Best of 2023

Best of 2023

What reads, watches and listens have you loved this year?

Bringing together the best of 2023 – from the picks of our staff and customers, to Best of the year lists published by magazines, newspapers and booksellers.

New Zealand

Paul F's best local history read of 2023

Come Back to Mona Vale: Life and Death in A Christchurch Mansion by Alexander McKinnon.

Come Back to Mona Vale is an intriguing history of one of Christchurch’s most powerful families. Alexander McKinnon skilfully weaves together biography, sibling rivalry, madness, tragedy and mystery into evocative prose.

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Paul F's best fiction of 2023

Birnam Wood by Eleanor Catton followed by Isobar Precinct by Angelique Kasmara

Catton’s environmental thriller expertly builds the action which is all the more gripping due to the fully-developed characters she has peopled her novel with. But for an original yarn, Isobar Precinct is hard to beat with its gritty depiction of Auckland and a heroic tattooist who battles a drug conspiracy based on cutting-edge pharmaceuticals and memory manipulation.

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Moata's best read of 2023

The Axeman's Carnival by Catherine Chidgey

I was dubious of a book narrated by a bird but it's a testament to Chidgey's skill that Tama the magpie always feels like a realistic character. His overhearings of various conversations moves the plot and our understanding of the these characters along in a very clever, almost conspiratorial way. This was my favourite read of the year.

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For adults

Library staff picks for the best of the year

Ma1co1m's Best Comics of 2023

Always tough to pick favorites, but here are a selection of my top reads for 2023.

ma1co1m's Favourite Reads of 2023

Too hard to pick the absolute best (it's that whole apples and oranges thing right?) , but here's a selection my favourite reads of 2023.

Hayley's best fiction covers of 2023

Disclaimer: I'm not a designer, I just like pretty things.

Best non-fiction reads of 2023

Favourite non-fiction reads during twenty-twenty-three. Mostly memoirs about parenthood and/or life. You'll laugh, you'll cry!

Top Fiction of 2023 - Christchurch City Libraries

A selection of great fiction reads from 2023 from our fiction Selector.

Top True Crime 2023

Get your crime caps on! Below are the 15 best True Crime books for 2023 at Christchurch City Libraries, as judged by Selectors.

Top Magazines for 2023

We have hundreds of magazines available to borrow in our libraries. The following are some of our most popular magazines in 2023.

Sarah's fiction reads of the year 2023

Highly recommend from my reading this year. mostly a mixture of hillbilly noir, social science fiction and contemporary mystery.

The Readers Advisory Librarians best fiction of 2023

The Libraries Readers Advisory team - Sarah, Fee, Eamonn & Mike choose their best reads of 2023

Troy's best of 2023

Troy: This is a (not exhaustive) list of some of the books I read this year that I think are pretty neat, and maybe you will too.

Hayley's top reads of '23

My favourite books of the year, in order of reading.

Eamonn's Best of 2023 - Classics

My favourite classics I discovered or re-read in 2023

Fionaccl's best fiction of 2023

Some of Fee's favourite reads of 2023. Octopuses, AI, winged creatures, fungus-based horror and books on movie magic!

Jessie's Favourites 2023 - TV and Film

Jessie's favourite TV and Film watched in 2023 that is available to borrow or stream through Christchurch City Libraries.

Jessie's Favourites 2023 - Non-fiction

In no particular order, Jessie's favourite non-fiction read in the year 2023.

Jessie's Favourites 2023 - Fiction

In no particular order, Jessie's favourite fiction read in the year 2023.

Paul F's best non-fiction reads of 2023

Best non-fiction: How to Feed a Dictator: Saddam Hussein, Idi Amin, Enver Hoxha, Fidel Castro and Pol Pot Through the Eyes of Their Cooks by Witold Szabłowski

How to Feed A Dictator reveals plenty about some of the scariest people this planet has hosted in the last 100 years. Szablowski unearths much of their minds via their stomachs and the unusual relationships they have with their cooks.

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Best cultural critique: Monsters: A Fan's Dilemma by Claire Dederer.

Claire Dederer confronts artists behaving badly and asks these questions: can you separate and still appreciate works from their cruel protagonists and would you want to? Heavy material but Dederer navigates her sober premise with verve and often humour.

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Most scandalous read: Unscripted: The Epic Battle for A Media Empire and the Redstone Family Legacy by James B. Stewart and Rachel Abrams or A Spy Among Friends: Philby and the Great Betrayal by Ben Macintyre.

The former presents a stunning array of bounders and gold diggers congregating around the wealth of an aging entertainment tycoon, himself capable of despicable behaviour.  The latter features the amazing tale of a brazen spy who managed to scale the echelons of the British secret service, often because of his position in England’s upper class. Equally scandalous is the amount of alcohol he consumed while engaged in espionage activities.

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Best creature feature: If Nietzsche were a Narwhal: What Animal Intelligence Reveals About Human Stupidity by Justin Gregg.

An engaging comparison of human and animal intelligence. Watch out for the section on bedbugs which left me convinced they are the evil geniuses of the insect world.

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Jessie's best read/watch of 2023

Fiction: Chain-gang All-stars by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah

Chain-Gang All-Stars is undoubtedly my favourite read of 2023! Heartbreaking and brutal, but so brilliantly executed. It follows a fight-to-the-death spectator sport in a future United States, with prison inmates as the competitors. Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah exposes the dark underbelly of the American penal system through a dystopian world where reality is altered but widespread social problems remain the same. This novel will remain with me for years to come.

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Watch: Succession

I absolutely inhaled all four seasons of Succession this year. Although initially skeptical as to how a show about terrible people making business deals could capture the hearts of so many, this show quickly climbed its way up my list to become one of my favourite of all time. I was obsessed. I began to look forward to them making their business deals. I loved the horrible, horrible characters. I delighted in what disgusting insults would be thrown around next (there's so much foul language in this show, it would make my grandma faint). Succession is an excellent blend of dark comedy and drama, with an absolutely stellar cast to boot. It pains me to know the series is concluded for good, but boy did it take us on a great ride. Give it all the Emmys!

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Hayley's best read of 2023

Scarlet in Blue by Jennifer Murphy

Literary fiction and psychological mystery collide to perfection in this story of a mentally unstable artist and her daughter who traverse the country hiding from a shadowy figure, until the mother decides to stop running. The best kind of slow-burn that evolves into an absolute page-turner.

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Donna's bests of 2023

Fiction: The Fraud by Zadie Smith

Zadie’s first work of historical fiction is a trip (it’s set in Victorian London, but some of it is set in an earlier time in Jamaica). The Fraud encompasses colonialism, identity, feminism, and the nature of fiction itself. It’s both moving and very funny - I laughed, I cried, I laugh-cried.

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Non-fiction: Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann

The terror, racism, venality, and brutality inflicted on the Osage people can hardly be stomached. But it happened, and David Grann lays it all out with compassion and clarity.

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Graphic Novel: Impossible People: A Completely Average Recovery Story by Julia Wertz

I love an autobiographic graphic memoir. This is one of the greats of that genre. Julia details her life in New York with a rare and unglitzy honesty.

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Audiobook: Everybody Hertz: The Amazing World of Frequency, From Bad Vibes to Good Vibrations by Richard Mainwaring

This worked so well as an audiobook with samples of sounds and music demonstrating frequencies. There are lots of brilliant stories to illustrate the science and the sound, including the spooky story of a lab where low frequency possibly causes eye oscillations that make a scientist think he's seen a ghost.

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Eamonn's best read of 2023

Kick the latch by Kathryn Scanlan

I first read this book back in March and have revisited it many times this year. It's an experimental novel made up of a collection of vignettes based on an interview with a real life horse trainer named Sonia. The horse racing world that Sonia inhabits is full of dangerous characters living on the fringes of society but her lifelong love of horses prevents her from leaving. If this all sounds a little pretentious, it's completely not and it's very readable. This was my favourite novel of the year!

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Moata's bests of 2023

Non-fiction: A heart that works by Rob Delaney

Picking up a book about someone's child dying isn't a reading choice to take lightly but Rob Delaney's beautful memoir about his son, Henry, brings all the humanity, joy, grief and yes, humour, that you find in life and death. Highly recommended. Contains swearing but frankly, if you've lost a 2 year old to brain cancer I think you should be able to swear as much as you like for as long as you like.

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Movie: Barbie

I have never felt as seen as I have in this movie. It was like a religious experience.

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TV series: The Last of Us

 Joel and Ellie - two traumatised people thrown together in a broken world in which a strain of cordyceps has found a way to survive in the human body with devastating results. Tense and gut-wrenching, and so very human, this was THE TV show of 2023.

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Your 2023 favourites!

Since 2000, we have been collecting information on what were the most popular reads, watches, and listens for the year. You shared your favourites of the year.

Two booklover's prize bundles were won including a reading-themed tote bag, novel, bookmark, bilingual story starter card set, book badges, and chocolates. One prize bundle included a PaperPlus gift card worth $20. The winners were:

  • Mieke (bundle with gift card)
  • Harriet (bundle)

Public submissions

Rebecca's top 3 reads

1. Ella at Eden: Puppy Rescue (Book Ten) by Laura Sievekling

Love Ella at Eden great series and love reading about good puppy rescue and is a really popular book series at the library.

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2. Best Sleepover in The World by Jacqueline Wilson

Sleepovers sequel is great because follow up from the first book.

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3. Babysitters' Club Summer Vacation by Ann A. Martin

Babysitters club summer vacation super special is great because introduces all the characters in the stories and be great if the library keeps getting these because they are popular.

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Brian's favourites

Book: Shrines of Gaiety by Kate Atkinson.

Atkinson is a wonderful writer who brought criminal London to life in this wonderful book.

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Movie: Glass Onion.

 Loved Knives Out and Glass Onion was a first class sequel.

Television: Two TV series kept me fully engaged and entertained. The latest series of The Brokenwood mysteries and White Lotus.

Brokenwood goes from strength to strength and The White Lotus [both series] must be the best new series for years.

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Audiobooks: Listened to excellent Ian Rankin audiobooks during the year.

Music: Lots of good music heard on RNZ Concert.

Naomi's favourites

The Midnight Library by Matt Haig

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Charlie Tangaroa and the Creature from the Sea by T K Roxborogh

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Stuck by Oliver Jeffers

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They all told a great story, with a twist that was unexpected

Kate's favourites

Tress of the Emerald Sea by Brandon Sanderson

Tress of the Emerald Sea was a bookclub pick by a friend of mine that got me into reading fantasy, which I previously didn’t think was for me.

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Black cake by Charmaine Wilkerson

...another book club pick that I wouldn’t have picked for myself. It taught me the extent that parents will go to to create a better life for their family.

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Lessons in chemistry by Bonnie Garmus (book and TV show)

...showed me how difficult it was to be an educated women in the 60’s and makes me appreciate my university degree more.

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Good material by Dolly Alderton (audiobook)

Dolly Alderton really nails the human experience, especially in relation to break-ups. It was interesting to read a book from the male perspective post-breakup.

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Rebecca's favourites


Atlas The story of Pa Salt by Lucinda Riley

was great to find out his story after an enjoyable series.

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Life after Life by Kate Atkinson

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Homecoming by Kate Morton (audiobook)

Always enjoy Kate Morton- waited a long time for this

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Friends, lovers and the big terrible thing by Matthew Perry

read before his tragic passing.

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Tom Felton narrating the audiobook version of his memoir, Beyond the wand.

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Adrian Edmondson narrating the audiobook version of his memoir, Berserker!

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it was great listening to these people read their own life stories.

Danielle's favourites


Paul Cleave's novels

Agatha Raisin series by M. C. Beaton

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TV shows:

Fall of the House of Usher favourite show this year

Also rewatching Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

all very engaging and enjoyable.

Kathy's favourites

Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus

Wifedom: Mrs Orwell's invisible life by Anna Funder.

Both these books showed the struggle for women to find a voice in years gone past..but also how important it is to continue to speak out against injustice of any kind. Well written and very readable without being preachy.

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Zoe's favourites


Light at Lavelle by Paullina Simons

River Woman, River Demon by Jennifer Givhan

Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver

Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin

Time Squared

Such good storytelling! Had me hooked until the last page and sad they were over

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The Comfort Crisis by Michael Easter

The Bomber Mafia by Malcolm Gladwell

Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer

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Simone's favourites

Fredrik Backman novels: Bear town, Us against you, The winners

Amazing books. Loved the audio version too. Detailed description and development of characters. So much love for the humankind in this book!

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Meike's favourite

Legends & Lattes by Travis Balder

Liked the characters and the story was different to the normal fantasy books

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Jessica's favourites

Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin

The Guest List by Lucy Foley

Auē by Becky Manawatu

Beautiful, rich stories that transport you to the time and place. All three are very different reads though!

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Melanie's favourites

The Observologist by Giselle Clarkson

...because it’s clever, funny, lighthearted and beautifully illustrated - great fun for kids and the young at heart.

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Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann

Killers of the Flower Moon was my first foray into nonfiction and I was hooked from the first few pages. Such an intriguing and terrible historical account, which had me guessing right to the last chapter.

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Laura's favourite

Wheel of time series by Robert Jordan

Epic fantasy escapism

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Harriet's favourites

Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus

Joyful and fierce

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My year of rest and relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh

i too wish to rot

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Diane and Liam's favourites

Favourite books with our preschooler this year:

Percy the Park Keeper series were a big hit. Also listened to the audiobooks on Libby.

Also books about Mog, Elmer, Hairy Maclary, Little Yellow Digger.

The books had animals in them and were well rewritten stories that interested our preschooler.

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Favourite Music is probably - Music with Michal, and also their show Music with Michal and Moe.

Local chch artist, seen her in person doing a show, fun songs for kids.

Polly's favourites

Tie between:

Birnam Wood...

Birnam Wood was so compelling & thought provoking & I enjoyed the fun it poked at well, everybody really.

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... and Demon Copperhead

I just adored the character of Demon Copperhead and was so moved by his story and how Kingsolver managed to capture a life.

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Martha's favourites


The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle

When Women Were Dragons by Kelly Regan Barnhill

Stone Blind by Natalie Haynes

The Wolf Den by Elodie Harper

Good, easy reads that you get hooked on.

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Music: The Teskey Brothers, The Rubens, Noah Kahan, Hozier.

Good chill vibes music. Went to great Rubens gig.

Jessika's favourites

I have so many!

Slaves of the Switchboard of Doom by Bradley W. Schenck

It was amusing and I loved the retro aspect. I loved the murderous robot shrunk to miniature rooming around trying to fulfill its purpose. (p.s, why doesn’t the library have the second book?)

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Shadows of the Apt series by Adrian Tchaikovsky

esp The Sea Watch … loved the world building.

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Mary: An awakening of Terror by Nat Cassidy

The author set the tone before the story even began with the author's note… full of empathy and such a way with words.

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How to sell a Haunted House by Grady Hendrix- and some other of his books.

perfect in audiobook.

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Anna's favourites


A man called Otto

The unlikely pilgrimage of Harold Fry

Movies about humanity, about connection, love and forgiveness.

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...everyday heros pilots, doctors and nurses of the flying squad. I'm also enjoying learning about the aboriginal tribes of Australia.


American Town by Ed Sheeran

Books: Non-fiction

Don't forget to scream by Marianne Levy

Motherhood no punches given by a candid author relatable and brave.

Frida Kahlo and my left leg by Emily Rapp

One of the best disability memoirs I've ever read. A small book, but a huge message. She's a marvel and an inspiration. Top five I think!

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Books: Fiction

Lucie Yi is not a romantic by Lauren Ho

Romantic comedy, laugh out loud funny, brilliant love triangle. Happy endings are the best.

Addressed to Greta by Fiona Sussman

I adored Greta and all her quirks. I loved her chicken Marilyn Monroe and her innocence about life. I saw myself in her, in multiple ways. All my fave things in a book.

Just the way you are by Beth Moran

A book-loving girl, a dream list, a puppy that need loving, a friendship with a child, helping a neighbour and a librarian.

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Anna's favourites

A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara

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The Grip of It by Jac Jemc

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Notes on an Execution by Danya Kukafka.

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Each was a fantastic read for completely different reasons, A little life is soul crushing and beautifully written. The grip of it is dark and strange and confusing. Notes on an execution tells a common story but through the eyes of women who are involved in a really well done way!

Sandra's favourites


Red, White and Brass 

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Patu by Gavin Bishop

How my koro became a star by Brianne Te Paa

The month that makes a year by Inda Ahmad Zahri

love hearing about other cultures
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Ella's favourite

The Dark is Rising book series by Susan Cooper.

Magical and engaging, beautiful settings, easy to get lost in them.

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Rachel's favourites

Talking at Night by Claire Daverley

Happy Place by Emily Henry

The Seven Year Slip by Ashley Poston

Romantic Comedy by Curtis Sittenfeld

Such beautiful writing. Any book that makes me feel an array of emotions is a book that will forever be a favourite of mine. Loved reading these books, I felt like I was in their world.

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Anne's favourites

Imager and Recluce books by L. E. Modesitt Jr

Penric and Desdemona novellas by Lois McMaster

While different from Modesitt, Bujold is also good at world building and understands the practicalities of life without the conveniences we take for granted. I have reread all the stories -- already and now purchased them all.

Because the world's are convincing and the characters are ones I would be happy to know as friends. If I am going to be spending 12 hours immersed in a world I want my visit to be interesting and spent with people I like.

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Eleanor's favourite

Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin

I wouldn’t have thought I’d be into a book about gaming but Tomorrow surprised me. The characters were flawed and loveable and they stayed with me between reads, which is always a good sign. The book helped me understand why gamers love being immersed in a different world and I loved learning how they come up with creative concepts.

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Dawn's favourite

Husna's Story, My Wife, the Christchurch Massacre & My Journey to Forgiveness by Farid Ahmed

the tale of the lady who lost her life in the March shooting in Christchurch. Amazing story telling of her life and her family.

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Nicola's favourites


Atlas The story of Pa Salt by Lucinda Riley

 Ties together all the 7 sisters stories. I now want to reread them all, to notice the clues throughout.

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The things we cannot say by Kelly Rimmer

Amazing story - so cleverly weaved together the past and present.

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TV show:


A wonderful epic saga - convincing love story between Jamie and Clare.

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Nicola's favourites

All the World by Liz Scanlon

But Not the Armadillo by Sandra Boynton

The Very Noisy Bear by Nick Bland

...fantastic kids books. My son is loving books and these three where massive stand outs for me this year. Having read them each a LOT of times I can safely recommend them. They have good stories, are fun to read, good illustrations and enjoyable for both my child and I.

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The Barefoot Investor by Scott Pape

The Barefoot Investor is also a great read, it's easy to read and understand and has prompted some key conversations and changes in our household money management.

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Helen's favourites

Books: Anything by Lisa Gardner

Lisa Gardener has me hooked, thriller murder, who dunnit style just absolutely love!

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Movie: Sound of Freedom

Sound of Freedom is such a heartbreaking film, that everyone should watch! No way should child trafficking be still happening in today's world.

Marion's favourites

The Seven Sister series by Lucinda Riley. I have also enjoyed her other books like The murders at Fleat House.

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Exiles by Jane Harper

I love Jane Harper and have her books so reading Exiles her latest book was a treat.

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Lianne Moriarty's books and Ann Cleeves'.

I think the story telling is great with all the authors. They set the seen and the story follows holding you captive and guessing whats next.

Sarah's favourite

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

Depth of characters/intrigue/historic time transporting

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2023 best books lists

Best Reads from 2000 to today

Explore the best and most popular books. We have been recording the top books each year since 2000.
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