Here we go again with our 5(ish) favorite reads of 2023! We try very hard to keep it to five, but it’s not always possible. So, there may be five or six suggestions, an A and a B list, memorable reads or just plain marvelous books.
This year we’re presenting our lists in bite-size chunks to make them even more digestible. We have more than 150 titles for you to sink your teeth into.
We hope to inspire you to read – and play! – some more.

Emma V

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone – J.K. Rowling

Definitely not my first time reading this book…I reread it this year, just because I feel like it is so lovely losing yourself in the coziness and magic of the Wizarding World! I don’t think it would be easy for me to find a book to replace this as my Number 1. The descriptions of Hogwarts and the shops in Diagon Alley, the characters, the creatures…they are so detailed and well thought out, you could just see it in front of your eyes. One of my favorite things about this book is the ingenious and sometimes silly names Rowling creates for all her characters, plants, creatures and spells.

Creepy Cross-Stitch – Lindsay Swearingen

I have been wanting to try my hand at these patterns for a while, so this fall I finally sat down to do it. I started on the “Dark Deco Pattern”: a dark, elegant, art-deco style flower pattern. With the instructions and clear patterns, it is relatively easy to make. What I like most about Swearingen’s patterns is the beautiful use of colors on dark backgrounds and the subtle macabre details she adds to everyday scenes; one has ghosts hanging out in a sunroom full of houseplants!

Emily Wilde’s Encyclopaedia of Faeries – Heather Fawcett

Young academic Emily Wilde sets out to study the fairies of wintry Ljosland. She stays in a small village whose inhabitants are terrified of the fairies living in the nearby woods. Emily is not your average protagonist, as she, like the fairies, is elusive and hard to get to know, but this makes her an interesting character all the same. I like how Emily is so down to earth and her thoughts and worries are so recognizable.

This story is both adventurous and homey, haunting but heartwarming. I also enjoyed the dark academia vibes and the beautifully described scenery. Can’t wait for the second volume to come out in January!

The Hound of the Baskervilles – Arthur Conan Doyle

This one I read a long time ago, but this year, I listened to the audiobook version. The looming threat of the hound, the dark moors, the mysterious characters and unexpected twists makes The Hound of the Baskervilles such an exciting story! I also like how well-described the characters are; Sherlock Holmes’ quirks and funny habits make them come to life. I also really appreciate how there is always a sense of comfort and coziness in these stories, no matter what happens. There must be at least one scene in every story describing Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson chatting or bickering over some drink in their comfortable sitting room.

The Fairy Bargains of Prospect Hill – Rowenna Miller

A lovely story about two sisters, their complicated but strong bond, and their love for the family farm. Set in early 20th century America, big themes are industrialization versus idyllic life on the farm and the marginal position of women at the time. The Canner women are strong though, and clever, as they use their skill of fairy bargaining in times of need. The fairies of Prospect Hill are intriguing but dangerous creatures.

In this story, I found it interesting that fairy-bargaining is a craft passed on by the protagonists’ grandmother, great aunt and mother. It creates a sense of sisterhood and independence in a society and time where women could hardly own their own money. The story includes lovely and elaborate descriptions of the materials, rituals and rhymes used in the bargaining. I also loved how Miller quoted ancient folk rhymes and fairy songs at the beginning of each chapter. They are so enchanting!

Iris M.

Emily Wilde’s Encyclopedia of Fairies – Heather Fawcett

The Witch King – Martha Wells

Snow-Walker – Catherine Fisher

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet – Becky Chambers

Nimona – ND Stevenson

With a shout-out to Vrienden & Vijanden: Fantastic Stories 2023


Tokyo Express – Seicho Matsumoto

A double love-suicide by two lovers on a beach. Is it really what it seems? A young detective from Tokyo doesn’t quite buy it.

This book is an absolute joy to read. It’s fast-paced, and the use of public transport as part of the puzzles is so much fun to try to figure out. Originally published in 1958, this 100-page novel packs a punch of complexity and a conclusion of epic proportions.

A Wild Sheep Chase – Haruki Murakami

Murakami is my favorite author, and I love him for his magical realist writing, but this book was the first one I’ve read of his that had a crime-noir feel. This quasi-detective tale follows an unnamed, chain-smoking narrator and his adventures in Tokyo and Hokkaido in 1978. He’s looking for sheep with the shape of a star in its wool. Very trippy, very Murakami. It’s a roller coaster of a book I couldn’t put down.

What You’re Looking For Is in the Library – Michiko Aoyama

Reading this book felt like a hug. I love how the book made me want to sit down with each character to have a chat while enjoying Japanese roasted tea and Kuremiyado Honeydome cookies. As a bookseller, I felt a certain amount of pride in my job. It was amazing how Mrs. Komachi knew exactly what extra book to put on the recommendations list. The extra books never had anything to do with what the characters came into the library searching for, but somehow, those were the books that helped them. Books about learning how to use Excel? Why not read this Japanese kids’ book about two mice? I liked how the lives of the characters were intertwined and the subtlety of that  sprinkled throughout. Their issues and struggles were all relatable to some degree, and I think that really added to the charm of the characters. Loved the list of book titles mentioned on the last page. Immediately looked all of them up to have a peek, and they all appeared as charming as the characters had described them.

Almond – Sohn Won-Pyung

A coming-of-age novel about a Korean boy who has a brain condition that causes him to lack emotions and struggle to find his place in the world. Finished this book while drinking coffee in a café, and I had to try my hardest not to cry. My eyes welled up and I felt a lump forming in my throat, but damn, I couldn’t cry in a café. Loved this book. Absolutely adored it. I’ll cherish it and recommend it to all.

Legends & Lattes – Travis Baldree

If Dungeons & Dragons had a baby with Animal Crossing, this is what you would get.

An orc decides to put down her sword to open a cute coffee shop in a world where no one except dwarfs know what coffee is. Viv is joined by friends and neighbors who help with her endeavor. Contains very vivid descriptions of roasting coffee beans, steaming milk and delicious pastries that’ll make you drool. Will comfort you to the bone.