The Book Lover’s Guide to Books & Reading in 2023

If you have followed us for any amount of time (especially over on Instagram stories), you know that I am a huge, huge book nerd. Like, Rory Gilmore level book nerd. No shame here–I’m proud of it! And as it turns out, many of you are just as book-crazy (or even more so!) as me. For that reason, our team has put together a fun guide to books and reading for the new year. Book challenges, reading apps, favorite products, favorite local bookshops and libraries…we’ve got it all! We hope you find something here to inspire, revive, or boost your reading life in 2023. Read on, friends!

2023 Book Challenges to Check Out

Have you ever done a book challenge? I’ll admit, I hadn’t done one until this past year. My aunt reached out and asked our family and friends if we might be interested in reading together, and we thought it would be a fun way to stay connected to each other long-distance. We decided to do the Book Voyage: Read Around The World Challenge, courtesy of the Book Girls’ Guide, and I absolutely loved it–I think my favorite part was that they give an entire list of suggestions for each month, not just one specific book. I enjoyed the freedom to pick one that piqued my interest, and it was fun to see which one each person chose each month. While we weren’t reading the same exact book, we were all immersed in the same geographical area each month–so fun!

If that one doesn’t sound like your cup of tea, they have a few others to choose from this year– Read Around the USA, Decades, and Lifetime of Reading. They also have a kids’ one for 2023 as well!

I wanted to get you the absolute best “list of lists”, so I asked our team to share some of their favorite book challenges, too. Here’s what they had to say:

“I try to do this challenge every year!” Book Riot’s Read Harder Challenge

“I do the Goodreads challenge every year because I can choose how many books I read!”   Goodreads Challenge 2023

“I’m looking at the Barnes and Noble one they have posted on their IG for different books to read throughout the year.”  Barnes & Noble IG

“I always like the PopSugar book challenge.”  2023 PopSugar Reading Challenge

Reading Apps

I’ll admit this isn’t one that I know much about, so I had to rely on friends’ opinions, but I fully trust these fellow book-nerds, so be sure to check these out!

Kindle Unlimited: A subscription to Kindle Unlimited gives you access to borrow from a large selection of titles without due dates. A Kindle Unlimited subscription costs $9.99 a month and you can cancel anytime.

Libby: All over the world, local libraries offer millions of ebooks and audiobooks. You can borrow them — for free, instantly — with a library card and Libby: the award-winning, much-loved app for libraries.

Goodreads: Find, get, and share books you love on Goodreads, the world’s largest site for readers and book recommendations.

Classic Reads: Read timeless classic books, short stories, and listen to audiobooks anywhere online with ClassicReads.

Hoopla: Hoopla is a web and mobile library media streaming platform launched in 2010 for audio books, comics, e-books, movies, music, and TV. Patrons of a library that supports Hoopla have access to its collection of digital media.

Podcasts About Books

If you love reading books and you also love listening to podcasts, we’ve got you! Check these out to further feed both obsessions!!

What Should I Read Next?  My personal fave! What Should I Read Next? is the show for every reader who has ever finished a book and faced the problem of not knowing what to read next.

NPR’s Book of the Day  Released daily, NPR’s Book of the Day podcast is an under 15-minute listen on good reads and book news.

The Book Review  The New York Times Book Review is legendary. Naturally, it makes sense they’d have a podcast to complement their coverage.

LeVar Burton Reads  In LeVar Burton Reads, the beloved actor and host handpicks the best short fiction and reads it to you. This is your opportunity to take a break from your life and just listen to a good story.

Banned Book Club  With book banning becoming an increasingly hot button issue across the US, now is the perfect time to start listening to this literature podcast.

Favorite Book-Lover Products & Gift Ideas

Not only am I book-obsessed, but my love language is gift-giving. So, if you’re looking for book-lover gift ideas to give to friends and family, or to put on a wish list for yourself, look no further!

Litographs: Classic and contemporary books you love, brought to life as beautiful literary products. These are so cool!!

Book Lights: This one is a favorite on our team. If you, too, have a partner who would like to go to sleep before you’re done reading–grab yourself one of these!

Custom Library Stamp: If you love sharing your book wealth, but you worry that friends might forget who shared the books with them…you need this!

Reading Journal: A spot to write down all of the books you’re reading, your TBR list, and more!

Bookish Tees, Totes & More: A plethora of book-themed gifts! Out of Print is definitely a website you want to bookmark (pun intended).

Local Book Clubs & Reading Events

The only thing better than reading a good book is reading said book with a friend, or better yet, a group of friends. There are no shortage of book clubs on the internet, but there’s just something special about meeting in person at a cozy coffee shop or a quiet corner of the library to talk about your most-recent read. Check out these local book clubs that are just waiting for you to join!

Overbooked: Cedar Rapids Moms: our nearest and dearest sister site, CRM recently started a book club of their own and we’re loving it!

Fit4Mom Iowa City: new in 2023! Click here for more info on the Mama Book Club.

B.Y.O.Book: Bring Your Own Book or B.Y.O.B. is a “Books In Bars” book club that meets at assorted restaurants in Iowa City with host librarians, Candice and Jason. Participants share their thoughts on the book in a casual group conversation and discuss what is on their to-read pile at home.

Favorite Local Book Shops & Libraries

Prairie Lights Bookstore: Prairie Lights sprang to life in May 1978 as a small, intimate bookstore offering titles by the newer voices of Raymond Carver and Alice Munro and by established authors like Eudora Welty and George Orwell. As the staff and customers tended the books with care much like a garden, the store grew and blossomed. By 1982 Prairie Lights transplanted itself from South Linn St. to South Dubuque and has gradually spread to three and a half floors, the half being an 1100 square foot coffee house located in the same space that the local literary society met throughout the 1930’s, hosting writers Carl Sandburg, Robert Frost, Sherwood Anderson, Langston Hughes, e e cummings and others.

“Prairie Lights is a great local spot. They have a huge kids section and sell some toys. I also like how they really support local authors and host readings.”

Sidekick Coffee & Books: If you’ve followed ICM for any amount of time, you already know about our love for Sidekick. Owner Katy, a fellow Iowa City mom, is a true gem–her love and care for this community of readers and readers-to-be is palpable when you enter her shop. My kids love the fun little reading nooks, and they also really love getting a snack while we’re there! Per their website, “We strive to bring you the best-tasting coffee and the best selection of children’s books in the area. We hope to be part of the community and your lives for a long time to come.”

 “I love Sidekick Coffee and Books for multiple reasons…good coffee while I peruse, awesome kids section, it’s quiet, plus parking is free!”
“I also love Sidekick, it’s such a cute little store. The kids section has toys for kids to play with and it’s so cozy. They also have lots of great and free events!”


The Haunted Bookshop: Established in 1978, The Haunted Bookshop carries over 45,000 titles in more than 80 different sections ranging from Iowa interest to poetry, children’s books to ecology, Classical Studies to science fiction and more. The sections are divided topically, then arranged alphabetically by author or editor, in the ten rooms of this beautiful 1847 home.

“This is seriously one of my favorite spots in Iowa City. I LOVE the vibe there!”

Iowa Book: If you attended the U of I, you may just think of Iowa Book as a spot to grab your textbooks and/or a sweatshirt for game day. And yes, you can still do both there–but it is so much more! New releases, classic favorites, and many featuring Iowa writers–there’s something for everyone at Iowa Book!

“Don’t forget to head to the basement of Iowa Book–a hidden gem downtown! Lots of good reads, and you can grab some Hawkeye gear on your way out, too!”

ICPL: We could write many, many blog posts about our love for the Iowa City Public Library. Located smack dab in the middle of downtown, it has been–and will always be–one of our very favorite spots in this community. Their staff works tirelessly to promote the joy of reading to our little ones through their free events and programming, and to assist all of us not-so-little ones in finding our next favorite read, in rediscovering our love of reading and learning, and in locating the resources we need in our community.

“One thing I love at ICPL is Hoopla – everything is available for immediate digital checkout. I also love that the library lets you access newspapers like NY Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal and lots more – no paywall stands in your way.”

“I love audiobooks and am so grateful the public libraries have endless audiobooks available… Since I discovered Libby from my local library, I constantly have a book going.” 

Coralville Public Library: Another favorite! The Coralville Public Library is a community center serving a diverse population as a resource for leisure, knowledge and learning. Library programs and services are provided equitably in an atmosphere that is friendly, responsive, comfortable and accessible.

“I love libraries because there’s no way I can afford, or have room for, all those books! I love the Coralville Public Library; I’ve been taking my kids there since my oldest was 2 and we went to toddler Storytime with Sara, who is still there.”

North Liberty Library: For our NL friends! The NLL is such a beautiful space, and they have tons of great activities and events for families in our community. They also have a podcast, a blog, and they’re currently doing a January Reading Challenge! Be sure to check their website for the details on all of the above!

“Our favorite spot, especially during the cold winter months! So grateful for NLL and their staff for providing so many amazing events and programs for our kids, and for us too!”


Thank you so much for joining us on this Guide To Reading & Books. Whether you’re reading a book-a-week, or you can only manage a couple books for the year, we hope that this helps you find some great ways to feed that need for reading in your life, and in turn helps you to pass on this love of reading to your little ones. Happy reading, friends!

Sara and her husband Matt (sweethearts since they were just 16) got married in 2007, and since then have welcomed four beautiful children (Sam in 2008, Cooper in 2010, Nora in 2012, and Adam James in December 2015). A born-and-raised Iowan, Sara received both her Bachelor's and Master's Degrees (in Spanish Literature) from the University of Iowa. She's still teaching Spanish wherever and whenever she can, but her true passion is owning Iowa City Moms and building this community alongside her amazing team. Sara is also the Community Engagement Coordinator for City Mom Collective, and the owner of Cowork Collective downtown Iowa City. Common denominator in all of these jobs: community, community, community.


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