In no particular order, these are some of my favorite books that I read in 2023.
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The Storyteller was one of my top reads of 2022 and when we decided to take a 2-day road trip, listening to Dave Grohl narrate the audiobook was a no-brainer. It was like listening to him rattle off stories as we drove 1,200 miles across three states, stopping at diners for greasy food, and truck stops to fill the gas tank. Both versions of the book are great, but I recommend listening to the audiobook for the full Dave Grohl experience. See my full thoughts about the book here.
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Continuing with memoirs by famous musicians, Bono, born Paul David Hewson, tells his tale in Surrender: 40 Songs, One Story.
Bono’s memoir is as poetic as U2’s song lyrics, and densely packed with his experiences, introspection, and interpretation. It’s everything any devout fan could hope for when asking the famous lead singer “how’d you do it and what’s it been like?” His writing is eloquent, articulate, expressive, and, yes, poetic. I thoroughly enjoyed learning about the paths he’s taken, the relationships he’s experienced, and his drive to make the world a better place through philanthropy and political activism.
Whether or not he calls himself one, Bono is a philosopher. Throughout the book he sprinkles his ruminations and conversations with others on religion, personal faith, scriptures, and all sorts of philosophical questions. I appreciate and respect that he openly and routinely questions his own religious faith as well as the scriptures it’s based on. He looks beyond the dogma to understand the philosophy. I admire that this perspective is evident in his song lyrics and performances.
To move people with music, you first have to be moved by it.
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Enlightening, emotional, overwhelming, sorrowful, and hopeful are words I’d use to describe Dancing in the Mosque, by Homeira Qaderi. The hardships she’s endured throughout her life are worthy of the story and she entwines the words with emotion and soul that elevates it beyond any of my expectations. The experiences she shares are based around letters to her son while they’re forcefully separated—she’s in the United States and he’s in Afghanistan.
No doubt, Qaderi is an artful storyteller and skilled writer. When you know that everything is her truth, her life, her experiences, the emphasis of each tale is magnified tenfold, a hundredfold, and more. It astounds me—and reminds me of my extreme privilege—that she not only lived through so many horrendous experiences, but had—and still has—the courage to fight for her beliefs and rights in such circumstances. I have the utmost admiration for her and am thankful that she shared her story, helping the rest of us in the world understand the experiences of women in Afghanistan.
The story of Afghan women is tightly woven with the history and politics of our nation. The story is one of endless misery woven through times of peace and war and it flows with pain, but never reaches the healing ocean.
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With Legendborn and Bloodmarked, the first two books in the Legendborn Cycle, Tracy Deonn has created a fantastic Arthurian-inspired tale of a Black teenage girl from North Carolina who finds herself entrenched in a prophecy that she didn’t know about and definitely didn’t want to be a part of. Deonn builds a uniquely interesting world around the Legends of King Arthur, full of complexity and intrigue with characters that grow and adapt with the story.
Bloodmarked, the second book in the Legendborn Cycle continues Bree’s tale, building on and explaining the complexities of the magical world around her. There were several unexpected plot twists and the characters continue to evolve in interesting ways.
I sincerely appreciate how Deonn presents Bree and the many experiences that are unique precisely because she’s a young Black woman who often has to deal with microaggressions and racism. Deonn deftly ties in the history of enslaved people in the U.S. and how it continues to impact our culture. She integrates that history into the storyline with depth, care, and respect.
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Giant Days (volumes 1-14), by John Allison, tells a thoroughly fun, quirky, and enjoyable story of 3 young women’s friendships and adventures during their college (university) years. It had me nostalgic for my college days, not only the adventures similar to theirs, but the ones that were different and unique from mine. For those yet to attend university, here’s a taste of what it can be like and a reminder to be courageous, find those friendships and experiences that will be the building blocks of adulthood!
Note for the Extra Credit and Early Registration volumes: They’re still good, but not quite as much so as the original volumes 1-14. You can read them anytime, but I recommend finishing at least volume 1 of the primary/main track first.
- Giant Days (Vol. 1)
- Giant Days (Vol. 2)
- Giant Days (Vol. 3)
- Giant Days (Vol. 4)
- Giant Days (Vol. 5)
- Giant Days (Vol. 6)
- Giant Days (Vol. 7)
- Giant Days (Vol. 8)
- Giant Days (Vol. 9)
- Giant Days (Vol. 10)
- Giant Days (Vol. 11)
- Giant Days (Vol. 12)
- Giant Days (Vol. 13)
- Giant Days (Vol. 14)
- Giant Days: Extra Credit
- Giant Days: Early Registration
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As usual, Martha Wells packs a whole helluva lot into each sentence, paragraph, and chapter throughout Witch King. The author creates worlds with complexities and challenges that mirror our own, yet also fills them with common practices and ethos that break many stereotypes of our reality.
With Witch King, Wells throws you into the deep end first by starting the story off where she does and I don’t disagree with some reviewers who said they would have appreciated a bit of backstory or history to prepare them for the ride. Having said that, she does a fantastic job of laying out the story over time, exposing us to the characters and moments of their growth—historical and present time.
I’m excited to see where Wells takes this story and how Kai, Ziede, Tahren, and the others evolve! That is, assuming (hoping!) there’s a sequel.
A Lavish, Crunchy Fantasy: Witch King by Martha Wells is a well-written review that I came across.
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City of Bones is a skillfully crafted story set in a richly constructed society set thousands of years after apocalyptic events drastically change the planet—that is presumably Earth. As I’ve come to expect, Wells develops characters with intricacy and depth, allowing us to witness their subtle evolution as the story unfolds. The plot flows well and the characters are engaging. It’s truly a pleasure to read.
Martha Wells solidified herself as one of my all-time favorite authors when I devoured the Murderbot series in 2020 (see my top reads of 2020) and followed it up with the Books of Raksura in 2021 (see my top reads of 2021). Whether it’s sci-fi or fantasy, Wells creates extensive and detailed worlds that build off of our own emotional journeys while adding unique and interesting twists. Worth calling out, I truly appreciate the equity that Wells builds into her fictional worlds, whether it’s queer relationships or gender presentation, she presents openness and acceptance as the norm.
I had the joy of seeing Martha Wells speak at a local book store and sign my copy of the newly revised edition of City of Bones, Witch King, and System Collapse (Murderbot #7).
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The Sixth Gun, by Collen Bunn, Brian Hurtt, & Bill Crabtree, is an action packed spaghetti western with a supernatural twist. The art and writing both have a noir style that portrays the ambiguity and underlying complexity of the characters. Brian Hurtt’s art is fun and complex, visually pleasing as it conveys the characters and their trials. Cullen Bunn’s writing is well-paced, entertaining, and gives the reader a wild ride.
- The Sixth Gun (Vol. 1): Cold Dead Fingers
- The Sixth Gun (Vol. 2): Crossroads
- The Sixth Gun (Vol. 3): Bound
- The Sixth Gun (Vol. 4): A Town Called Penance
- The Sixth Gun (Vol. 5): Winter Wolves
- The Sixth Gun (Vol. 6): Ghost Dance
- The Sixth Gun (Vol. 7): Not the Bullet, But the Fall
- The Sixth Gun (Vol. 8): Hell and High Water
- The Sixth Gun (Vol. 9): Boot Hill
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When I picked up Naked Statistics, by Charles Wheelan, to read for work, I never expected it to land on my top reads list. Wheelan brings brevity and clarity to a tedious subject matter, statistical analysis. This is nothing like the textbook for my statistics class in college, which might be why I actually read this one cover-to-cover. Wheelan adeptly translates advanced concepts into real-world situations using clear language and intuitive examples. I found the silly sense of humor enjoyable, but I can see where it might bother some folks. All in all, I found it informative and often enjoyable to read, which given the subject matter is a formidable accomplishment, one to be lauded!
Statistics is like a high-caliber weapon: helpful when used correctly and potentially disastrous in the wrong hands.
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Starter Villain, by John Scalzi, is one of my best whimsical purchases in quite some time! We were on vacation in Austin, Texas and I was perusing the shelves of employee recommendations at BookPeople—Austin Kleon’s local bookstore—when the cover jumped out at me and the synopsis closed the deal. The book is ridiculously entertaining and lighthearted! A fast-paced story where the protagonist is a fish out of water, suddenly entangled with a small group of elitist thick-headed billionaire tech bros who truly believe they’re super villains. There are also adorable cats. What more could you want in a hilarious allegory for income inequality?
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