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A 2023 Reader’s Journey

It occurs to me now that 100 is a lot of books.

It’s not TOO MANY books. Between getting better at reading fast and a whole lot of audiobooks, I didn’t really struggle all that much. There were a few times during the year when I fell behind, as tracked by Storygraph. That’s fine. Sometimes I read monster huge books, and sometimes I read novellas. It all comes out in the end.

But still, 100 is a lot. Here are some of my favorites that I read this year. They aren’t necessarily books that came out in 2023, but these are the books that filled my reading hours in the best possible way.

The Ministry for the Future by Kim Stanley Robinson

Hope. That’s what I like about this book. Climate fiction needed a big old injection of hope, and Robinson did a fantastic job of it. This book starts with now and in a reasonably plausible fashion moves the world into what is essentially a utopia. It’s not always easy along the way. People suffer along the way.

But we end up with something amazing, and the hard sci-fi is basically as hard as it gets. Wonderful work. Goes against many of my writing sensibilities. Succeeds on all counts.

An Immense World by Ed Yong

This is a must for all you sci-fi fans and writers. I mean, how can we start to think about how aliens experience their worlds without first examining some of the amazingly weird ways that Earth’s creatures sense their surroundings. This book is one mind-blowing fact after another, and by the end it’ll change how you experience your world. Really an amazing read.

Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin

Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow is a book about people who make video games, and it was one of the most powerful pieces of drama I consumed all year. The characters in this thing are amazing, and I keep thinking back to the layers of complexity that Zevin baked into each one.

Chokepoint Capitalism by Rebecca Giblin and Corey Doctorow

You might be familiar with Doctorow’s theories on enshittification. In this book, Giblin and Doctorow discuss the ways in which tech captures the creative labor markets. It’s very detailed and disturbing, but I think my favorite part is that the whole second half of the book is dedicated to solutions. It’s not relentless doom and gloom the whole way through.

A lot of it is stuff that I already know about publishing. Systems are broken. People who should be getting paid aren’t. But then he goes into detail about the music industry and… well, it’s way worse. It’s a fascinating look at how our world works, and as a creative, I think it’s something that everyone should read.

The Adventures of Amina al-Sirafi by Shannon Chakraborty

This book follows a mother and pirate on one last high seas adventure. It’s amazingly realized, tense in all the right ways, and genuinely fun to read. This book easily reached the threshold of awesome at which I go out and buy a copy for my wife to read. Now it will live on my shelf until someone tells me that they like epic fantasy. I’ll shove the book in their hands and send them on their way. Everyone will be better for it.

Lost Cargo by P.A. Cornell

I read a lot of novellas this year, and Lost Cargo was one of my favorites. The setup isn’t terribly complicated, but the depths of character development Cornell gets in not much time is truly astounding.

A pod of travelers gets separated from its generation ship and lands on a wildly terraformed moon. The goal is straightforward: get to the base and send up a distress signal. Nothing’s really that easy, is it? Yeah, there are monsters.

Often, when we read novellas, there’s a sense that the story is a fluffed up short story or a pared down novel. This book is neither. It’s exactly the right length for a truly amazing impact. Definitely worth the read.

A Year of Great Books

Yeah, 100 books is a lot, but now that I look back at my reading list, I’m quite happy with how many of them I loved. Next year, I’ll likely pick an easier goal and give myself more time for short stories and maybe the occasional podcast, but reading’s always going to be a big part of my entertainment and research. How can it not be?

The start of the new year marks the beginning of serious reading for award nominations. If you’re doing the same, you can find my eligible titles on the blog, and I hope you’ll check them out. Even if you’re not nominating for big awards, I hope you’ll take a look at what I and other writers have published this year. The landscape of sci-fi and fantasy is rapidly changing, and there’s some really exciting stuff out there.

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