Here’s most all the books I read in 2023:
- How to Read a Book: The Classic Guide to Intelligent Reading by Mortimer J. Adler and Charles Van Doren
- Under the Whispering Door by TJ Klune
- The Raven Tower by Ann Leckie
- Tales from Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin
- Not Always So: Practicing the True Spirit of Zen by Shunryu Suzuki
- The Alloy of Law by Brandon Sanderson
- Unicorn Selfies: Another Phoebe and Her Unicorn Adventure by Dana Simpson (comics)
- Play Anything: The Pleasure of Limits, the Uses of Boredom, and the Secret of Games by Ian Bogost
- Summer in Orcus by T. Kingfisher
- The Other Wind by Ursula K. Le Guin
- Babel, or the Necessity of Violence: An Arcane History of The Oxford Translators’ Revolution by R. F. Kuang
- Shadows of Self by Brandon Sanderson
- The Bands of Mourning by Brandon Sanderson
- Mistborn: Secret History by Brandon Sanderson
- Yotsuba&!, Vol. 5 by Kiyohiko Azuma (manga)
- The Power of Ritual: Turning Everyday Activities into Soulful Practices by Casper ter Kuile
- The Lost Metal by Brandon Sanderson
- The Bird King by G. Willow Wilson
- Kitty and the Midnight Hour by Carrie Vaughn
- Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin
- Kitty Goes to Washington by Carrie Vaughn
- Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey
- Because Internet: Understanding the New Rules of Language by Gretchen McCulloch
- The Annual Migration of Clouds by Premee Mohamed
- Caliban’s War by James S.A. Corey
- “Drive” by James S.A. Corey
- “The Butcher of Anderson Station” by James S.A. Corey
- Nimona by ND Stevenson (graphic novel)
- Gods of Risk by James S.A. Corey
- The Churn by James S.A. Corey
- Dwarf Stars 2023 edited by Miguel O. Mitchell and David C. Kopaska-Merkel (poetry)
- The Shroud of Four Silences by Liane Merciel
- Kitty Takes a Holiday by Carrie Vaughn
- The 2023 Rhysling Anthology edited by Maxwell I. Gold (poetry)
- The Internet Con: How to Seize the Means of Computation by Cory Doctorow
- Legends & Lattes by Travis Baldree
- Abaddon’s Gate by James S.A. Corey
- Free, Fair, and Alive: The Insurgent Power of the Commons by David Bollier & Silke Helfrich
- Cibola Burn by James S.A. Corey
- Ink Blood Sister Scribe by Emma Torzs
- The Vital Abyss by James S.A. Corey
- Nemesis Games by James S.A. Corey
- Babylon’s Ashes by James S.A. Corey
- Persepolis Rising by James S.A. Corey
- Strange Dogs by James S.A. Corey
- Auberon by James S.A. Corey
- Tiamat’s Wrath by James S.A. Corey
- Leviathan Falls by James S.A. Corey
- Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs, and Wear Cows: An Introduction to Carnism by Melanie Joy
- Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals by Oliver Burkeman
- Yotsuba&!, Vol. 6 by Kiyohiko Azuma (manga)
- The Sins of Our Fathers by James S.A. Corey
- How to Read a Book: The Classic Guide to Intelligent Reading by Mortimer J. Adler and Charles Van Doren: This book is dry, old, and stylistically outdated. But it actually has fantastic content, and I highly recommend it to all nonfiction readers and college students. It does a great job breaking down reading into four different levels, encouraging you to spend your time with the best books, empowering you to spend less time with books that aren’t great, and giving advice for getting the most out of reading. Here’s one quote I loved from the book: “Many books are hardly worth even skimming; some should be read quickly; and a few should be read at a rate, usually quite slow, that allows for complete comprehension. It is wasteful to read a book slowly that deserves only a fast reading.”
- Because Internet: Understanding the New Rules of Language by Gretchen McCulloch: This was fun! If you are a linguistics nerd or an Internet culture nerd, check it out!
- The Power of Ritual: Turning Everyday Activities into Soulful Practices by Casper ter Kuile: I loved this book. It’s about how to build intentional practices that imbue our lives with meaning and help connect us to ourselves, others, nature, and the divine. It examines sacred reading, prayer, exercise, meals, liturgical calendars, pilgrimages, and more. It’s theologically informed, but also immensely practical. It pulls from religious traditions, but it’s written in a way that’s also approachable to folks who aren’t religious. I actually listened to this one as an audiobook and liked it so much that I then re-read it in print.
- Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals by Oliver Burkeman: This is a weird, delightful book. It’s almost a self-help, productivity-type book, and it does have some good advice if that’s what you’re looking for, but it’s really a philosophy book about being mortal, reflecting upon our experience of time and the finitude of life. It’s also the best treatise on what I understand minimalism to be, even though I’m not sure if it even mentions minimalism once — in short: how to prioritize the things that are most important and comfortably fail at things which are less important. I listened to this one as an audiobook and appreciated it as such, but I think I want to go back over this in print as well.
- “Where Oaken Hearts Do Gather” by Sarah Pinsker (published in Uncanny Magazine): This story is A+ awesome. It’s basically a creepy folk tale, told as comments on a forum reflecting on a song’s lyrics. I loved it so much.
- “Learning Letters” by Carrie Vaughn (published in Lightspeed Magazine): Another awesome short story in Carrie Vaughn’s Bannerless series. I think it stands on it’s own, but I’d encourage you to start with Bannerless. Footnote 1
- “Eve’s Prayer” by Victor Forna (published in Lightspeed Magazine): Beautiful flash fiction, structured as a prayer, reflecting on environmental stewardship and space colonization. For more of my thoughts on it, see my review on Skiffy and Fanty: “Short Fiction Review: September 2023.”
- “The Sound of Children Screaming” by Rachael K. Jones (published in Nightmare Magazine): This is a heavy, serious story about gun violence and schools, but if you’re ready for that challenge, it is well worth a read. For more of my thoughts on it, see my review on Skiffy and Fanty: “Short Fiction Review: October 2023.”
- Babel, or the Necessity of Violence: An Arcane History of The Oxford Translators’ Revolution by R. F. Kuang: A fantastic book and one I highly recommend. It’s both serious and academic and also just a fun, immersive read. To me it also felt like a welcome breath of fresh air.
- The Shroud of Four Silences by Liane Merciel: This is a novella set in the Pathfinder world of Golarion, specifically in and around the town of Otari. I liked it and will quickly recommend it if you are looking for Pathfinder- or D&D-type fiction. It’s a fun adventure in an interesting fantasy world, and it has a remarkable portrayal of goblins. (Seriously, Pathfinder really does justice to goblins.) I previously read The Crystal Shard by R.A. Salvatore, which (while I did enjoy) found painfully outdated. The Shroud of Four Silences felt blessedly more modern. (30 years can make a big difference, go figure!)
- Legends & Lattes by Travis Baldree: Speaking of D&D-type fiction, I read this novel. It is fun and cozy, as you probably know already.
- Ink Blood Sister Scribe by Emma Torzs: I loved this! If you want slightly more literary contemporary fantasy, check this out. This book has a somewhat unique plot structure and pacing, which I genuinely liked and appreciated, but which might throw off readers expecting/wanting a more standard structure.
- Summer in Orcus by T. Kingfisher: If you like Narnia, The Phantom Tollbooth, and Haroun and the Sea of Stories by Salman Rushdie, check this out! It is a fun “kid goes on a magical adventure” story, one that’s in conversation with this genre in interesting ways.
- The Raven Tower by Ann Leckie: This one was a re-read. It’s also just straight-up phenomenal.
The Earthsea Cycle by Ursula K. Le Guin
I read the end of Ursula Le Guin’s Earthsea Cycle. I had previously read up through Tehanu, and now I have finished the rest of the cycle: Tales from Earthsea, The Other Wind, and the additional stories collected in The Books of Earthsea. It’s really good!
As I remarked in my observations on Tehanu, there is a shift halfway through the series. It becomes markedly more feminist and introspective. The second half is a more challenging read, but it is also the more interesting and original half. It is well worth reading and definitely something I will be returning to in the future.
Mistborn: Era Two by Brandon Sanderson
This was fun.
The Expanse by James S.A. Corey
I read The Expanse series by James S.A. Corey. All of it: all nine novels and the short fiction collected in Memory’s Legion. I had previously read up through Babylon’s Ashes (book 6), but I wanted to re-read the series before embarking on the final trilogy.
The Expanse is set a few hundred years in the future, when humanity has colonized our solar system, and it tells the story of humanity encountering alien technology and spreading out to live among foreign stars.
The Expanse is approachable and fun, and I expect I’ll come back to it in the future when I want something easy and fun to read. As long as you are comfortable reading violence, it is an easy series to recommend. It does have a lot of violence, but the heroes in the series are consistently working to end or mitigate violence and do what they can to help. Footnote 2 It’s got good representation of women and people of color, decent representation of queer folks, and while it does include a couple nonbinary people, it definitely could have done better with trans and nonbinary representation.
I was happier than I thought I would be with how the series ended. The conclusion wrapped up various plot threads fairly well and remained interesting and fun, and the story stayed true to itself. The first book is titled Leviathan Wakes and the final is titled Leviathan Falls, and there are several more connections between those two books, parallels that made for a fitting end to the series.
But I must say: the ending was also significantly sadder than I was expecting. Books 7–9 are more somber reads than the first six, and book 9 in particular left me weeping. As a reader, I am good with this: the ending is well-done, and I appreciate stories with sadder, more complicated endings, as I find too many stories end too happily and neatly. But be warned.
Kitty Norville by Carrie Vaughn
I read the first three books in Carrie Vaughn’s Kitty Norville series: Kitty and the Midnight Hour, Kitty Goes to Washington, and Kitty Takes a Holiday. It’s an urban fantasy series about a werewolf who hosts a late-night radio talk show about the supernatural.
Like all of Carrie Vaughn’s other work I’ve read, I liked it, easily and without reservation. Vaughn does a great job writing approachable sentences that immerse you in the world, clearly advance the plot, and portray believable, interesting, and likable characters — with some exceptions on the “likable” part for villains.
Kitty is a great character: a strong, inquisitive woman, open (to readers at least) about her vulnerabilities. The series has a robust cast of other fun, interesting characters as well; I am partial to Ben (Kitty’s lawyer) and Alette (the vampire queen of Washington DC), among others.
I don’t read too much urban/paranormal fantasy, but this series makes me realize I should read more because, gosh, the trappings of this genre are a lot of fun, and I love slowly discovering the world and the lore Vaughn has developed. It also inspires me to try my hand at writing something in this genre, to ask myself what I find most interesting about werewolves, vampires, and the like and to tell a fun story with it.
The series is a little old now, with the first book being published back in 2005: it’s the modern era and the world we know, before it was changed by ubiquitous smartphones. For example, Kitty hosts a call-in radio show rather than being a podcaster or streamer which might be more typical these days. I love this. It makes it feel like a cozy period-piece from my childhood.
- For more of my thoughts on Carrie Vaughn's excellent Bannerless series, see "Recent Reading: November 2017" and "Recent Reading: December 2018." ↩
- For more of my thoughts on The Expanse and how it handles violence, see "Recent Reading: December 2018." ↩
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