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Old 12-05-2023, 01:07 AM   #1
Dazrin
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Question Recommend the best books you read 2023

It's time! What were your favorite books of 2023? It doesn't matter if they were published this year or if they were from a previous year (give us both if you've got them.) Make our TBR lists weep before we make our New Year's resolutions.

Maybe you're looking to join the MR Users 2024 TBR Reduction Challenge or the 2024 Reading Challenge and need ideas. Let's give each other some ideas.

Review (and update) your 2023 Challenge List, your GoodReads Year in Books, your StoryGraph library, or any other book diary you keep. Then let us know what books we should add to our 2024 reading plans and decide what threads to lurk in at the Deals forum.

Here are some ideas about what we would like you to share with us:

What were the best books you read this year?

What excellent books do you recommend that were published in 2023?

How did your anticipated 2023 books hold up this year?

And, what books are you looking forward to in 2024?

And be sure to mention why you enjoyed each of these books so we can decide if they might be a good fit for us.

If you find it hard to remember what books you really enjoyed this year, issybird suggested making a "best of <year>" category at Goodreads (or wherever you track your reading) so you have it for next year.

Past "best of" threads: 2022, 2021, 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012

I know this is a little early so if you're reading a book that has promise, feel free to post about it too. Threads aren't automatically locked, so if you want to wait till after the first of the year, that works too.

Last edited by Dazrin; 12-05-2023 at 11:24 AM. Reason: Clarification
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Old 12-05-2023, 02:36 AM   #2
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What were the best books you read this year?
1. Sticky: The Secret Science of Surfaces by Laurie Winkless
2. Terry Pratchett: A Life With Footnotes: The Official Biography by Rob Wilkins
3. Borrowed Words: A History of Loanwords in English by Philip Durkin


What excellent books do you recommend that were published in 2023?
The Murder Wheel by Tom Mead

How did your anticipated 2023 books hold up this year?
My pre-orders from Martin Edwards (Sepulchre Street) and Tom Mead (Murder Wheel) were both excellent.
Iona Whishaw's To Track a Traitor was good, but not exceptional as her previous one was, and I enjoyed Martin Walker's A Chateau Under Siege (Bruno 16) but would love to see him return to his village bobby roots.

what books are you looking forward to in 2024?
The next in Martin Edwards' Rachel Savernake series
Cabaret Macabre by Tom Mead, book 3 in his Joseph Spector series
Helle and Death by Oskar Jensen
Guilty by Definition by Susie Dent

Last edited by Uncle Robin; 12-05-2023 at 02:38 AM.
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Old 12-05-2023, 03:49 AM   #3
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150 books read so far in 2023.

What were the best books you read this year?
The following I rated a 5/5

Speaker for the Dead - Orson Scott Card link
Project Hail Mary - Andy Weir link
The Anvil - Christopher Coates link
Disclosure - Michael Crichton link



The following I have rated 4/5

Alternate Purpose by Christopher Coates link
Artemis by Andy Weir link
Caliban's War by James S. A. Corey link
Children of the Mind by Orson Scott Card link
Dark Winter by William Dietrich link
Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card link
Fools Die by Mario Puzo link
Freefall by Judith Reeves-Stevens & Garfield Reeves-Stevens link
House Corrino by Brian Herbert & Kevin J. Anderson link
Hover Car Racer by Matthew Reilly link
Ice Station by Matthew Reilly link
Icefire by Judith Reeves-Stevens & Garfield Reeves-Stevens link
Judge & Jury by James Patterson & Andrew Gross link
Lifeguard by James Patterson & Andrew Gross link
Mostly Harmless by Douglas Adams link
Princess of Dune by Brian Herbert & Kevin J. Anderson link
Quicksilver by Judith Reeves-Stevens & Garfield Reeves-Stevens link
Sisterhood of Dune by Brian Herbert & Kevin J. Anderson link
So Long, And Thanks For All the Fish by Douglas Adams link
The Ark by Christopher Coates link
The Dark Age by Traci Harding link
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams link
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins link
The Machine Crusade by Brian Herbert & Kevin J. Anderson link
The Martian by Andy Weir link
The Restaurant at the End of the Universe by Douglas Adams link
Xenocide by Orson Scott Card link



What excellent books do you recommend that were published in 2023?
The only 2023 published book is Princess of Dune, and I rated it 4/5

How did your anticipated 2023 books hold up this year?
Better than expected

And, what books are you looking forward to in 2024?
None


Is there a thread for Worst Books Read?

.

Last edited by Karellen; 12-06-2023 at 09:49 PM. Reason: added colour and links
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Old 12-05-2023, 03:53 AM   #4
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150 books read so far in 2023.


The following I rated a 5/5
[c_index]Speaker for the Dead - Orson Scott Card link
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Old 12-05-2023, 08:24 AM   #5
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What excellent books do you recommend that were published in 2023?
The Murder Wheel by Tom Mead
Since you pre-ordered this, and are looking forward to the next one in the series, I assume that you also enjoyed the first one (though it's always risky to assume anything).

Anyway, for those who might be interested in that first one, Death and the Conjuror, it's available at the moment for £0.99 at Amazon UK and Kobo UK.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Death-Conju.../dp/B09TCGR7FF

https://www.kobo.com/gb/en/ebook/dea...the-conjuror-4
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Old 12-05-2023, 04:15 PM   #6
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I added some emphasis in the original post about providing a sentence or two on why you are recommending these books. If anyone doesn't have time (or inclination) to provide a review here or a link, that's fine - lists are still helpful and fun to see. I'm grateful for anything that gets posted here.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Uncle Robin View Post
What were the best books you read this year?
1. Sticky: The Secret Science of Surfaces by Laurie Winkless
2. Terry Pratchett: A Life With Footnotes: The Official Biography by Rob Wilkins
3. Borrowed Words: A History of Loanwords in English by Philip Durkin
Thank you! I really enjoyed the Terry Pratchett biography too. Do you have a couple words about why you recommended the others (and that one)? I have never heard of the other two authors or books. If Laurie Winkless is as engaging as Mary Roach I'd be interested in that one. Maybe you've discussed them in the What are we reading? thread? If so, I can go look.

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Originally Posted by Karellen View Post
150 books read so far in 2023.
I've read a few of these too - Project Hail Mary was one of my favorites a couple years ago and I've had Speaker for the Dead on my TBR list for a long time.

I don't want to pressure you but, like with Uncle Robin's books, I haven't even heard of several of these authors or books. Do you have some place where we can see why you liked them? A quick review in the "What are we reading" thread or a mini-review in a challenge thread or on Goodreads? Or can you provide a sentence or two on some of these to help us have context? If you do have something out there, I don't even need a link, just knowing where to search would be great. I don't mind doing the work, I just don't want to go looking if there's nothing to find.

Lists are great when I know that I have overlapping or contradictory tastes with someone but they are less helpful when I don't know your preferences clearly. For example, I've read and enjoyed several of the authors that Karellen rated 4 or 5 stars (Adams, Corey, Card) but others I have really disliked (B. Herbert, Patterson) so it would be helpful for me to understand the "why" behind at least a few of these ratings so I can judge for myself how to react.
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Old 12-05-2023, 04:25 PM   #7
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What were the best books you read this year?

Long Fiction - Our Wives Under the Sea by Julia Armfield - I read this just after the Titan submersible explosion, which gave it even more atmosphere, but this book was stellar outside of that. The portrait of a marriage when one partner comes back from a journey broken was so damned good.

Short Fiction - Nghi Vo's Singing Hills Cycle novellas. Each novella is a standalone, but they are all such beautiful, lyrical, an tight stories. I already have a notification on my calendar to buy the 5th on May 7, 2024.

Short Story - "The Rules of The Game" by Amy Tan. This story is both hilarious and excellent. I play chess so I appreciated it all the more.

Fiction Honorable Mention - The Swimmers by Julie Otsuka. I'd read Otsuka before, but this book and its examination of swimming and how it centers lives was really unexpected. The book was also terribly jarring in its showing of dementia.

Nonfiction - Dimestore: A Writer's Life by Lee Smith. One of the best literary memoirs I've ever read. I'm biased as I know Lee, live very close to her and know what bookstores to find her in of a Friday night. But I cut my adult, newly out of the closet teeth on her Southern fiction and I loved getting to hear her talk about her own life with the same voice.

Nonfiction Honorable Mention - Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner. I wish everyone could read this without knowing who Zauner is, as I think that is what gives the book its best light. This was an excellent memoir of a child caring for her dying mother, whom she had a rocky relationship. I am always morbidly fascinated by stories like this as I don't have any relationship with my family. But her prose was excellent and you can hear the songwriter in every line.

What excellent books do you recommend that were published in 2023?
(see Nghi Vo above)

How did your anticipated 2023 books hold up this year?

I didn't really have any. But the things I picked up that were published this year were all good purchase and I enjoyed them.

And, what books are you looking forward to in 2024?

Haven't really looked yet.
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Old 12-05-2023, 06:33 PM   #8
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I added some emphasis in the original post about providing a sentence or two on why you are recommending these books. If anyone doesn't have time (or inclination) to provide a review here or a link, that's fine - lists are still helpful and fun to see. I'm grateful for anything that gets posted here.


Thank you! I really enjoyed the Terry Pratchett biography too. Do you have a couple words about why you recommended the others (and that one)? I have never heard of the other two authors or books. If Laurie Winkless is as engaging as Mary Roach I'd be interested in that one. Maybe you've discussed them in the What are we reading? thread? If so, I can go look.

Here's my Storygraph review for "Sticky"

And for "Borrowed Words"

I did make some additional comments about it here at MR too
It didn't hurt that both authors were kind enough to reply when I messaged or emailed them. I was especially surprised that the OED's chief etymologist would make the time to reply to fan mail
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Old 12-05-2023, 07:01 PM   #9
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The Mountains Sing and Dust Child, both by Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai, were excellent. They took place in Viet Nam.
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Old 12-05-2023, 10:12 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Uncle Robin View Post

Thanks Uncle Robin

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dazrin View Post
I've read a few of these too - Project Hail Mary was one of my favorites a couple years ago and I've had Speaker for the Dead on my TBR list for a long time.

I don't want to pressure you but, like with Uncle Robin's books, I haven't even heard of several of these authors or books. Do you have some place where we can see why you liked them?
Let me see what I can do.
I don't have an account at any of the reader sites, like goodreads, storygraph etc, so can't point you to any of those. And I don't really want to write reviews for all these books, when there are so many existing reviews out there already.
I provided the Wikipedia links for the 5/5 for a synopsis of the story.
I can provide links for the 4/5 books. Just give me a few days and I'll slowly edit the links into the post.

When I rate, the rating is made up from a combination of factors, with each factor relying on the previous ones...
1. Storyline - how enjoyable was the story, was it believable or so well written and/or interesting that I could easily suspend belief
2. Engaging - how well did it keep my attention. Did I struggle to put the book down
3. Emotions - the big one. What emotional reaction did it elicit from me.
4. Satisfaction - overall satisfaction with the book once I finished it.

Why a 5/5?
1. The story was excepational
2. Couldn't put the book down, didn't want to put the book down. Lost track of time. Had to be yelled out to put the book down and get off my a$$
3. I was a complete mess. I was either crying, or laughing out loud, or jumping up and whacking the punching bag in anger.
4. 100% satisfied. Kept thinking about it for days and days, even after starting the next book.

... down to...

Why a 1/1
1. Stupid story. Didn't understand the point
2. Struggled to pick it up and then ended up just skipping through the story, picking out the highlights
3. Frustration
4. <10% satisfaction
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Old 12-05-2023, 11:04 PM   #11
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Quote:
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Here's my Storygraph review for "Sticky"

And for "Borrowed Words"

I did make some additional comments about it here at MR too
It didn't hurt that both authors were kind enough to reply when I messaged or emailed them. I was especially surprised that the OED's chief etymologist would make the time to reply to fan mail
Thank you! That's great that they both responded to you too. Always nice to have an interaction like that.
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Old 12-05-2023, 11:07 PM   #12
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Let me see what I can do.
I don't have an account at any of the reader sites, like goodreads, storygraph etc, so can't point you to any of those. And I don't really want to write reviews for all these books, when there are so many existing reviews out there already.
I provided the Wikipedia links for the 5/5 for a synopsis of the story.
I can provide links for the 4/5 books. Just give me a few days and I'll slowly edit the links into the post.

When I rate, ...
Thank you. I appreciate the synopsis of your rating system. Don't worry about finding links. If you don't have reviews ready and don't want to write them, that's perfectly fine.

For others, like I said to Uncle Robin, I don't mind doing the work to find things - I'd just like to know if there is something to find before I go on a wild goose chase. Just saying "I've got reviews of these on Goodreads or in the What are we reading thread" would be sufficient if they do exist. And, if you don't have an already written review somewhere and don't want to write one, that's fair. It's still fun to read through people's lists.

Essentially, I'm not thrilled with Goodreads / Amazon / etc generic reviews and getting a short review from a person I've seen here and (possibly) interacted with is more meaningful than a long one from somebody I've never interacted with. (I trust you folks more than the "average Amazon reviewer".) Many of us have participated in one or more of the book clubs or have commented on the same books, so we have somewhat of a feel for what others here appreciate and why. That's the type of feedback I'd love to see here although I know not everyone can or wants to do that.
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Old 12-09-2023, 06:31 PM   #13
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Ok, time for my first round of entries. I'm still working on several books so my top choices may change but these were still good even if I do that.

What were the best books you read this year?
I tried Terry Prachett and Stephen Baxter's novel The Long Earth in January, mostly as an audiobook, and it was excellent. An interesting spin on "alternate reality" tales that caught my attention from the beginning and held it the whole way. Pratchett's influence is clear but certainly not overwhelming to Baxter's science fiction roots. Highly recommended.

I was also very pleasantly surprised with Dealing with Dragons by Patricia Wrede. It was a fun little fairy tale that twisted the classic tropes in fun directions. Book 2 was a little more predictable but still fun. This one my daughter and I read as an audiobook during several day trips to different events, so that was a plus.

What excellent books do you recommend that were published in 2023?
I've only finished 3 books from 2023 (so far) but two of them were very good: Warriorborn by Jim Butcher and Dark One: Forgotten by Brandon Sanderson and Dan Wells.

Warriorborn is a novella in the Cinder Spires steampunk series set immediately prior to and somewhat overlapping with book 2. Not critical to understanding the series, but you get some good background on one of the events that lead up to the novel itself (which I have in progress.) Good action and interesting characters.

Dark One: Forgotten is an audio only release from Sanderson and Wells in an unusual format - it's framed as a podcast with the narrator investigating a murder. Lots of fun even though I have virtually no interest in the graphic novels that this ties into.

How did your anticipated 2023 books hold up this year?
No real feedback on this yet - all the books I was anticipating only came out last month and my library wait means that I haven't gotten to them yet. I still have high hopes though.

And, what books are you looking forward to in 2024?
It's possible that the third book of the Kingkiller Chronicles will be published, there was a rumor about that a while back. I'm not holding my breathe for it though.

The book that I will start preparing for is Knights of Wind and Truth by Brandon Sanderson. The fifth book in his Stormlight Archive series and the last book of this arc. I've read the first one (excellent) and have books 2-4 already, so I will start (re-)reading them around June so I've caught up by October/November when this should be released.

There is also a rumor that Twelve Months (book 18 in the Dresden Files) may get published next year. I mentioned it last year but this year there is at least some official word that it is in progress. He said in March 2023 that he had about 18 weeks to go in writing, although it doesn't sound like it went quite as well as that since he said 20% around August. If we add 12 months of editing and publication time, then late next summer / early fall we might get a new Dresden book. Again, nothing official that I've found but this is one I'm hoping for. It would not surprise me if it gets pushed to 2025.
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Old 12-09-2023, 11:08 PM   #14
arjaybe
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The entire Gamache series by Louise Penny were the best books I read this year.

I don't normally like a lot of wallpaper in a story, but I don't mind Penny's wallpaper. I enjoy it. And I don't normally like to spend a lot of time in characters' heads, but I look forward to it in Penny's Gamache books. Human beings solving crimes while learning how to be human beings.
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Old 12-20-2023, 12:44 PM   #15
kyrilson
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I have read 94 books so far this year

My top rated books:

1. Beartown by Fredrik Backman
2. Revelation Space by Alastair Reynolds
3. Blacktop Wasteland by S. A. Cosby
4. The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
5. Inquisitor: Rise of the Red Blade by Delilah Dawson
6. Small Mercies by Dennis Lehane
7. Rendezvous with Rama by Arthur C. Clarke
8. Hardcase by Dan Simmons
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