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01 Jan 2024
The best books I read in 2023

Fiction with older female protagonists (a theme which gives me life)

  • Carrie Soto is Back by Taylor Jenkins Reid - on aging and still pushing yourself to win, but also accept loss with grace
  • All Adults Here by Emma Straub - older mom sees friend die, goes through past parenting mistakes, has girlfriend now
  • The Adventures of Amina Al-Sirafi by Shannon Chakraborty - a pirate who’s also an older woman and a mom! work/life balance and wanting to be who we are aside from parents and adventures and magic!
  • Vera Wong’s Unsolicited Advice for Murderers by Jesse Q. Sutanto - Old chinese woman runs a tea shop, bullies strangers into becoming family, solves a murder mystery
  • The Bandit Queens byParini Shroff - I struggle to describe this one, because you should really go in without spoilers. Worth noting that for the first 2/3-ish of the book, I found it way too heavy-handed at times, but then there’s some big reveal stuff that pulls it all together quite well. There’s a lot of imperfect knowledge and slowly revealed clarity here.
  • The Change by Kirsten Miller - post-menopausal women get special powers and use them to protect younger women, hells yeah

Books related to parenting and/or child abuse

  • Take My Hand by Dolen Perkins-Valdez - Forced sterilization, themes of hurting people with good intentions, lots of echoing around who gets to be a mother but shouldn’t or doesn’t get to or chooses not to.
  • Carmen and Grace by Melissa Coss Aquino - Really striking novel about women dealing drugs, mothering each other and themselves as motherless daughters, bio mothers and adoptive mothers, grooming, responsibility, failure
  • Playful Parenting by Lawrence J. Cohen - Actually just really great non-fiction parenting advice
  • Frostflower and Thorn by Phyllis Ann Karr - A sorceress adopts the baby a fighter wanted to abort, then they travel/adventure together
  • Some Desperate Glory by Emily Tesh - Scifi, child abuse, the lies our parents and governments tell us, the terror of and resistance to the possibility of truth
  • When We Were Sisters by Fatimah Asghar - Gender, orphan girls, abusive uncle, how they relate to each other
  • Thread Needle by Cari Thomas - Reminded me a bit of Midnight Bargain, with a protagonist whose magic will soon be bound. But here there’s also childhood abuse with lingering effects

Some fun romance novels

  • Bear With Me Now by Katie Shepard - FL is an aspiring wildlife conservator with dyslexia who saves ML from a bear attack, ML is a parentified workaholic with serious anxiety
  • Love on the Brain by Ali Hazelwood - Scientist FL has to work on project with academic nemesis ML, it’s just kinda cutely nerdy
  • Love, Theoretically by Ali Hazelwood - FL is an experimental physicist who moonlights as a fake girlfriend and oh hijinks with a hot applied physicist
  • The Rakess by Scarlett Peckham - feminist regency romance, with a sex-positive FL and single father ML
  • The Portrait of a Duchess by Scarlett Peckham - another wonderfully feminist regency romance, with an activist painter FL
  • The Belle of Belgrave Square by Mimi Matthews - ML has a secret identity and two kids, FL has abusive parents and medical stuff and proposes herself in order to escape

Other fiction

  • Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver
  • Brotherless Night by V.V. Ganeshananthan - About a girl in Sri Lanka who grows up to become a doctor while her brothers all join and fall victim to the Tamil Tigers &c, really intense, stuck with me
  • The Light Pirate by Lily Brooks-Dalton - extremely upsetting climate disaster novel that I keep thinking about a lot, months later
  • The Expanse #9: Leviathan Falls by James S.A. Corey - I’m so sad this is the last!
  • Even Greater Mistakes: Stories by Charlie Jane Anders - contains one of my favorite short stories of all time (Six Months, Three Days)
  • Chain-Gang All-Stars by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah - prison abolition now (prisoners performing dramatic death matches - a ludicrous plot that works astonishingly well and rings very true and real)
  • The Shortest Way to Hades by Sarah Caudwell
  • Milk Fed by Melissa Broder - judaism, eating disorder, sapphic, pretty messed up and upsetting
  • The Overstory by Richard Powers - trees trees trees
  • Lucky Red by Claudia Cravens - Entertainingly tropey wild Western with a sapphic protagonist working in a bordello
  • Happy Snak by Nicole Kimberling - A space station needs a fast food joint (I love sf/f with normal people working normal jobs)
  • Bea Wolf by Weinersmith and Boulet

Other non-fiction

  • The Scavenger’s Guide to Haute Cuisine: How I Spent a Year in the American Wild to Re-create a Feast from the Classic Recipes of French Master Chef Auguste Escoffier by Steven Rinella
  • Hurts So Good: The Science & Culture of Pain on Purpose by Leigh Cowart
  • Educated by Tara Westover
  • Ducks by Kate Beaton
  • Tastes Like War by Grace M. Cho - memoir about author’s discovery of her mom’s schizophrenia and the cultural structures that fed into it (the mother was a korean bar hostess who married a white merchant marine and came to the US)
  • Entangled Life: How Fungi Make Our Worlds, Change Our Minds & Shape Our Futures by Merlin Sheldrake
  • How Far the Light Reaches: A Life in Sea Creatures by Sabrina Imbler
  • Beyond Bodybuilding: Muscle and Strength Training Secrets for the Renaissance Man by Pavel
  • Starting Strength: Basic Barbell Training by Mark Rippetoe

Honorable Mentions

  • Mad Honey by Jodi Picoult and Jennifer Finney Boylan - lots of interesting bits but I found the ending unsatisfying
  • Well Behaved Wives by Amy Sue Nathan - Jewish young woman gets married, feels pressured and trapped, gets more support from MIL than expected
  • Consort of Fire by Kit Rocha - just a rather charming fantasy poly bi romance
  • A Shot in the Dark by Victoria Lee - romance with orthodox jewish and trans characters
  • Role Playing by Cathy Yardley - cute romance between middle-aged gamers, how could I not love an older woman who goes by Bogwitch
  • Going Infinite by Michael Lewis - Not sure I’d actually recommend this, but I certainly personally got a kick out of it
  • aye, and gomorrah by Samuel R. Delany
  • The Mind-Body Problem by Rebecca Goldstein
  • Chocky by John Wyndham - charming possession? of little boy by curious alien
  • Gerald’s Game by Stephen King (reread)
  • You Made a Fool of Death with Your Beauty by Akwaeke Emezi - I liked the way grief was portrayed, and the casual bisexuality in passing, but overall was underwhelmed

Total number of books read in 2023: 164