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Rory’s 2023: Books

Like with film, all my book tracking goes in one place (follow me on Storygraph!). Unlike with film, I don’t do a lot of reading specific to the release year, so this is a general look back at the books released in any year I read during 2023. But I think my stats got messed up somewhere; despite doing the large majority of my reading digitally, print seems to have won the pie chart, and apparently I read 6000 pages in June? Either way, there are some general trends to coax out.

General stats

1. First book finished in 2023 was a reread of Anne Rice’s The Witching Hour. Last book finished was a first read of Lee Lai’s wonderful graphic novel Stone Fruit.

2. My biggest genre of the year was LGBTQIA+, aided largely by access through Libby to Queer Liberation Library, although my local library has some decent offerings in that direction as well. My second biggest genre was graphic novels. I’m sure the overlap between the two genres was not small.

If I wanted to give a quick genre overview, I would go with queer, graphic novel, SFFH, memoir, pop culture. Most of my reads in 2023 are two or more of these put together. I think YA and middle grade also show up a lot in my reads, but that’s less personal preference and more because queer lit and graphic novels (and both put together) tend to have a lot of overlap within those age ranges.

3. My most-read author of the year was Alice Oseman, with nine books. I believe that’s five Heartstopper volumes and four stand-alone novels (Loveless, Radio Silence, I Was Born For This, and Nick and Charlie).

4. There’s a pie chart to reflect the moods of the stories I read, which is fun to see, but three moods take up about half the chart: emotional, reflective, and lighthearted. 2023 was a transitional year, after a couple years doing the large share of my reading through audiobooks. Going with a lighter mood and reading a lot of graphic novels makes sense in this context.

This also extends to pace, which is largely medium (49%) and fast (42%), and page number, where books fewer than 300 pages (64%) won the day.

5. I largely read fiction in 2023 at 76%.

Honorable mentions

-I Think Our Son is Gay 1-4: A manga series from the point of view of a mother watching her eldest son on a journey of self-discovery in his high-school years. It’s such a kind series, both for the son and his mother, and highlights one of elements of being an adult that I find joy in: watching younger people’s specific journey through life.

-It Came From the Closet: Queer Reflections on Horror: Great anthology of essays tying lived queer experience to horror movies. For better or worse, horror is often better at reflecting marginalized experience than other genres, and even when I hadn’t seen the movie in question, I resonated with a lot of the essays here. (Definitely look up content warnings if this sounds good, though.)

-Hi Honey, I’m Homo!: Matt Baume’s excellent look at US queer rights through mainstream Hollywood sitcoms. If you’re a member of my Patreon, you can see a list of Baume’s video essays you can watch without the book here, but I recommend his YouTube channel as a whole.

-Pregnant Butch: Nine Long Months Spent in Drag: This comic’s look at pregnancy, queerness, and gender feels like a window into queerness of the past in so many ways, and a massively useful one.

-Taste: My Life Through Food: This was a good year for me and celebrity memoir, to the point where this would have probably made the top ten in another year. Stanley Tucci painted a lovely picture of the stages of his life through food (or the lack thereof; he had mouth cancer that limited his ability to eat at the end of the narrative). Definitely one to listen to in audiobook form.

-Pageboy: Another celebrity memoir (from Elliot Page) that would have made it to the top ten in a different year. If you’ve ever wondered what gender dysphoria is like, read this.

-Where Are Your Boys Tonight?: The Oral History of Emo’s Mainstream: I’ve been a longtime fan of My Chemical Romance, and I’ve made friends with a lot of people by piecing together stories of the band through video and magazine interviews. This book filled in a lot of holes for them (and other bands of interest) while ignoring other spots in favor of dry business analysis. Didn’t super enjoy those last bits, but still, very useful to me personally.

-The Magic Fish: Trung Le Nguyen’s graphic novel blended fairy-tale elements and reality beautifully. I’m putting the book on my to-buy list because I loved the art so much!

-Normal People: I read this so I could watch the miniseries that went along with it…and I never got to the miniseries because I kept thinking about how much I liked the book. Note to self: look up more contemporary Irish lit.

Top ten

10. Stone Fruit by Lee Lai: As mentioned above, this was my last book of the year, and it was wonderful. Beautiful ink-wash look; resonant story about when to stay connected to family despite messiness and when to disconnect. I love the metaphoric imagery of letting loose when you’re with your young relatives.

9. Loveless by Alice Oseman: Good coming-of-age story featuring a character discovering her aromantic and asexual identities, and how your friends can be the primary focus in your life. The UK university setting made the story feel more alive to me.

8. The Woman in Me by Britney Spears: Kudos to a celebrity and their ghostwriter for writing a harrowing memoir with gothic elements (part one). The language in this was simple, and the narrative moved briskly, which is exactly what something this dark needed. I’ve followed Britney’s life and career somewhat, and I was still surprised by some of what happened in this.

7. Spare by Prince Harry: Kudos to a celebrity and their ghostwriter for writing a harrowing memoir with gothic elements (part two). I rec the ghostwriter’s perspective on cowriting the memoir and the aftermath, too. Claustrophobic read; I can only imagine how much more claustrophobic the reality was (and still is).

6. Babel by R.F. Kuang: It seems to be a bit of a trend right now to set fantasy in real-life Western universities (I have Leigh Bardugo’s Hell Bent on my to-read list, after failing to read it while I had it checked out in January). Babel’s historical fantasy is set in Oxford and uses translation magic as metaphor for the abuses of white imperialism. Big tear-it-all-down mood.

5. Burn it Down by Maureen Ryan: Read this toward the beginning of the WGA strike in the summer, and it was a perfect time to do it. While Burn It down covers a lot of the toxicity in Hollywood from multiple direction, it had a heavy focus on TV writers’ rooms. Even though both the WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes have ended, we’re gonna feel their impacts on media for the next couple years, so I rec this book for a perspective on why things need a shake-up.

4. Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner: Intense memoir about culture, food, and the death of a parent. I cried buckets over it, as I will cry at the movie adaptation that is in development if it gets made. This is also a celebrity memoir, as Michelle Zauner is part of Japanese Breakfast, but it’s very different in tone from the other two on the list.

3. Dark Heir by C.S. Pacat: I read both books in the series (so far) this year, and I’m still not sure if I liked the first one, which felt more like a setup for its ending than a story on its own. I have no such reservations about Dark Heir, which I read in a four-hour burst. Its use of reincarnation and magic in existing systems as metaphor for generational trauma is fantastic.

2. Madly, Deeply: The Diaries of Alan Rickman by Alan Rickman: As someone who has a hard time journaling consistently, saying “this book got me to journal for months in 2023” sums up my experience reading it. A good look at an actor I admire obviously trying to work through life and better himself, without shrinking away from his flaws. My only regret is that this was published posthumously because it means he couldn’t read the audiobook. I did listen to the audiobook, though, and the narrator does a good job with a dry British tone, even if it isn’t the specific Alan Rickman flavor.

1. This is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone: The summary is relatively straightforward – epistolary time-travel novella with agents on two opposing sides falling in love. But the experience of reading (or listening, as I did, which I do rec) is rich and complex while still being extremely familiar. Thanks, Bigolas Dickolas Wolfwood!

Rory Hume is a rainbow gay, cat whisperer, and concert swag addict.

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