The Great Book Review of 2023 – The Fitnessista
The Great Book Review of 2023: Sharing the books I read in 2023 and whether I’d recommend adding them to your collection.
Hi friends! Happy New Year! I hope that your morning is off to a great start and you enjoyed the festivities. The girls hung out with my mom and nana while the Pilot and I went up to Phoenix to see John Mulaney. I cried from laughter and it was an awesome show.
In today’s post, I’m sharing almost all of the books I read last year. (I had a a few audiobooks and a handful of DNF books I didn’t type up because they weren’t memorable or enjoyable.) Reading is one of my very favorite hobbies and I’m so glad I set a goal a couple of years ago to read more often. It’s definitely something I plan on doing in 2024, too!
Here’s a list of almost all of the books I read last year:
The Great Book Review of 2022
If you’re going to read this book, I definitely recommend the Audible version so you can hear it in Cody’s voice! What a treasure of a human. I had high expectations for this one – I expected it to be highly entreating – and it didn’t disappoint. It gives you all of the laughs and warm fuzzies of an XO, Cody Peloton ride, while you get a deep dive into his story and background. It was fascinating to learn about his upbringing, his relationship with his mom, the Dancing with the Stars experience, and how he became such a huge fitness personality. 10/10
*All the trigger warnings*
This book was recommend in a Facebook group for faith-based reads, so just a heads up, it’s Christian fiction and is an 1800s era retelling of Gomer and Hosea. While I was reading it, I was thinking that it isn’t too Jesus-y, but then after about a quarter, I was like ok, it definitely is. Just wanted to spread the word if that’s not your cup of tea. I found it to be Jesus-y in the best possible way. This book will stick with me for life, and is an incredible testament of God’s unwavering love, even when we feel our most broken. While it wasn’t the best writing ever, and it dragged a bit before the last 25%, I’m so glad I stuck with it. 10/10 recommend.
Esther: The Fingerprints of God
This was our fall Bible study and I got so much out of this one. As a relatively Bible newbie, it’s been helpful for me to deep dive into different books of the Bible with such a kind, insightful, and wise group of ladies. I learn so much from each session and it fills my cup for the entire week! When I read the book of Esther before our study, I had a hard time understanding everything, and didn’t know the historical context or background. Bible studies give so much context to what you’re reading, and enabled me to fully understand the impact of Esther and how all of the pieces came together. 9/10 recommend.
Don’t Forget to Write
This book is my new equivalent to Nora Goes Off Script. It’s light, fluffy, super witty, and the ending is EVERYTHING. I could’t read this one fast enough and would love a sequel. 😉 Definitely check it out if you’re looking for a fall *beach read.* 10/10
A friend recommended this book to me, as we both have tween daughters and are heading into new territories when it comes to friendships, independence, all those teen-y things. This book was AMAZING. It’s all about helping your child navigate the seven stages of adulthood, including friendships, mood/attitudes, bullying, relationships (with others and with parents), and I found it be incredibly insightful and full of helpful tips. I highly recommend it if you have a tween or teen.
One of my favorite metaphors that the author gave was that our kids are swimming in a pool, and we’re the wall. They need to venture out and be able to swim and find independence, but sometimes, they may need to come back to the wall. Sometimes, they push off the wall, which can be painful, but we need to stay there for them. A kid with a wall is going to have an easier time navigating tough situations than if the wall wasn’t there.
The Mediterranean Dish
I’m old-school and will love cookbooks forever and ever amen. The internet is amazing, but there’s something magical about having all of your favorite recipes in one spot, and to see olive oil splattered pages and well-worn edges of beloved cookbooks. Since I’m doing the EquiLife detox, a Medterranean style of eating has fit in well with the meal guide. Also, after watching Blue Zones on Netflix, I’m inspired to enjoy more fresh and vibrant daily eats!
We all love Mediterranean food (especially the kids!), so I thought it would be fun to pick up this cookbook for new inspiration. It is AMAZING. We’ve tried a couple of recipes that were both fantastic, and I can’t wait to make more.
Daughters of Rome – DNF
This was my second book in this series, and I was really looking forward to it, since I love Kate Quinn (I’ve read many of her books). The first book, Daughters of Rome, was a slow burn for me, but I still enjoyed it. Since the first book was a little slower, I stuck with this book and ended up reading more than half of it before calling it quits. The plot just dragged on, and while it was interesting to be introduced to characters from the first book but in an earlier time setting, I couldn’t get into it. Boo.
Part of Your World
I went into this Abby Jimenez combo backwards; I read Yours Truly first (which is technically the second book) and then this one. Turns out, it didn’t really matter. Some of the characters overlap but it doesn’t make a huge difference in the plots.
Abby Jimenez is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors. The books are fun and light, and she includes the perfect amount of witty banter that I love. They’re definitely fun to mix in between reading about autoimmune issues and historical fiction; a little lighter fare. 9/10
This was my introduction to Abby Jimenez and turns out I looooove her. I can definitely see why she’s so hyped up! This book had everything I enjoy in a summer read: a bit of romance, witty banter, and protagonists that are likable and don’t make horrible decisions the entire time.
I want to express my gratitude for the thoughtful approach taken in addressing mental health topics, including past trauma and anxiety. The content was handled with sensitivity, which I genuinely appreciated. While it wasn’t overwhelmingly heavy, it’s essential to recognize that it might be triggering for those who have dealt with these issues in the past. Personally, some parts relating to anxiety felt incredibly relatable, almost too real, as they perfectly described the emotions I used to experience when anxiety was a significant struggle for me.
One True Loves
I’ve read a few Taylor Jenkins Reid books, and have adored some (Malibu Rising, The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo), and felt blah about others (Daisy Jones and the Six). This one was a home run for me. I was instantly drawn in by the plot, was extremely interested to see what happened, and adored the character development. I felt like I truly *knew* each of the main characters, which made me so much more invested in the story. I’d give it a 9/10.
The Autoimmune Fix
Since I had a little bit of a blood work surprise, I’ve been diving into autoimmunity, learning as much as possible, and found this book. It’s extremely well-researched and packed with helpful info. I’ve been making some dietary changes and exploring functional testing – I can’t wait to get my results back – in addition to reading and podcasts. I hope this ends up being nothing when I retest in the fall, but I’ll share more info then. All I really have right now is that we got some autoimmunity results that were a surprise, but since I don’t have any other major symptoms, we’re waiting a few months and retesting. The Cliff’s note version of the book: stop eating inflammatory oils, sugar, gluten, and dairy. It’s not realistic for me to do this completely, but I’ve just really been focusing on whole foods, minimizing sugar, gut health, and working on stress management. I’d give it an 8/10.
Mistress of Rome
I love Kate Quinn and am on a mission to read all of her books. It was pleasantly surprising to find out that this book is part of a 4-part series, and I’m already on the second book. It’s more a slow burn than some of her previous novels I’ve read (The Huntress, Rose Code, The Diamond Eye, The Alice Network), but it gradually builds until a crazy, satisfying ending. Since I typically read more WWII era historical fiction, it was a treat to read about an entirely different time period, and also learn a lot about what it might have been like in first-century Rome. 9/10 recommend and it lined up perfectly with our trip and the ability to see the Coliseum again in person.
Every Summer After
I wanted to like this book a little more than I did, but still blasted through it during our flight so I could find out what happened. This follows the story of Percy and Sam, who have been friends (and a little more than friends…) since their teenage years, until a mysterious event totally changed their relationship. Percy ventures home following Sam’s mom’s funeral, and the pieces of their relationship are slowly revealed, along with what happened to tear them apart. I’d give this one a 6/10.
Alleviate Dry Eye
Since I’ve been dealing with the eye saga, you can bet your booty that I’ve been a reading and researching machine, especially since trips to multiple doctors have failed to give me a lot of answers or a true action plan. (I’m seeing my regular eye doctor + a specialist this week. The good news is that my eyes have healed!!! But I’m trying to figure out WHY this happened so I can prevent it in the future and also a path to wearing contacts again, since my doctor told me I still needed to wait. I can’t function in my glasses forever.)
I stumbled upon this book and while it’s intended to be an 8-week action plan, I read it in one sitting. (I took a break every 20 minutes and did blinking exercises, too, lol.) It’s filled with tangible action steps and favorite products if you suffer from Dry Eye or Meibomiun Gland Dysfunction. I’m still not sure if I actually have either of these things, or if I’m allergic to something in the environment that triggered all of this. Either way, these steps have absolutely continued to help. You can get a copy on Amazon and also download a free workbook that accompanies the book. The author also has a lot of free resources on her site.
Love Stories of the Bible Speak
I haven’t finished this one yet, but have read snippets of it each night; it’s the perfect pre-bed reading and fills my heart with warm fuzzies before I drift off to sleep. This book explores the various love stories in the Bible, including romantic relationships and deep friendships. I love this book and also feel like it would make a great gift. 10/10
The Circus Train – DNF
While the premise is promising, I found the writing to be slow and dull. I read 50 pages before calling it quits. There are so many other books I have on my list, so I’m not going to force myself to read something that I’m not totally into. It has excellent reviews, but just wasn’t my fave.
This thrilling novel is like a rollercoaster ride of secrets, surprises, and suspense. Set against the backdrop of a glamorous wedding, the story unfolds with twists and turns that will keep you hooked from start to finish. Lucy Foley’s skillful storytelling brings the characters to life, and you’ll find yourself completely immersed in their world. With its picturesque setting, intriguing plot, and a dash of romance, “The Guest List” is the perfect escape for anyone craving a delightful blend of mystery and excitement.
I tend to stay away from thriller-ish books, but I’ve read a few Lucy Foley books and enjoy them. Plus, I don’t find them to be overly violent or gory. If you’re looking for a beach read that you can blast through, I definitely recommend it. 8/10
Hang the Moon
TBH SO much happened, and at the same time, nothing really happened. I’m usually a fan of Jeannette Walls, but this book was not it for me. I feel like I could rattle off multiple plots for 20 minutes and still not be able to fully explain what this book was about. Initially, I was wrapped into the story but then got bored as it dragged on and on. 2/10… yikes.
Hands in the air if you had no idea of the atrocities that Paris Hilton has endured. From being abducted in the middle of night, to years of abuse at “elite” boarding schools, she’s been through some horrible circumstances. It was heartbreaking to hear everything she experienced in her own voice, as I listened to this one on Audible. I’ve always been a Paris fan – I admire her grit and could always tell she was strategic and a hard worker – but this book just left me cheering for her even more. It’s also a testament to how unfair the media and paparazzi were to women in the 1990s and early 2000s (like Britney Spears). 9/10 recommend.
Two Week’s Notice
I’ve been a fan of Amy Porterfield forever and have always enjoyed her Online Marketing Made Easy podcast, so I was definitely interested in reading her new book.
Amy is a powerhouse in the world of entrepreneurship, and spills all her secrets on how to gracefully transition from a soul-sucking job to pursuing your passion and building a thriving online business. With her signature blend of tough love and practical strategies, Amy empowers you to ditch the nine-to-five grind and create a life on your own terms. It’s like a bootcamp for your mindset, pushing you to step out of your comfort zone and chase your dreams with unwavering determination.
I do think this book is geared more to true beginners in their online entrepreneurship journey. There were a couple of gems that I could use in my current business model, but highly recommend this book if you’re just getting started. 8/10
Nora Goes Off Script
Nora writes fluffy romance scripts for a living, but her most recent work of art has a sad ending: the husband leaves and doesn’t come back. It also happens to be a true story about her life. When the actor playing her ex-husband decides to take a vacation from the Hollywood bustle and stay on her property, her world is flipped upside-down.
This book is a cupcake of a summer beach read: sweet, witty, and so enjoyable. I didn’t want it to end and wish I could read it for the first time all over again. If you’re looking for a summer read, this is it!! 10/10
This was a re-read from years ago, when I was postpartum with P, dealing with… a lot… and I wasn’t sure how much I’d actually retained. This book is an excellent way to reframe how you think about the core muscles and pelvic floor.
Some of her advice is different than what we commonly hear in the core and pelvic floor world. For example, she emphasizes the outer portion of the transverse abdominal muscles (under the external and internal obliques) and how they draw the belly and corset the waist from the SIDES instead of the center. She also talks about the importance of full range of motion in the ribs, when many of us tend to only focus on keeping the ribs down to reduce strain on the linea alba (the connective tissue running down the center of the core in between the rectus abdominus, which stretches to make room for the baby and can lead to diastasis recti).
She focuses on strengthening and stretching the various muscles of the core for full range of motion and optimal strength, and also provides exercises on which exercises are visceral (muscular) and skeletal. One of my favorite tips: when you’re doing deep breathing and core engagement, think about contracting the muscles moving up, like a wave, instead of down. It’s very easy to think about just bringing in the center of our core, which can actually increase abdominal pressure and pelvic floor pressure.
If you’re a fitness nerd like me, and/or if you work with postpartum or female clients in a fitness environment, I highly recommend it. 9/10
The Mastery of Love
I listened to this one while walking Maisey, and really enjoyed it. His work may see a little woo or out-there to some reader friends, but it’s always a good reminder for me to draw inward, increase my awareness, and focus on the things that truly matter. This book emphasizes loving others as well as loving yourself, healing wounds, and becoming more joyful and peaceful. 8/10
The Power of Positive Thinking
I listened to the audio version of this book, and it felt like I was getting advice and motivation from a wise grandfather. I loved it. In fact, I had no idea that this is a Christian book and heavy on scripture, and it was a pleasant surprise. I especially enjoyed the emphasis on faith and how this can make you a more joyful and positive person. I can definitely see why this has stood the test of time and has become a self development classic. 9/10
This book was everything I love about historical fiction. It’s beautifully written with captivating descriptions and character development. The plot pulls you in from the first few pages, and I couldn’t read it fast enough. Also, I couldn’t believe that it was based on a true story! It definitely opened my eyes to a new era of historical fiction, especially since I tend to read a lot of WWII era books. 10/10
Don’t Miss Out
Ehhhhh I really wanted to love this book because it was our Bible study book for the season and… I didn’t. I loved the topic and feel like the Holy Spirit tends to be treated like an afterthought in the trilogy. But this book didn’t do it for me. I told my friend that it felt like mansplaining; repeating the same content in various ways throughout the book. I could have simply read the last chapter and gotten everything I needed.
At a few points in the book, the author confesses that she doesn’t feel fully confident about broaching such a huge subject. I feel badly that I didn’t love it. Especially because I know what it feels like to deal with imposter syndrome and insecurities about writing.
I think this is why it’s so valuable to study the Bible in a group environment. I got way more out of our group discussions. The book didn’t enrich my life in the same way that All Things New did for me. So, for *fun*, I ordered another one of Kelly Minter’s books (this one) because I loved the last study so much. I figured it would be something good for me to do while we aren’t officially in group study again until the fall. (We’ll have some unofficial more casual meetings over the spring and summer.) 2/10
The 100 Years of Leni and Margot
This book is the best book I’ve read in years and is definitely in my top 10 of all time. I felt like I truly knew all of the characters, and it’s a book that I’ve continued to think about since I turned the final page. I also cried on and off for the last quarter of the book. It was so good, so beautifully done, and even though it’s a bit of a heavy topic, it’s intertwined with moments of levity and joy. 10/10
The Light We Lost
This book examines the impact of our decisions, and living with the “what-ifs” and implications when we don’t follow our heart. I read this one quickly because I couldn’t wait to see what happened; it reminded me of a Colleen Hoover book with more captivating writing 😉 The ending was a little bit of a disappointment and while I enjoyed this one, it wasn’t one of my top faves. I’d say it’s a 7/10.
This book is based on a true story, and follows the life of Pheby, who is born a slave in Virginia and is the daughter of the plantation’s medicine woman… and the master of the plantation. Instead of receiving the freedom that she’s promised when she turns 18, she ends up being sold and forced to leave her home and those she loves behind. She’s transferred to the Devil’s Acre, which was a real jail that housed and tortured hundreds of thousands of slaves, and becomes the mistress of its Jailer. The book is obviously incredibly hard to read. It’s about a tragic and dark time in our history, and a devastating reminder of the atrocities that have occurred in our society. While it’s a difficult read, it’s an important read. It was well-researched and the author vividly describes the hardships that so many faced, while demonstrating what women will also endure to protect their children. 10/10
This book is written by a super successful entrepreneur (making 10M+ per month… I KNOW) and how to craft an irresistable offer for your audience. He goes into the psychology behind what makes a great offer, how to bundle your services, pricing, supply/demand, copy, etc. I learned a lot while I read this book, and am going to use some of his tips with my current product offerings. 9/10
I wish I would have read this book when the girls were babies – it didn’t exist yet – but the thing is, it’s never too late to read this book. Her tips are applicable whether you have a toddler, a big kid, a tween, teen, or even if you’re a grandparent helping with grandkids. I strongly align with Dr. Becky’s parenting philosophy: treating children with firm boundaries, kindness, understanding, and humanity. I learned so many wonderful tips from this book and loved listening to the audio version. It has validated the importance of connection, especially when a child is going through a difficult time. As she says, “Your job isn’t to get them out of the hole. It’s to get INTO the hole with them, so they know they’re not alone.” 10/10 – definitely read this one!
Lessons in Chemistry – DNF
I started the audiobook of this one, and called it quits halfway through. I hated it and couldn’t help but wonder if I was listening to the wrong book! SO many people highly recommend this one, and it’s just a good reminder that we all have such different tastes in books! I found that it dragged on and on, nothing exciting happened, and I felt blah about the whole plot. 0/10
The Winemaker’s Wife
This was my first book of 2023 and I finished it within a few days. As much as I loved Book of Lost Names, I think this one was even more of a page turner. It has parallel storylines, following three main characters in the Champagne region of France in WWII, and present-day Olivia, who is brought to Paris on a mysterious trip with her 99-year-old grandmother. I had no idea how winemakers were involved in the Resistance, and that they would help with transporting information, ammunition, and hiding refugees until they could flee to safety. Some parts of the book were hard to read, as you can imagine, but the ending was so lovely and so well done. I definitely give it a 10/10, especially if you enjoy historical fiction.
This book was captivating and another one I read within a few days. I’m a huge fan of Kate Quinn (definitely recommend The Huntress and Rose Code). I couldn’t believe that this one was based on a true story! This one immediately sucks you in, and follows the story of a young mom and student who becomes one of the world’s deadliest female snipers. 9/10
The Forest of Vanishing Stars
This was another Kristin Harmel book and she’s quickly becoming one of my favorite authors. It’s another one that I couldn’t finish fast enough, and you can tell she puts a ton of research into her novels. The ending was WILD and it was an engrossing and well-written read. Definitely check this one out if you enjoy historical fiction. 9/10
House in the Cerulean Sea – DNF
200 pages into this book, I called it quits. It’s been on my “books to read” list for over a year now and I had high hopes for this one. I had mixed feelings on the subject matter (one of the children is the anti-christ…) and this book shows how it’s possible to be extremely descriptive without being captivating. And I could tell you every detail about the main character’s life, disposition, and outfit, and was bored.to.tears. I kept waiting for it to get better, but life is too short to read books that are blah.
Stop Alzheimer’s Now
I wanted to read this book because I’ve become more interested in the progression of Alzheimer’s and strategies you can use to help prevent dementia and Alzheimer’s. This book is so thorough and packed with science-backed information. Alzeimer’s is often referred to as Type 3 diabetes (as insulin resistance can affect the progression), and I also learned about how dental bacteria and infections can affect Alzheimer’s. Hight recommend if this is a topic that interests you. It’s obviously a dry subject, but packed with valuable info. 10/10
The Love Hypothesis
I forced myself to finish this one – it was nominated for Book of the Month’s best book of the year – and had heard great reviews. I was also pleased that it was about women in STEM careers, which isn’t something I read about very often, and also, I LOVE a fluff book. (Book Lovers is excellent.) It was another drag for me. I kept waiting for something (anything) to actually happen, and it just dragged on and on. When I finished it, I was like, “Why did I do this to myself?” 1/10.
The Woman in Me
I listened to the audio version of this and thought Michelle Williams did a remarkable job. As expected, this memoir was heartbreakingly sad, and provided so much insight into the trauma that Britney has endured. You could hear her unraveling, and I hope that she’s eventually able to find healing and peace. 8/10
I was SO excited when I started this book, because the plot instantly caught my attention, and I was convinced it would live up to the hype. The middle was sloooooowwwwwwww. The last quarter of the book was SPICY (whew!!) and super exciting, but all in all, not my fave. It took me forever to finish it and I have no desire to read the second one. 4/10
Did you have a favorite book from 2023? Did you read any from the list above? Leave your book recs in the comments below!
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