Well, here we are in the second week of 2023, and so far, so good–at least for me.
I thought I’d take a little time to recap my 2022 reading and recommend a few books from the ones I finished last year. Sadly, I did not manage to finish my goal of 50 books; I only finished 35. I find this rather depressing, to be honest, but I’m resetting my goals and expectations for this year and hoping to sail right past 50 by the end of the year. We’ll see how that works out.
By the way, you can follow me on Goodreads if you want to watch me sink or swim in this year’s challenge…
I thought about limiting this post to just five book recommendations, but I started looking at what I read last year and couldn’t narrow it down to just five. So here you go–five fiction and five non-fiction recommendations for 2023.
And the Mountains Echoed, by Khaled Hosseini
As with Hosseini’s other books, this one turned me into a blubbering fool. I loved it. He’s such a brilliant writer. He has a gift for drawing the reader into a connection with the characters in just a few brushstrokes, and his settings are vivid and descriptive in a way that is almost impossible to mimic.
The Martian, by Andy Weir
This is one of those books that’s sort of like The Princess Bride–so close to the movie version that it’s tough to see much daylight between them, and yet both the book and the movie work on multiple levels. The book puts you much more inside Mark Watney’s head, but in a good way. Very fun read, and very accessible for even someone who is barely literate in astrophysic-type things. You can read my full review over here.
Patrick: Son of Ireland, by Stephen Lawhead
I reviewed this one, too, so hop over to this post to read a more detailed review. In short, this is an essential read in the Stephen Lawhead canon. Not a quick read, but worth every gorgeous word.
Commonwealth, by Ann Patchett
This was my first Ann Patchett book, and I was not disappointed in the slightest. The characters were well-drawn, vivid, and distinct, and the story of a family with deep hurts and secrets was relatable and sympathetic. There were times when I wanted to slap the heck out of every character and other times when I just wanted to hug them. I will be adding Ann Patchett to the list of approved authors for future reading.
The Good Earth, by Pearl S. Buck
This book has its haters, and Wang-Lung is not always a very sympathetic character, but I very much enjoyed the story. I think the overarching takeaway for me was how deeply the desire for the wealth that comes from property is embedded in the human soul–and how quickly too much wealth can corrupt desires. There are also some great observations and lessons about generational wealth and legacy in here.
The Invention of Wings, by Sue Monk Kidd
Okay, this is more historical fiction than straight fiction, but it was a beautifully told story of the obstacles two women face in the antebellum South. Different positions, different women, different obstacles, but through it all, they fight to overcome and form a strong (if imperfect) bond to each other.
The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains, by Nicholas Carr
I feel like this is an absolute must-read for every adult in the Internet era. Carr discusses why it’s so tough for us to concentrate these days, how spending time on screens impacts our brain function, and how to reset our ability to learn and concentrate. I spend a lot of time on screens because of work, but I came away convinced that I need to cut way back on my extracurricular screen time.
Think Again: The Power of Knowing What You Don’t Know, by Adam Grant
Lots of food for thought in this one. If everyone could think through the lessons herein and approach those who disagree with us with a willingness to rethink old paradigms and integrate new information, we might have much better conversations. This book caused me to rethink a few things and introduced new information. It should probably be required reading for anyone who wants to interact on social media.
Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup, by John Carreyrou
I devoured this book. I am fascinated and appalled by the entire Theranos scandal, and after watching the Hulu miniseries “The Dropout,” I had to read this book. I was not disappointed. Carreyrou’s writing is crisp and eminently readable, and he tells the story in a way that makes the book impossible to put down. Thoroughly enjoyed this read and highly recommend.
On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, by Stephen King
If you are a writer and still haven’t read this one, drop everything and go get it right now. Or at least order it from Amazon. Or pick it up off your shelves where you put it years ago for that moment “someday” when you’d have time to read it. Read it now. You can read my full review here.
I struggled with what to recommend for the fifth non-fiction book to read. After the top four, there were a lot of candidates for that fifth spot. I finally decided that Atomic Habits is probably more relevant to the largest number of people and has the most practical tips for someone just looking to improve daily inputs and outcomes. Clear has a compelling personal story that he spins into practical advice for getting more out of your day, week, and life. My only real criticism of Clear’s system is that it’s largely designed for someone with a very predictable life. My life is only moderately predictable, so some of what he suggests is tough for me to integrate.
Preview of 2023
I’m off to a decent start on my 2023 challenge; I’ve finished one book and started a second, which is promising. We’ll see if I can keep it up. I have a LOT of unread books on my shelves, so I’m hoping to plow through some of those this year. My general goal is to alternate fiction and non-fiction; I’m still in a non-fiction book club, so some will be those assignments. I also have several history, psychology, and writing books that I want to get through.
I’m also hoping to make some progress on my old frenemy, the Massive Reading Challenge List. I have made some progress on it since I first compiled it; maybe there will be an update on that soon. I haven’t dedicated my whole reading schedule to it, in part because it’s just fiction and in part because there are some really great books out in the world that aren’t on the list. In any case, there are some good fantasy and science fiction options on that list that I’m hoping to tackle this year.
And finally, look for more reviews this year… I did enjoy writing some of my reflections on what I read, and I don’t have any specific promotional posts planned like I did last year. I’ll try to confine my reviews to speculative fiction or books that are relevant to that general category, but I reserve the right to deviate from that guideline if something is just too good to ignore.
I hope your new year is off to a great start! Until next week… onward!