15 of the best books for women to read in 2023
One of the best things about reading is that we can step into a new perspective with each new book. We can live different lives, visit new places, and broaden our understanding of the world.
As I shared in my post about the best books for men, I don’t think there’s such a thing as women-only books or men-only books.
But the books that I’ve shared in this post speak to what it’s like to be a woman today, whether it’s finding a place to belong, building a career, navigating friendships, or embarking on the journey of self-realization.
These are some of the best books for women to understand themselves, step into the shoes of others, and think about their direction in life.
They are also some of the best new books written by women, most of which were published in the last couple of years, and they’re all fantastic recommendations for men too. Read on to (hopefully) find some of your next favourite books…
The best books for women in 2023
Maame by Jessica George
Read Maame for… an uplifting yet moving novel on the joy and guilt of stepping aside from your responsibilities and finding your own way in life.
At home in London, Maddie is the primary caretaker for her father, who suffers from advanced-stage Parkinson’s. At work, her boss is a nightmare and Maddie is tired of always being the only Black person in every meeting.
Maame is the story of Maddie’s late blooming: whether that’s pushing for recognition in her career, saying yes to after-work drinks, or throwing herself into the world of internet dating.
It’s a heartwarming (and sometimes heartbreaking) look at self-realization, female friendship, and belonging – and one of the best books for women in 2023.
Enchantment: Awakening Wonder in an Anxious Age by Katherine May
Read Enchantment for… a spellbindingly beautiful look at how we can awaken our wonder and marvel at the world when we’re more anxious than ever.
From Katherine May, the bestselling author of Wintering – one of the best books for women in their twenties and beyond – comes this gorgeous new book for March 2023.
Enchantment is full of gentle inspiration for when you feel exhausted, directionless, or out of tune with the world’s wonder and awe, offering one of the best new books for women to read.
We All Want Impossible Things by Catherine Newman
Read We All Want Impossible Things for… an emotional yet uplifting and beautifully wise book about the life-changing power of friendship.
Although Catherine Newman’s 2022 bestseller is about heartbreak, it’s ultimately about the joy of friendship – in particular, the forty-two-year bond between Edi and Ash.
Their friendship has weathered marriages, heartbreak, infertility, and children. But now the unthinkable has happened, and Edi is dying of ovarian cancer.
As she spends her last days at a hospice near Ash, the best friends reminisce, hold on, and try to let go, all with unflinching compassion, riotous humour, and timeless wisdom.
Strong Female Character by Fern Brady
Read Strong Female Character for… a new, top-rated memoir of womanhood and neurodiversity from Scottish comedian Fern Brady.
Like Fern Brady, I’m autistic, but Strong Female Character is one of the best books for anyone to read in 2023. It’s fiercely witty, heartbreaking, and oh-so-required.
This is the comedian’s memoir of finally being diagnosed with autism, years after telling her doctor that she had it, ending up at a psychiatric facility when neither her parents nor school knew what to do with her, and never becoming the “right kind” of woman.
Violeta by Isabel Allende
Read Violeta for… a gripping novel about Violeta Del Valle, whose passion-filled life spans one hundred years and bears witness to the greatest upheavals of the twentieth century.
When Isabel Allende (best known for The House of the Spirits) releases a new novel, it’s probably going to be good.
Spanning the century that follows 1920, and beginning with the birth of a feisty girl on a stormy day, Violeta is an epic story of a woman whose courage, passion, and humour will carry her through some of modern history’s greatest upheavals.
Carrie Soto is Back by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Read Carrie Soto is Back for… Taylor Jenkins Reid’s latest bestseller about a tennis legend brought back to the court for one last attempt at defending her record.
If you loved The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo and Daisy Jones & the Six, you should absolutely read Taylor Jenkins Reid’s latest book (it’s also one of the best beach reads for 2023).
Carrie Soto is Back is her story of a tennis star supposedly past her prime at thirty-seven, brought back to the tennis court to give everything she’s got to defend her legacy.
Start Where You Are: A Journal for Self-Exploration by Meera Lee Patel
Read Start Where You Are for… a gently inspiring journal to nurture your creativity, mindfulness, and motivation.
Turn to the comforting pages of this guided journal to navigate the chaos of daily life with a simple reminder: that when we take the time to know ourselves and our dreams, we can best appreciate the world, achieve our dreams, and lift up others.
Featuring vibrant hand-lettering and gorgeous illustrations, Meera Lee Patel’s uplifting book is also full of inspiring prompts, quotes to encourage reflection, and plenty of room for writing and daydreaming.
The Marriage Portrait by Maggie O’Farrell
Read The Marriage Portrait for… one of the best historical fiction books to escape into right now, written from the perspective of a strong woman in a confined world.
Right from the start of this 2022 bestseller, we know that less than a year after fifteen-year-old Lucrezia de’ Medici marries Alfonso II d’Este, Duke of Ferrara, she will be dead.
The official cause of death was ‘putrid fever’, but it was rumoured that she had been murdered by her husband. What follows is a spellbinding book that’s gorgeously crafted, infused with life, and difficult to put down.
What My Bones Know: A Memoir of Healing from Complex Trauma by Stephanie Foo
Read What My Bones Know for… a deeply personal book about the hold of the past over the present, the mind over the body, and one woman’s ability to reclaim agency from her trauma.
If you loved The Body Keeps the Score or have experienced trauma, you should absolutely consider reading What My Bones Know next: a memoir of reckoning and healing from acclaimed journalist Stephanie Foo. As the author writes at the start of the book, some of the early sections are heavy-going, and you can skip over these if they’re triggering.
Stephanie interviews scientists and tries a variety of innovative therapies (including EMDR, which also helped me with trauma), investigates the effects of immigrant trauma on her California hometown, and uncovers family secrets to learn how trauma can be inherited through generations.
Amazing Grace Adams by Fran Littlewood
Read Amazing Grace Adams for… 2023’s answer to Bernadette, Eleanor Oliphant, Rosie, and Ove.
Amazing Grace Adams is a funny, touching story of an invisible everywoman pushed to the brink. Meet Grace Adams, forty-five, perimenopausal, stalled, and finally losing it.
Why Women Grow by Alice Vincent
Read Why Women Grow for… a stunning non-fiction story of soil, sisterhood, and survival from the author of Rootbound.
I love books that hover between the genres of nature, memoir, and self-growth. Published in March 2023, Why Women Grow is a much-needed exploration of why women turn to the earth as gardeners, growers, and custodians.
The Illustrated Woman by Helen Mort
Read The Illustrated Woman for… a remarkably raw and honest poetry collection that celebrates the beauty and resilience of women’s bodies.
Helen Mort’s books are some of my top recommendations for women in 2023. I fell in love with her memoir of motherhood and mountains, A Line Above the Sky, but here I wanted to focus on her 2022 poetry collection.
Amidst the landscapes of the Peak District and the glaciers of Greenland – and with her trademark infusion of wild adventure – The Illustrated Woman is a stunning anthology about what it means to live in a woman’s body.
Nora Goes Off Script by Annabel Monaghan
Read Nora Goes Off Script for… warmth, wit, fresh starts, and a love story that doesn’t shy away from life’s emotional baggage.
Nora is a romance screenwriter who is well-versed in the formula for love. But when her husband leaves her and their two kids, Nora turns her marriage’s collapse into cash and writes the best script of her life.
Endpapers by Jennifer Savran Kelly
Read Endpapers for… an evocative debut about gender, authenticity, and the hard conversations we owe ourselves in pursuit of a world where no one has to hide.
This quiet, slice-of-life-ish debut from Jennifer Savran Kelly surprised me. The story of a queer book conservator who finds a mysterious old love letter in a book’s endpapers, Dawn Levit works at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, repairing old books instead of creating her own art.
Not only is Endpapers a sharply-written book that celebrates art, creativity, and self-expression, but it also explores the difficulty of honesty and the consequences of all that’s left unsaid.
A Psalm for the Wild-Built by Becky Chambers
Read A Psalm for the Wild-Built if… you want to escape to a utopian future where tea is the solution for everything and you can just drop everything and wander into the wilderness when life gets too much.
I feel like I recommend Becky Chambers’ writing in every post at the moment (and to everyone I meet offline)… so if you’re getting tired of reading this, I apologise. But also, she’s fantastic.
This is the story of Sibling Dex, a non-binary tea monk who makes people’s lives better by travelling around in their bike-powered wagon and creating the perfect cup of tea for every situation.
But something’s missing in Dex’s life, and they don’t start to figure things out until they bump into Mosscap, a robot who’s only now emerging from the wilderness after centuries away from humans.
For more about Becky Chambers and her delightful gifts to the world (and favourite tea), I loved this feature by Wired.
So, there you go: my recommendations for the best books for women in 2023. Enjoy! Let me know what you think, and I always love to hear your recommendations too.
For more of the best books to read, you might also like:
- 15 of the best books for women in their 20s to read
- The best vacation reads for 2023 to unwind with
- The best memoirs to read in 2023 for beautiful & inspiring writing
Enjoy more from me
- Retreat into my new book, Your Life in Bloom: Finding Your Path and Your Courage, Grounded in the Wisdom of Nature.
- I'm also the author of Mountain Song: A Journey to Finding Quiet in the Swiss Alps, a book about my time living alone by the mountains.
- If you love books, are feeling a little lost right now, and would love some gentle comfort and guidance, join The Sanctuary, my seven-day course to rebalance your life.