What I Read in 2023 (and 2024 challenges!)

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What I Read in 2023 - ahumbleplace.com

It’s time for one of my favorite posts of the year: what I read in 2023! Reading not only allows me to grow and learn, but I also see it as a way to pamper myself. I have always loved to read and this appreciation has only grown as I’ve gotten older. Finding ways to fit it into my days has actually been a fun challenge and the results paid off quite a bit this last year as I read more books during the last 12 months than I have in a long time. Here’s a review of what I read in 2023 and my plans for 2024!

Overall Goal

My overall goal was to read 36 books this year, which worked out to 3 per month. With everything together, including the books I read for myself, the books I pre-read for and read with the kids, and books I read or finished for school, the total came to 98 books, which is the highest it has been….ever? At least since I began keeping track of how much I read in a year.

The number is a tad misleading, though, as the books I read for myself came to 34. This includes a few school books that were either also on my to-be-read list or I would’ve read at some point anyway. I’ll still call the year a success because 98 books total is nothing to scoff at, but next year I plan to be more intentional about getting to 36 books that I read for myself.

The Challenges

Tea and Ink Society Classics Reading Challenge (9/12)

The Tea and Ink Soceity Classics Reading Challenge was a new challenge for me as my favorite of the challenges (Back to the Classics) took a hiatus this year. I was very happy with this one, however, and it filled the classics (before 1970) role nicely. This challenge had a theme each month, but because I have to fit reading in when I can, I decided to just use the prompts to read books whenever I was able to get to them. Here are the categories and what I read for each (the strike throughs are those categories that I didn’t get to):

  1. A classic detective novelMiss. Pinkerton by Mary Roberts Rinehart (1932)
  2. A book with a character’s name in the titleMy Ántonia by Willa Cather (1918)
  3. A classic fairy tale collection (I started to read Hans Christian Andersen fairy tales with C, but we did not finish it.)
  4. A classic Japanese novel or short story collectionNight on the Galactic Railroad and Other Stories from Ihatov by Kenji Miyazawa (Galactic Railroad was published in 1927; Miyazawa died in 1933)
  5. A book with a movie/TV adaptation you’ve already seenNorthanger Abbey by Jane Austen (1817 – I really like the Felicity Jones adaptation!)
  6. A classic set at seaThe Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway (1952)
  7. A narrative poem or collection of poetrySelected Poems by Elizabeth Barrett Browning (Barrett Browning died in 1861)
  8. A classic by a Latin American author
  9. A Dickens novel
  10. A nonfiction classicThe Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis (1946)
  11. A classic fantasy novelThe Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (1943)
  12. A classic set in a place you want to visitThe Wheel on the School by Meindert DeJong (Netherlands – 1954)

Beyond The Bookends’ Reading Challenge (8/12)

I felt the need to have three challenges going this year because I’ve done three challenges for the last few years, so I found the Beyond the Bookends’ Reading Challenge in a Google search. It was a fine challenge and offered some good themes, but I won’t be doing it again in 2024, which I’ll explain more below. This was another theme-by-month challenge that I read whenever I had a chance. Here are the categories and the books I read for them:

  1. A book coming to the screen in 2023
  2. A historical romanceWhose Waves These Are by Amanda Dykes
  3. A novel about music, bands, and musicians
  4. A book about sistersThe Other Bennet Sister by Janice Hadlow
  5. A detective bookMiss Pym Disposes by Josephine Tey
  6. A full-cast audiobook (I listened to audiobooks but none with a full cast.)
  7. A book set in ItalyThe Marriage Portrait by Maggie O’Farrell
  8. A book about the impact of poverty
  9. A book written by a BIPOC female authorRoll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor (I also read two books by Linda Sue Park)
  10. A magical realism bookThe Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge
  11. A book set in winterThe Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson
  12. A book by your favorite authorLady Tan’s Circle of Women by Lisa See (I don’t know that I have a “favorite” author, but Lisa See is one I very much enjoy)

I also attempted to do the Read Your Bookshelf Challenge, but because the categories built on each other, I fell behind in March. I loved the idea behind this (being that you read books that you already own), but I won’t be doing this one again in 2024 either.


I’m also sharing again the books (in no particular order) that I especially enjoyed this year if anyone is looking for ideas for this coming year!

This Beautiful Truth: How God’s Goodness Breaks Into Our Darkness by Sarah Clarkson

How the Irish Saved Civilization: The Untold Story of Ireland’s Heroic Role from the Fall of Rome to the Rise of Medieval Europe by Thomas Cahill

The Home Ranch by Ralph Moody

Simple Money, Rich Life by Bob Lotich

A Place to Hang the Moon by Kate Albus

You Need a Budget: The Proven System for Breaking the Paycheck to Paycheck Cycle, Getting Out of Debt, and Living the Life You Want by Jesse Mecham

Secrets of the Woods by Dallas Lore Sharp

The Divine Conspiracy: Rediscovering Our Hidden Life in God by Dallas Willard

2024 Challenges

Overall Goal

I’m going to keep the 36 books goal I’ve had for the last few years, but as with last year, make that books for me rather than all the books I read. I’ll still keep track of everything, but as I wrote above, I want to be more intentional about reading more books for myself.


I have also decided this year to simplify and cut back on the number of reading challenges I do. I have enjoyed them in the past to give me some direction in books to select, but in more recent years, I’ve found myself reading books just to fit the categories and not necessarily reading books that I want to read. I’m remedying this in 2024 by only doing one challenge. And here it is!

Tea and Ink Society Classics Challenge

As of this writing, Karen’s Books and Chocolate does not have a Back to the Classics Challenge posted for 2024 (she said it was a possibility last January….I had a tiny hope it would happen), so I am returning to the Tea and Ink Society Classics Challenge for this year. Here are the categories and the pre-1970 books I plan to read for each:

  1. A classic you’ve read beforeMansfield Park by Jane Austen (1814 – this is the only Austen I don’t own and my least favorite of her books, but I want to give it a second chance…and also have an excuse to buy another book ?)
  2. A Nordic or Scandinavian classicBabette’s Feast by Isak Dinesen (aka. Karen Blixen – 1958)
  3. A novel with a place or house name in the titleBramton Wick (1952 – this has been on my to-be-read list for a very long time)
  4. An epistolary novelThe Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis (1942)
  5. An L. M. Montgomery novel or short story collectionPat of Silver Bush (1933 – if anyone is looking for another recommendation for this category, The Blue Castle is one of my favorite books!)
  6. A novel or short story collection from the American South – I have a few ideas for this one including A Good Man Is Hard to Find by Flannery O’Connor, The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner, The Collected Stories Of Eudora Welty, Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison, or The Moviegoer by Walker Percy
  7. A utopian or dystopian novel1984 by George Orwell (1949)
  8. A children’s classic – I read many, many of these each year, so I will fill in this category as appropriate.
  9. A pastoral novelThe Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck (1931)
  10. A spooky classic or short story collectionThe Fisherman’s Lady by George Macdonald (1875), The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson (1886), or He Who Whispers by John Dickson Carr (1946)
  11. A classic recommended by a friendA Lantern in Her Hand by Bess Streeter Aldrich (1928 – recommended by Julie!)
  12. A Shakespeare PlayAs You Like It

I have many other books that I hope to read in the new year, but this list is a good place to start. If anyone has recommendations of books they’ve enjoyed recently, I’d love to hear what they are!

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  1. Oh that sounds great! I like the idea of the classical challenge. I m in two book clubs this year. One is charlotte mason, the other is a spin off of the well read mom ( an other reading group that I no longer attend). We decided that we didn’t enjoy the well read mom selections that much any more and kept our group but everyone suggested a few books we had meant to read for a while and never did. Then we voted on it. I discovered Lisa see thanks to this! We read the tea girl of hummingbird lane, and as someone who loves pearl buck that was a great surprise!
    I read a lantern in her hand in the past and loved it.
    To this day my favorite book club discovery was Kristin Lavransdatter, I didn’t think I cared for the period and I have been fascinated by it ever since.

    1. That’s a great idea to start your own book club catered more to the interests of those in it! 🙂 And I have really enjoyed almost everything I’ve read from Lisa See. It’s obvious that she does a lot of research about her topics, and I appreciate that. I also enjoyed Kristin Lavransdatter (though it took me several years to read all three books :)).

  2. Joanna Walker says:

    Hi Rebecca, I love your blog! I noticed you left the Charles Dickens novel category blank last year. I don’t know if you’ve read much Dickens before, but he’s recently become one of my favorites. In fact, David Copperfield catapulted to my top 5 of all time. You should try to squeeze one in this year. ?

    1. Omitting Dickens wasn’t actually by choice! It was more a problem with time. 🙂 I have read a few of his books and while he’s not a favorite, I do still enjoy his stories. Thank you for encouraging me to read more of his work!

  3. Love these posts! Do you have a Goodreads or anywhere where you rate them, would love to know how well you liked some of them.

    I just finished my first Lisa See book– The Island of Sea Women. It was good, well researched, but so dense! Are they all that meticulously detailed?

    I do the Read Your Bookshelf Challenge. I do cheat a bit sometimes with the categories, but they are all off my shelf which is the point! I couldn’t do more than one challenge at a time because if what you said. I want to read what I want to read! Although, I do have a few personal challenges that span years (e.g. Read a book set in each of the 50 states) so there’s really no pressure.

    1. I do have a Goodreads account here: https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/589448-rebecca But I am very bad at rating books. ? Unless I feel very strongly about a book, either positive or negative, I generally don’t leave a rating.

      I feel like all of her books are extremely well-researched and detailed, though I don’t know ‘The Island of Sea Women’ was her best. ‘Lady Tan’s Circle of Women’ was probably a little less dense, but her earlier books, which are probably more dense, are some of my favorites. ? That is probably not helpful at all.

      I was thinking of trying the Read Your Bookshelf Challenge this year as she changed the categories so they’re not reliant on each other, but decided I really should just stick to one challenge. And maybe I can read the books I already own for it. Maybe next year!

  4. Thanks for all the great ideas! I’m going to check out the tea challenge you mentioned. I’m always pre-reading or reading to the kids which really boosts my numbers!

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