The books I read in 2023

This year I focused on completing some book series, while tracing back the original influences for others. Overall number is down this year, so something to work on.

  • Ada, the Enchantress of Numbers, by Betty Alexandra Toole
  • The Dark Forest, by Liu Cixin
  • Death’s End, by Liu Cixin
  • Dinosaurs, by Lydia Millet
  • Eileen, by Otessa Moshfegh
  • In Lonely Places: Film Noir Beyond the City, by Imogen Sara Smith
  • La Belle Sauvage, by Philip Pullman
  • Maurice, by E. M. Forster
  • Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, by John Berendt
  • A Paradise Built in Hell: The Extraordinary Communities That Arise in Disaster, by Rebecca Solnit
  • Paradise Lost, by John Milton
  • The Secret Commonwealth, by Philip Pullman
  • Stay True, by Hua Hsu


  • After reading The Three Body Problem last year, I kept going with Liu Cixin’s follow-ups, The Dark Forest and Death’s End. I appreciated the ambition of the narrative, which spans millennia and sprawls across the cosmos, but the human-scale characterization suffers as a result, and in the end I found its worldview to be too bleak and misanthropic.
  • In contrast, it felt great to slip back into Philip Pullman’s world with La Belle Sauvage and The Secret Commonwealth, which expand on the original His Dark Materials trilogy (with a third on the way). He smuggles in his political agenda more artfully than Liu does, and it’s a more humane, generous vision overall, disguised as a swift adventure yarn.
  • I followed the thread back from Pullman to his source, Paradise Lost, and man, what a banger. I see why it was such a splash at the time, and why it’s endured for centuries.
  • I’ve been searching for a proper, thorough biography of Ada Lovelace, and it seems like a curious blank spot. Ada, the Enchantress of Numbers comes close, but it’s an odd specimen, more a series of biographical sketches sprinkled with excerpts from letters and other assorted commentary. It’s good, but still not quite the thing I’m looking for. The search continues.
  • I’ll say the same thing about A Paradise Built in Hell that I do about many books, which is that it's very good, and would be even better at a third the length. Most non-fiction books are too long! The book is sort of a mirror image of Naomi Klein’s Shock Doctrine, where crisis again acts as a catalyst for change — but in this case a positive one, where disasters allow people to glimpse the utopian potential for collective action, mutual aid, and community solidarity. Which is perfectly interesting — but the thesis is not bolstered by many, many extra examples illustrating this same point over a couple hundred pages.