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Booking Through 2023

So the new year has finally decided to grace us with its presence. I hope the first week of 2024 has been fantastic for you!

Remember the days of the past when everyone was in a panic about not screwing up the date on their checks? Sometimes it took me months to remember what year it was. Nowadays, with the rise of the internet, writing checks is obsolete, and the new norm during the first week of the year is to focus on lists. Everyone and their dog has come up with a list, unleashing their “best of” and “worst of” for 2023. This is the epitome of clickbait, and I confess, I’ve been clicking away all week. It’s like giving your closet a makeover: the fabulous clothes get the spotlight, while the not-so-great ones take a step back. It’s that time when we celebrate the good stuff and try to forget the bad.

So here is my list. In 2023, I:

  • Ran/walked exercised 742 miles; the goal was 800.
  • Got to return to Vieques, Puerto Rico—my island, our island. We were there for 4 months, and there were no hurricanes during our visit. Woo hoo!
  • After having the idea for a book and piddling with it for 14 years, I finally finished writing it. It’s been edited, and even though I don’t have a publisher yet, the manuscript made the shortlist for a global book award.
  • Capt’n Clean and I began remodeling our home in Morelia, Michoacan, Mexico. We’ve lived, like Pigpen, in a pile of dust for the past few months, but hey, we’re still married.
  • And lastly, I listened to a ton of books. 84 to be exact. My goal for the past 10 years has been to read or listen to 100 books a year. 84 is the closest I’ve come to making my goal, so I’m pretty dang satisfied.

I read some awesome books that will stay with me forever. But, of my 2023–84, there were also some pretty bad ones. It chaps me when I’ve spent money and time and a book doesn’t deliver. I’m certainly no book guru, but for those of you who enjoy reading, I thought I’d provide the best books I’ve read in the past year. My “best of list” is below. A list of all the books I read in 2023 follows.

Here we go. Here’s the creme de la creme:

Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver
I’ve read a lot of Barbara Kingsolver’s books. There is not one that I consider a waste of my time. She’s a master. But Demon Copperhead is her absolute best. It’s brilliant. Based on David Copperfield, it follows the life of a young boy born to a single mother in the Appalachian region of North Carolina. It’s long. It’s sad. But, oh my, it’s worth it. It won the Pulitzer for 2023.


Bright Young Women by Jessica Knoll
I knew nothing about this book until I read it. I was expecting it to be either a cheesy romance or a #metoo exposé. The experience I had was completely unexpected. In 1978, a horrifying incident occurred in Tallahassee, Florida, where an intruder entered a sorority house and brutally attacked four young women. The story is a gripping tale that draws inspiration from real-life events but is fiction. It masterfully captures the harrowing experiences of the victim-survivors and all they endure, because they are yound women in the 70s, to find justice. The narrative skillfully avoids revealing the identity of the killer, with the premise that when horrific things like this happen, the killer, when caught, gets all the attention. Although I never joined a sorority, I experienced college life as a coed in the 1970s. I was completely captivated by this book and couldn’t put it down.


The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon (reread)
I read this wonderful book back in 2016, but I reread it in December since it’s my Morelia book club’s pick for January. I think I loved it more the second time through. It begins pre-World War II and follows the lives of two Jewish cousins who made a brilliant team during the infancy stage of comic book superheroes. I didn’t want it to be over. It won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 2001.


Birnam Wood by Eleanor Catton
I’ve never been to New Zealand and know absolutely nothing about it other than the fact that it is beautiful, a lot of movies are made there, and has a brilliant woman leading the country. This book is about a group of guerilla gardeners who make it their quest to grow food crops on privately owned land. These squatters often operate illegally, in stealth mode. Weird, but intriguing. When a billionaire “adopts” the group, the stage is set for philosophical as well as class contrasts, which eventually become a good old-fashioned psychological thriller. Hang in there to the end of this one. I didn’t see it coming, and I was thrilled that this book surprised me.

The Heaven and Earth Grocery Store by James McBride
This book begins In 1972, when a construction crew in Pottstown, Pennsylvania, is clearing land for development and finds a skeleton at the bottom of a well. The rest of the book is a flashback devoted to explaining who the bones belong to and how the remains got there. McBride weaves a beautiful tale in the 1920s and 1930s that involves Jewish and African-American residents who live in a dilapidated community known as Chicken Hill. It’s a story of goodness and survival for two very distinctly different groups of people. I left this one feeling hopeful about human kindness.


West with Giraffes by Lynda Rutledge
OMG! This may have been my favorite book for 2023. Of course the author, Lynda Rutledge, is from Austin, Texas, and that helped. It’s about 105-year-old Woodrow Wilson Nickel known as “Woody” Nickel, who reminisces about his rowdy 17-year-old self, who in 1938 helped transport two giraffes cross country from New York to the San Diego Zoo. This book brilliantly combines historical facts (yes, two giraffes were toted across the country during this time) and heartwarming fictional characters that you will never forget. Rutledge nails the vernacular, and you will feel that you have experienced the colorful side of the Great Depression, the Hitler threat, and overworked, weary American people looking for wonder in their lives. This book delivers, and then some.


The Princess Bride by William Goldman
I quote lines from the movie all the time, but I had never read William Goldman’s original book. It’s short, and because Goldman also did the screenplay, it’s very close to the movie. But I think the book provided a richness that I never knew was there. Capt’n Clean and I listened to this book together on my birthday. Give yourself a gift and read it.


Wish by Barbara O’Connor
The book I wrote this past year is for middle-grade readers. So both Capt’n Clean and I have read just about every contemporary best-seller in this category. Don’t ever think that because a book isn’t labeled for adults, you will not enjoy it. Wish is one of those special reads. It is set in Tennessee and is about an 11-year-old girl named Charlie, who is dumped to live with her aunt and uncle and is desperately seeking a home. It’s a tender story that you won’t forget.


East of Eden by John Steinbeck
This was one of my local book club selections, and I thought I had read it years ago, but was wrong. I know I drooled over James Dean in the movie. There is a reason that Steinbeck’s writing is timeless, and this book is one of his best. It revolves around two sets of brothers, Charles and Adam, then Arron and Cal, and the evil woman Cathy who is at the center of the discord. Cathy makes Cruella DeVille look like a saint. If you’ve never read East of Eden, or haven’t read it in years, I challenge you to check it out. Wonderful read.

Anxious People by Fredrik Backman(reread)
Fredrik Backman is one of my favorite contemporary writers. This was another book I had read previously, but reread for my book club discussion. Talk about whacked-out, quirky characters, Backman delivers with an offbeat group of “anxious” people who are held hostage at an apartment open house. Backman is Swedish, and one of the things I appreciate the most about his writing is that it translates beautifully and grabs the core of human existence and compassion. Every time I hear the word “Stockholm” I think about this book. It’s so good.


Tomorrow and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin
I was skeptical about this one, but oh my, it was wonderful. I must confess, I’m a closet gamer. I’ve been playing Hearthstone since it began in 2014. So I’m probably biased. But this book is more than just a tribute to gaming. It explores the core of human relationships, especially those between genders. I’ve always had doubts that a man and woman could work closely on a creative level as business partners without there being sexual overtures from one or both. This book tackles all work relationships. It is a love letter to the gaming world. I can’t stop thinking about it to this day.


On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King
I love the way Stephen King writes. I can’t say that I’m overly thrilled with all of his plots and subject matters, but the man can write. I loved this book because it delves into his addictions and relates how writing saved him. But it’s not just a memoir. King spells out the nuts and bolts of what it takes to write effectively. If you have ever wanted to write this book is a must. If you’ve ever wanted to see what makes Stephen King tick, ditto. I will reread this every year for the rest of my life..


So here are all the books I read in 2023. I’ve included the number of pages for each, why I chose to read each one, and how I would rate each (5 stars is the best). If you are wondering about purchasing or reading any of these, maybe this will help you decide. Happy Reading!

 

 TitleAuthorWhy I Chose to ReadNumber of PagesDate ReadMy Rating
1

The Maid 

Nita Prosehighly rated psychological thriller3041/5/2023***
2

It Ends with Us

Colleen HooverI don’t normally do romances, but this got rave reviews3861/12/2023*****
3

It Starts with Us

Colleen Hooversame as above3231/28/2023*****
4

Beloved

Toni Morrisonwas a book club pick3241/29/2023****
5

The Thursday Murder Club

Richard OsmanI was intrigued with people from retirement home solving mysteries3822/7/2023***
6

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

Stephen Kingthe master speaks3202/24/2023*****
7

Anxious People

Fredrik BackmanBackman is a jewel3363/5/2023*****
8

Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow

Gabrielle ZevinI was intrigued with the subject, and high reviews4013/9/2023*****
9

When You Trap a Tiger

Tae Kellerwon the Newberry Award2973/19/2023****

10

East of Eden

John SteinbeckPulitzer6013/28/2023*****
11

Wish

Barbara O’ConnorMG bestseller2404/1/2023*****
12

The One and Only Bob

Katherine ApplegateMG book, and I love this author3524/1/2023****
13

A Wolf Called Wander

Roseanne ParryMG bestseller2564/2/2023*****
14

Restart

Gordon KormanMG bestseller2564/7/2023***
15

I’m Glad My Mom Died

Jennette McCurdyhighly rated, way out of my comfort zone, but I loved it3204/8/2023*****

16

The Last Orphan (Orphan X #8)

Gregg HurwitzI read all the Orphan X books and have for years3524/14/2023*****

17

Pax 

Sara PennypackerMG bestseller2784/20/2023****

18

Time Enough for Love

Robert A. Heinleinbook club read6124/20/2023*
19

Out of My Mind 

Sharon M. DraperMG bestseller2954/20/2023*****
20

Famous Adopted People

Alice Stephensthe title intrigued me, the book was so-so3304/25/2023***
21

We Need to Talk About Kevin

Lionel Shrivermother of a school shooter, wow4005/1/2023*****
22

Esperanza Rising

Pam Munoz Ryanbook club read2625/4/2023****
23

David Copperfield

Charles Dickensclassic8825/22/2023*****

24

Novelist as a Vocation

Haruki MurakamiI love Maraka’s books, but this one about writing didn’t do much for me2245/22/2023**
25

Demon Copperhead

Barbara KingsolverPulitzer, and Kingsolver, duh!5465/22/2023*****
26

Trust

Hernan DiazPulitzer, but the subject did not appeal to me4025/25/2023***
27

Hang the Moon

Jeannette WallsI know this was made into a movie, but it didn’t rock my boat3686/6/2023***
28

Mad Honey

Jodi PicoultOh my. I’m usually not surprised by a book. This one whammied me.4646/12/2023*****
29

Wrong Place Wrong Time

Gillian McAllisterit had high reviews, but it didn’t deliver for me4166/15/2023**
30

The Secret Book of Flora Lea

Patti Callahan Henrynothing particually special about it3556/17/2023****
31

Notes on an Execution

Danya Kukafkainside the mind of a killer, I was intrigues3066/21/2023****

32

The Eighth Sister

Robert Dugoninot as good as other Dugoni books4796/27/2023****
33

Olga Dies Dreaming

Xochitl Gonzalezthis took place during Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, had good inight into activist groups3697/2/2023**
34

Adelaide

Genevieve Wheelermuch better than I thought, a woman in love with love3047/15/2023****

35

Bad Mexicans: Race, Empire, and Revolution in the Borderlands

Kelly Lytle HernándezI learned a lot about Mexican history and am always fascinated3847/15/2023****
36

A Gentleman in Moscow

Amor Towlesbook club read, I really enjoyed it4628/3/2023****

37

Outlander

Diana Gabaldonmuch better than I though, this was my second time to try to get through it, and I persevered8508/20/2023****
38

Jane Eyre

Charlotte Brontëclassic5328/25/2023***
39

The Princess Bride

William Goldmanloved it4298/26/2023*****

40

The Viscount Who Loved Me

Julia QuinnI loved the steamy, hot parts3548/27/2023***
41

The Bone Hacker 

Kathy Reichscop murder mystery3368/29/2023***

42

Tom Lake

Ann Patchettbeautiful story3099/6/2023*****

43

The Witch Elm

Tana Frenchbook club read5289/16/2023**
44

Once Upon a Camel

Kathi Appeltchildren’s bestseller. my college roomate wrote this. She’s awesome3369/18/2023*****

45

Refugee

Alan GratzMG bestseller3529/22/2023***
46

None of This Is True

Lisa Jewellsuper twisted. I really enjoyed3849/22/2023****
47

Malice

Jennifer Jaynespsychological fiction2889/24/2023****
48

Holly

Stephen Kingproves that not all King novels are horros44910/1/2023****
49

Cornelius Sky

Timothy BrandoffI lobed that this was the debut book of a bus driver, well done22410/1/2023****
50

A Horse Named Sky 

Rosanne ParryMG bestseller27210/5/2023*****
51

The Measure

Nikki Erlickthere was a lot of hype about this book, and the idea for it is novel, but I found the book poorly written and stupid35310/8/2023*
52

After I Do

Taylor Jenkins Reidromance, but I love Reid’s work33410/12/2023*****
53

Horse

Geraldine BrooksI was never into horses, and would have probably loved it more if I had been. Brooks is a great writer40110/19/2023****
54

West with Giraffes

Lynda Rutledgebest book I read in 2023. loved it38110/26/2023*****
55

Persuasion

Jane Austenwas a book club pick24910/29/2023***
56

The Fourth Wing

Rebecca Yarroslot’s of attention to this book, but dragons and such just don’t appeal to me50011/3/2023**

57

Hello Beautiful

Ann Napolitanoromance well done41611/7/2023*****
58

Forever, Interrupted

Taylor Jenkins Reidagain, I really like Reid’s work32111/11/2023****
59

Amazing Grace Adams

Fran Littlewoodwas a Jenna’s Book Club pick, but I thought was stupid27211/15/2023**
60

The Starling House

Alix E. Harrowhorror done very well38011/20/2023****
61

The Heaven and Earth Grocery Store

James McBridebeautiful story. One of my favorites for the year. Was a NYT bestseller and Barak Obama fav 11/25/2023*****
62

A Christmas Carol

Charles Dickensbook club pick18411/26/2023*****
63

All the Sinners Bleed

S.A. Cosbyexcellen book. B.Obama’s fav34111/27/2023*****

64

The Greatest Gift

Philip SternI wanted to see where the movie came from6411/28/2023*****

65

Letters from Father Christmas

J.R.R. TolkienI wanted to see how Tolkein did Christmas11111/28/2023***

66

The Best Christmas Pagaent Ever

Barbara Robinsonreread, my favorite Christmas story12811/29/2023*****

67

Hercule Poirot Christmas

Agatha Christiewas looking for variety of Christmas reads33511/29/2023***

68

Holiday on Ice

David SedarisSedaris is my hero17612/1/2023*****
69

The Deal of a Lifetime

Fredrick Backmannovella by one of my favorite authors6512/2/2023*****
70

The Usual Santas

various authorshighly recommended Christmas read40012/3/2023***
71

The Gift of the Magi

O. Henryreread, so good2612/4/2023*****
72

The Christmas Orphan’s Club

Becca Freemanhighly rated Christmas read36812/5/2023***

73

Eastbound

Maylis de KerangalNYT best of 202314012/6/2023****

74

Junket

Lauren Groffthis book had good marketing, but I don’t get it2712/7/2023*

75

Finn

Stephen KingStephen King shortie10012/7/2023****
76

Birnam Wood

Elenor CattonNYT best of 202343212/11/2023*****
77

Witness: Stories

Jamel BrinkleyNYT best of 202324012/12/2023****

78

The Forbidden Notebook

Alba de CespedesNYT best of 2023unknown12/15/2023*****
79

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay

Michael ChabonPulitzer63912/25/2023*****
80

Dogtown

Katherine ApplegateMG book, and I love this author35212/26/2023****
81

The Magician’s Elephant

Kate DiCamilloMG book20112/27/2023***

82

Y/N

Esther Yiobsession with a k-pop star doesn’t do it for me.20412/30/2023*
83

Bright Young Women

Jessica Knollwas on the NYT best of 2023 list38412/30/2023*****
84

Fairy Tale

Stephen KingHey, it’s Stephen King5992/24/2023****
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