Here are all the books I finished in 2023. I am tempted to just leave them here in this big visual pile and say nothing else about them.
I’m tired of making these lists! And I often wonder if I stop making year-end lists if it will free me up even more to stop slogging through books I don’t like, to be even more promiscuous, read intros and articles and websites and PDFs and just generally be more reckless.
As I tweeted to Elisa Gabbert, who makes my favorite year-end list, I am “trying to fight my completist Brian.” I loved that typo — it was supposed to be “brain” but I like the idea of a completist Brian inside me that needs to be silenced. “Shut up, Brian!”
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Don Quixote was the best book I read. I read it right around the solstice. Everyone will tell you to get the Edith Grossman translation, but what brought me the most joy was listening to David Case’s reading — his voices for the knight errant and his sidekick made me laugh and laugh. Instantly became one of my favorite books, one I will read again and again, I’m sure.
Frank Herbert’s Dune was perfect for August in Texas.
I loved Kurt Vonnegut’s Timequake, as I do most of his books.
Larry McMurtry’s All My Friends Are Going To Be Strangers was bawdy and fun.
Claire Keegan’s Small Things Like These packed a punch in a tight, short book.
I read Matilda and several Harry Potter books and Grimm Fairy Tales to my kids.
Gene Yang’s American Born Chinese was a perfect graphic novel.
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I turned 40, so the work of James Hollis came to me at just the right time. I found The Middle Passage and Finding Meaning in the Second Half of Life particularly helpful — no real answers, just good questions.
Annie Murphy Paul’s The Extended Mind gave me a really wonderful framework for thinking about my creative practices.
I liked Seneca’s wisdom and occasional bitchiness in Letters from a Stoic.
Melanie Mitchell’s Artificial Intelligence: A Guide for Thinking Humans is just that.
Will Hermes’ biography, Lou Reed: The King of New York, was pretty much exactly the book I wanted it to be.
A delightful year-end surprise was Dwight Garner’s The Upstairs Delicatessen.
Box Brown’s The He-Man Effect: How American Toymakers Sold You Your Childhood and Bill Griffith’s Three Rocks: The Story of Ernie Bushmiller: The Man Who Created Nancy are about as good as non-fiction comics get.
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Here is a map I tried to make of all these books and how they related to each other:
This year I would like to be more reckless than ever — I would consider it a great triumph, actually, if I finished fewer books, if I sampled and skimmed and scraped more books, and saved finishing for books where I can’t stop turning the pages.
It’s been almost 10 years since I made this list of 33 thoughts on reading. I feel that I might be getting closer and closer to living up to it.
Filed under: my reading years