What I read in 2023


This year, Goodreads tells me I managed to read 24 books in 2023 which is well down from the 40 I read last year, but much higher than the measly 8 I managed in 2021. I think technically it's 26 because it counted 3 books in a trilogy as a single one, and 27 if I count the one I'm still reading. I usually have 2 books on the go at once – one physical or Kindle one I can take on long train journeys, and one audio that I can "read" while I'm cleaning, walking, doing a jigsaw or playing PowerWash Simulator.


The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro has been on my shelf for a while after I went through a bit of an Ishiguro spree last year. In it, a long-serving butler is given some time off and takes a drive through the English countryside to meet an old colleague. The trip takes several days, and during that time, the butler looks back through the years and contemplates the past. Not a lot actually happens, but the characters are interesting and the writing so unusual that I found it hard to put down.

A book I read early on in the year was Pachinko by Min Jin Lee which is set in Korea and Japan across 4 generations of the same family. It's beautifully written against the backdrop of conflict and societal and cultural change.

Another book I read early in the year was The Winners by Fredrik Backman. I didn't get on with it, but it wasn't until after I'd finished it that I realised in was the 3rd book in a series. It still made sense without having read the previous books, but I think I would have enjoyed it more as the characters would have developed with them. I did enjoy the snowy setting and the conflict between two rival towns. That, and I learnt a lot about ice hockey.


After enjoying Tolstoy's Anna Karenina, I decided to give War and Peace a try. It's notorious for being long – the physical copy is well over a thousand pages so I thought I'd have a better chance with the audio version which was around 60 hours. It took me well over a month to complete and is hard to follow as it has hundreds of characters, some of them real historical figures. While most of it was lost on me, I did enjoy learning about this part of history, and it is very beautifully written in places. There's a mention of a comet in 1812 that was also mentioned from a different perspective in a book I read later in the year, set in the same period.

I read David Copperfield by Charles Dickens as I'd heard a radio interview about Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver, which is a modern adaptation of the book. I thought having the context of the original would be useful and it definitely was, as it sticks closely to the essence of the characters even if they're in a completely different setting. It's hard to say I enjoyed either as the themes the books cover are tough and at times deeply depressing, but they both excel at character and world building.

Science fiction

I really enjoyed Hugh Howey's Wool trilogy. This had been in my list for a good while and I was captivated by the first book. The second was more of a bridge between the first and third. It has similar levels of technical detail as some of Andy Weir's books. I spent a good while thinking about it after I'd finished. Same with Michael Crichton's Prey which was very creepy, and now I think about it, shares similar themes to Wool.

Last year, I read The Gunslinger by Stephen King and followed it up by reading The Drawing of the Three, the second book in the trilogy. It's weird and offers no explanation for the weirdness, but once I'd got past that, I really enjoyed the world-building – such as the vicious Lobstrosities that murmur questions.

Short Stories

I wish I'd read more short stories this year as I really enjoy them. Children of the New World by Alexander Weinstein was fantastic. I didn't love every story but there were a few I really jelled with. The final story is set in a future that's covered everything deep in snow, and follows a community that has adapted to a new way of life – until a new family moves nearby. That story stayed with me for a good while.

As soon as it came out, I downloaded a copy of Gal Podjarny's Human Fragments onto my kindle – 3 short stories about what makes us human. Doppelganger resonated with me the most. It's a story about a woman who sees her doppelganger and watches her slip into and take over her life.

Another genre I'd like to have read more of this year is graphic novels, but the single one I did read, Ducks by Kate Beaton, really held its own. It's part autobiographical, part series of short stories about moments in Kate's life working on Oil Sands in Alberta, Canada. It's funny, devastating, and witty.


In preparation for working with boldstart, I read VC by Tom Nicholas, and The Power Law by Sebastian Mallaby. Super Founders by Ali Tamaseb looked at all the potential attributes that founders have and what was most likely to lead to success. I also read Founders at Work by Jessica Livingston which was a series of interviews with founders of tech companies. I enjoyed this a lot – it was published back in 2001 so the examples are old, but some of the interviews are an interesting and probably more honest insight into companies before they got really, really big years later. Also because there are so many interviews, some of the founders give contradictory advice!

I also read The Cold Start Problem by Andrew Chen, Thinking in Bets by Annie Duke, a professional poker player, and as a curveball, Arnold Schwarzenegger's book Be Useful which was a fun listen as it's read by the author. At the start he warns "I’m recording in my little home studio. If you hear my little pig, Schnelly, going oink oink oink, just bare with me". Sadly, Schnelly kept quiet through the whole reading.

I picked up Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are? by Frans de Waal in a bookshop on a whim. The main argument is that the way we judge "smartness" across animals is largely flawed, because we're always trying to compare them against human cognition and the types of tests that we perform well in. It was really eye-opening, and made lots of good points about the importance of learning about animals by observing them in the wild rather than in a test environment.

Another eye-opening book but for a completely different reason was This Is How They Tell Me the World Ends by Nicole Perlroth. It covers the history of zero-day security flaws in software which were hoarded by governments for decades, causing an arms race in vulnerabilities that's still having severe ramifications today.

I pre-ordered Blood in the Machine by Brian Merchant which is a historical account of the Luddite movement contrasted with the threats the revolution in AI brings. It defends the Luddites as being against a degradation in their way of life rather than being opposed to technology, and gives a full picture of the events that led up to machines being smashed. The detail it goes into is incredible.

Realising how much of a gap I have in my knowledge of history led to me reading Anna Keay's The Restless Republic which is about life during the brief period of time when Britain was a republic. It focusses on key individuals in that period and their different experiences – from the lawyer who tried the doomed king, to the man in charge of mapping Ireland in order to dispossess the Irish inhabitants of their land.

Mentioned in Blood in the Machine is Abolish Silicon Valley by Wendy Liu which I also read this year. Along that vein, I read Four Futures by Peter Frase which gives 4 possible futures of life after capitalism. These are designed to be as different from each other as possible, and in some cases extreme and not necessarily positive.

My 2023 favourite

The Wool Trilogy and then Demon Copperhead were top of my list up until December when I read The Remains of the Day. It feels like a warm blanket. I'm looking forward to reading again in a few years. On the non-fiction side, Blood in the Machine was fantastic and sent me down lots of rabbit holes to learn more about the different people mentioned in it. In 2024, I plan to read Mary Shelly's Frankenstein which was supposedly inspired by the technology that triggered the Luddite movement.