In 2023 I set the goal to read 40 books in my Goodreads challenge. I hit 42 and spent December thinking I would read two more but just never did. And that’s fine. I lowered my goal to 30 this year because I want to read a giant stack of magazines I have piled up in addition to some thicker books I’ve been putting off for a while. Audiobooks will still fill in many gaps and I suspect I’ll surpass 30 books easily but I prefer to ease up on myself on this end a bit.
I looked over the books I read in 2023 on Goodreads and realized it was really a lackluster year in reading. Plenty of “meh” books in with the better books. I find when I’m reading a lot that I tend to choose easy books that I may or may not be super interested in and then overall I wonder why I was using books to pad my list. I picked my five favorites, though there were a couple more I could have added, to summarize for 2023.
Best Fiction: Violeta by Isabel Allende
My first Allende book and it was fantastic! I picked this one up at Barnes and Noble for my birthday and was intrigued by the cover and the story. It wasn’t what I was expecting but went beyond those expectations. I’ve been aware of the author for many years but never got around to reading much about her or her work. I listened to a podcast episode with her on Wiser Than Me this summer and knew I had to find her work. The novel traces the character Violeta throughout her life in an unnamed South American country, though you can easily figure out it is supposed to be Chile, from her birth in 1920 to the current pandemic. It gives enough backstory on the coup to realize you don’t know enough as an American so you’ll find yourself chasing Wikipedia leads for hours. I highly recommend this if you are looking for a fiction to pick up in 2024.
Runner Up: The Vaster Wilds by Lauren Groff
I read Groff’s Florida back in 2019 and loved her writing and then in 2022 I listened to Matrix, which was also really great. I initially borrowed this one on paper from the library but found myself unable to focus because there is no dialogue and the writing is very Cormac McCarthy and I am not a fan of Cormac McCarthy’s writing style. I returned it once I saw the audiobook came up for me and once I was able to get a rhythm with that I really enjoyed it. This one transports you to early Jamestown settlement and the “Starving Time”, where a servant girl escapes the settlement and has to fend for herself in the wilds of the New World. The ending leaves you feeling a little lost and sad for that time period. I hear rumors this might be part of a small series…we’ll see!
Best Non-Fiction: Wildscape by Nancy Lawson
Always a fan of Nancy’s writing and advocacy, this is a follow-up to her first book The Humane Gardener. I don’t have too much to say on this one other than if you are a gardener or naturalist this is a book to add to your reading list this year!
Runner Up: Journal of a Solitude by May Sarton
I read Plant Dreaming Deep in 2018-2019 and have always meant to go back and read more of Sarton’s books. This one I listened to on audio while weeding the garden paths this summer and it was the perfect companion. This is a journal, of course, of daily life in her New Hampshire home and covers some of the life, death, and thought topics surrounding her life during that time period. I really enjoy Sarton’s writing and will be back for more!
Bonus: The Anthropocene Reviewed by John Green
Hank and John Green have been YouTubers and writers since forever but only last year did I start watching any of their videos on any kind of regular basis. I still haven’t read any of their other books but The Anthropocene Reviewed has been coming up in my Goodreads friend’s feeds for a couple years now and I needed something light, information, and entertaining and this fit the bill. Definitely listen to the audio! The premise is that John “reviews” different items or topics from the Anthropocene from Halley’s Comet to Dr. Pepper and everything in between. He gives historical context and pop cultural context when applicable and then gives them a star rating. Plagues, of course, get a 1 star. It’s light, it’s fun, add it to your TBR in 2024!
I would love to know what y’all read last year. Give me your high and low point books!