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My 5-star reads of 2023

Reading Time: 10 minutes

I read a tonne of books every year, and track all of my reads, from 5-star to 1-star, on Goodreads (check out my profile and reading lists here.)

And because I religiously track what I’ve read, I’m always asked for recommendations by friends and colleagues. So, I thought, “Why not put them all in one place?”

Herewith, my lists, split into non-fiction and fiction. If you’d like the plain-text version, with no links, images, or reviews, check it out here.

My 5-star non-fiction reads of 2023

Cover of Bad Blood book
Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup by John Carreyrou

This book had me drawn in from the very beginning – I couldn’t put it down! Fascinating insights into Silicone Valley, the tech industry, medical ethics, and how easily we humans are fooled by charisma.

Cover of Be a Spider
Be a Spider, Build a Web: Sticky Content Marketing for Small Businesses by Rachel Klaver

A handy, easy-to-read reference guide for small business marketing, with lots of stories, examples, and straightforward steps you can put into practice immediately. Comes with a helpful free downloadable workbook.

Cover of Bittersweet
Bittersweet: How Sorrow and Longing Make Us Whole by Susan Cain

A powerful, evocative, and even poignant book. It is a blend of research, reflections, and stories, and on multiple occasions had me close to tears, if not actually crying (turns out I score quite highly on the Bittersweet Quiz!)

Cover of Do The Work
Do the Work by Steven Pressfield

I always forget about Resistance… Then wonder why I’m finding it hard to create and ship. This book is an utter gem for reminding me why it’s hard, and what to do about it!

Cover of Driving to Treblinka
Driving to Treblinka: A long search for a lost father by Diana Witchel

A haunting, devastating, and yet somehow hopeful book of lots, grief, tragedy, and family. I imagine the tales in this book will remain with me for a very long time.

Cover of Feminist Fight Club
Feminist Fight Club: An Office Survival Manual for a Sexist Workplace by Jessica Bennett

As entertaining as it is informative and practical. Loads of tactics and advice to help you navigate the ridiculous scenarios that so many women and minorities face on the daily in the workplace.

Cover of Gentle Power
Gentle Power: A Revolution in How We Think, Lead, and Succeed Using the Finnish Art of Sisu by E. Elisabet Lahti

A deeply researched and deeply personal book, full of insights and practical ways to apply the principle of gentle power in our lives and work, exploring both the light AND dark sides of the concepts of sisu, power, and gentleness.

Cover of How to Change
How to Change: The Science of Getting from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be by Katy Milkman

An easy read with highly practical advice. Unlike what is typical for this genre (one person’s experience that turns into “This is how I did it so you should too”), this book is based on evidence from research, along with anecdotes from the author and others to bring the principles to life.

Cover of How to Work with (Almost) Anyone
How to Work with (Almost) Anyone: Five Questions for Building the Best Possible Relationships by Michael Bungay Stanier

Like all MBS books, this is pithy, fun, and practical. And I love that the word “almost” is in the title because, let’s face it, not everyone WANTS to get along with others.
This book will help you up your interpersonal skills and recognise opportunities to make things work better at work, home, and with friends and family.

Cover of Joyful
Joyful: The Surprising Power of Ordinary Things to Create Extraordinary Happiness by Ingrid Fetell Lee

This book is delightful in so many ways – from the premise of 10 aesthetic elements that bring us joy, through to the writing and storytelling, to the fantastic summary provided in the ‘Joyful Toolkit’ as the final chapter.
 
I read it with a book club, and we had some of our most fun, insightful, joyful, and engaged conversations yet.

Cover of Kāinga
Kāinga: People, Land, Belonging by Paul Tapsell

A deeply personal and deeply researched reflection on Aotearoa New Zealand’s past, present, and future, and what it will take to heal the social, economic, and environmental wounds of colonisation to create a more just and equitable society for all.

Cover of Normal Sucks
Normal Sucks: How to Live, Learn, and Thrive, Outside the Lines by Jonathan Mooney

Equal parts heartbreaking and inspiring. The book traces the development of the concept of “normal” from a mathematical idea to a socialised goal for which we are punished or rewarded throughout our lives. The author shares how the myth of normal has affected him, and so many others, in every aspect of their lives, and shows us that we have the power to redefine “normal” for ourselves and our society.

Cover of Pig Wrestling
Pig Wrestling: Clean Your Thinking to Create the Change you Need by Pete Lindsay and Mark Bawden

A practical, useful framework presented in a fun and memorable way. I’ll definitely be recommending this book to clients and friends!

Cover of Playing Big
Playing Big: Practical Wisdom for Women Who Want to Speak Up, Create, and Lead by Tara Mohr

This book really got me thinking about how I think, the stories I tell myself, and how I show up. I’ll be adding it to my permanent library so that I can come back to it as many times as I need to absorb the multiple layers of insight, tools and strategies.

Cover of Right Kind of Wrong
Right Kind of Wrong: The Science of Failing Well by Amy Edmondson

A fantastically read-able and practical book on the art and science of failing well so you can move forward and do things better. This book weaves together different approaches such as Lean (Toyota Production System) and High Reliability Organisations (HRO), along with plenty of other research, illustrated by real-life stories.

Cover of The Complete Maus
The Complete Maus by Art Spiegelman

Heavy, heartbreaking, and yet somehow also beautiful. I’m going to be thinking about this one for a long time to come.

Cover of The Dip
The Dip: A Little Book That Teaches You When to Quit by Seth Godin

Short book. Mind-blowing ideas. Quitting is sometimes the very best thing we can do for our success – that insight along is going to help me make better life and business decisions.

Cover of The Gifts of Imperfection
The Gifts of Imperfection by Brené Brown

I’m a huge fan of all Brené Brown’s work, and this book in particular. A challenging yet compassionate reminder that we are all human, and it is not our attempts at perfection that make us worthy, but rather the simple fact that we are alive. Brown explores the difference between guilt and shame, and looks at how we can overcome shame to live a wholehearted life.

Cover of The Joy of Finding FISH
The Joy of Finding FISH: A Journey of Fulfilment, Inspiration, Success and Happiness by Christopher Miller

An excellent book – full of practical advice and lots of prompts and questions to ponder and respond to (along with convenient spaces in the book to do just that). More than just a nice-sounding theory, the author weaves in aspects of his personal story to show how we can use the FISH framework to create a meaningful, fulfilling, challenging, and joyful life.

Cover of The Talking Cure
The Talking Cure: Normal People, Their Hidden Struggles and the Life-Changing Power of Therapy by Gillian Straker

Spoiler alert: you are not alone – millions of other people are going through whatever it is that you are facing, what you’re feeling is most likely entirely normal, and it can help to talk to someone who is not emotionally connected to the situation you’re facing.
Fascinating insights, illuminating case stories, and a brilliant way to learn more about the process of therapy, and common human challenges.

Cover of The Thin Book of Trust
The Thin Book of Trust: An Essential Primer for Building Trust at Work by Charles Feltman

Don’t let the shortness of this book fool you – it’s jam-packed with wisdom, insights, and practical actions you can take to build trust, rebuild trust when you’ve broken it, and helping others develop their trustworthiness.

Cover of The War of Art
The War of Art: Winning the Inner Creative Battle by Steven Pressfield

Simple, profound, actionable. Resistance is real, but has no real power except that which I transfer to it.
And best/worst of all, the insights in this book make me 100% accountable for whether and how I show up to do the work. Simultaneously confronting and empowering.

Cover of Turning Pro
Turning Pro by Steven Pressfield

Short and pithy – don’t mistake the small size of the book as an indication of its impact. Lots of thought-provoking ideas to chew over. I know I’ll be coming back to this one again and again.

Cover of Unicorns Over Rainbows
Unicorns Over Rainbows: Make lasting, meaningful change in your organization by Nathan Donaldson

Anyone can force short-term change, but that approach will always fail long-term. This book advocates for small, incremental, good change, and sets out four factors required to create a sustainable culture of continuous improvement.

Cover of Unleash Your Awesome
Unleash Your Awesome: How to Live and Work from your Zone of Genius by Daria Williamson

I’m the author, so of course I’m going to give it 5 stars 🤩
If you want to discover your Genius strengths and use them to create the kind of life and work you’ve been dreaming of, this book is for you.
It’s a coaching programme with me in written (or audio) format – discover your strengths and develop practical strategies to unleash your awesome!

My 5-star fiction reads of 2023

Cover of 11-22-63
11.22.63 by Stephen King

Classic King – in-depth stories, characters you care about (or hate), twists and turns, and a creeping sense of dread stalking you throughout the book.

Cover of Birds in Flight
Birds in Flight by Anni Taylor

Missing persons, roadtrips, family dramas – this story has it all. Kept me riveted from start to finish.

Cover of Everyone in My Family Has Killed Someone
Everyone in My Family Has Killed Someone (Ernest Cunningham, #1) by Benjamin Stevenson

Quirky mystery with laconic Australian humour woven though. I absolutely loved the narrator’s asides and explanations – I learned so much about the guiding principles of good murder mysteries thanks to these.

Cover of Everyone on This Train is a Suspect
Everyone on This Train Is a Suspect (Ernest Cunningham, #2) by Benjamin Stevenson

Another stunning turn from Ernest Cunningham, this time stuck on a train with a bunch of people with motive, means, and the know-how to commit murder. Lots of intrigue, and plenty of amusement along the way.

Cover of Everything is Beautiful and Everything Hurts
Everything is Beautiful and Everything Hurts by Josie Shapiro

As an Auckland-based runner, it was so cool to follow Mickey’s marathon course in my mind as I followed her story on the page. A touching and inspiring read.

Cover of Firekeepers Daughter
Firekeeper’s Daughter by Angeline Boulley

This book had me gripped from the get-go! Beautiful writing, an engaging storyline, and lots of insights into the value (and challenges) of integrating indigenous knowledge and traditions with the demands and expectations of non-indigenous structures.

Cover of In the Lives of Puppets
In the Lives of Puppets by T.J. Klune

Delightful, whimsical, funny, and thought-provoking. What makes a puppet, and what makes a human?

Cover of Last One at the Party
Last One at the Party by Bethany Clift

Beautiful, gruesome, funny, and poignant. Post-Covid, the world faces a new pandemic that wipes out everyone in London, and, as the protagonist discovers, almost everyone else in the surrounding areas.

Cover of Lessons in Chemistry
Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus

I would give this book 6 stars if I could! Quirky, interesting, and entertaining read about a woman in the 60s who was determined to live and work her way, structures and expectations be damned. Side note: Six-Thirty is one of my favourite book characters of all time!

Cover of The Passage
The Passage (The Passage, #1) by Justin Cronin

This is one of my perennial re-reads. Not only is it a bloody entertaining read, it brilliantly covers themes of humanity, accountability, ethics, the social contract, and what really matters to us as individuals and society.

Cover of The Twelve
The Twelve (The Passage, #2) by Justin Cronin

Cronin creates a thoroughly believable world and then weaves an absorbing, all-encompassing tale about it. I’ve read this book several times (along with the rest of the trilogy), and it never gets old.

Cover of The City of Mirrors
The City of Mirrors (The Passage, #3) by Justin Cronin

The culmination of a fantastic trilogy. It’s haunting and bittersweet, and like the rest of the trilogy left me pondering what it is to be human, and that our diversity is what helps us to be strong enough to overcome the challenges we face.

Cover of The Lost Apothecary
The Lost Apothecary by Sarah Penner

Unputdownable! Intriguing premise, and a great murder mystery tale to boot.
 I also loved the commentary on women’s place (or lack thereof) in much of recorded history.

Cover of The Maid
The Maid (Molly the Maid, #1) by Nita Prose

Funny, sweet, and enough twists and turns to keep you guessing. Murder mystery at its finest (and most quirky!)

Reading analysis

In 2023, I read 180 books, and rated them as follows:

Fiction – 85 booksNon-fiction – 91 books
5-star01
4-star123
3-star3415
2-star2547
1-star1425

Based on these stats, I’d say I’m better at choosing good non-fiction books compared to fiction ones!

P.S. A note on links: Goodreads links are non-affiliate. Amazon links are affiliate – that means that if you purchase something after clicking an Amazon link, I may earn a small commission, at no extra cost to you.

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