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This Year in Reading: 2023

In 2022, I posted a "This Year in Reading" blog post and it stimulated some fun conversation about books, so I thought it would be a good thing to continue.

2023 was a streaky year for me as a reader, with the majority of my movement happening early in the year, then tapering off in the middle, and finally revving up at the end. My Goodreads goal for this year was forty books but it's currently looking like I will finish at about thirty.

Below is the list in its entirety, and below that, a few classifications.

  • This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald

  • The Exit Strategy by Lainey Cameron

  • The Rabbit Hutch by Tess Gunty

  • Revenge: How Donald Trump Weaponized the US Department of Justice Against His Critics by Michael Cohen

  • Hard Landing: The Epic Contest for Power and Profits that Plunged the Airlines into Chaos by Thomas Petzinger Jr.

  • Native Moments by Nic Schuck

  • The Tale of Genji by Murasaki Shikibu

  • The Pale King (Second Read) by David Foster Wallace

  • Grant by Jean Edward Smith

  • Absalom! Absalom! by William Faulkner

  • A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce

  • The Graduate by Charles Webb

  • The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life by Mark Manson

  • Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind: Informal Talks on Zen Meditation and Practice by Shunryu Suzuki

  • A Monk's Guide to a Clean House and Mind Rich by Shoukei Matsumoto

  • The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen

  • The Souls of Black Folk by W.E.B. Du Bois

  • On Prayer and the Contemplative Life by Thomas Aquinas

  • The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins

  • The Black Jacobins: Toussaint L'Ouverture and the San Dmingo Revolution by C.L.R. James

  • Manhattan Transfer by John Dos Passos

  • The Crying of Lot 49 by Thomas Pynchon

  • Silas Marner by George Eliot

  • The Parisian by Isabella Hammad

  • Elegant Complexity: A Study of David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest by John Barth

  • Blood Meridian, or, the Evening Redness in the West by Cormac McCarthy

  • A Mind for Numbers: How to Excel at Math and Science (Even If You Flunked Algebra) by Barbara Oakley

  • The Fat Years by Chan Koonchung

  • Jaws by Peter Benchley

  • Every Love Story is a Ghost Story: A Life of David Foster Wallace by D.T. Max

  • White Noise by Don Delillo (in progress...)

  • War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy (in progress...)

What I Liked:

With a list as eclectic as the one above, close comparison and echelon judgment can be a fool’s errand. This list includes books from legends, talking heads, and biographies. Therefore, in my naming just a few favorites from the bunch, I’ve excluded the usual suspects.

  • Native Moments by Nic Shuck: Nic and I have bonded online over grit literature and 20th century modernists but his first book also delivered. Native Moments is a completely genuine and original take on a young man's quixotic journey to find freedom outside of the states. Nic's prose is simple and clean and plays like jazz on a classic hero's journey.

  • The Souls of Black Folk by W.E.B. Du Bois: To say nothing of the subject, the prose of W.E.B. Du Bois is among some of the most rhythmic I have ever read. It was an absolute pleasure to read through, and I will certainly be looking for more of his work.

  • The Fat Years by Chan Koonchung: The Fat Years is a Chinese translation about the time between the late-2000s financial crisis and the start of the Age of Chinese Ascendency — a time that all but a few Chinese have completely forgotten. The story discusses life in modern China, and the ironclad grip that the Chinese Communist Party has on the country.

What I didn't Like:

Though I have no desire to publicly critique books and/or writers, this is a list, and lists, by nature, have bottoms.

  • The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck by Mark Manson: This book went a long way to say very little and was a complete waste of time. It is definitely just a money grab with no interest in discussing anything of substance.

  • A Mind for Numbers by Barbara Oakley: Reading this book felt like I was being recruited by a pyramid scheme. The entire book seemed to hint at a coming point but never actually arrives on one. It ends up just being a scattered array of mind teasers and obvious suggestions.

  • Revenge: How Donald Trump Weaponized the US Department of Justice Against His Critics by Michael Cohen: I wanted this to be a detailed exposéon the Trump Whitehouse, but instead it was a meandering smear campaign by one of Trump's former allies against his old client. Michael Cohen seems content with just calling Trump a racist and a bigot without actually unveiling how he knows this, which is why I wanted the book. In the end, the book seemed to bypass any clear evidence. Cohen (who it appears actually wrote the book based on the derelict prose) spends most of the book grasping at points that make him look cleaner than Trump.

The Best:

The Parisian by Isabella Hammad: The sprawling story of a young man from Nablus torn between the comfortable Muslim East of his youth and the bustling culture of Western Europe which he experiences as a man.

2023 Fiction Plans

  • (Finish)War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy

  • V by Thomas Pynchon

  • Emma by Jane Austen

  • White Teeth by Zadie Smith

  • Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray

  • Deadly Declarations by Landis Wade

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