2023 in Books
6 February 2024
This is a followup to last year’s 2022 in Books post.
I read 39 books in 2023, slightly down from 2022 and gave six of them five star ratings. Curious that that is the exact same number of five star ratings as the year before. Perhaps my definition of a five star book is basically “better than anything I’ve read in the last couple of months”. Which wouldn’t be unreasonable. I don’t want to not use the top of the scale or reserve it for the out of this world excellent stuff. Just the stuff that, at least at the time I close the book, I feel like I could recommend anyone to read and even if they hated it I’d be able to defend why I thought it was a great read.
The books I gave five stars to were
- Still Life by Sarah Winman
- A Ladder to the Sky by John Boyne
- Iron Curtain by Vesna Goldsworthy
- A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers
- Record of a Spaceborn Few by Becky Chambers
- The Galaxy, and the Ground Within by Becky Chambers
So yes, the five star list gets a bit repetitive there at the end, it was obviously my year to enjoy Becky Chambers. Those are parts 2 to 4 of the Wayfarers series. I liked the first one too but it was not quite a five star read. Then each of the following ones notched it up a bit so I basically felt they were all great. I liked how they stayed in the same universe but each explored something different and it wasn’t just another outing with the same characters each time.
Storygraph tells me that my most popular read of the year was Uprooted by Naomi Novik and my least popular was The Venetian Candidate by Philip Gwynne Jones. I did really enjoy Uprooted, it was outside my comfort zone, but I haven’t yet managed to finish Spinning Silver by the same author. Whereas the Gwynne Jones is thoroughly inside my mystery comfort zone and also very enjoyable. And I’d like him to be more popular because I want to keep hearing about Nathan’s adventures in Venice! And The Galaxy, and the Ground Within was the highest rated of the books I read by other Storygraph users. Not really a surprise that people who get to the end of a four book series really like it but it doesn’t always go like that with series. People will keep reading series that disappoint them (and I know because I do it).
My resolution for 2023 is to get back to reading at least a book a week, but I’ve been saying that for years and since 2012 the only year I’ve actually managed that has been 2021. I give very few books very low ratings, the reads that might become 1s and 2s get discarded early so my records are awash with 3s and 4s. I think the way to read more is to try and figure out the books that are going to become 5s and seek those out. Sometimes I think I leave books for another time so I’ve got something to look forward to, but I think I’m unlikely to run out of interesting reading material any time soon.
Genre-wise the year was a tie between science fiction and mystery, though it’s notable that mystery doesn’t make it into the five star reads and science fiction definitely does.
Through the year I rather lost my reading mojo from July to November, I had a lot of other commitments in that time and was basically exhausted. I got my skates back on in December a bit and finished off several half finished books (you can see the number of books read is disproportionate to the number of pages read).
But look at the mood map! That second half of the year just goes down and even a reading flurry in December doesn’t touch it. Last year I said that I felt like I read more when I read lighter books and it looks like maybe I wasn’t finishing things that were darker? I’m not entirely sure that’s the right conclusion. More data required. I’ll read on and report back next year.