Thursday, December 28, 2023

Reading in 2023

Every year, I enjoy the ritual of looking back on the stack of books I burned through and writing short notes on them. There's something about the 2023 list that's making me pause and reflect longer, because this year wasn't just about the books but the people; those who gifted me the books, those who borrowed from me, and those who stayed back to have memorable discussions about their impressions. 

The list from 2023 has to start with one of the best non-fiction books that I've read, and I don't mean just in this year. An Immense World took on a fascinating topic and wrote about it with so much depth and elegance that I wanted everyone else in my life to read it too. At last count, I know ten other people that read it because they couldn't believe how effusive my praise was for the book. 
  • An Immense World: How Animal Senses Reveal the Hidden Realms Around Us - Ed Yong
This year's list has a strong proportion of fiction in it, bucking a decade long trend. 
  • Small Things Like These - Claire Keegan
  • ಸಂಸ್ಕಾರ (Samskara) - U R Ananthamurthy
  • Prophet Song - Peter Lynch
  • The Trees - Percival Everett
  • The Quiet American - Graham Greene
  • The Forest of Enchantments - Chitra Bannerjee Divakaruni
  • Demon Copperhead - Barbara Kingsolver
  • A Passage North - Anuk Arudpragasam
  • The Plot Against America - Philip Roth
  • Piranesi - Susanna Clark

I really enjoyed the History I consumed this year. The last one in this list was a surprise. The title - Don't Forward That Text! - really undersells the depth and research that went into this one. Mr. Schandillia is a super storyteller. 
  • The Buddha and the Sahibs - Charles Allen
  • Indians: A Brief History of a Civilization - Namit Arora
  • Origins: How The Earth Shaped Human History - Lewis Dartnell
  • Don't Forward That Text! - Amit Schandillia
The next three were, in some way or the other, related to personal health and all caused me to make some deep changes in the way I live, eat or exercise. 
  • I Contain Multitudes: The Microbes Within Us And a Grander View of Life
  • Exercised: The Science of Physical Activity, Rest And Health - Daniel Lieberman
  • Outlive - Peter Attia
The rest of the list is a motley mix. Many of them were part of the official book club at my workplace. I may remember better the discussions than the books themselves. I also mention 'official' because there were a lot of other smaller groups of reading groups at work where my friends not only recommended a book, but in some cases shipped me a copy because they couldn't bear me not having read it. I'll remember these very fondly. 
  • Mother of God: One Man's Journey to the Uncharted Depths of the Amazon Rainforest - Paul Rosolie
  • American Kingpin - Nick Bilton
  • Hatching Twitter - Nick Bilton
  • The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine - Michael Lewis
  • Shoe Dog - Phil Knight
  • The Art of the Good Life - Rolf Dobelli 
  • Whole Numbers and Half Truths - Rukmini S
  • The Sun Does Shine - Anthony Ray Hinton