Top Ten Books of 2023 – Nonfiction Edition!

My ten favorite nonfiction reads of the year!
Christi Hegstad December 13th, 2023

What an excellent reading year 2023 has been! This has made narrowing down my list to ten favorites delightfully difficult, but today’s blog is my attempt to take on this annual challenge.

My ten favorite nonfiction reads are listed here in no particular order. If you’ve read any of them, I’d love to hear your thoughts, too!

HumanKind by Rutger Bregman

A beautiful, thoughtful read that can help restore your faith in humanity. Bregman does a terrific job presenting facts about our world that show quite a different story than what we may see on the nightly news. Although not sugar-coated nor in denial of the issues we face, HumanKind is an optimistic and uplifting read, and also a good reminder to think critically and not simply take headlines and sensationalism at face value.

All The Beauty In The World by Patrick Bringley

This may be the only nonfiction book on my list this year that actually brought tears to my eyes. We see (and I typically enjoy) a lot of ‘project for a year’ types of books, but this was completely different: prompted in large part by grief, Bringley left his fast-paced career in journalism to quietly stand guard over the artwork at the Metropolitan Museum of Art – a position he then held for the next ten years. I love the reflective nature of this work and his story, and the deep impacts he experienced in all aspects of life.

Wild & Precious, narrated by Sophia Bush and others

I’ve long been a fan of Mary Oliver’s gorgeous poetry, and this book (found only in audio format, I believe) reminds me that I’m certainly not the only one. This unique celebration includes commentary from famous actors, general readers, Oliver’s students, and more, and even includes samples of Oliver reading her own poems – a beautiful way to take them in. A very unique format and a powerful example of legacy.

Quit by Annie Duke

This was one of the first books I read this year and has remained one of the most impactful. Duke’s perspectives on quitting – from her unique background in both psychology and professional poker playing – really challenge my long-held beliefs about quitting. I’ve written articles about how this book has affected my thinking (you can find an example here) as well as the realizations I had when reflecting on the connections between quitting and persevering (as discussed here).

The Good Enough Job by Simone Stolzoff

For 20+ years my professional life has been dedicated to helping people experience meaning and purpose at work and in life, so I love reading different explorations of this topic. By sharing a variety of individuals’ unique career experiences, this book provides an intriguing look at our relationship with our work, how much it defines us, and whether or not we ‘require’ a certain job or role in order to find fulfillment. If you find your definition of success changing over time, you may find this book particularly insightful.

The Confidence Gap by Russ Harris

Confidence is an area I coach on often, although it is rarely the specific one that brings people to coaching; it’s often an underlying component that can unwittingly impact our motivation, achievement, and sense of purpose. This book is over ten years old but just made my reading list last month and instantly became a favorite. I especially appreciate the practical solutions Harris suggests, as well as the section on values, goals, and their connection with confidence.

Let Your Mind Run by Deena Kastor with Michelle Hamilton

I can’t quite imagine the life of a professional athlete – someone whose livelihood requires them to run for miles upon miles upon miles every day – but this memoir took me a bit closer! Beyond the intense physical training of an elite distance runner, Kastor shares the importance of mental toughness and the training she had to undergo in mindset, optimism, and positivity in order to achieve the incredible feats she has accomplished. I particularly love her drive and determination blended with utter kindness, care, and compassion for teammates and competitors alike. I recommend listening to the audiobook while exercising – a good motivation boost! 

Leadership Secrets of Nick Saban by John Talty

When I started this audiobook I barely knew who Nick Saban was; by the end he practically felt like a colleague. I’m admittedly not an avid football fan but I am a fan of effective coaching – whether in athletics, business, or elsewhere – and I took away a number of tidbits from this book. Informed by a variety of people who have interacted with Saban over the years, this book clearly shows he has impacted many throughout his lengthy career. I particularly enjoyed the emphasis on foundational keys like consistency, focus, efficiency, and not letting external circumstances run the show or impact your level of effort/dedication. Very motivating!

These Precious Days by Ann Patchett

As I’ll share in my upcoming fiction top ten list, I believe this is the first time in decades of reading that an author has made both my fiction and nonfiction favorites the same year! A collection of essays, this book explores aspects of Patchett’s life ranging from her unique relationship with her three fathers, to how Tom Hanks came to narrate her Dutch House audiobook, to friendship, bookstore ownership, and more. Patchett became one of my favorite writers of all time back in the early 2000s and I will pretty much read her grocery lists at this point, should she choose to publish them.

Hidden Potential by Adam Grant

If you heard me gush about Think Again a couple years back, get ready to hear me gush about Grant’s latest release in a similar fashion. I tabbed and highlighted pretty much every page of this one, and even copied a few poignant lines in my personal journal because they spoke to me so deeply. If you’d like to chat with me about Hidden Potential early next year, make sure you’re on my email list or connected with me on social media, as I’m partnering with a nearby bookstore for a fun book club chat about this one!

There you have it: My ten favorite nonfiction reads of the year! A few honorable mentions came close – feel free to peruse my blog for thoughts on those. And stay tuned for my ten fiction favorites, coming soon!

What was your favorite nonfiction book of the year?

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