As 2024 begins, I am of course reflecting upon my reading of 2023 and after a lovely review down reading memory lane, I realized I need two top 5 lists, one for fiction and one for nonfiction. I happily read a great deal more nonfiction than any other year in 2023 and some of it was absolutely fantastic. So to honor that I have divided the list and we start off 2024 with my top five FICTION reads of 2023.
Coming in at #5 is “Moon of the Crusted Snow” by Waubgeshig Rice. I listened to the audio version of this book and was blown away. It is a short novel about the end of the world and its effects on a small, remote, indigenous community. There is a stark beauty & simplicity to the story that leaves the reader pondering what it means to be in community and to survive. An excellent read for the winter months and short enough even for a snow day!
At #4 is Sabaa Tahir’s “All My Rage.” This YA novel took my breath away. I first fell in love with Tahir’s writing and character development while devouring her epic fantasy series, “Ember in the Ashes.” This novel departs from the fantasy world, placing the reader in a deeply intimate and intense relationship between two people and their coming of age stories in modern America. With themes of trauma, immigration and death Tahir asks the reader to witness a narrative filled with truth, grief, beauty and ultimately hope.
In the #3 spot, we have Min Jin Lee’s “Panchinko.” This book, at over 400+ pages would usually never make it to my shelves, but based on a recommendation from a dear friend, I picked it up. And I am so glad I did! It is perhaps one of the best paced books I have ever read and the story kept me engaged and wanting to read without gratuitous drama or cliffhangers. I ended up finishing the novel in a long weekend and I highly recommend, even if the size feels intimidating.
Coming in at #2 is a delightful little tale by Becky Chambers call “A Psalm for the Wild Built.” I love speculative fiction and Chambers’ novella offers a hope-filled vision for how humanity and robots could co-exist ini contrast to the often over-the-top dystopian imaginations. Here the world isn’t ending, it has shifted and evolved and this narrative provides a beautiful glimpse into what it means to be human, alive, in relationship and reflects on meaning making for the mundane repetitive tasks of our daily living. It is a gem.
Last, but certainly not least, my #1 pick for fiction read in 2023 is “All Systems Red” by Martha Wells. The wit and humor of this novella had me laughing out loud during my silent retreat this summer and I even decided to read it TWICE because I wanted to savor every joke, snarky comeback and character interaction. Part of the #1 spot here is how much this narrative surprised and delighted me. I wasn’t expecting the hilarity of the Murderbot and it filled me with great joy.
There you have it! My Top Five Fiction Reads of 2023. As I was writing this all up I realized I gave the top four of these books as Christmas presents to my family a few weeks ago. So I much like them, recommend them and expect you all to go read them now ;). Kidding, but I do hope you found something to spark your interest and that no matter what, you had a satisfying reading season in 2023 and are looking forward to whatever is on your to-be-read list in 2024.
Happy New Year and Happy Reading,