What I Read in 2023

2023 is the tenth year of sharing my reading list. (The blog is also turning 15(!). I am…aging.

Here are the prior years: 2022, 2021202020192018201720162015, and 2014.

  1. The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F-ck by Mark Manson (I read Will last year, which Manson co-wrote and which was interesting if a bit ego-driven ((and falls a bit flatter in hindsight after the Oscars)), but then heard Manson on the Tim Ferriss podcast and thought I would revisit this original extremely best selling book.)
  2. Atomic Habits (why not, it’s basically a tradition now)
  3. The Practicing Stoic by Ward Farnsworth
  4. Charlie Munger: The Complete Investor by Tren Griffin
  5. Manhood for Amateurs by Michael Chabon (a memoir/musings on being a son/husband/father by a truly excellent author. He is, in his stories, both similar and very different than what I would have expected.
  6. Humankind: A Hopeful History by Rutger Bregman
  7. Build by Tony Fadell (a handbook for people who want to build (companies that make) things. Makes working at a large tech firm sound pretty unpleasant. Discussed here in “On Building.”
  8. The Leftovers by Tom Perrotta
  9. The Sudden Appearance of Hope by Claire North (not unlike the also enjoyable The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab)
  10. The Grid by Gretchen Bakke (summary: our infrastructure is old and bad)
  11. Lives of the Stoics by Ryan Holiday
  12. A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K Le Guin (one of my all time favorite books in my youth. The new YA-friendly covers are super lame though).
  13. Good Arguments by Bo Seo (parts stronger than others, much more memoir than handbook and probably worse for it).
  14. Blue Ocean Strategy by W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne (Over 4 million copies sold, with the message that companies make more money by creating new markets than fighting over preexisting ones. Creative > Combative.)
  15. The Innovator’s Dilemma by Clayton Christensen (Disruption is inevitable, and the incumbents are not well suited to seeing it coming)
  16. How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy by Jenny Odell (I can’t remember where I saw this recommended, but I liked the cover. Unfortunately, it was a dry slog).
  17. Leave the World Behind by Rumaan Alam (wow, depressing, was particularly successful as a Covid summer novel back in 2020)
  18. Prelude to Foundation by Isaac Asimov (I read a couple of the Foundation books as a kid but decided to return this year to restart and then finish the series. Prelude was actually written decades after the original Foundation triology)
  19. Before and after the Book Deal by Courtney Maum (maybe wishful thinking for someone who hasn’t finished a book in five years)
  20. Stillness is the Key by Ryan Holiday
  21. Courage is Calling by Ryan Holiday (okay, I think that’s enough of that).
  22. Good to Great by Jim Collins (one of those business books that gets pillaged for content and reference all the time. It has quotable ideas like hedgehogs versus foxes! The flywheel! Good to finally read it.)
  23. Foundation by Isaac Asimov
  24. Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro (Slow-burn grounded near-future sci-fi, a master class in understated world-building.)
  25. Foundation and Empire by Isaac Asimov
  26. A Field Guide to Lies by Daniel J. Levitin
  27. Factfulness by Hans Rosling (finally read this one, which I purchased way back in 2018 when it was published. Further discussion in my post, “The Negativity Tendency.”)
  28. I Hate the Ivy League by Malcolm Gladwell (Okay this was an audiobook-only collection thingie, but I really enjoyed it so I’m including it here. Higher education is so dumb)
  29. Discipline is Destiny by Ryan Holiday (this was actually kind of inspiring!)
  30. The City We Became by NK Jemisin (unusual, perhaps singular premise. But. Sorta meh? The reviews are very good, so it’s probably just me. I don’t think it holds a candle to the Hugo-award-winning Broken Earth Trilogy.)
  31. The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro (perhaps a little plodding, but it also really, really gave me the feels).
  32. Second Foundation by Isaac Asimov
  33. Shoe Dog by Phil Knight
  34. The Candy House by Jennifer Egan (really good, stylistically wide-ranging near-future speculative novel, made a bunch of best-of lists in 2022 when it came out)
  35. The Cold Start Problem by Andrew Chen (a look at/framework for network effects, mostly through the lens of recent unicorn tech start-ups)
  36. Refuse to be Done by Matt Bell (I don’t know Matt, but he did nicely reject a short story I wrote many years ago for a magazine he was editing. Note: Despite reading this book, I have not written a novel.)
  37. Becoming Trader Joe by Joe Coulombe (there’s something that feels a bit off about these mega-CEO memoirs written by professional ghostwriters)
  38. The World We Make (Great Cities #2) by NK Jemisin
  39. Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro (wow, gothic dark academia with a slow British twist. This is the book Ishiguro won the Nobel prize for.)
  40. Foundation’s Edge by Isaac Asimov
  41. Forward the Foundation by Isaac Asimov
  42. Foundation and Earth by Isaac Asimov
  43. Shape by Jordan Ellenberg
  44. The Tombs of Atuan by Ursula K Le Guin
  45. Tower of the Noobs by Ryan Rimmel (#7)
  46. Singularity by Jeremy Robinson (Infinity Timeline #13)(A bit of a goofy letdown for the conclusion)
  47. He Who Fights with Monsters 9 by Travis Deverell
  48. The Farthest Shore by Ursula K Le Guin
  49. Utopia for Realists by Rutger Bregman (brief reference here way back in 2019)
  50. Impromptu by Reid Hoffman (discussed in my post “Prompting Equity”)
  51. How Long ’til Black Future Month by NK Jamisin (a somewhat unusual title for a collection of short stories. Her novels are much stronger).
  52. How High We Go in the Dark (Heavy. Just super heavy. The beginning was one of the most affecting things I’ve read in a while).
  53. The Second Mountain by David Brooks
  54. Real Artists Don’t Starve by Jeff Goins (did you know Michelangelo was super rich?)
  55. To Hold Up the Sky by Cixin Liu (the last story, “The Thinker,” was lovely; most of the others fall flat. Short stories really are a different beast than novels.
  56. The Power of Regret by Daniel H. Pink (I think this was actually a helpful perspective. Gave me the nudge to reach out and reconnect with some old friends).
  57. Smarter Faster Better by Charles Duhigg
  58. Give and Take by Adam Grant (I’ve heard the language used here so often that it seems the message of the book has been widely internalized. I don’t know if the addition of a bunch of anecdotes makes a difference to me?)
  59. Drive by Daniel Pink (motivation = autonomy, mastery, and purpose).
  60. A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik (Harry Potter meets Hunger Games)
  61. A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine (Hugo Award winner in 2020, super ambitious space opera)
  62. When by Daniel Pink
  63. This is How You Lose the Time War (like many people, I read this book because of a massively viral tweet from an anime fan account. What a world we live in.)
  64. Originals by Adam Grant
  65. The Last Graduate by Naomi Novik (Scholomance #2)
  66. The Golden Enclaves by Naomi Novik (Scholomance #3)
  67. Waybound by Will Wight (Cradle 12, the conclusion).
  68. To Sell is Human by Daniel Pink
  69. When We Cease to Understand the World by Benjamin Labatut (fictional short stories of real-life scientists, a description that doesn’t capture how singular this book feels)
  70. Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin (I loved this. It captures memories of the video games of my childhood and Harvard to boot. Delightful. So good! Just great.)
  71. How to Be an Epicurean by Catherine Wilson (surprisingly thin in actual Epicurean philosophy, if you ask me).
  72. In the House Upon the Dirt Between the Lake and the Woods by Matt Bell
  73. Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie (people say that science fiction tells the story of the present through the lens of an imagined future. This book feels very topical.)
  74. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel (I originally thought this was an extremely good somewhat topical Covid-era take on a pandemic Armageddon, but it was actually written before)
  75. City of Brass by S.A. Chakraborty
  76. The Spear Cuts Through Water by Simon Jimenez (so lyrical)
  77. Shattersoul (Ripple System #4) by Kyle Kirrin
  78. Legends and Lattes by Travis Baldree (the Stardew Valley of high fantasy)
  79. Wool by Hugh Howey
  80. Dust by Hugh Howey
  81. Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir
  82. Starter Villain by John Scalzi (I consistently enjoy Scalzi’s books.)
  83. Dune by Frank Herbert (return to re-read after 20+ years)
  84. Snowcrash by Neal Stephenson (the mostly insane cyberpunk book that brought us the term metaverse in 1992. I will say his writing style is stronger in his more recent books like Seveneves and Termination Shock or even Fall).
  85. Wonderbook by Jeff VanderMeer
  86. The Pathless Path (blog-post core of content with a personal story that didn’t add much for me personally. Contains some well-selected quotes from other sources though.)
  87. Sea of Tranquility by Emily St. John Mandel (her prose is always lyrical and immersive and yet never overbearing. Also, I like this cover).
  88. Tress of the Emerald Sea by Brandon Sanderson (Sanderson secretely wrote 4 unrelated novels in one year during Covid, which he then published via the most successful Kickstarter [“Secret Projects”] of all time.)
  89. Bookshops and Bonedust by Travis Baldree (Legends & Latte sequel but really prequel)
  90. Retribution (#10) by TurtleMe
  91. All Systems Red by Martha Wells (Murderbot Diaries #1, bunch of awards in 2018. Very good.)
  92. Writing Irresistible Kidlit by Mary Kole (I have an idea…)
  93. Same as Ever by Morgan Housel (the spiritual sequel to The Psychology of Money)
  94. Defiant by Brandon Sanderson (Skyward #4, the conclusion)
  95. The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro (his Nobel Prize-winner, though I’ll admit I enjoyed Klara and Never Let Me Go more)
  96. The Gunslinger by Stephen King (I started King’s high fantasy series when I was in high school but never finished).
  97. The Frugal Wizard’s Handbook for Surviving Medieval England by Brandon Sanderson (Secret Projects #2)
  98. He Who Fights with Monsters 10 by Travis Deverell
  99. The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu (I didn’t know anything going into this Hugo-award winning super popular novel from China, but it’s something.)

I read a lot of science fiction this year, more than usual. And some of the world-building in these gems was just absolutely outstanding.

Books…what a gift.


Sanjay 12.30.23 Reply

Hi Ben
Is the Tx JP guide available in book format or only online access. Is that enough to pass the Tx JP exam


Ben 12.31.23 Reply

It’s digital only (but not just online). The PDF is printable. And yes, it’s enough to pass.

Sam 01.14.24 Reply

How do you read so much?!?

Seems like a great list. I hope to make time for 10 of these this year.

If you like Sanderson, try Wheel of Time, Robert Jordan.
Amazon series on it is a disgrace, it’s just too frenetic of a TV series to appreciate such a detailed book series

Ben 01.14.24 Reply

There’s audiobooks thrown in here too, but I read every day, and I don’t really watch TV.

The Wheel of Time may be my very favorite series of all time. Certainly was during my formative years. I first read The Eye of the World in middle school. It’s actually how I first discovered Sanderson when all he’d published was Elantris.

The TV show is super weak, it’s like someone tried to string together a bunch of trailers instead of the real story.

Gene 01.15.24 Reply

Hi Ben, great blog and book lists! If you had to pick 2-3 nonfiction from recent years, where would you start?

Ben 01.15.24 Reply

I suppose that depends if we’re talking more narrative nonfiction vs pop-psych vs personal development/business/etc, but here are four very different nonfiction books I read recently that I thought were excellent.

– Man’s Search for Meaning
– Noise (note: not exactly a page-turner)
– Four Thousand Weeks
– Psychology of Money

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