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My Top 5 Reads of 2023

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The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UCD chapter.

I’ve read 50 books over the past 11 months of the year. These 50 books are a mix of novels, plays, poetry books, graphic novels, memoirs, and so on. Some were personal choices I picked up from the library after perusing my “to-read” list, and many were required for class. I consider myself a picky reader—I read often and I enjoy reading, but it takes a lot for a book to truly win me over. After much deliberation, I’ve created a list of my top five favorite books I’ve read this past year.

Carmilla by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu

I previously wrote about Carmilla in my vampire-obsession-fueled article last spring. I concluded that article by mentioning that Carmilla may be one of my new favorite books, and eight months later, that statement holds true. Carmilla is the vampire classic that predates Bram Stoker’s Dracula; it features Laura, a young woman, and the vampiress Carmilla who comes to stay at Laura’s home. Something I love about this book (aside from the vampires) is that despite being written in 1872, it reads as though it could be written today—in a way, it feels timeless. 

Call Me By Your Name by André Aciman

Though the book is not as well-known as the film, Call Me By Your Name is a beautifully written—and heartbreaking—story. Prior to reading the book, I’d seen the movie, and I rewatched the movie after reading it. This is a great example of a book and movie adaptation pair that complement each other. I usually prefer the book over the movie, but with Call Me By Your Name, I think they each enhance my understanding of the story: the book explains Elio’s feelings and the procession of his relationship with Oliver much more in-depth, and the movie’s visuals, music, and portrayal of the characters bring the story to life.

Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel

Fun Home is a graphic novel by the cartoonist Alison Bechdel (yes, of Bechdel Test fame). It tells the story of her childhood through her college years, focusing on her relationship with her father. The story chronicles Bechdel’s dysfunctional family life, the discovery of and struggle with her sexuality as she grew up, her father’s struggles with his sexuality, and her father’s suicide when Bechdel was in college. As the subtitle Tragicomic suggests, it is darkly witty, and Bechdel compellingly examines the many similarities, as well as stark differences, between herself and her father.

Normal People by Sally Rooney

I read Normal People for my Irish Literature class in the spring. This was the only book on the course syllabus I was already familiar with, because it’s quite popular on TikTok and because of the TV adaptation, but I’d never felt compelled to check it out. Since it was popular online, I assumed it was overrated. My perspective completely changed once I read it. I felt so invested in Connell and Marianne’s relationship, I think in part because I saw aspects of one of my friendships/relationships in theirs. I don’t do this often, but I dogeared pages and underlined lines quite a few times because there were parts I found so powerful.

Skin Shows: Gothic Horror and the Technology of Monsters by Jack Halberstam

Skin Shows is a book of literary criticism examining the portrayal of the monstrous in the Gothic genre. Halberstam tracks this reading of the monstrous from classic Gothic novels like Dracula and Frankenstein to late 20th-century horror movies like The Silence of the Lambs. I came across this book last winter quarter while doing research for an essay on the Gothic in Frankenstein and The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. I used pieces of Halberstam’s chapter on Frankenstein in my paper, but I ended up reading the entire book because I thought it was so insightful and interesting. I recently watched The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (the original and the sequel) and had Halberstam’s criticism in mind, which added a lot to my viewing experience.

Honorable mentions:

Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl by Carrie Brownstein, Bluebeard by Kurt Vonnegut, & A Ghost in the Throat by Doireann Ní Ghríofa

As the fall quarter comes to a close, I’m excited to use my free time to dive into more of the books I’m interested in. Hopefully through the next year I come across even more books that inspire, and resonate with me.

Raised in Southern California, currently studying English Lit at UC Davis. Banana pudding enthusiast and aspiring corgi owner.