Reading in 2023

Since 2016 I’ve made three interstate moves, have worked at three different jobs, had some extremely fraught years in my marriage, and lived through a pandemic. Now I’m objectively in a good place but emotionally I’m still pretty fragile and I think that’s reflected in my reading this past year.

In 2023 I read more books than in 2022 but fewer pages. About 15% of my reading this year was rereading old favorites and the new books I read were often relatively short. While I don’t keep track of my Did Not Finish stats, I know there were many books this year that I started but did not finish. In most cases, this was not a reflection of the quality of the book but rather it wasn’t the right book for me when I was trying to read it.

If you’re curious, you can see my StoryGraph stats for 2023 here.

This blog post got a little out of hand so a quick table of contents to the sections below:
My Favorite Books in 2023
Hugo Award Nominees
Reading Holiday
Interior Design Books

My Favorite Books in 2023

Below are not necessarily the “best” books I read in 2023 but they are the ones I enjoyed the most. (I linked to the author’s website if they have a good landing page for the book, otherwise it’s a StoryGraph link.)

  • A Mirror Mended by Alix E. Harrow (read A Spindle Splintered first) – Another Sleeping Beauty retelling. Both books in the series are novellas and are nice quick reads.
  • The Bald Mermaid: A Memoir by Sheila Bridges – I continue my obsession with reading interior design books. While look for new books, I stumbled across this memoir by interior designer Sheila Bridges.
  • Bloodmarked by Tracy Deonn (this is the second in the series, Legendborn is the first) – Legendborn is one of those books where I immediately bought it after reading it from the library. It’s a King Arthur reborn story and I loved how it centers the story around a Black woman. Bloodmarked took me a little longer to get into but once I did it was also fantastic.
  • Dear Committee Members by Julie Schumacher – I think working for a university made me appreciate this book more than I would have otherwise. However, it’s a fun book regardless if you like cranky people trying to do the right thing in spite of themselves.
  • Garlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise by Ruth Reichl – I’m fairly certain I found this via Modern Mrs. Darcy but I can’t remember what made me pick it up. Regardless, I found this memoir both interesting and delightful. It’s the story of a food critic going undercover in order to provide real reviews.
  • Good Neighbors: The Full Collection by Stephanie Burgis – This is a delightful fantasy romance. The heroine is technically savvy and very suspicious of people. It’s a quick fun read.
  • The Grief of Stones by Katherine Addison (it would be best to read The Witness for the Dead first)
  • How to Keep House While Drowning by KC Davis – I wrote a whole blog post about this book but I think I managed to miss the essence of why I like it. This book gives you permission to not be perfect. It’s ok to try for “good enough” and if that bar is still too high, to just concentrate on staying alive.
  • Love Poems for People with Children by John Kenney (re-read) – This is a short collection of snarky poetry. As I recall, I didn’t mean to re-read it but had wanted to refer to one of the poems in it and the next thing I knew I had read the whole thing. Love Poems for Married People is also fun. The New Yorker has a couple of the poems here.
  • The Menopause Manifesto: Own Your Health with Facts and Feminism by Jen Gunter – I haven’t reached menopause yet but it’s probably only a couple of years away at this point so I decided to get a head start on reading about it. This was a good book and one I expect I’ll read again in a couple of years.
  • The Murder of Mr. Wickham by Claudia Gray – This was a delightful murder mystery. I’m impressed by how Claudia Gray brought together so many of Jane Austen’s main characters under one roof. However, I particularly liked her descriptions of the two young people who work together to solve the mystery.
  • One Year to an Organized Life: From Your Closets to Your Finances, the Week-by-Week Guide to Getting Completely Organized for Good by Regina Leeds – Still one of my favorite organizing books. Mind you, I haven’t followed any of her suggestions, I just like imagining a perfectly organized life. That said, I’m thinking about trying a light version of her approach this next year. We’ll see.
  • Red Team Blues by Cory Doctorow – Most of Doctorow’s books are not for me. However, Jaeger notified me about a kickstarter he was doing for his newest book at the time, Red Team Blues. I took a look and the premise sounded interesting. In addition, I am very anti-DRM (I want to own my books, not lease them, and be able to use them on all of my devices) so it seemed like a good fit. I got the audio version, which is how I usually listen to mysteries, but Jaeger bought the hardcover. It’s a quick fun story and I’ll probably listen to it again.
  • Rest You Merry by Charlotte MacLeod – This was a recent holiday listen and I really enjoyed the dour and moderately cranky professor. After years of being harassed for not decorating his house for Christmas the professor snaps and commissions an excessively gaudy display to be installed and then leaves for the weekend. When he returns, he finds a dead body in his house. Everyone wants to believe it’s just an accident but the professor thinks something else is going on and starts investigating.
  • Several People are Typing by Calvin Kasulke – Slack is my work’s primary communication method so a story about someone somehow getting uploaded to an internal Slack channel was quite fun.
  • The Splinter in the Sky by Kemi Ashing-Giwa – This is the type of Science Fiction novel I particularly enjoy. One person starts out with a hopeless situation and manages to both survive and win in the end (at least for some definitions of “win”).
  • System Collapse by Martha Wells (if you have never read a Murderbot book, start with All Systems Red) – Murderbot is loved by many and I’m no exception. I love Murderbot’s annoyance with having to deal with people.
  • The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman – As I get older I appreciate books with older protagonists. I love the idea of a group of retired people getting together and solving crimes. Plus, they all have their own backstories that we start learning.
  • Translation State by Ann Leckie – Another book in the Ancillary Justice universe. It would be best to read that series first. I’m always impressed by how Leckie can write very different perspectives.
  • Vera Wong’s Unsolicited Advice for Murderers by Jesse Q. Sutanto – Another older woman who decides to solve a murder. This was such a nice cozy book.
  • The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches by Sangu Mandanna – This was a really fun story. I love the idea of a real witch pretending to be a fake witch on social media.
  • Where Peace is Lost by Valerie Valdes – This was probably my favorite space opera of the year. It’s an interesting story and the ending gets delightfully operatic.

Hugo Award Nominees

I did not set a reading goal for last year but reading the Hugo Award nominees is often an unofficial goal and I did fairly well this year. I read:

  • Best Novel – all 6 nominees
  • Best Novella – I also read all 6
  • Best Novelette – 5 of the nominees. There’s one author I have given myself permission to not even try because, while objectively a good writer, they never work for me
  • Short Stories – all six short stories though a couple I had to read via computer translation
  • Series – This is always a hard one for me. Usually I try to read at least one book in each series. This year I had read books in 5 of the series but have never read any in this year’s winner, the Children of Time Series
  • Best Graphic Novel or Comic – none
  • Best Related Work – none, though Blood, Sweat & Chrome: The Wild and True Story of Mad Max: Fury Road still intrigues me
  • Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form – I watched two of these: Everything Everywhere All at Once, which won, and Turning Red which I also liked
  • Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form – none
  • Best Editor, Short Form – probably none – short stories are hard for me
  • Best Editor, Long Form – I did reasonably well, for me, in this category and ended up reading works edited by three of the nominees. That’s only 50% of the nominees but it’s 75% of the nominees with English works (as far as I could tell, two nominees only edited works available in Chinese).
  • Best Professional Artist – none
  • Best Semiprozine – none
  • Best Fanzine – only one
  • Best Fancast – I’ve listened to episodes from four of the six nominees
  • Best Fan Writer – I think this is where I may have inadvertently read some of the nominees’ works but I didn’t vote in this category
  • Best Fan Artist – none
  • Lodestar Award for Best Young Adult Book – I read four of these nominees and started a fifth which I was unable to finish (but may try again later)
  • Astounding Award for Best New Writer – I read works from three of the six

Reading Holiday

I’m once again reluctant to make a reading goal for next year. However, I have decided to start the year with a reading holiday. I’m taking three days of vacation from work, around a weekend for a total of five days. This is before the kids go back to school so I don’t have to worry about waking up early or making school lunches for them (they’re perfectly capable of getting their own breakfasts/lunches at home). In addition, this gives me extra time to relax and recover from the chaos around Thanksgiving/Christmas holidays. I’ve been mulling this idea for about a month and it took a while but I have a general idea of what I want the reading vacation to look like.

I’ve decided to try to read one book a day during the reading holiday. I’m not entirely sure if I can realistically do this or not. I’ve definitely read entire books in one day but I don’t know that I’ve ever done it multiple days in a row before. Each day will be a different genre and I’m going to try to stick to authors I haven’t read before. I’ve identified both a first choice and backup book (in case I start the first book and hate it, or I can’t get it in time). Most of these books look like they should be quick reads.

Thursday – Young Adult or Juvenile

Blood Debts by Terry J. Benton-Walker

Backup: Damned If You Do by Alex Brown

2nd Backup: The Marrow Thieves by Cherie Dimaline

Friday – Romance

Iris Kelly Doesn’t Date by Ashley Herring Blake

Backup: Ana María and the Fox by Liana De la Rosa

Saturday – Mystery

The House Keepers by Alex Hay

Backup: The Penguin Book of Murder Mysteries edited by Michael Sims

2nd Backup: Death on the Down Beat: An Orchestral Fantasy of Detection by Sebastian Farr

Sunday – Memoir or Non-fiction

Kiss Me in the Coral Lounge: Intimate Confessions from a Happy Marriage by Helen Ellis

Backup: Now What?: How to Move Forward When We’re Divided About Basically Everything by Sarah Stewart Holland and Beth Silvers

Monday – Science Fiction or Fantasy

This one I’m a bit stumped. I was originally planning to read Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin but belatedly realized it wasn’t SFF (I’m not sure why I thought it was).

My backup is The Salvation Gambit by Emily Skrutskie. I’ll probably make that one my primary and come up with another backup. On the other hand, I have quite a few SFF books checked out so maybe I’ll just grab one from my existing TBR stack.

Interior Design Books

I’m still reading a lot of interior design books. It’s slightly obsessive and there’s something going on there but I’m not exactly sure what. It’s probably related to moving so much the past couple of years and being determined to take root this time. In any case, this is a bit tricky because while the library generally will buy books I request, they have been reluctant to buy more interior design books. After my most recent request was denied I asked and was told that it was due to shelf space and that they don’t circulate well enough to justify the cost. Clearly, I could straight-up buy more interior design books but we spend a lot of money on books already and I’m reluctant to buy interior design books because I rarely reread them. If I don’t think I’m going to reread a book, I usually weed it which seems overall like a waste. After some thought, I’ve decided to try buying used copies. I don’t love this approach because, unlike the library or buying directly, the author doesn’t get any cut of my purchase. However, if I end up really loving the book I can always repurchase it new.

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