I'm a wife to my "Mr. Right". A momma of five. A maker of slow food and simple living. A collector of memories, a keeper of books, and a champion for books that make memories. An addict who likes my half-and-half with a splash of coffee. A fractured pot transformed by the One Who makes broken things beautiful. I heart homeschooling, brake for libraries, and am glad you're here with me on the journey! Be sure to subscribe to my monthly newsletter. Or, follow along with Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Google +, Youtube, or Pinterest.

Favorite Read Alouds & Read Alones in 2023

Reading by the fire

According to a recent report from the Washington Post, nearly 50% of American adults read 0 books in 2023. 33% finished reading at least 5 books. And sitting at the very top, 1% of the population read 50 books or more. The 1500-person test group represents a very small cross-section of humanity, in my opinion. Nonetheless, the statistics are disheartening and bear severe implications for the dwindling vocabularies, attention spans, and overall knowledge base of our citizenry.

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On the whole, homeschool moms tend to be a literary-rich lot. We read books. We discuss books. We collect books we'd like to read and discuss. It makes me wonder how much, if any, our numbers would've affected the data had the Post reached out to our tribe. No matter. We'll keep reading regardless.

As in years past, I kept an accurate log of my shelf life in 2023. Not including the dozens upon dozens of picture books, emergent readers, and illustrated chapter books I read, my total came to 108. A handful of those titles were in audio format, and an even smaller portion were digital. Most, though, were old-fashioned print copies. 

I shared whole lists of great titles with the Biblio-files community throughout the year. But today, I want to talk about the best of the best. Here's a peek at my favorite books from 2023 in every category, including the kid lit that I did not count in my final reading total.

Favorite Read Alouds & Read Alones in 2023

Picture Book

Locomotive by Brian Floca

The year is 1869. You gather with your family on a platform in Omaha, Nebraska, and board a great iron horse bound for San Fransisco, California, where the rest of your kin awaits your arrival. The journey that used to take months by horseback or covered wagon now takes only days thanks to the Transcontinental Railroad.

This book is a narrative look at westward expansion and the changes that the railroad brought to the land and its people. The beautiful watercolor illustrations give readers a peek at 19th-century American culture, the Native Americans of the West, national landmarks, and the expansive and diverse landscape of the United States.

Leveled Reader

Dust for Dinner by Ann Turner

One day, we were playing outside in the fields and the next day a black blizzard swept through our land. It was a rainless storm that covered everything with dust. Now, we must sell everything we own and move to Cal-i-for-ni-ay to work as farmhands. But will we have to sell old Sam, our farm dog, too?

This Level 3 book is a living literature look at one family's journey through the Dust Bowl, an often forgotten portion of the Great Depression era.

Illustrated Chapter Book

A Long Road on a Short Day by Gary Schmidt

Early one winter morning, Samuel and his father set out on foot with a treasured Barlow knife in hand. Mama needs a milk cow to feed the baby. Papa says they'll use the knife as payment. But how can one lone knife buy a cow? At the first farm they come to, Papa promises the knife in exchange for two tin lanterns. At the next house, he trades the lanterns for a book of poetry. And so it goes--all day, Papa trades for larger and more valuable items.

Fans of The Ox-Cart Man will appreciate the premise of this delightful story. I especially like how the father acknowledges the son's contributions and allows the boy to make the final trade of the day. When given a choice to keep a prized pony and cart all to himself, he selflessly remembers the needs of his mother and baby sister, and barters for a milk cow instead.

Middle-grade Fiction

The Van Gogh Deception by Deron Hicks

The truth is locked somewhere inside the boy. If only he could remember who he is, how he got to the National Gallery of Art in the first place, and why he's the key to uncovering the mastermind behind an international ring responsible for producing and selling fraudulent works of art. In this fast-paced kid-friendly crime thriller, "Art" (as he is temporarily dubbed) and his foster sister Camille are on the run. They have no idea who they can trust but they are determined to find Art's missing dad, the only one who can prove that a Van Gogh painting is a fake.

Please note: There are three uses of "freakin'" in the text. Additionally, Camille lives with her mom but has never met her father who lives in a different state.

Teen Fiction

The Winter King by Christine Cohen

For her whole life, Cora has been told the same two things: first, the king knows best, and second, following his rules will keep her safe. Since her father's death and her family's subsequent fall in social caste, however, she has wondered if there might be a better way. The rules seem only to choke and press down. One day, she overhears two village leaders talking about a mysterious book of secrets and determines to learn the truth about the king and the winter curse he's placed on the people.

This 2020 Christy Award-winning book is an allegory that points out the differences between following the rules of a religion and following the One True King. While it is technically a Christian YA, the faith elements are not overt and some sensitive readers might find it to be too dark for their liking.

Please note: The village of Hrimsby and its people are Norse-like and while familiar with the gods of neighboring villages worship the Winter King. Throughout the book, he is painted as a demanding taskmaster by the Aldormancy (the leaders of the village whom the king supposedly appointed to keep rule in his absence). The story includes a few mentions of drauger, the undead of the otherworld, who supposedly lurk in the shadows of the woods, scaring the villagers into following the heavy rules of the Aldormancy. The drauger parts of the story remind me of the depictions of the White Witches' minions in the movie version of The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe which are slightly more scary than those mentioned in the original book. The drauger are talked about in hushed tones by the villagers and only play a very minor role in the plot. Rest assured, good wins, and the real Winter King is shown to be good and true and worthy to be followed.

The book is a cross between Disney's Frozen and M. Night Shyamalan's The Village.

Mom Fiction

The Italian Ballerina by Kristy Cambron

Present Day- Delaney Coleman has just lost her beloved grandfather Courtney Coleman, a small-town doctor and WWII veteran when she receives a strange message from a family in Italy demanding she return a vintage suitcase from her grandfather's estate. Confused and grief-stricken, she travels to Italy to sort out the misunderstanding only to discover there's more at stake than just a timeworn piece of luggage. Its return will unlock the history of dozens and dozens of forgotten Jews.

1943- Famed British Ballerina Julia Bradbury and her dance partner must take refuge in Fatebenefratelli Hospital on Timber Island in Italy after their train car is bombed. While there, Julia lends a hand to the doctors and priests as they care for patients suffering from Syndrome K. When two US medics are smuggled in along with a young Jewish girl, Julia must make some decisions that will change the course of all of their lives.

This incredibly clean dual-timeline historical fiction is a sweeping saga that will introduce readers to a lesser-known portion of WWII history.

Mom Nonfiction

All My Knotted-Up Life by Beth Moore

Beth Moore has often referred to herself as a "cradle Christian" meaning church has played a major role in her life for as long as she can remember. But, as she also acknowledges, there's a difference between a religion and a relationship with Christ. In her very telling biography, Moore goes all the way back to her beginnings to recall her tumultuous childhood. Readers learn the details behind her sexual abuse at the hands of her father, her mother's mental health struggles, and her promiscuous teen years. Perhaps the most impactful parts of her story, however, are the chapters that deal with the infamous day she was asked to give the Mother's Day address at her home church--a decision that rocked the Southern Baptist Convention and put her ministry in a tailspin.

If history is to be trusted, I fully expect to receive a certain amount of criticism for recommending anything by Beth Moore. (The Christian community can often feel cannibalistic--we have a tendency to eat our own.) But I double-dog-dare anyone to read this book and NOT find it to be a humble and candid response to the past few years of fault-finding Ms. Moore has endured. She fills in the gaps of some troubling decisions made by the SBC that the average person wasn't privy to while also taking ownership of her own missteps.

Obviously, there are two sides to every story, but I think Beth Moore has just as much right to tell her side as anyone. I firmly believe a person can read a book about someone they may or may not align with on all points and still find value not only in their words but also in them. Should you choose to dive into this biography, I highly recommend you listen to it on audio because the southern dialect just won't come across the same on the written page, in my opinion.

I have no idea how my reading total would have swayed the Post's stats, if at all. But I'm certain that while the polls might not have been affected by what I read this past year, I sure was. I am not the same woman I was at the beginning of 2023 that I am at the close of it for having turned so many pages. 

I'm curious to know how many books you read this year and which were your favorites?

Looking for more lists like this?

Once a month I email a book list to the members of the Biblio-files. Every title on the list has been personally read and vetted by me and has been compiled by age range in order to help you navigate the library with your kids. In addition, I also include a few books that you should be aware of--books that contain explicit language, sexual agenda, graphic violence, etc. so that you can make an educated decision when/if your kids should ever be interested in reading any of them. What's more, members are invited to join me in a private Facebook group where we help each other find just the right books for our kids and each other. We'd love to have you join us!


  1. I didn’t read nearly enough books for myself since I had a baby this year! But I did enjoy the Potluck Club series and the Patchwork Mysteries!

    1. No worries. When I was in the baby years, I rarely had time to read. Different seasons will bring different demands on your time. I've not heard of either of those series, but it sounds like they are cozy reads which is perfect when you are in a busy stage of life.

  2. I personally read about 25 books this year! My goal is to read aloud more books during our homeschool this year!

    1. 25 is a great number! That's more than 2 a month. Good for you.

  3. I read 41 books this year--my personal high. My favorite picture book find was "Flowers for Sarajevo" by John McCutcheon. My favorite homeschool read aloud was "Little Women" by Louise May Alcott. And my personal favorite, the one that changed me the most this year was "Tattoos on the Heart" by Gregory Bole. Warning it is filled with the "f" word. While I usually stop reading books with language like this, I was able to look past it on this one.

    1. It sounds like you had a great year of reading! Little Women was a personal fave from a few years ago. That was a book I never read as a teen/young adult. I'm trying to catch up on all the classics that I never got around to when I was younger.

  4. I read 52 books in 2023. The previous few years I was reading around 22 books total; about 20 fiction and 2 nonfiction. So for 2023 my goal was simply to read more nonfiction, I didn't have a number in mind. I ended up reading 30 fiction and *22* nonfiction! A favorite new fiction author I found was Sarah Sundin!

  5. Good for you! That's more than double from your previous years. Was there a particular non-fiction you really valued?

    1. "Seeking Allah Finding Jesus" by Nabeel Qureshi was definitely the best non-fiction I read - highly recommend! I also enjoyed Michelle Obama's memoir "Becoming." Her book, kind of like you were saying about Beth Moore's book and not always agreeing with everything about the person or what they stand for, was still interesting to read - things like her upbringing and what it was like to live in the White House.

    2. My daughter read Seeking Allah Finding Jesus a couple of years ago and really liked it. I started Becoming when it first came out and got distracted by other books. I never got back to it. I wish more folks could understand that reading a person's book does not mean you endorse their choices. It just means that you want to understand more of humanity--folks who may be different from you. Reading widely helps you know how to better bear the light of Jesus to everyone, in my opinion. Glad you enjoyed those two titles! Thanks for sharing.

  6. Ummm... I did just find your yahoo email address (face palm. Ha!). I'll send you a message! Thanks again! Holy Hygge was one of my top reads for 2023. Also, The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom stands out. Take care!

    - Amy