12 Books You Should Read

My Favorite Reads from 2023

Jen Bradbury
Jan 09 · 5 min read

In 2023, I read 140 books, not including most of the picture books I read to the girls. The vast majority were physical books, but I also  listened to a fair amount of audiobooks (for the first year ever.) Doing so upped the volume of books I read, particularly non-fiction. 

Because I love other people's year end reading wrap-ups, I wanted to do the same. These are my favorite reads from 2023. I'm using the word favorite intentionally. I'm not claiming these were the best books; just ones that impacted me in some way.  They also weren't all published in 2023. 

My favorites, in the order that I read them (starting in Jan, 2023): 

Before I Let Go

Before I Let Go: This romance was beautiful and raw. I read it early last year and still think about it regularly. 

Original Blessing

Original Blessing: I recommend this book to everyone. It's a paradigm shifting work on sin and our identities as children of God.  

All My Knotted Up Life

All My Knotted Up Life: No one is more surprised than me to see a Beth Moore book on my favorite reads list. I listened to this on audio, which I highly recommend. Beth's narration is fabulous. Beth's journey is relatable, honest, and left me in tears at multiple points. I still think about her chapter on walking into a new church in a new denomination for the first time.    


Bossypants: I know, I know. This book is OLD. I listened to it on audio though and Tina's narration is amazing. I laughed all the way through it and found myself intentionally doing things so that I could listen to it more.  

Hello Beautiful

Hello Beautiful: I loved Ann's Dear Edward so her new book was immediately on my radar. Then I heard person after person describe it as a retelling of Little Women, which is definitely not my favorite so I almost didn't pick it up. I'm so glad I read it. It's a family drama that's deep, emotional, and complex. I loved it from start to finish.  


Drowning: This book was propulsive for me. Despite being a full-time working mom, I read it in ONE night because I couldn't put it down. That's the highest compliment that I can give a book.  


Search: This book is about the call process for a pastor at a UCC church. It's fiction... But it sure rings true. As a church worker, I LOVED it and honestly believe it should be required reading for any church search team, in any denomination. But beyond that, I think it's such an interesting reflection on humanity and what we want and need from each other.  

Good Inside

Good Inside: This parenting book has been EVERYWHERE this year and there's a reason for that. It's phenomenal. I have no idea if Dr. Becky is religiously affiliated in anyway, but this book sure builds upon the idea of Image Dei. I asked Doug to read this and we've talked about it endlessly. More than that, though, it has definitely influenced how we parent (in lots of positive ways.) 

Between The Listening And The Telling

Between the Listening and the Telling: I've been a fan of Mark Yaconelli for years, ever since he danced under a disco ball at NYWC years ago. This book is quintessentially him. It's a phenomenal exploration of storytelling that has influenced my preaching and writing, but beyond that, just the way I relate to other people. 

Silent Came The Monster

Silent Came the Monster: This is another book that I'm surprised to find on my favorites list. I keep wondering why this book worked for me. But it did. It's about a series of Shark Attacks in the east in 1916. I loved it and I continue to think about it a lot. 

Tell The Wolves I'm Home

Tell the Wolves I'm Home: This is a backlist novel about AIDs in the early 1980s that was stunning.  

The Last Love Note

The Last Love Note: This is one of the very last books I read in 2023. It's about early onset Alzheimer's and is a heartbreakingly beautiful (and raw) exploration of grief that made me ugly cry throughout the book. I don't think I will ever forget the shower scene (and it's not what you think... Get your head out of the gutter.)  

3 authors I binged on this year: Ali Hazelwood, Taylor Adams,  Sarah Morgan - Their books didn't make my favorites list, but they're worth noting because I loved their writing enough to go back and read most or all of their backlists.

 The book I released this year: Faith Beyond Youth Group 

The book I wrote that got acquired by another publisher: Called