Happy new year! I started working on my annual reading retrospective when I got back to Prague from a campervan trip with family in Arizona last week but haven’t been able to get Goodreads to play ball. It says I read 67 books last year but persists in showing two titles I didn’t actually read—even though I’ve tried to remove them from the shelf. So I think it was 65 books. But then I started wondering if I’d actually remembered to add everything I’d read…
After a few days of back and forth on this with myself, I'm calling it 66.
It’s a good number.
Of these, in 2023 I read 20 books by authors who are not located in North America. Most of these were UK-based writers, it seems, but not all were writing about the UK.
Last year I read books that were randomly recommended to me as usual but also sought out titles set in countries/locations that I was visiting or that I would like to visit one day. That’s how I found the book that was probably my favorite read of the year, 10 Minutes, 38 seconds in this Strange World by Elif Shafak, which is set in Turkey. I picked it up (along with Belshazzar’s Daughter, Labyrinth and Silent House, all described below) because I traveled to Istanbul for a client’s conference in September. (Deadlands, another favorite, evoked the Arizona desert I just drove through. *chef’s kiss*)
My reading journey this year led me to revisit some favorite authors (including 2 books each by list-toppers Leigh Bardugo, Rachel Howzell Hall & SA Cosby). I pounced on the newest titles from Andrea Bartz and Shannon Chakraborty (who wrote the Daevabad trilogy as SA Chakraborty). I also tried to keep current with some of the books that had “everyone” buzzing (who is “everyone”? can I unsubscribe?) with less satisfying results: RF Kuang’s Babel, This is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar & Max Gladstone and Daisy Darker by Alice Feeney all ended up at the low end of my recommendation lists. I did enjoy Kuang’s Yellowface and the buzzy cosy fantasy blockbuster Legends & Lattes by Travis Baldree.
Speaking of Legends & Lattes, it kicked off a mini trend in my reading material of “books where nothing is happening but I’m riveted,” as I described it to my husband. This vibes-only reading also describes other books I very much enjoyed this year, like The Nakano Thrift Shop and Inspector Imanishi Investigates, both set in Japan, Deadlands by Victoria Miluch, and Labyrinth by Burhan Sönmez.
On the opposite spectrum, non-stop action, tension, and excitement kept me flipping pages in Falling by TJ Newman (do NOT, I repeat DO NOT, read before getting on an airplane), Ninth House, and The Adventures of Amina Al-Sirafi.
I’m super proud of several friends who published books last year too, and it was a joy to read their works: Sarah Tatoun’s Raise the Wind is a historical adventure set in colonial Georgia; Colleen Winter wrapped up her Canadian-set dystopian eco-thriller trilogy with a bang in The Storm; and fellow Mid-May writing group members Vanessa Lillie and Marie Hoy-Kenny added to my thriller list with Lillie’s Blood Sisters, about a Native American archaeologist who seems to dig up trouble as often as bones, and Hoy-Kenny’s YA romp The Girls from Hush Cabin, about four friends from summer camp who team up to solve a murder. (Shout out to Brian Hathaway from the Mid-May group too—his middle grade contemporary fantasy Hope for the Hounds came out in November and I’m currently reading it!)
What did you read last year?
Click through to see my full list and recommendations.
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