The Books of 2023

I haven’t read that many books in 2023… what you see in this lil’ bookcase are all of them. (I empty it out every year and then watch it fill up slowly…) I guess there’s about *guesstimates* 60-ish? I guess it’s been more of a comics year than a book year.

Below is a list of the ones I found er either interesting or annoying, I guess? At least I found them memorable.

Oh, and I’ll snap pics of the first three pages, because that’s how I determine whether to read a book or not: I start reading and see whether it seems OK. (I never read the back cover because what’s the point of reading an ad anyway?)

The Last Days of California by Mary Miller.

I read a short story by Miller in the Paris Review, and it was awesome. So I got this novel, and it wasn’t. I guess I found the subject matter slightly boring (an evangelical family making a trip to California before the world ends), but it was just kinda meandering… Not in an unpleasant way — I rather liked the book — but I was underwhelmed.

Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston.

I saw the movie, and it was so much fun. So I got the novel, and it’s … tedious? Yeah, tedious. I mean, I guess McQuiston can string sentences together, but that’s about it. It goes on and on and on and I got fed up with it toute de suite.

Hawkmoon by Michael Moorcock

I bought a bunch of fantasy books recommended by China Mieville, and this was one of them. It’s horrible! Just the worst. Perhaps Mieville read it when he was 10 or something? This book collects several novels, but I bailed after the first.

I Am Homeless If This Is Not My Home by Lorrie Moore

I absolutely love Moore’s short stories (I mean — absolutely), but her novels are slightly more… uhm… I dunno. Not as awesome? I mean, she’s so brilliant at writing on a word for word basis (always inventive, always witty) that it almost doesn’t matter? I’ll always buy her books.

The Grip of Film by Gordy Lasure by Richard Ayoade

I’ve been on an Ayoade (and related) binge the past few years — I’ve read all his books and seen his movies and watched the TV series he’s contributed to (like the Garth Marenghi series). He’s a smart cookie, and he can be very funny, but this book — which is a parody of a “book on film”, “written” by somebody who only likes 80s action movies — was a slog. I think I bailed about halfway through.

Iron Council by China Miéville

Hm… am I picking mostly books I wasn’t that impressed with for this blog post? I guess I don’t have anything to say at all about most books, but if they annoy me, I remember them better? Anyway, Miéville has written some good book (Perdito Street Station and The City and The City, for instance), but this was a pointless slog: They build a railway line for half the book, and then they return for the other half of the book.

The Book that Wouldn’t Burn by Mark Lawrence

This is hugely entertaining. It’s much harder to find well-written fantasy books than just about anything else, and this is well-written and exciting. So I got some other Lawrence books as e-books after reading this (the Red Sisters trilogy), and you get the feeling that Lawrence’s main motivation for writing those books was to write endless scenes of torture. So… I don’t think I’ll be reading any further Lawrence books than the ones in this series, because that shit’s just tedious.

Clockwork Boys by T. Kingfisher

This is a series that I see recommended All The Time on the Intertubes — is Kingfisher some kind of internet celebrity or something? Anyway, it’s awful — badly written, badly printed, stupid and boring.

Garth Marenghi’s Terrortome by Garth Marenghi

This is part of my Ayoade binge, but I guess he’s not involved with this one? It’s pretty funny, but goes on a bit too long.

The Book of Dust v1 and v2 by Philip Pullman

I quite enjoyed the His Dark Materials series, and these new ones set in the same universe are quite entertaining. They’re not flawless, though — the plot in one of the books is creepy to the max (and it’s not meant to be, I think). But still, very entertaining.

Answered Prayers by Truman Capote

My god, Capote’s tone could be really grating, couldn’t it? Reading this is like being at a gossipy party where somebody keeps gossiping at you about people you don’t know, don’t care about, and that don’t seem that interesting.

Remain Silent and Persons Unknown by Susie Steiner

When I’m hung over, I read mysteries, and finding well-written mysteries is almost as difficult as finding well-written fantasy books. But these are quite good.

Tsalmoth by Steven Brust

I love the entire Vlad Taltos series, and this was another banger.

Crosstalk by Connie Willis

Willis has one simple trick when plotting: People run around a lot and can’t find each other. That’s it. That’s what 85% of her books are about: People who can’t find each other. The rest is mostly people who don’t tell each other what they need to know, so that there’ll be more running around. This book was obviously written after Willis was stung by the critique of her previous novels: People have cell phones now. There’s no need to run around and not find each other. So she’s finally introduced cell phones, but it turns out that people forget to charge them and stuff, so she still has them running around and not finding each other.

The Last Supper by Rachel Cusk

The Outline novel was amazing, so I’ve been picking up her older books, and they’re mostly really interesting, too. This one is a travelogue about being in Italy, and Cusk’s writing is witty and thought provoking.

The Trees and Dr. No by Percival Everett

I read Erasure the other year, and I thought it was pretty amazing. The Trees is pretty good, but Dr. No is… er… OK, it starts out swell — it’s about a professor who specialises in nothing. That is, the physical concept of nothing. So we get lots of jokes about people misunderstanding him when he talks about nothing, and then there’s an evil billionaire and things are going swimmingly. Then it seems like he loses interest about half way through, and just starts piling on the silliness in the hopes that the novel will resolve itself, but instead it just kinda gets boring. Because silliness is a tough thing in a novel: Too much, and you lose faith in the novel.

(And I’m starting to think that Everett is a bit of a dick.)

Happy Trails to You by Julie Hecht

I think I’ve read all of Hecht’s fiction now, and I love it all. And this short story collection (which mostly feature the same character as from her other two books) is wonderful. And there’s an added bonus with Hecht’s books: You can read the Goodreads reviews and find several people horrified that somebody would write about these characters that they can’t identify with at all. Hilarious! Like this one:

The characters are completely foreign to me. More than halfway through the book I could not find a single aspect of either main character that I could relate to. Moreso, these characters just made me sad. Their idiosyncrasies are impenetrable, unrelenting, and just plain weird.

Beyond the Reach of Earth by Ken MacLeod

MacLeod continues his new space opera, and it’s great. So exciting.

Season of Skulls and Quantum of Nightmares by Charles Stross

And I guess the same can be said of Stross’ new books, too — they’re really entertaining. But perhaps not as exciting as they used to be.

Er… is that it? I guess it is.

Well, the ones I had something to say about, even if it was just a couple of sentences…

But there you go:

Bookcase emptied for a new, fresh year. And perhaps I should read more good books this year…

Leave a Reply