My Best Reads of 2023

Time for my annual post of great reads for the previous year. Without further ado, here are My Best Reads of 2023 based on the results of my 2023 Goodreads Reading Challenge.

My 2023 in Books

  • Number of books read: 80 (goal was 60)
  • Ratings: 5 stars = 10; 4 stars = 46; 3 stars = 20; 2 stars= 3, 1 star or unrated = 1
  • Fiction: 69; Non-Fiction: 11
  • Books with a Minnesota connection: 19
  • Pages read = 25,725

The Best Book I Read in 2023—Finalists

(In no particular order)

(click on the titles to read my reviews)

The Winners by Frederik Backman

Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie

Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus

A Hard Ticket Home by David Housewright

The Fireballer by Mark Stevens

My Best Read of 2023—WINNER

Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus

WHY? Choosing was really tough this year, as always. Each book was outstanding. I highly recommend them all. I chose this book for the iconic main character, Elizabeth Zott. Even her name tells us she won’t be anything close to normal. And to me, great books are great because of the unforgettable characters, especially the leads. Throw in some sharp observations and subtle commentary about the rampant sexism of the 1960s and the nascent women’s rights movement rattling the White Male Establishment cage, and sprinkle the book with memorable supporting characters and a well-designed plot, and you’ve got a classic in the making.

This wasn’t a book I’d have chosen for myself, but my wife read it for her book club and almost insisted I read it. Thanks, sweetie. 🙂

My Rating System

I follow the guidelines. A three-star rating means I liked a book and thought it was better than average, although not a book I would enthusiastically recommend. The curve is skewed because truly awful books rarely get published, despite the revolution in independent publishing that literally allows anyone to publish any piece of writing for a relatively low cost. I also factor in my reading experience and ability to filter out books I don’t think I’ll enjoy and populate that list with books I expect will be better than average.

I put a lot of stock in the consensus of reviews, especially when a book has received enough reviews that the rating will represent a broad consensus and isn’t skewed by “friends-and-family” reviews. F-and-Fs are reviews that seem to be written by people who know the author and either want to give or are coerced into giving a glowing review because of personal pressure or a sense of obligation. Those reviews are pretty obvious when a book has less than ten or twenty reviews, especially when there is a one- or two-star review that takes the author to task for poor editing, proofreading, or in some cases, inferior craft. A few books received no stars—not because they were worse than one-star books, but because I chose not to rate them for personal reasons.

My Questions for You: How many books did you read last year? What was your “best book I read in 2023”? What do you think of my finalists?


Online reviews are crucial for the survival of most authors. I’m pleased to have reached my goal of 200 total reviews and ratings for my Matt Lanier Thrillers.

Good or bad, reviews indicate that someone took time and/or spent money to read a book and share their opinion. The more reviews posted, the more likely it is that others will buy the book and read it. So if you read a book, especially a book written by a less well-known author, please consider posting a brief, honest review of that book on,,, or any other online review website.

If you’d like to post a review or rating of Straight River, Castle Danger, or Dangerous Straits, click on the images below, which will take you to their respective pages. It’s never too late, even if you read the books months ago. 

Straight River Cover  Castle Danger PB cover  Dangerous Straits PB cover

My goal in 2024 is to accumulate at least 50 reviews and/or ratings for Little Mountain, Big Trouble. Even though sales were excellent in 2023, the number of reviews lagged behind what I expected. Perhaps because a lot of kids read the book and aren’t old enough to have a or account.

Little Mountain, Big Trouble print cover

If you’d like to help me promote what I believe is my best book to date, please consider writing and posting an online review on behalf of the young person in your life who read the book. You don’t even have to write the review. You can just pass on what the young reader said about the book. Best of all, encouraging them to participate in the new gatekeeping of literature by the actual readers instead of the Big Five publishers will empower them to keep reading and sharing their opinions with the world.

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