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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at St. Andrews chapter.

Have you ever read a book that completely absorbed your existence, fused your mind and soul into mere pages, tore and twisted your heart, and engrossed your presence entirely–only to reach its inevitable end? Clinging to the very last words, desperately wanting to feel it all again once more, you re-read the book and come to the bittersweet realization that it will never feel quite how it did the first time. The past year has been filled with tears, laughter, and suspense—hours on end saturated in beautifully crafted pages. My personal favorites from 2023 have imprinted my soul indefinitely and left me with an unhealthy attachment to fictional characters (as a good book should).  

Almond by Sohn Won-Phyung 

“Love is what makes a person human, as well as what makes a monster.” Almond by Sohn Won-Phyung is a short novel meant to be binge-read in a day. The protagonist Yunjae was born with a brain condition named “Alexithymia” (also known as “emotional blindness”), where he has difficulty recognizing, expressing, and describing his emotions. With the comfort of his hopeful mother and grandmother, he lives above their little antique bookstore coated with bright sticky notes, reminding him when to cry, when to laugh–when to feel. On Yunjae’s sixteenth birthday, his world collapses, and he is left to navigate his emotions—his life—on his own.  A delinquent teenager named Gon arrives at Yunjae’s school, and an unexpected but beautiful friendship begins to emerge. A story of friendship and hope and the unforeseen destinations it can take you. 

I Who Have Never Known Men by Jacqueline Harpman

“Perhaps you never have time when you are alone? You only acquire it by watching it go by in others.” I Who Have Never Known Men by Jacqueline Harpman is a literary masterpiece set in a dystopian world where 39 women are caged in an underground bunker. Guarded by men who do not speak, the women recollect their memories of their lives—unable to understand the reason for their captivity. The youngest of forty women is a child with no past and no identity outside the cage she grew up in. Every day is the same as the next until the child begins to question why. The child grows into a woman—a woman who has never known men, books, time, or love. A heartbreaking science-fiction depicting the depth of humanity that surfaces through isolation. 

If Beale Street Could Talk by James Baldwin 

“I hope that nobody has ever had to look at anybody they love through glass.” If Beale Street Could Talk by James Baldwin is a stunning introspection on injustice in a flawed system that fails to recognize the characters as human beings. Childhood friends and lovers, 19-year-old Tish and 22-year-old Fonny, are embracing their newfound pregnancy when Fonny is falsely accused of a horrific crime. Where passion and injustice meet at a focal point, this story captures the story of a young black couple fighting for love and freedom when all odds are against them. 

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

”Laila has moved on. Because in the end, she knows that’s all that she can do. That and hope.” A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini follows a 15-year-old girl, Mariam, in Herat, who is sent to Kabul to marry an abusive man, Rasheed, 30 years her senior. Two decades later, 15-year-old Laila is forced to leave her home after a great tragedy and join Mariam’s abusive household. Two women who come from different lives cross paths in tragic circumstances. A story about freedom and womanhood where two broken women find peace within each other and are able to break free of their patriarchal confinements.  

Although these top recommendations weren’t necessarily released in 2023, they are my best-loved reads that should be on your TBR list for the new year. Although I will never be able to read these books for the first time again, I hope that you feel just as moved as I did obsessively flipping through these literary triumphs.

Rida Shahbaz

St. Andrews '27

I am a first-year at the University of St. Andrews, and this is my first year writing for Her Campus. I am majoring in Neuroscience but I love writing, whether poems, short stories, or articles. I am so grateful to have the opportunity to continue my passion for writing through Her Campus. I grew up in Dublin, Ireland, but now live in Canada in a small town an hour north of Toronto. Growing up, I moved houses and cities a lot, so my idea of ‘home’ was constantly changing. This sort of led me into an identity crisis where I’d often feel like I was in limbo–not particularly belonging to one place. Something that remained a constant for me was writing; it was a way for me to trap my thoughts in time. In all the impermanent aspects of my life, I could cage my words onto paper and create a home between the spaces of each sentence. Through my writing, I hope to make a difference, albeit it is as small as making someone laugh, cry, or both. I truly think there is something so beautiful about moving someone with words. Being a woman of colour and being raised in different parts of the world, I often sought comfort in reading and listening to the experiences of other women. Her Campus allows me to pay that forward and hopefully reach an audience that longs to feel understood.