December 2023 Books and End of Year Roundup

End of Year Roundup

StoryGraph book total: 120 (includes all books, new and reread, and the two Seanan McGuire short stories)

Number of pages read this year: 44,021 (hours listened to audiobooks converted to pages)

Number of new books read this year: 98 (I did not count the two Seanan McGuire short stories on my spreadsheet)

Number of books reread this year: 20

Number of books by women, trans, and nonbinary people read this year (only counting new books read): 68

Number of books by BIPOC this year (only including new books read): 28

Number of books by disabled authors this year (only including new books read)*: 1

*This can only include authors I know are disabled. More on the list could be and I might not know. Definite room for improvement in this category!

Breakdown by genre (only counting new books read)
-Fiction: 76 (fantasy: 41; science fiction: 7; YA: 7*; historical fiction: 5; classics: 4; literary fiction: 4; thriller: 2; dystopian: 1; graphic novel: 1; mystery: 1; romance: 1; children’s literature: 1)
-Nonfiction: 21 (essays: 4; memoir: 4; true crime: 3; art: 2; biography: 2; graphic format: 2; reference: 2; autobiography: 1; history: 1)
-Poetry: 1
-Play: 1

*Many of the fantasy, sci-fi, and historical fiction books I read were also in the YA age range.

First book of the year: Greywaren by Maggie Stiefvater

Last book of the year: Six Crimson Cranes by Elizabeth Lim

Most read author of the year: David Mitchell (8 books) and Rick Riordan (8 books)

Best books of the year (in no particular order; not including rereads):
Greywaren by Maggie Stiefvater
The World We Make by N.K. Jemisin
A Fire Endless by Rebecca Ross
Babel by R.F. Kuang
Sea of Tranquility by Emily St. John Mandel
Gender Queer by Maia Kobabe
The Adventures of Amina Al-Sirafi by S.A. Chakraborty
Hell Bent by Leigh Bardugo
Atalanta by Jennifer Saint
Yellowface by R.F. Kuang
Rebecca by Daphne DuMaurier
Legendborn by Tracy Deonn
Legends & Lattes by Travis Baldree
Starling House by Alix E. Harrow (below)
The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins (below)
Ithaca by Claire North (below)

Worst books of the year:
The Tale of Genji by Lady Murasaki Shikibu
Friday by Robert Heinlein (apologies to my father)

Books I didn’t finish:
Gideon the Ninth by Tasmyn Muir

December Books Reread

The Lost Hero by Rick Riordan
Book 1 of 5 Heroes of Olympus
I remember the first time I read this book, I was a little disappointed because Percy isn’t in it and I missed him as a narrator. But rereading it, I was happy to return to getting to know Jason, Leo, and Piper, who I had grown to love throughout the series. This is the first book in the Heroes of Olympus series, which follows the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series. This book follows Jason Grace, who wakes up on a bus with Piper and Leo with no memory of who he is. He, Piper, and Leo, all half-bloods, end up at Camp Half Blood where they must go on a quest to save Hera, queen of the gods, get Jason’s memory back, and maybe figure out where Percy Jackson disappeared to. It is excellent. I love that the Aphrodite kids finally get a redemption hero in Piper.
4/5 baseball-bat-wielding satyrs

The Son of Neptune by Rick Riordan
Book 2 of 5 Heroes of Olympus
And Percy’s back! This book follows Percy as he wakes up missing his own memory and must make his way to Camp Jupiter, a camp for Roman demigods. He meets Frank and Hazel and learns of the disappearance of Jason Grace from Camp Jupiter. Percy, Hazel, and Frank must go on their own quest and unite Camp Half-Blood and Camp Jupiter for the impending fight with Gaia, foretold in the Great Prophesy. I love Frank and Hazel so much, so it was nice to reread this one.
4.5/5 gold-eating horses

New Books Read

The Helsinki Affair by Anna Pitoniak*
Do you ever binge-read things not because you like them but just because you want to? I didn’t think this book was amazing, but that did not stop me from reading it in like two days just because I wanted to spend the whole weekend reading. It’s a thriller. I’m realizing I don’t really like thrillers. CIA agent (whose name I can’t remember) gets a tip that an American politician is about to be assassinated, but her superiors don’t believe the tip. When the American politician dies, she is pulled into a Russian plot to destabilize the US, and the more she learns, the more she suspects her father, a former CIA agent, is somehow wrapped up in the intrigue, relating back to something that happened when he was stationed in Helsinki when she was just a child. The characters were pretty flat; the plot was reasonably entertaining. I kept waiting for a twist that didn’t really come, and the ending didn’t feel totally wrapped up. But it was okay.
3/5 Russian oligarchs

Starling House by Alix E. Harrow
**Book Hangover Alert
This book was the spooky vibes I was looking for when I read The Stranger Upstairs. Opal is a young woman just trying to take care of her younger brother after the death of their mother in a small town slowly being poisoned by the nearby power plant. Out of desperation and strange curiosity, Opal takes a job as a housekeeper for the town’s most mysterious young man at the local haunted house. But Opal will learn there’s much more to the house, the young man, the town, and her own past than she ever knew. It was delightful. I loved Opal and her found family and the house and the spooky vibes.
5/5 spooky creatures

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins***
**Book Hangover Alert
*This book includes only straight white cis people
Prequel to the Hunger Games Series
CW: war, death, oppression
This book somehow ended up with all three designations. Yes, it only includes straight, white cis people, but I think it is at least partly intentional, as it supports the repressive society Collins is creating. And I still believe this is a book that will help improve your social consciousness, despite that lack of diversity. Collins writes an incisive critique of war, fascism, and the sensationalization of news and reality TV. The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes follows a young Coriolanus Snow growing up in the Capital and shows how his involvement in the development of the Hunger Games leads to the games we see in the Hunger Games trilogy 64 years later. I know this book came out in 2020 and Collins probably wasn’t explicitly basing it on the Israel/Palestine conflict (and let’s face it, there are many authoritarian regimes to be inspired by–not least her explicit Roman Empire references), but it’s impossible not to draw parallels between the propaganda of Israel and the outsized reaction of the Israeli military following the October 7th Hamas attack. As the United States slides toward fascism, I feel like Collins was like, “You guys apparently didn’t get it when I wrote the first three Hunger Games books, so here’s another one. Do you get it now?!”
5/5 sponsors

Reading Pictures by Alberto Manguel
I read this in preparation for a class I’m going to teach in the spring. It is a series of essays about how to interpret art. It was fascinating and I enjoyed it very much. I plan to use several of the essays as readings for my class.
4/5 paintings

Zeroville by Steve Erickson
**Book Hangover Alert
CW: child abuse
I don’t even know how to write a review for this book. It was very weird. In a good way. Movie fanatic Vikar moves to LA in 1969 to work in the movies. He works as a set builder and movie editor and through dreams and the movies he sees, begins to make a momentous discovery. Vikar read as an autistic character to me, and I thought that was well done. I also liked the way Erikson played with form in this novel, from the chapter breaks and numeration, and the way his scenes sometimes read like individual frames in a movie. Wild.
4/5 movies

Against the Loveless World by Susan Abulhawa***
**Book Hangover Alert
CW: sexual assault, oppression, war, abuse, torture
If you’re looking to learn more about Palestine, but not really feeling history/nonfiction books, this is a great choice. The story follows Nahr, a Palestinian growing up in Kuwait, where her parents fled to from Palestine, and her journey to return to Palestine and work for the freedom of her homeland. The prose was lovely; Nahr’s journey from thoughtless teen to mature woman was beautifully done. And I also feel like a learned a lot about the Palestinian conflict, without having to read history.
4.5/5 dances

The Kingdom of Sweets by Erika Johansen*
This retelling of The Nutcracker was fun for December. It was deliciously dark and I really enjoyed it. Clara and Natasha are twins, blessed or cursed at birth by their godfather Herr Drosselmeyer, Clara to be light and Natasha to be dark. The sisters grow up and apart with these designations coloring all their relationships. The Christmas they turn seventeen, Herr Drosselmeyer returns with enchanted gifts: a nutcracker and a clown that seem to be more than just toys. That night the girls cross into the Kingdom of Sweets, and Natasha takes the chance to seize her own destiny. I was just a little disappointed there was no Mouse King in this retelling. I love a good Mouse King.
3.5/5 sweets

Ithaca by Claire North
**Book Hangover Alert
Book 1 of 3 House of Odysseus
You know me, I’m a sucker for a Greek myth retelling, especially a feminist one. This book tells the story of Penelope, wife of Odysseus, as she waited twenty long years for his return. If this is a story you think you know, you’ve never heard it told by Hera, queen of the gods. I loved it. It was excellent. I’m excited to read the rest of the books.
5/5 warrior women

Disney After Dark by Ridley Pearson*
Book 1 of 7 Kingdom Keepers
I’ve been meaning to read these for a long time. They’re fun for us crazy Disney nerds. Finn and four other kids are chosen to be holographic hosts at the Walt Disney World parks. But the kids quickly learn that it wasn’t just a quick acting job; every night when they go to sleep, they wake up as holographs in the Magic Kingdom. They must work together to save the park from the forces of evil. It’s fun. It’s not amazing or anything. But a quick, easy read.
3.5/5 Small World dolls

Six Crimson Cranes by Elizabeth Lim
**Book Hangover Alert
Book 1 of 2 Six Crimson Cranes
And we go out with a bang! My last book of the year was excellent, thanks for asking. This book has everything; a beautiful map, a lush, Asian-inspired fantasy world, evil enchanters, magic, dragons, a plucky young heroine, and just a little sprinkling of romance. I adored it. Shiori is dreading her betrothal, but she’s got bigger problems. Magic has been banned in Kiata, and Shiori has a natural talent. After Shiori learns her stepmother is also an enchantress, her stepmother curses her and her six brothers and banishes them to the outskirts of the empire. Shiori must figure out how to break the curse and save her kingdom.
4.5/5 paper birds

*This book only includes straight, white, cis people.

**Book Hangover Alert indicates the kind of book that will leave you full up on love. Satisfied, but wishing the book never had to end. You’ll be laying on the floor with no idea what to do with yourself (other friends have called this feeling Good Book Depression or say that certain books necessitate Floor Time). This is the kind of book that gets its teeth in you and won’t let go easily. After the last page you’ll be thinking about this book for a long time. You’ll bother all your friends trying to get them to read it so that you won’t be alone in your Hangover.

***This book is part of my Books for a Social Conscience series! First a caveat: I have decided that simply having queer people and/or people of color in a book is not enough to qualify it for the Books for a Social Conscience distinction. That sets the bar too low. So while in the past I would have included The Heroes of Olympus books, Starling House, Ithaca, and Six Crimson Cranes, I will not be including them in the new system. We love representation! Don’t get me wrong, but honestly at this point if you don’t have queer people and/or people of color in your book, like what are you doing? I will now be including a new designation: *This book only includes straight, white, cis people.

Anyway, read The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes for a critique of fascism, war, and media. Read Against the Loveless World to learn more about the Israel/Palestine conflict, particularly how it affects women.

Reads marked as part of the Books for a Social Conscience series will regularly address topics like race and racism, colonialism and post-colonialism, LGBTQIA+ experience, feminism, BIPOC experience, social and political issues, history, identity, class, disability experience, immigration, gun violence, poverty, colorism, environmentalism, and more! The goal of these books is to diversify the stories we’re reading, grow our empathy for those who are different from us, and amplify voices who are often silenced.