My 15 Favorite Books of 2023 + TSLL Turns 14!
Tuesday December 26, 2023

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Simply waking up in the morning, being healthy and having the good fortune to step into a new day with a morning routine filled with small, but significant rituals brings celebration to my day. And it is celebrating these seemingly small moments in the everyday that I have found open my perspective to discovering how much there is to celebrate each day.

In the annual acknowledgement and celebration of the anniversary of when TSLL came to be on that day following Christmas in 2009 enjoyed in my own company with my pups, I extend a deeper gratitude each and every year because in many ways it seems a dream come true all that has transpired after that magical day because in all sincerity it is just that, a dream while nebulous, as blog’s didn’t exist when I was a young girl, to write and read, explore and create and share each day, such an idea danced in my mind and thankfully I never quite let the dream go when the world of ‘grown-ups’ began to be something I had to step into away from my childhood dreaming. There is not one day that passes that I don’t both pinch myself and say thank you to the universe for being given the opportunity to both do what I love and share and engage with TSLL readers what I continue to learn about living a life that brings deep, abiding contentment that often to outsiders is far too simple and non-‘shiny’ to be something to revel in, but as J.R.R. Tolkien reminds,

“It is no bad thing celebrating a simple life.” — J. R. R. Tolkien

And so in celebrating what brings us contentment, what we are grateful for, we remind ourselves and communicate to the world beyond ourselves that indeed it is true, this is a choice and it is by no mistake that this life is a life I feel most fortunate to live each day and share with you so that you too can live your unique simply luxurious life.

And alongside celebrating the blog’s anniversary is a far more grand and wide-stretching thank you to you dear TSLL readers. Your continued curiosity to live a life you love living and one that fulfills you as you courageously dare to both find and then honor your true self is why TSLL is able to continue to offer all that it does. Thank you for visiting and engaging with and exploring TSLL.

This particular time of year, around the anniversary of TSLL’s birthday, kicks off the Week Between the Years, one of my favorite times of year. During my teaching years, I enjoyed this time of year for the respite it gave me granting me an entire week of time to create and imagine content for the blog as well as relax without anyone else’s schedule hemming me in, and it continues to be a week of rejuvenation and reflection upon the year that was on the blog as well as in life.

This past year on TSLL brought 250 new blog posts, averaging 20 posts each month or five posts each week with the month of May sharing the most blog posts with 33 followed closely behind by August with 28 due to the annual events of British Week and French Week respectively. The number of posts picks up as the new seasons of both the blog, podcast and cooking show kick off in September and culminate with this final week of the year when 10 posts are shared filled with the top posts in various categories, and eight of the posts shared this year made the #TOP100 posts ranging on topics from Quiet Luxury, British television, travel to Britain, French effortless style, decorating and customization lessons and aging fabulously (see them all here).

The wonderful surprise that piques my curiosity each year regarding what will be discovered that will provide content shared on the blog often is found in the books I read, and this past year continued to demonstrate this to be true.

Today, as has become the annual tradition, I would like to share with you my favorite books read, enjoyed and appreciated during 2023. As you will notice below, many of them directly inspired an entire podcast episode or blog post (in these cases, I have linked directly to that post/episode), and others were Petit Plaisirs, were recommended during our monthly A Cuppa Moments w/Shannon chat and/or appeared in a weekly This & That post.

I share them in no particular order of preference, but rather in order as they appear in the photo above (only one is out of order). While I cannot wait to see what books and discoveries 2024 has waiting for us all, rest assured, I will continue to share what I think you might enjoy, appreciate and delight in as it unfolds.

Let’s take a look at 15 of my favorite books this year.

A fictitious story, originally published in 1950, consisting of fewer than 200 pages, it is delightful and comic, heartwarming and inspiring. Primarily set in the early 20th century through the World Wars in England, Bert Pinnegar is Old Herbaceous and we first meet him as he is growing up as an orphan in Victorian England and continue to follow him as he becomes the legendary head gardener for an English country estate.

~Watch March’s A Cuppa Moments where I talk it about the book even more and why I recommend it.

Having the opportunity to talk with and interview the Fashion editor of The Times London was one of the highlights of the podcast this year. Anna Murphy gave a fantastic interview about her newly published book on embracing and celebrating aging, and doing so fabulously through style in both our clothing, hair – embrace the gray! – and how we live our lives. I whizzed through this book when it arrived and couldn’t reach out fast enough to her publicist to invite her for an interview on the show.

Part of living well is having the knowledge to know how to do it. TSLL’s guiding ethos continues to be to bring the knowledge found and share it so that readers can apply it to their own lives and live as best suits them, and it was with Jay Shetty’s follow up book to his wildly popular Think Like A Monk, 8 Rules of Love: How to Find It Keep It and Let It Go that the knowledge came in abundance that I found to be most helpful, inspiring and life expanding. And so, as often happens, the book inspired a podcast episode, #360 – How to Find Love: Be Love Instead of Look for Love.

The most recent favorite book shared on the blog, Your Brain On Art: How the Arts Transforms Us, became a Petit Plaisir for reasons I share in this post, and primarily because if for whatever reason we thought making time to go to that exhibit, watch that film, listen to that performance, whatever medium of art you are drawn to, was frivolous, rest assured it is far from that. It is in fact imperative that we highly value our exposure and experience with the arts not only for our improved well-being but the well-being of our communities.

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For anyone who not only works in a creative field but simply loves to create in any form or fashion, this book provides validation as to how to honor what intuitively you have likely discovered you need to continue to be creative in your unique way. I first cited Wired to Create: Unraveling the Mysteries of the Creative Mind in episode #364 – Energy Management for Quality Everydays: 6 Habits to Include, as one of the guiding points the book teaches is to prioritize play in our daily lives. As odd as that may initially sound to adults, it is vital to letting our mind discover what is waiting for us to stumble upon. Along with play, the book also speaks of other paradoxes like mindfulness and daydreaming, openness and sensitivity, and solitude and collaboration and underscores the importance of embracing and savoring each.

I write in detail in this post about why I thoroughly and with great enthusiasm recommend Rick Rubin’s now bestselling book The Creative Act that was released this past January as it was chosen as a Petit Plaisir. Unorthodox, far from concrete, but yet unexpectedly specific as it pertains to honoring and trusting, letting go and exploring, letting be and being brave. In many ways The Creative Act is a book of meditations to read a small dose of each day to ground you in embracing uncertainTy as you honor your unique life journey.

Yet another inspiring guest I feel absolutely most fortunate to have had on the podcast. Dr. DePaulo, the leading expert in single living, has written a book that was long overdue as it celebrates and demonstrates that indeed choosing to live a single life is a most wonderful and fulfilling decision for those who have courageously discovered that is where their best way of living and savoring life is to be found. I thanked Dr. DePaulo profusely, no doubt far too much, but it is more than deserved and I thank her for her courage to write and dare to share her work.

Understanding our mind, a topic often explored here on TSLL, provides that missing key so many of us try to find elsewhere, but upon receiving the information about our wonderful tool that we carry with us throughout our entire lives, our entire lives have the opportunity to change should we harness the knowledge. Mind Your Mindset: The Science that Shows Success Starts with Your Thinking, chosen for a Petit Plaisir in an episode that you will see later this week was a one of the TOP 5 episodes of 2023, is a valuable resource for understanding how to harness the gifts our mind can help us discover once we understand how it works.

On a far more light-hearted note, as much as a mystery can be, I began reading Anthony Horowitz’s writing after watching Magpie Murders on PBS last fall (2022), and quickly became a fan of his writing style. Quick, smart, engaging, you don’t want to put down his book, and each book is a tome, often more than 400 pages, but you will finish them in no time because he keeps you intrigued without too much excess, but rather because the stories are told in a personable first person, and in the case of his series Hawthorne & Horowitz is written from the perspective of Horowitz himself, but fictionalized regarding the crime. You almost think this had to have happened to him as his voice is so strong and vivid. I cannot wait for the fifth book in this series to be released in the new year.

If you too were taught the all too familiar Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs triangle back in Psychology 101, you will definitely want to pick up this book because first of all, Abraham Maslow never created the triangle, (I share in July’s A Cuppa Moments how the triangle came to be). Yes, he researched the needs that appear in the triangle, but what is most fascinating is that his work and research didn’t stop there, and in fact evolved, but many of those papers and writing were never published. Dr. Scott Barry Kaufman gained access to these papers and discovered what Maslow learned to be true about the dual aspects needed to truly live a life of self-actualization, and after reading the book, which again, I whizzed through in fascination and appreciation, I found it to be far more applicable and plausible with deepened clarity as to how to actually live such a life.

Oh, this book. Wise and inspiring. I share in great detail in episode #362 why Dr. Gladys McGarey’s book is one I highly recommend, so I won’t go on and on here, but if you are looking for a book grounded in both science and spirituality through the lens of mindfulness, this is the book to inspire you to live your very own well-lived life in the new year.

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I wanted Oscar Claude Monet’s life to continue long past his full and beautiful 86 years. Reading Jackie Wullschläger’s biography of the father of Impressionism, the first English biography of Claude Monet that contains the inclusion of more than 3000 personal letters he wrote to a variety of people in his life (many/all of both of his wives’ letters he burned or had destroyed, but his to them and others were not), was akin to traveling to France and also to London as Monet visited and stayed in London often throughout his career as a painter to capture the Thames as he saw it through his fifth floor room at The Savoy which had been newly opened in 1889.

Writing in concise, yet vivid, short chapters, readers quickly move through his life journey, all the while getting to know the man who was drawn to capturing the natural world despite the financial hardships that plagued him for the first-half of his life before finally the world began to see the appeal of the works from the Impressionists.

Ceramicist France Palmer’s book came into my life as a gift from a dear reader of TSLL and friend, brilliant artist in her own right Elizabeth Barlow, and I devoured the contents as Palmer generously shares her daily life and seasonal routines, how and where she finds inspiration, and with one aspect being her garden, of which she shares many tips and discoveries about success in growing dahlias and other beautiful perennials, I took note with appreciation.

Speaking of gardening, Danish expert gardener Claus Dalby‘s new book The Cottage Garden spoke to my adoration for the gardening approach that is cottage gardening. Filled with more than 700 beautiful photographs of gardens he personally toured both in England as well as in Denmark and Germany, he walks you through the plants and structures that fill the gardens that dazzle and delight our senses providing ideas and inspiration that we too can create our own cottage garden wherever our own gardens may be.

As I was sitting down to write today’s post, I realized this book, Mindfulness, hadn’t been placed in the stack for the pic shown at the top of the post, so I went back and retook the photo, thus the order is altered a bit, but no less, it is there! However, this book is one to pick up if you are trying to instill the skill of mindfulness in your life. Over the past year most especially I have experienced first-hand more moments of deep awareness as I engaged with the world, an awareness of trust in what I observed, hear or felt, and I credit the skill of mindfulness. And while this skill takes time to show up in our daily lives, the benefits of awareness of fully hearing and seeing all that is around us, when it begins to occur in our lives, while in subtle moments, appear blaringly different to how we have been in the world and our lives before, and in those moments a deeper peace is felt.

A quote from the book,Now is the only moment you’ll ever really have. Mindfulness is about waking up to this. It’s about becoming fully aware of the life you’ve already go, rather than the life you wish you had.”

I will explain more about all of this along with the more explanatory how to cultivate the skills of mindfulness in TSLL’s upcoming Contentment Master Class video course to be released in 2024, but if you have ever been curious about this concept of Mindfulness, this is a book to pick up and explore.

Now to begin reading! And what a wonderful time of year to dive in to books we are curious about, the Week Between the Years. Wishing you a wonderful final week of 2023 and may you enjoy many moments to read and lose all track of time discovering what you didn’t know you were looking for, finding after long explorations what you weren’t sure you would ever come across and savoring the nourishment found in books of all genres and topics.

Be sure to watch each month’s A Cuppa Moments w/Shannon where the first regular inclusion of each conversation is what I am reading, what I am curious to read and what books I am recommending. You can catch up on all of these many book titles in past A Cuppa Moments w/Shannon video chats here. (Explore becoming a TOP Tier Member to view these exclusive posts/video chats.)

Happy and abundant reading. 😌📖📚❤️

7 thoughts on “My 15 Favorite Books of 2023 + TSLL Turns 14!

  1. I love starting the new year with your review of the books for 2023. I am sitting here at 6:00 am after all the Christmas hoopla with a cuppa coffee and thinking about my life for 2024. Your recommendations really help to center me and inspire me. I am so glad I found you. You have been my best investment over the years.
    I bought a copy of The Road to Le Le Papillon for my 25 year old daughter for Christmas so we can read and reflect together in 2024. Thanks for all the valuable information and inspiration you provide!

  2. Have you read BeverlyNichols. He, (yes, he) is a British garden writer, bon vivant.. start with Merry Hall. A truly delightful discovery for an Anglophile garden who appreciates humor. It does not disappoint, but please start with Merry Hall.

  3. Congratulations on 14 years of TSLL, and how grateful I’m sure we all are for your consistent quality content and inspiration, Shannon.
    I do love to read your book recommendations (I think one of my favourite article topics in whatever I’m reading is book reviews/recs) and many of these have been added to my Goodreads so I don’t neglect to come back to them. My TBR list is quite long 😅

    1. I have the same problem Sarah! My Goodreads list shows over 200 titles to be read. Thank you Shannon for so many great recommendations ❤️

  4. First, many congratulations are due on the 14th anniversary of TSLL! I am ever so thankful for TSLL because, over the years, as we traveled together through daily life and reflected and discuss many themes, it has become one of my “best friends”. Thank you, Shannon! 🙂

    Second, thank you for sharing a list of your favourite books. I have taken notes and added titles to my next-to-read list. It is a very very very long list! 😉


    1. Isabel,

      Thank you for your comment. 😌 I feel so very fortunate to travel through daily life with readers such as yourself, sharing what is learned and schussing it along the way. I am grateful to hear you enjoy it as well. Wishing you many moments of reading, discovering and savoring. 💛📖

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