My goal this year was 65 books. I finished #75 (Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow, which I tried to read earlier this year and abandoned, then devoured this time) just under the wire on New Year's Eve. It was a good year for books! As I was looking back, it was hard not to put all 75 on this list. I didn't have any that I wouldn't recommend. But no one wants to read a wrap-up that goes on forever so I narrowed it down to my absolute must includes.
I am declaring this "The Year of the Audiobook" I never really liked audiobooks until after my dad died and I realized that part of my trauma response was that I don't do great on long drives listening to music. I commute about 30 minutes each way, so I'm able to get a lot of listening in (and even more once I thought to speed it up to 1.75x) And while you may recall that I declared that I do not enjoy non-fiction or memoirs, it turns out that I LOVE them as audiobooks! So that's been fun to dive into.
Top Audio Books: Audio books get measured not only on the story, but also the talent of the narrator. I have quit several because the voice of the reader was grating or annoying. These books, on the other hand, were such a delight to listen to.
The Parasol Protectorate series is the exact opposite of that. It was such a delight to listen to that I even tried to find the contact information of the voice actress so I could send her a note of gratitude. There are five books in this series and I loved every one of them. Plus the premise is so fun; steampunk + vampires and werewolves + a protagonist who is full of moxie and feminist ideals and who loves to eat.
Taste: My Life through Food by Stanley Tucci. Turns out that while I do not love reading a memoir, I do love listening to the author read their own story (for the most part. There were a couple this year that I did not love). Stanley Tucci talks about food and family and community in such a lovely way. I'm grateful that I found this via the Libby app because I 100% would not have picked it up in hard copy.
Where the Deer and the Antelope Play: The Pastoral Observations of One Ignorant American Who Loves to Walk Outside. I originally tried to read this one on paper and couldn't get into it. In audio format though? I loved it so much. I would listen to Nick Offerman read IKEA assembly instructions. This book blended his voice with his unique take on environmental matters including history, conservation, and travelogues.
Non-Fiction Books that challenged my assertion that I don't love non-fiction because I couldn't stop talking about them:
Fuzz: When Nature Breaks the Law. Did you know that there are squads of people in India whose job it is to address rogue elephants? Or that elephants will sometimes kill people just for fun? Or that rich people mitigate the monkeys in Delhi with bigger monkeys, even though using guard monkeys is against the law? I got bored during the bear chapter because it seemed so straightforward, but then I learned all about why deer freeze in headlights and how they investigate animal attacks and a whole bunch of other fascinating things about animals all over the world. I'd never ready any Mary Roach and this was an awesome intro into her research
The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate: Discoveries from a Secret World. OMG. That's a long title. I listened to this one and the narrator has the most delightful English accent. It's also full of fascinating information. Like did you know that aspen trees quiver so that their leaves can absorb sunlight on both sides? Or that there are trees that can attract certain insects in order to combat parasites (but they only call in the cavalry if needed)?
You can't say I don't have a type, and my book choices are no exception. This year there were a lot of vampires, historical fiction, and curiously, Peter Pan re-writes.
Historical fiction books I loved:
The Wedding Dress Sewing Circle. I loved this one so much and it made me wish I could join a quilting circle. Or that quilting circles existed. It also made me feel a little weird about having my wedding dress sitting in my closet in it's ridiculous "Archival Box"
The Huntress. WWII female pilots in Russia. SO GOOD.
The Lost Apothocary. Sisterhood, lost souls, and just the right amount of vengeance and murder.
The Rose Code. I do love a book about WWII code breaking women. Enough said.
Peter Pan re-writes:
Lost Boy: The True Story of Captain Hook. This was SO GOOD. I love when a well known story gets flipped on it's head. Darling Girl. This one was fun because it focused on Wendy and her descendants. Fair warning though, it gets a little darker than I originally anticipated.
Fail-safe books to recommend to people.
Lessons in Chemistry. I loved this book and wished that Elizabeth Zott was a real person.
The Ex Hex. Super cute. Witches and romance. The second one was good too, albeit steamier.
True Biz. This book was so, so well done. I've been trying to convince all my kids to read it. It was a great story with realistic characters, and interspersed was a lot of history related to the Deaf community that I had no awareness of before. I hope this makes it onto diversity booklists
Books that I kind of obnoxiously insist that people read
The House in the Cerulean Sea. This is maybe the best book I've ever read. It's definitely in the top ten. It's just delightful and I've already given away several copies. I love to hear which of the kids is someone's favorite.
The Southern Book Club's Guide to Slaying Vampires. I kind of fell down a vampire rabbit hole for a minute and this book was so fun. I loved that it took a long time to figure out whether the vampire was going to be a metaphorical or actual antagonist. After I finished this one I read My Best Friend's Exorcism too. Both are good but I liked Book Club better.
The Inheritance of Orquidea Divina. This one had a real Encanto vibe to it, and I love magical realism something fierce. Definitely lives up to the hype.
I set my goal for 2023 at 70 books. I'm currently listening to Nevernight and trying to pick my next "read with my eyeballs" book from my embarrassingly robust backlog of Book of the Month picks.