Random (but not really)

Sunday, December 31, 2023

The Books of 2023: Final Roundup

Now for all the bits and pieces and data!

2023 Covers

A Sinister Revenge

I do so love a pretty book cover.

As has happened every year since I started reading the series, the cover from the latest Veronica Speedwell book was a favorite (The first book in the series initially had a different style cover–the designs they’re using now started with the second book). This one, like the rest, are utterly gorgeous.

A Sinister Revenge (2023) Deanna Raybourn

Cover design & illustration by Leo Nickolls. Published by Berkley (Penguin)

Veronica Speedwell: A Curious Beginning (2015), A Perilous Undertaking (2017), A Treacherous Curse (2018), A Dangerous Collaboration (2019), A Murderous Relation (2020), An Unexpected Peril (2021), An Impossible Impostor (2022)


Once a Rogue

Also making another appearance is Allie Therin‘s Magic in Manhattan series.

I really deeply love the monochrome covers and the art deco elements. They are clean and eye catching, and I find them very pretty.

Once a Rogue (2023) Allie Therin Published by Carina Press. Unfortunately, Carina Press doesn’t credit their cover artists which, as I have repeatedly noted, is a shame.

Magic in Manhattan: Spellbound (2019), Starcrossed (2020), Wonderstruck (2021)
Roaring Twenties Magic: Proper Scoundrels (2021), Once a Rogue (2023)

To the best of my memory, this is the first year Berkley hasn’t had the highest number of great covers. But pretty sure that’s because I only read four books published by Berkley this year.

Publishers with multiple covers I loved:

  • Self-Published: 6
  • Crooked Lane Books: 6
  • Blue Octopus Press: 4
  • Berkley: 3
  • Viking: 4
  • Tor: 3

We’ve come a long way in self-published covers; I adore that authors of self-published books are giving us so many gorgeous covers.

My favorite covers of 2023:

Fantasy       Mystery       Romance       Science Fiction

 

2023 Books

The Bookshop and the Barbarian

Aside from the audio book of Blitz (I read Blitz last December, so it didn’t seem quite fair to point it out as a ten for this year),  I didn’t have any 9.5 or 10 reads that were new-to-me this year, but I did have several new (to me at least) books that had a 9/10 rating.

  • Silence in the Library by Katharine Schellman
  • The Bookshop and the Barbarian by Morgan Stang
  • The Thursday Murder Club series by Richard Osman: The Thursday Murder Club, The Man Who Died Twice, The Bullet That Missed, The Last Devil to Die

However.

I’m pretty sure that upon a reread, there are multiple books that will get a higher rating. They just weren’t what I needed to help get out of my brain when I read them, or I didn’t have enough spare processing power to really get everything. So take that into consideration if you peruse my reviews.

Silence in the Library

Publishers with multiple books I loved.

  • Berkley (Penguin): 2
  • Subterranean Press (Independent): 2
  • Tor (Macmillan): 3
  • Crooked Lane Books (Independent):4
  • Viking (Penguin): 4
  • Self-Published: 10

Obviously not enough numbers to be more than anecdata, but here are the publishers whose books I read most frequently this year (the number of books by that publisher) and the average rating for that publisher..

  • Self-Published (31) Average Rating: 7.58
  • Tor (13) Average Rating: 9.15
  • Carina (10) Average Rating: 8.50
  • Crooked Lane Books (8) Average Rating: 7.44
  • William Morrow (8) Average Rating: 7.19
  • Riptide Publishing (8) Average Rating: 7.88
  • Audible Studios (5) Average Rating: 7.90
  • Blue Octopus Press (4) Average Rating: 6.63

My favorite books of 2023:

Fantasy       Mystery       Romance       Science Fiction       Audio Books      

 

Genres

I use two different tracking spreadsheets–one I created in 2003 and yearly spreadsheet from Book Riot. The Book Riot tracker only allows a single genre for a book. Mine allows books to have multiple genres, which is a bit more accurate, especially for my reading preferences (I do love a supernatural detective).

Books read 2023 genre chart

Books read 2023 genre chart

In both logs, mysteries were the genre I read most this year, however, the second chart makes it clear that romance was my second most-read genre–because many of the fantasies and mysteries were also romances, or had romance as a secondary element.

genre chart over time

You can see how my reading mood shifts over time.

I don’t have fiction, or straight non-fiction on here, because I don’t read enough of either to do anything but make the chart even more confusing than it already is.

There should have been more comics on there, but I’ve been reading some web comics, and haven’t read the physical books I got myself. (I read Cursed Princess Club and The Doctors are Out weekly as they come out. Lore Olympus is constant cliffhangers, so I’m waiting for it to finish. I also have a pile of graphic novels to read, and am hoping to get to them over the holiday break.)

Here are this years favorite books by genre:

Fantasy       Mystery       Romance       Science Fiction       Audio Books      

 

Authors

Ages and ages ago (back when I was reading mostly fantasy and mystery) I started to make an effort to read more female authors. Back then, an author publishing under their initials and last name was usually a woman who wrote in a male dominated market (sword & sorcery or police procedurals FREX). There were a few men who wrote under initials because their market or segment of the market was female dominated, but mostly not in genres I read.

authors chart

You can see that shift, as well as the bigger jump when I read more romance.

I’ve continued to try and broaden my reading, looking for POC and Queer characters. It is harder to categorize authors here, because until someone’s bio states they are queer (ie, ” the author and her wife”) it’s not up to me or anyone else to say if someone is queer or not. Nor do I want to judge if someone is a POC just from looking at their picture (see: Tobias Buckell). So I mostly focus on the characters.

Character chart: POC

Secondary characters need to pass a version of the Bechdel Test to qualify as such.

While on the subject, I’d like to highlight something I’ve started seeing more frequently and really love.

a hefty-looking white woman with sharp blue eyes

He was a white man, looked to be in his fifties, with thinning brown hair cut short, regular features, pale gray eyes

Phillip was a young-looking forty-year-old white man with black hair and light brown eyes.

She was a tall, hippy white woman

It turned out to be a white woman in late middle age

typical London office jockeys, mostly white, mostly from affluent suburbs

The nervous young white man with floppy hair who served as receptionist

a small white woman in a gray zip-up hoody.

a teenaged white girl dressed incongruously in a blue knit twinset and pearls and a blond pageboy wig.

“Hallo, darling,” said a white person with an androgynous face, blue-black hair, and a raven perched on their shoulder.

Above are all descriptions from Ben Aarnonvitch‘s Amongst Our Weapons, but he does that throughout the Rivers of London series.

If a book is set in a metropolis or urban area–especially in the US or UK–white shouldn’t be the “default setting”. As I live in a rural, predominantly white, American state, I love regular reminders that the rest of the world doesn’t look like where I live, and love reading about people whose life experiences are not my own.

Character Chart: Queeer

 

Format

Once I got an eReader, paper books quickly became a thing of the past. Although I prefer paper for cookbooks and graphic novels, in almost every other category I prefer digital format.

And although I’ve listened to audio books since the late 1990s, having books on my phone instead of having to carry a walkman (cassette or CD type) makes audio books so much easier.

book type and reread chart

I’ll go back and forth between listening to podcasts and audio books, but it’s been audio books over podcasts for the past couple years.

Additionally, audio books and rereads are tied together, since I almost never listen to a fiction audio book I have not previously read.

You can also tell from a glance at that chart what years have been difficult, by the percent of rereads.

Why, yes, 2023 has been a particularly horrible year, how’d you guess?

I’ve mentioned elsewhere that one of the reasons I only listen to audio books I’ve previously read is because I only allow myself to listen to audio books while I am on my feet; exercising, cleaning, cooking: I have to be moving around.

Listening time vs pages read 2023

That huge spike in November is when I was going through the boxes we brought from my parent’s house.

It was a very large and very difficult task, and the audio books allowed me to get through it, since they distracted my brain from why I was doing what I was doing so I could figure out what to do with the stuff and clear out the stacks of boxes crowding my basement.

 

Re-Reads

As I already noted, I did a lot of re-reading this year.

Most of my mental processing power went to dealing with my mother’s death, being her executor, and selling my parent’s house. There were a lot of books I considered but didn’t even try to read, regardless of how much I wanted to.

So I thought it would be interesting to look at what I’ve read the most.

Because of the way my book log is set up, I don’t have the titles of the books I read prior to 2020 in a spreadsheet. I can get the read times for an individual title easily, but there is no way to dump that information into a spreadsheet. But starting 2020 when I began using the Book Riot Reading Log, I do have that information, so I compiled it and pulled out the following information.

2023 rereads

Most read authors, 2020-2023

Every author on that list has at least one book I’ve re-read.

I also figured out the books I’ve re-read the most since 2020–the books I reached for when I couldn’t focus and was miserable & desperate for a distraction.

Romance, romance, romance, Murderbot.

I think that pretty much sums up my 2023 in reading.

 

Some Final Numbers

2023 reading challenge

  • Total: 221
  • Average: 18.4
  • Min: 9
  • Max: 27
  • MidYear: 117

The 221 is the correct number; I believe the Goodreads total has at least one DNF. But my spreadsheets work out (there are two DNFs in the Book Riot Spreadsheet, that I don’t count in my other spreadsheet) so it’s all fine.

Midyear was the same as last year, but I had a LOT going on this summer and fall, so it’s hardly a surprise I read fewer books in the second half of 2023.

total books read over time

Type of book and rereads. I’ve mentioned before that I almost never listen to a fiction book I haven’t previous read, so you can see how when I listen to a lot of audio books I have more rereads.

2023 book type by month

And finally, the spaghetti chart.

Spaghetti chart

Previous Roundups

If you’d like to browse previous yearly roundups, here is the full list.

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