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2023 Reading Wrap-up

Here we go with the third annual year-in-review of my reading list! As always, for an actual summary of each book, just click the title link to check it out on Goodreads. The rating is simply how much I enjoyed reading each book. For most novels, I've also clipped one or two highlights of text from my Kindle.

Cleaning up some carry-over from 2022, I finally finished: 1. Walden (4/5)

by Henry David Thoreau

"I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived."

Following that, and in chronological order (I think), this is what I read in 2023:

by Matthieu Pageau

Despite it's unassuming brevity, this is not a light read. For anyone who dabbles in studying religious texts, I think this is very much a worthwhile read, but be ready for some challenging ideas.

by Cormac McCarthy

Overall an enjoyable story. Like many other western fictions, I wouldn't describe this as a feel-good story, but for those of you who enjoy the brutality and honesty of classic western literature, this is a good read.

"I knew that courage came with less struggle for some than for others but I believed that anyone who desired it could have it."

"But there were two things they agreed upon wholly and that were never spoken and that was that God had put horses on earth to work cattle and that other than cattle there was no wealth proper to a man."

by Carol Shaben

This was an incredibly well-written account of a relatively simple survival story, cloaked in complex relationships. I had a very hard time putting it down!

"Clarity of thought comes when you’re lying on a mountain, dying. That’s when you’re honest, authentically pure in your thoughts."

by Deanna Kawatski

Passed along to me by my grandmother, this was one of my favourite reads of the year. Interestingly, it takes place in an area of BC I'm somewhat familiar with from living in Smithers, and in true "small-world" fashion, one of the character families was actually my old yoga instructor's! This really is a beautiful read that I highly recommend to any woman.

6. Children of Time (4.5/5)

by Adrian Tchaikovsky

My first dive into science-fiction (a genre I've long avoided), I ended up enjoying this novel far more than I was expecting. It's a fairly long read with some very unexpected characters, but contains a very compelling message through some pretty fascinating story-telling.

"Of more pressing concern are the ants."

7. Women Talking (3/5)

by Miriam Toews

Honestly, I had higher hopes for this novel. After seeing advertisements for the recent movie version, I decided to pick up the book. It was well-written and an important story to tell, but I was left wishing the plot was developed beyond the actual ending.

by Velma Wallis

A fun, shorter read. I always love these types of stories - oral histories and legends documented by Indigenous people - and this was no exception.

by C.S. Lewis

This was one of the most impactful books I read this year. It's on the shorter side, which is great because you'll probably want to go over it more than once. I am considering picking up a study guide for this book and reviewing it again in 2024 in more detail - there is a lot to unpack, but I'd still describe it as enjoyable the first go around too!

"Murder is no better than cards if cards can do the trick. Indeed the safest road to Hell is the gradual one—the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts..."

by Charles C. Mann

It took me seemingly forever to finish this book, with multiple starts and stops. But in reflection, this text really influenced my views of the world. Loads of facts, but also some great story-telling and humor. I am planning on picking up the sequel, 1493, and perhaps his more recent novel, The Wizard and the Prophet, at some point in 2024.

"Few things are more sublime or characteristically human than the cross-fertilization of cultures."

"The natural world is incomplete without the human touch."

"If there is a lesson it is that to think like the original inhabitants of these lands we should not set our sights on rebuilding an environment from the past but concentrate on shaping a world to live in for the future."

by C.S. Lewis

After enjoying The Screwtape Letters so thoroughly, I decided to pick up another one of C.S. Lewis's well-known works and it did not disappoint. This was really impactful story-telling with important perspectives, and I highly recommend this read to anyone. It's a bit lighter and more digestible than some parts of The Screwtape Letters - so would be a good place to dabble in his work.

"I think earth, if chosen instead of Heaven, will turn out to have been, all along, only a region in Hell: and earth, if put second to Heaven, to have been from the beginning a part of Heaven itself."

"Every disease that submits to a cure shall be cured: but we will not call blue yellow to please those who insist on still having jaundice, nor make a midden of the world's garden for the sake of some who cannot abide the smell of roses.”

by David Roberts

I'm always keen on historical Arctic/Antarctic exploration novels for some reason, and this was another great read in the "genre". This one is probably the most grim of the handful I've read in the past couple years, but was still a great read.

"Here in this type of desolation, surviving like the last leaf on a branch, a person becomes aware of his manhood but it is not enough. He turns in upon himself. If he has never heard of God before, he is looking for him then, and instinctively searching for a spirit to whom he can reach out and draw near to for peace of mind, or so I found, otherwise I could have become mentally unbalanced."

by Becky Chambers

I would describe this book as more of a "futuristic vision" than a "science-fiction". Also described as "solar-punk", it's a beautiful, gentle, read about people and nature, with a great ending to launch you into the sequel (see next on the list!). If you're looking for a love story feeling that isn't a love story - this is for you.

"It is difficult for anyone born and raised in human infrastructure to truly internalize the fact that your view of the world is backward."

by Becky Chambers

If you read A Psalm for the Wild Built, you'll already be itching to start this sequel, so there isn't much I need to say about it, other than it will live up to expectations.

"Without use of constructs, you will unravel few mysteries. Without knowledge of mysteries, your constructs will fail. Find the strength to pursue both, for these are our prayers. And to that end, welcome comfort, for without it, you cannot stay strong."

15. Call Me Hunter (3/5)

by Jim Shockey

I really enjoyed the start of this novel, but by about 50% in I was counting the pages until it was finished. I actually cant believe how incredibly well-researched this novel was, which was really cool, but be warned there is some fairly graphic violence. Maybe I'm just not into thriller style novels.

by Becky Chambers

Not as impactful for me as the other Becky Chambers novels I read previously, but once again she delivered a very gentle and pleasant read in a nice little novel. I would definitely describe this as more of a true science-fiction style, and I loved the concepts she developed.

"I have no interest in changing other worlds to suit me. I choose the lighter touch: changing myself to suit them."

"The amount a person can spare is relative; the value of generosity is not."

Bonus Recommendation:

Not a novel, but a field guide! For any naturalists or fungi-enthusiasts, this is a must-have on your shelf: Mushrooms of British Columbia by Andy MacKinnon & Kem Luther. It's a comprehensive and functional field guide, containing beautifully entertaining essays, and packaged up in a stunning, embossed cover.

Currently in-progress:

  • Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl

  • Green Hell by Julian Duguid

  • As another personal pursuit, I've been slowly and intentionally making my way through both the new and old testaments of the Bible (is it weird to rate this like a normal book? Anyways, for me it's a 5/5). I share this to encourage folks because it can be really overwhelming to know where to start with a tome like this. I'm not trying to read it cover to cover, or all at once, or all in a certain time-frame. I've been enjoying bouncing around to different books and re-reading lots along the way, whenever I feel pulled. I'm mainly in the English Standard Version Study Bible, but I have been comparing some text to the Christian Standard Bible. As a little pro-tip, I have found the Zebra brand "Mildliner" highlighters work well on bible pages with minimal bleeding. You can find them here on Amazon, but I got mine at Staples.

Book releases I'm looking forward to in 2024:

If you have recommendations for the 2024 reading list, please share them!

Happy reading y'all :)

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