Tuesday, November 21, 2023

Best Reads of 2023

I concede that a year's-best posting before Thanksgiving might seem, well, early. OTOH: Supply-chain woes. Labor shortages. Postal/UPS/FedEx slowdowns. Not to mention the countless stores that had up Christmas displays well before Halloween. Especially if you (or your reading giftees) prefer material in paper and ink, you may want to undertake your holiday shopping sooner rather than later. In any event, Black Friday and Cyber Monday will soon be upon us. At some stores/e-stores, they somehow already are.

If you find none of that convincing? The way 2023 has been, surely anything meriting the label "best" is welcome. Distraction via the books that follow certainly helped me cope. Not to mention that if ever there were a year to support one's favorite authors, 2023 (again! sigh) is it. So: on to the latest installment of this annual feature. 

As always, I read a lot: as research, keeping current with the genre in which I write, and simply for enjoyment. Before the annual holiday shopping onslaught, I've taken to volunteering a few words about the most notable books from my reading (and sometimes re-reading) thus far in the current year. FWIW, this is my twelfth such compilation. 

When I name a book, you can be certain I really enjoyed it and/or found it very useful. Life's too short to gripe about books I didn't find notable (much less the several I elected not to finish). Presuming that you visit SF and Nonsense because you appreciate my assessment of things, you might find, in what follows, books you (and like-minded friends, relatives, etc.) will also enjoy. Unless otherwise indicated, the dates shown are for original publication. Titles of recommendations are Amazon links, often to newer editions than the original publication (and to Kindle editions, where available).

What's impressed me so far this year? Read on ....

Science Fiction

The Starflower
(2023), K. A. Kenny. This intricately plotted debut novel is part post-apocalyptic, part grand space opera, part military SF -- and wholly original. It comes to a very satisfying conclusion while leaving the door open to the sequel hinted at in the author note. 

The Apollo Murders (2021), Chris Hadley. Page-turning alternate history and murder in an Apollo mission, by an actual NASA astronaut. Reminiscent of a favorite of mine from last year, retired NASA scientist Alan Smale's Hot Moon
Influx (2014), Daniel Suarez. A dystopic -- and yet, somehow, not depressing -- near-future thriller. Who knew that the discovery of antigravity could be a bad thing? (Interesting side note: Dictionary.com disbelieves dystopic is a word.) 

A Trace of Memory
 (1963), Keith Laumer. Rollicking Earth and space adventure with one of my favorite antiheroes. Plus a tie-in (which I won't give away with a spoiler) to myth. I reread this every few years and always enjoy it.

General Fiction

The Nightingale Affair
 (2023), Tim Mason. Clever mystery set mainly in Istanbul during the Crimean War. The detective and main character has returned from a 2020 favorite novel (The Darwin Affair), but the stories are independent. 


The Possibility of Life: Science, Imagination, and Our Quest for Kinship in the Cosmos
(2023, Jaime Green. The title/subtitle pretty much says it all. Eminently readable.

The French and Indian War: Deciding the Fate of North America
(2006) and 1812: The War that Forged a Nation (2004), both by Walter R. Borneman. Having lived on the East Coast for almost thirty years, I couldn't not be interested in the events that shaped the region and the country. But beyond informative, these two history books are grippingly well written. (Curiously, while Borneman has also written about the start of the intervening Revolutionary War, he hasn't (yet?) done a book about the entire war.)

Something, IMO, for most everyone ...

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