Noteworthy Reads of 2023

This year I read 54 books, which is roughly on par but slightly higher than the last several years. (Goodreads’ Reading Challenge was a moderately effective motivator for me—at least insofar as helping me keep track of whether I was on track for the year.)

I started the year off with a whole cluster of narrative nonfiction, which were interesting and educational but not particularly fulfilling, took a break with some of my typical indulgent speculative fiction, and took a closer interest in literary fiction after I complained to a friend about being tired of a run of terrible prose and trite setups.

You can find my full list of 2023 books on Goodreads for now.

Some hits from this year:

Children of Memory, by Adrian Tchaikovsky. This is the third book of the author’s Children of Time series—I actually like the first two books in the series more than this one, but this novel (published Nov 2022) was oddly well-timed for this year’s AI boom and obsession: it explores the nature of artificial intelligence, and its relationship with (or limits with respect to) creativity. The author’s ability to explore different forms of sentience is unparalleled.

How to Build a Car, by Adrian Newey. A completely different kind of engineering than the (software) world I live in! I wanted to learn more about F1, and loved getting a front-row seat to the brain of an engineer whose mandate is essentially: how to work around each new set of rules the FIA put in front of him. It’s a delight to follow along the life’s work of someone who found a profession marrying two fundamental early-childhood interests (breaking rules and driving cars), and the intensity really came through in this book.

Demon Copperhead, by Barbara Kingsolver. I would never have picked this book up on synopsis alone (I have neutral to negative associations with David Copperfield, which this novel is a riff on), but became hooked by the unusual, very-millennial written voice of the narrator, and this familiar-but-unfamiliar world of an 1990s adolescence in Appalachia. Sinking deep into this world gave me a new perspective to the clichéd national discourse around the attitudes of “coastal elites” and the under-emphasized cultural divisions within our own country.

A Libertarian Walks into a Bear, by Matthew Hongoltz-Hetling. Few nonfiction books have made me laugh (and quote out loud!) as much as this book has(while being quite respectful of its subjects). Having recently moved to Nevada, a friend recommended this book as a lens into how strongly held beliefs around the role of government (and, really, rules in general) can impact entire towns, communities, and—ultimately—regional ecosystems.

Upon reflection

This short writeup ultimately came out of some request for “CEOs’ favorite books of the year.” As I put together my list, I felt a pang of sheepishness—none of these feel particularly business-y, or CEO-level, or like what the sorts of folks who like articles like that would want to see.

And yet, truthfully, I don’t read books to Learn Useful CEO Things these days. I read for fun, and to Think Differently—and would happily make the argument that the latter, for me, is what helps me be a better version of myself in all aspects.

Onto 2024!

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