularly potent is the fact it’s infused with so much of God’s Word. Get it. Read it. Take its transformative message to heart. Your life will be better — and your burdens will feel lighter — as a result.
8. Everything Sad is Untrue by Daniel Nayeri
My daughter Bethany recently read Daniel Nayeri’s autobiographical novel Everything Sad is Untrue and raved about it so profusely that the rest of the family had to read it as well. It’s written from the perspective of a 12-year-old Iranian refugee and is part myth, part memoir, part history, and part cultural commentary.
Named Best of the Year by both the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, the book won a dozen other prestigious awards as well, which is somewhat surprising considering the fact his mother’s conversion to Christianity plays such a pivotal role in this beautifully spun narrative.
9. Breaking Up with Sugar by Molly Carmel
I packed on quite a few pounds last year, thanks to a painful hip injury, as stressful move, and menopause. So I’ve been feeling the need to make some dietary changes for some time now.
Molly Carmel offers great advice for dropping unwanted pounds permanently. Her solution? Ditch refined sugar and flour. For good.
Breaking Up with Sugar makes a compelling argument for why doing so is key to conquering weight problems and improving your overall health. Her program is backed by scientific research and endorsed by myriad success stories.
10. Crazy Busy by Kevin deYoung
Other than the Bible, Crazy Busy was the last book I read in 2023, hoping it would help set the tone in 2024.
Not that I want to be crazy busy this year. But that I recognize the fact my life consistently drifts in that direction and would like to counterbalance that.
You, too? If your own tendency toward busy-ness has led to stress and distraction, you’ll find helpful tips for turning things around in Kevin DeYoung’s “mercifully short book about a really big problem.”
That completes my Top 10 Book List of 2023. What were your favorite titles from last year. Please share in the comment section below. I’m always looking for my next great read.
PLEASE NOTE: This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase through any of those links, we may receive a small referral fee, at no extra cost to you. Such fees help defray the cost of running this website. This, in turn, allows us to continue offering our readers a wealth of FREE printable resources. So thank you for your support!