2023 book recs

Last year, I started keeping track of the books I read again, which I have done on and off in the past. The good thing about it is that it helps me remember all the good books I’ve read and feel proud that I’ve gotten back into reading quite a lot, even though my attention often feels fractured and Tumblr-addled.

The offset of doing this, is that it transforms reading into a productive hobby. It makes me feel competitive about how many books I read and how fast I read them, which, uh, I hate. Reading has been my happy place since before I could actually decipher words (I would read comics in bed and try to understand the story from the drawings alone), and I don’t want it to become 1) my whole personality 2) my side-hustle hobby booktok booktube Goodreads reviewer-style. I just want to sit down on comfy surfaces and read from time to time. Feel that nice brain-expanding feeling you get when you read something truly mindblowing.

So why am I here, talking about how much I don’t want to turn my reading into a Thing, as I am doing the most booktube thing ever and rec books I’ve read in 2023? I don’t know, man. I am full of contradictions. I contain multitudes etc etc. Anyway. Here are 6 books I read in 2023 which I liked.

Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid

This novel is an easy and incredibly compelling read. The story follows a woman in her early 20’s working as a babysitter for a wealthy couple. Behind the fluid style and down to earth point of view, there’s a commentary on class and race that is masterfully executed. This book makes you gasp, makes you cringe, makes you think. And you can’t put it down.

The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold

I bought that book back in 2020 because it’s one of my partner’s favourites, but the beginning of the story was a bit difficult for me to deal with in the middle of the first Covid lockdown. I picked it up again last year and I am really glad I did! This book has a precise, dense style that sucks you in. The story is narrated by a young girl in heaven observing her family back on earth experiencing grief in different ways, as well as the man who killed her. Also there’s a dog. This book is empathetic, kind and horrible at the same time. It is one of my favorite books ever, I think, and definitely one I look forward to rereading in a handful of years.

Genderflou by Tamos le Thermos

OMG GENDERFLOU ! A comic in French about a French art student living in Brussels and their journey through coming in and coming out as non-binary. I have read it at least four times since I bought it last May, and I’ve bought copies for my family too. I loved the humor and the drawing style, especially the double pages of city landscapes. But also, this book made me feel so seen, so loved. It makes me feel proud to be who I am. And it’s so goddamn funny.

My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh

I haven’t read the discourse on this book and I don’t care. I picked it up at the Lisboa airport and read it in a week. It was a weird, addicting experience. I loved it. I don’t know how to describe this book. It’s not strange in terms of genre, but because the main character is completely amoral, and it’s hard to know what to make of her actions. I read this book about two months ago, I think about it all the time, and I still have no idea what I think of it, really.

Heartstopper #4 by Alice Oseman

Everyone knows about Heartstopper and its Netflix adaptation. This book in particular though, fucking annihilated me. It’s a lot darker than the previous ones (though, promise, everyone turns out ok), but it is a story told with a lot of truth and care. It made me cry big heaving sobs both times I read it. If you’ve ever struggled with your mental health (who hasn’t?), this is a hard but great read. Bring tissues though.

Hijab Butch Blues, a memoir by Lamya H.

My favorite book I read last year. An autobiographical essay questioning a queer person’s relationship to their queerness, their belonging in the world between the US, the country they were born in and the country they grew up in, and to their Muslim faith. Each chapter bears the name and tells the story of a prominent figure from the Quran, and how the author relates to that story. It’s a brilliant read. It taught me so much about the Muslim faith and culture, the experience of being an immigrant, about different forms of queerness, and about myself too. This is definitely a book I want to put in as many hands as possible. Yours too, if you’re willing.