By Rachel Lankester, Editor

I’ve been inspired to write this post about the books I read in 2023 by the very fabulous Kate Codrington who stunned me with her fabulous review of her own books read last year. And she’s been doing it for five years. So I feel I have to catch up! Not that I’m at all competitive of course!

She’s also an inspiration to me in that she borrows books from the library instead of feeding the Amazon machine. I’m a sucker for a Kindle book and I need to wean myself off that addiction most probably!

Looking back at the books I’ve read this year, it’s been a real hodgepodge. I’ve clearly been doing a lot of soul-searching, definitely looking for healing, analyzing relationships, reading about how we can age well and occasionally dipping into some great fiction, which I’ve mostly neglected for years.

books I read
I rarely read hard copies but these look nice!

My Kindle says I’ve read 36 titles, but occasionally there’s a hard copy and there have been academic books too for my gerontology master’s. Kindle also counted some books I marked as read in 2023, but actually finished earlier. But I’m averaging around three a month which is pretty cool ‘in my book’.

I’ve increased my reading speed exponentially in recent years. Sometimes I get the Audible version of the book and move between that and the Kindle version. That all speeds up how much I read. And trying to always read books written by my podcast guests, I need to be able to get through them fast! (My podcast was nominated in the book category of the Independent Podcast Awards.) Not to mention all the research papers I need to read for my master’s!

So here we go, a gander through the books I’ve read and mostly enjoyed last year. There are quite a few others I’ve dipped into but not actually completed. I’ve made a pledge to myself that this year I will try to write a short note about each book when I finish it, as I so often forget what I have read very quickly.

The Four Winds – Kristen Hannah

Starting with fiction, which I don’t often read! I’m not sure how I found this book, but I really loved it. Perhaps on a podcast I listened to? When there’s a strong female character, I’m immediately hooked and the story is very powerful. One woman’s epic fight to survive in the American Midwest. Fabulous!

Hagitude: Reimagining The Second Half of Life – Sharon Blackie

I was lucky enough to interview Sharon on my podcast which you can listen to here. This book opened up a whole new world for me about women in non-patriarchal history, mythology and folklore, and how we can look to these strong, feisty role models of older women to help us redefine and reimagine the second half of life. I learned so much from this book, which reinforced my excitement about the post-menopausal phase of life. Enlightening.

The Wiser Women’s Guide To Perimenopause And Menopause – Tania Elfersy

I’ve long loved the work of Tania Elfersy and quote her extensively in my book. I was very excited when I discovered she has recently published her own book. This is such a revolutionary look at perimenopause and menopause. It’s empowering and reassuring, revolutionary and back to basics wisdom. Tania’s also been on my podcast. Highly recommended.

Unwell Women: A Journey Through Medicine And Myth in a Man-Made World – Elinor Cleghorn

This is a fascinating look at how medicine has been designed for men in a man-made world. It looks at how women have been treated medically through history and exposes the truth of our medical world and women’s place within it. This is the book to read to understand why women’s health has either been mythologized based on nonsense or overlooked as irrelevant. It unpacks the roots of the perpetual misunderstanding, mystification and misdiagnosis of women’s bodies. Excellent.

The XX Brain: The Groundbreaking Science Empowering Women to Prevent Dementia – Lisa Moscone

This is a fascinating look how women’s brains evolve through life and how we can protect ourselves against dementia, which so often strikes women more than men. While estrogen decline plays a significant part in brain changes, there is so much else we can be doing to protect our brains in later life. Informative.

Working Daughter: A Guide to Caring for Your Aging Parents While Making a Living – Liz O’Donnell

Another of my podcast guests, Liz O’Donnell runs a community online for women combining work with caring for their aging parents. A topic very close to my heart and I was delighted to welcome Liz to talk at length about her book and personal experience. It’s a very powerful book and a very powerful podcast. It’s always reassuring to see one’s own life experience reflected in other people’s. And know that we’re never actually alone. Empowering.

Seven and a Half Lessons About the Brain – Lisa Feldman Barrett

A fascinating and easily readable book about the brain – what it is, what it does and why. Turns out there’s no such thing as the ‘lizard brain’. It’s short, entertaining and accessible, explaining the basics of current neuroscience research. Cool.

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue – VE Schwab

This novel was recommended to me by an online contact. It wasn’t really the sort of book I would normally read and it was a bit long, but it was a engrossing story about a woman who is unable to be forgotten and also damned to live forever. Fascinating to see how her life played out. I realized it was really young adult fiction, but fun none the less. Once started I wanted to find out what happened to Addie and the Audible version helped my get through the whole story! Engaging.

Who Cares: The Hidden Crisis of Caregiving, and How We Solve It – Emily Kenway

Another awesome podcast guest. A lot of the books I read are by guests on my podcast. This book was utterly brilliant and I recommend it to everyone. Inspired by Emily‘s own tragic caring journey with her terminally ill mother, this book shines a light on the hidden and ignored world of caring and carers. It calls for a radical rethink of how we approach care, which we’re all going to encounter at some stage in our lives, either giving it or receiving it. You can listen to the awe-inspiring podcast here. Challenging, revolutionary and inspiring.

The Change – Kirsten Miller

I’m nervous about reading fiction about menopause as I like a different topic to the one that often fills my days and I don’t want it to be a winge fest. This was absolutely glorious and really celebrated the magnificence of the menopausal transition and the magical powers it can bring us. It was a brilliant read, fast paced and lots of fun. Rollicking.

The Overstory – Richard Powers

This again wasn’t a book I would naturally have picked up, but my other half was raving about it, so I thought I’d give it a go. I found it rather long and heavy but also fascinating. It’s a novel about trees and the people who learn to love them. That may sound bizarre, but it was incredible and as Barack Obama says, it changed my thoughts about the Earth and my own place in it. Compelling.

The Power Decade: How To Thrive After Menopause – Susan Saunders

I love everything Susan Saunders writes and she’s been on my podcast twice talking about how we can age well and keep our brains healthy. I love this latest book which explores the power inherent in menopause and how to make the most of life after it. I’m featured in it too which was absolutely delightful! Highly recommended.

Yellowface – Rebecca Kang

If you’ve been in my world for a while, you may know I studied Chinese and am fascinated by Chinese culture. Finding this novel by an acclaimed Chinese writer about someone pretending to write a China themed novel as a white woman was particularly fun for me as a white Chinese speaker. I didn’t think it was quite as good as some of the critics have said and the ending was perhaps slightly disappointing, but as an enlightening dive into the literary world and clashes between cultures, it was fascinating. Quirky.

What Fresh Hell Is This?: Perimenopause, Menopause, Other Indignities and You – Heather Corinna

I try and read a variety of menopause books so I have a complete picture (unless I know I will be tearing my hair out after reading the blurb and the first page, then I tend to avoid it!). Having written my own book, I’m aware it wasn’t the most inclusive. I was keen to read this one written by an author who identifies as non-binary. At the beginning and given the title, I feared it was going to be a negative winge fest but it actually turned out to be pretty positive and I recommend it as a well-rounded look at menopause. But I kept wanting to say to the author, please stop smoking and your menopause experience will be that much better! Inclusive.

Breaking The Age Code – Dr. Becca Levy

This book has been on my Kindle for ages, recommended by many including Ashton Applewhite. It is absolutely brilliant, looking in detail at how we age, what we can do to age as well as we possibly can and all the myths and assumptions that contribute to the negativity around aging. As Anna Maxted said, less self-help manual than a manifesto for a revolution. Dr Levy is the source of the research that found that positive age beliefs can add 7.5 years to your life. I loved this. Fantastic.

Hold Me Tight: Your Guide To The Most Successful Approach To Building Loving Relationships – Sue Johnson

Despite years of therapy I’ve never really explored attachment theory. This book opened my eyes to the crucial importance of how we attach early in life and explains a lot about my own life. It’s a phenomenal tool set for understanding hiccups in relationships especially when you haven’t got a clue why things keep going wrong. It provides a completely new lens with which to explore issues. Even if you understand reactions and feelings intellectually, it will be your experience of attachment and that of whoever you’re in relationship with, that dictates how you both behave. Life-changing.

Queen Bee – Ciara Geraghty

I decided to read this because I was sent it by the publisher, as a novel about menopause. It wasn’t the sort of book I would normally read and not really my cup of tea, but it was entertaining. It felt slightly as if it was jumping on the menopause bankwagon (you read that term here first!). I wanted to shout several times where menopause facts were misleading and had clearly being gleaned by a superficial media search. Regular readers and listeners to my work will know I’m a stickler for the true truth when it comes to menopause! If you like chick-lit, I think this one will be a fun read for you. Amusing.

A Smoke And A Song – Sherry Sidoti

Another podcast guest and you can listen to the interview here. Sherry is a yogi and writer living on Martha’s Vineyard (which is very much a character in her book). I didn’t know what to expect from the book but I loved it. It’s a memoir about Sherry’s personal healing journey through revisiting and excavating episodes in her life. I found it really powerful and beautifully written. She describes these episodes in the present tense and it’s highly evocative. I’ve been on my own healing journey this year, so I found it very moving. Cathartic.

Bourneville – Jonathan Coe

This was a very random book for me but I had to read it, because I grew up 5 miles from Bourneville in Birmingham. And I wanted to check it out before buying it for my mum. It was a lovely novel following a family through major events of the 20th century and was incredibly evocative for me as a Brummie. My own suburb of Hall Green even got a mention towards the end. This is a real delight to read. Highly recommended.

Fault Lines: Fractured Families And How to Mend Them – Dr Karl Pillemer

Families are complicated. I love to hear from people who’ve done research in interpersonal issues and I always find something of use to help me, often just by reframing things from a more objective standpoint! This was a really interesting read and certainly helped me reevaluate my own complicated family. Full of interviews and strategies to repair rifts or live in peace when nothing can be done. Reassuring.

Lessons In Chemistry – Bonnie Garmus

I absolutely love this book and was sad to finish it. It deserves all the accolades it has had and the TV series available on Apple TV is also sublime. I just loved everything about it, so if you haven’t read it yet go and do that! Brilliant.

The Myth of Normal: Trauma, Illness And Healing In A Toxic Culture – Gabor Maté & Daniel Maté

If you read one book in 2024, make it this one! Another book I part listened to, part read- it is very long. This is Gabor Maté’s latest work and my goodness I will be recommending it to everyone. Absolutely life-changing. So powerful. Gabor analyses the mind-body connection and applies it to individuals, communities, societies and the world as a whole. It’s a truly brilliant book and incredibly ambitious. It feels like the amalgamation of his life’s work. The audiobook is read by his son who also contributed to the book and (apart from the dodgy British accents he likes to do) it’s excellent. A MUST READ.

Remarkably Bright Creatures – Shelby Van Pelt

I was desperately seeking another novel to grab my attention like Lessons in Chemistry and this one was beautiful. It was such fun and I’m very grateful to the woman in a Facebook group who recommended it to me. Such a lovely story and a real page turner too. If you liked Lessons in Chemistry, I think you’ll like this one too. I need more books like this! Gorgeous.

The Slow Moon Climbs: The Science, History, And Meaning Of Menopause – Susan P Mattern

A history of menopause written by an eminent historian. This book reflected many of my views about menopause but gave me the concrete historical evidence I had previously been lacking. Of course we are designed to go through menopause. Of course there is an evolutionary reason for why we do. Of course we have a massive role to play in society post menopause as older women. I love, love, love this book and keep trying to persuade the author to come on my podcast. Fantastic.

Brothers, Sisters, Strangers: Sibling Estrangement And The Road To Reconciliation – Fern Schumer Chapman

Another book I read trying to make sense of the world this year. Part memoir and part warm, empathetic guide. This was a very useful read and enabled me to shift my perspective and see things with more compassion. Empowering.

A Monk’s Guide to Happiness: Meditation in the 21st Century – Gelong Thubten

I heard the author speak on Dr. Rangan Chatterjee’s podcast and was inspired to buy his first book. This is a highly accessible book about the power of meditation and how it can help with the stresses of modern day life. Highly recommended.

Handbook For Hard Times: A Monk’s Guide To Fearless Living – Gelong Thubten

I was so impressed with the first book I just had to buy the second! This takes meditation to a deeper level and has inspired me to both revisit and revamp my own meditation practice. It has lots of easy tips on how to make this a fundamental part of how you live and the power it can provide for dealing with the hard stuff. This is another very accessible book and I highly recommend it too. Enlightening.

Wise Power: Discover The Liberating Power of Menopause To Awaken Authority, Purpose And Belonging – Alexandra Pope & Sjanie Hugo Wurlitzer.

I wish I’d discovered these clever women while I was still menstruating! I’ve also read their pre-menopause book about menstruation, Wild Power, and really wish I’d known about the power of our menstrual cycle when I was still cycling. This book shows how menopause is a time of positive transformation in a woman’s life and while it may be difficult as we go through it, it brings great bounty. I interviewed the authors on the podcast before the book was published and in fact before it was even completed. You can listen to that podcast here.

The Power of Now: A Guide To Spiritual Enlightenment – Eckhart Tolle

I’ve been on quite a spiritual journey this year, exploring new ideas and trying to get closer to what really matters in life. This book has been on my Kindle for years but I hadn’t read it. I finally made the time to read it and thoroughly enjoyed it. I particularly appreciated the reminder that it’s my ego that lies behind so much of life and that letting go of things that don’t serve you can be a positive thing. Staying in the moment is the power of now. Enlightening.

A New Earth: Awakening Your Life’s Purpose – Eckhart Tolle

Having finally read the life-changing Power of Now, I decided to follow up with this book which Oprah Winfrey says is a wake up call for the entire planet. It really is a life-changing book. I part read, part listened to both these books and it was very good to be able to do that. That is how I manage to consume so many books often by listening to them while walking or just moving around! A global shift in consciousness can be the balm we need in these troubled times. Empowering.

The 100-Year Life: Living And Working In An Age Of Longevity – Linda Gratton & Andrew Scott

As a student of gerontology I’m fascinated with how we age, how our life expectancy is increasing and how changes may impact our lives and lifespan. This is a fascinating book that looks at the specific implications for life when we’re living to 100. How we’ll need completely new systems and to reconfigure the arc of our lives. My one criticism of it was that care wasn’t mentioned once in the entire book. If we’re all going to live to 100, we’re going to need so much more care, and it wasn’t even raised. Thought-provoking.

And my book of the year, of all the books I read in 2023? It has to be The Myth Of Normal – if everyone read that, we would live in a very different and much better world! It’s an amazing book! Get it!

If you’re looking for more book recommendations, you may also like Good Books For Middle-Aged Women (The Year I Read 86!) and Best Books About Menopause And Ageing Well. Enjoy!

Rachel Lankester is the founder of Magnificent Midlife, author, host of the Magnificent Midlife Podcast, a midlife mentor and editor of the Mutton Club online magazine. After an initially devastating early menopause at 41, she dedicated herself to helping women vibrantly transition through the sometimes messy middle of life, helping them cope better with menopause and ageing in general, and create magnificent next chapters. She’s been featured in/on BBC Woman’s Hour, The Huffington Post, The Sunday Times, Thrive Global, Authority Magazine, The Age Buster, Woman’s Weekly, Prima Magazine, eShe, Tatler HK and Woman’s Own amongst others. She believes we just get better with age. Get her book Magnificent Midlife: Transform Your Middle Years, Menopause and Beyond which was recommended in the New York Times.

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Last Updated on May 23, 2024 by Editorial Staff

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