Favorite Reads of 2023

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Somewhere between 500K-1M new books are formally published annually.  It’s a book lover’s conundrum that we can barely scratch the surface of great reads, niche and mainstream, from year to year. 

What kept you turning pages late into the night in 2023? Which ones were you thinking about long after slipping the tome away on a shelf, filing it away on your Kindle, or the audiobook ran out? My Want To Read list isn’t daunting enough; bring on the recommendations!

Before I share mine – one app recommendation. Multiple friends have recommended Libby to me in recent years, and I finally signed up. It serves as conduit between you and your local library to traffic ebook and audio book loans.  And I love that I can readily queue things I want to read to keep the new ideas and stories flowing.

Without further ado:

Nonfiction

Poverty, By America by Matthew Desmond

PBA is one of those books that will leave you angry about the ease with which public policy works against lower income Americans for the sake of maintaining an imbalance the benefits people who are already advantaged.  From making applications for government benefits so complicated that only a third of people who qualify actually sign up, to housing and development policy that keeps affordable housing from getting built in the areas that need it most,  the book makes clear that people are handicapped from the get go if they fall below a certain income threshold such that it is almost impossible to climb back out.  It should be required reading for every American who thinks bootstraps are enough.

Educated by Tara Westover

Westover’s riveting memoir covers her transition from off the grid, minimally home-schooled child to Cambridge PhD-holding historian.  Raised by a paranoid, bipolar, religious zealot father and a reluctant midwife mother — alongside a variety of siblings with their own struggles and tragedies — her journey to ground herself in reality and rise to meet her potential is full of awkward realizations and painful lessons that ultimately set her free of her survivalist family and her past.

What My Bones Know: A Memoir of Healing From Complex Trauma by Stephanie Foo

Foo recounts her complex PTSD diagnosis and pursuit of treatment, weaving in anecdotes from her emotional abuse-filled childhood and transcripts of her therapy sessions. If you have a complex trauma diagnosis, you may find yourself nodding along — having asked yourself some of the same questions she struggled with or that a weird sense of deja vu when one of her interactions with her parents mirrors your own. She also brings awareness to the challenges in finding a therapist that understands the unique challenges experienced by people of color and children of immigrants.

Fiction

Ripe by Sarah Rose Etter

From the brilliant wordplay to a compellingly-conflicted protagonist, you’ll cancel your plans to find out what happens faster.  The novel follows Cassie, an overachiever with an incredibly toxic manager at a unethical startup , as she tries to balance her needs, ambitions and realities in San Francisco.  This includes her low pay in a high cost city,  dating a guy who is openly stepping out on his long term girlfriend, a limited support network in her friends and family, and pressure to do more and do it faster.

Tomorrow, Tomorrow and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin

I wanted to not like this book given the controversy after its publication, but the decades long friendship turned  business partnership of video game developers Sadie and Sam was a great exploration of the challenges of the things not said in relationships and the struggle in trying to repeat success when it is found too soon.

Finlay Donovan Knocks ’em Dead and Finlay Donovan Jumps the Gun by Ellie Cosimano

Cosimano continues to deliver hilarious reads; I caught up on the rest of the ongoing Finlay Donovan series. This romance novelist on deadline winds up trying to save her pending ex-husband from a contract killing and ends up owing the Russian mob a favor.¬† She still can’t get out of her way, and it’s still highly entertaining, escapist fun. Finlay Donovan Rolls the Dice drops in 2024.

About the author

Andrea Zak
By Andrea Zak

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