My Year in Books (2023)

When my father passed in early January, I longed for an escape to help pass the time and keep my over-active mind occupied. I set a goal to read 10 books in the remainder of the year, and I'm happy to report that I smashed that goal. (It's amazing how much not being on Twitter constantly helps with time management).

The following is a chronological list of the books I've read and a few thoughts on each.

Treasure Island - Robert Louis Stevenson

It's perfectly fine. I wanted to read this because I started playing in a Spelljammer D&D Campaign and needed some piracy lingo. It did the trick. My bard now has some pretty cutting words.

The Souls of Black Folk - W.E.B. Du Bois

Every year around Martin Luther King, Jr. day I try to spend time reflecting on the struggles for equality. The Souls of Black Folk is a book that I'll pull out from time to time and read here-and-there, but never more than a few times per year (the other notable time being a few chapters on/around Juneteenth). I finally finished the book.

Star Wars: Dark Force Rising and Star Wars: The Last Command - Timothy Zahn

I read the first of these books at the end of 2022 when I was trying to keep my mind off my dad's failing health. This was the first Star Wars extended universe stuff I've read and it was a nice departure from the tortured George Lucas formulaic storytelling. Lots of good table-setting for Thrawn later on...

The Time Machine - H.G. Wells

Again, with the D&D Spelljammer stuff! I'm playing an autognome bard and needed some inspiration with my character. To be quite honest, I didn't really care much for The Time Machine, but stubbornly finished it.

The Great Gatsby - F. Scott Fitzgerald

Now we're talkin'. I haven't read Gatsby since high school, and I got more of it this time than I did in my Honors English Lit course. I have a deeper appreciation for it and I'm glad that I powered through in my 40s.

We - Yevgeny Zamyatin

Who doesn't love dystopian novels written in the 1920s? Anyone? Any One State fans in the house? The book was fine, if not a little jarring. I'll probably never read it again.

The Hobbit, The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, Return of the King, The Silmarillion - J. R. R. Tolkien

When cleaning out my dad's book collection, I found his paperback collection of the LotR Trilogy + the Hobbit. He was in the U.S. Army's 5th Army Band based in Fort Sheraton, Illinois, and served in Panama and Central America during the height of the Vietnam War. He bought all of the books and took them with him on his deployment, reading them several times. I wanted to do the same, as these are some of my favorite books.

I'd never finished The Silmarillion, so I'm glad I was able to jump in with renewed interest having just finished the Hobbit and LoTR Trilogy. Reading five Tolkien books in a row is not easy, but it's at least entertaining.

American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer - Kai Bird and Martin J. Sherwin

Holy shit, what a great biography. Very engaging, enlightning, and extremely well-done. With the Oppenheimer movie coming out, I had big plans to finish this book and waltz into an IMAX theatre to watch, but I'll have to settle for watching it at home on my Apple TV. Time is wild, y'all.

Blood Meridian - Cormac McCarthy

I wanted to read American Prometheus because of Oppenheimer's theatrical release and I wanted to read Blood Meridian because Cormac McCarthy died. This was my first run through Blood Meridian and it was a wild ride from start to finish. The Judge totally raped The Kid/The Man in the end, right? He had to have - that's the kind of person The Judge was!

Next stop: reading the Border Triology and The Road.

Project Hail Mary - Andy Weir

Hot damn, this was a good, fast read. Probably my favorite book I chewed through in 2023. And the really fun part? My sister, who I'd never in a thousand years imagine would read this book, recommended it as she dropped us off at the airport for our summer vacation. I'm glad she did!

The Martian - Andy Weir

I had to read Andy Wier's first book after reading Project Hail Mary. I really felt it picked up when you picked up on the stuff-happening-back-on-Earth to assemble the technocracy to rescue stranded astronaut Mark Watney. Looks like I'll have to watch the Matt Damon movie now, too. Damn.

All the Pretty Horses - Cormac McCarthy

Oh, hell. Another book made into a movie starring Matt Damon? I wanted to start the border trilogy, so getting familiar with John Grady Cole and Billy Parham begins with this novel. Having read Blood Meridian earlier this year, I knew what to expect from McCarthy's writing style, so All the Pretty Horses was a much easier read. I won't read another McCarthy book this year - the other two Border Trilogy books will have to wait until 2024 - I just need a break.

Heroes - Stephen Fry

After finishing Mythos earlier this year, I wanted to keep going in the series. I bought the Audiobook from (affiliate link) so I could hear Stephen Fry read to me when I commute to and from the office.

The Broken Heart of America: St. Louis and the Violent History of the United States - Walter Johnson

From Lewis and Clark's 1804 expedition to the 2014 uprising in Ferguson, American history has been made in St. Louis.

This was a hard, but good read. St. Louis has its fair share of problems - especially with race and race-relations. It took me a few months to actually finish the book because it was difficult to process at times. Every bit of it is true, though. We can't stop holding ourselves to a higher standard and holding ourselves accountable.

Troy - Stephen Fry

I just couldn't get enough of Stephen Fry's re-telling of the Greek myths, so I thought I'd finish up his Mythos trilogy with tales of Achilles, Hector, Odysseus, Helen, their lovers, and their mortal enemies. I'm trying to figure out how to run a Greek Mythology-based D&D game with some friends and family, and I think I've got all the source material I'll need from these three books.

The Crossing - Cormac McCarthy

Book two of the Border Trilogy snuck in just under the wire. To be honest, I didn't care for it as much as All the Pretty Horses, but it was still good. I'm going to take a pause before I jump in to Cities of the Plain, the third and final book in the Border Trilogy.

So, that's a wrap on 2023! I set out to read 10 books, and managed to blast through a lot more - 21, in fact.

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