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  • Writer's pictureKristina Elyse Butke

2023 Year in Books

A collage showing book covers for my 2023 books - 2023 Year in Books
Image via Goodreads Screenshots

This was a strange year for me. I made a goal of reading 30 YA fantasies but didn't come close to meeting that, largely because there was a lot I couldn't get into for some reason. The same thing happened with fiction on the whole--I DNF'd a lot this year. Not that things were bad, but I just couldn't get into the books I chose to read. I feel like the problem was more psychological than anything else--there was some sort of mental block with my reading.

And yet, I read so much. It turned out my reading saving grace was manga and comics. For some reason, no matter how much my brain is weighed down by things, I can always read them, and I love them so much. So, the vast majority of my reading was devoted to manga and comics, and of those, I read an astounding amount of BL, my favorite genre. I basically gave into comfort reading this year, hence BL dominating my list.

I never expected I'd read so many books though. Over 350 (You can see my grand total and all my books here)! My original goal was 150 books total, and I blew past that. So, it's strange....I felt like I couldn't read, and yet I read a lot.

Now for the part you've been waiting rankings showcasing the best of the genres I read this year!

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BL: Lullaby of the Dawn by Ichika Yuno (ongoing, Vol. 1-3)

This is a fantasy with an interesting premise, about a young man who is tasked with protecting the island from the haunted Black Sea, and the youth who loves him. The story and art are really engrossing and I count this as one of my favorites of the year.

Manga: Perfect World by Rie Aruga (completed series, Vol. 1-12)

I read this romance series in its entirety and it's very emotional. I definitely got teary-eyed for part of it, too. It's the story of a woman who reunites with her boyhood crush only to find that he is now in a wheelchair. The manga chronicles the obstacles and trials of these two people who want to be together but often seem forced apart. I enjoyed it thoroughly and it's such a sweet love story.

Comic: Everything is Ok by Debbie Tung (Graphic novel)

I've been dealing with depression and anxiety for a really long time and found this book on Amazon on sale. It chronicles the author/artist's own struggles with mental illness and I read it to be a comfort to me while I'm dealing with a rough patch in my life. I didn't feel alone as I read this.

Manhwa: Steel Under Silk by snob (webcomic, ongoing)

Every Saturday this BL posts to Lezhin (the mature app only) and every Saturday I look forward to the newest episode with bated breath. This historical series is about a young man who was born a noble, but his father was betrayed and his family slaughtered. He vows vengeance on the man who ordered and carried out the murders and infiltrates his place of work and home as a lover boy kept on the side. The intrigue, art, and story have me glued to the screen.

YA Fantasy: The Stolen Heir by Holly Black

I read very little YA fantasy this year, and out of all of them, this one I devoured in one sitting. Set in the world of Elfhame years after the events in The Folk of the Air series, this book is filled with the stirrings of love and the mechanisms of treachery, as one should always be wary of the fae folk.

Best Series: Heaven Official's Blessing by Mò Xiāng Tóng Xiù

I attempted to read a couple series this year but DNF'd the other ones. Heaven Official's Blessing is the only one to survive, and it's a five-star series from me. The slow-burn romance, eternal devotion, trials and misfortunes...this series is an emotional rollercoaster and I absolutely love it.

Literary: Yellowface by R.F. Kuang

I know some places have this book marketed as a thriller, but it didn't feel like one to me. It's an amalgam of all sorts of stuff, centered on a very dislikeable protagonist who steals a popular author's manuscript after that author dies unexpectedly, and the repercussions of that artistic theft. But it's so much more than that. This book skewers the world of publishing, social media, and literary criticism, but also takes a close look at racism in both casual and insidious forms. I gave this book five stars and continue to think about it.

Short Story: The Six Deaths of the Saint by Alix E. Harrow

I have to admit this story took me two tries to get into, largely because the book is mostly written in second person, which was a little jarring for me. Once I got over that hurdle, though, this story proved itself to be mesmerizing. It's about a girl who becomes the ultimate weapon at the Prince's side and her devotion as she helps him grow in power.

Horror: The Spite House by Johnny Compton

This book has imagery and a voice that I can't forget. A story about a family on the run and a father desperate to provide for them by becoming the caretaker of Masson House, this is more than just a simple haunted house story. The ending still haunts me.

Adult Fantasy: Starling House by Alix E. Harrow

Harrow makes it on the list again! I should count her as one of my favorite authors now because everything I've read of hers, I've liked. Anyway, this was hard for me to classify because it's being marketed as gothic horror, but I didn't really think it reads like a horror novel. There are far more fantastical elements to it, so I'm counting it as adult fantasy. With a creepy (and perhaps sentient) house, beasts in the mists, and the mystery of the Underland, this book was worth the read.

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That's it for my rankings for 2023! Although I did acquire books in the categories of middle grade, romance, and nonfiction, I just never got around to reading them in 2023, which is why they were left of this year's list. Perhaps for 2024 I'll read more diversely again and you'll see more categories than before.

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed this list and I'll see you next year!

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I can't forget about my contributions to Comics Beat this year, either! If you want to see what I picked for the "best ofs" for 2023, check out these articles:


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