40 Books in 2023


I read 40 books in 2023. It was a banner year for celebrity memoirs, as well as heavy nonfiction that left me feeling largely doomed. But there were a few bright spots as well. Book covers in the graphic above are arranged from favorite (top left) to least favorite (bottom right). Below are some mini-reviews for a couple of my favorites. You can also see my favorite reads from previous years here: 2022, 2021, 2020, 2019, 2018, 20152014, 2013, 2012, and 2011.

Best Books of 2023

an immense world book cover green background with monkey's face looking up 1. An Immense World: by Ed Yong. 5/5 book review A guided tour through the sensory worlds of other animals. Sure, you’ll learn plenty of fun facts about animal senses, but more than that, you’ll gain an awareness of your own limitations and possibilities as a human being on this earth. Science writing at its best. Clear, imaginative, eye-opening.

“Nothing can sense everything, and nothing needs to. That is why Umwelten exist at all. It is also why the act of contemplating the Umwelt of another creature is so deeply human and so utterly profound. Our senses filter in what we need. We must choose to learn about the rest.”

“People often assume that pain feels the same across the entire animal kingdom, but that is not true. Much like color, it is inherently subjective and surprisingly variable. Just as wavelengths of light aren’t universally red or blue, and odors aren’t universally fragrant or pungent, nothing is universally painful, not even chemicals in scorpion venom that specifically evolved to inflict pain.”

“But unlike touch, hearing can operate over long distances. Unlike vision, hearing functions in darkness and through solid, opaque barriers. Unlike the vibrational sense from the previous chapter, hearing doesn’t need a surface and can work through all-encompassing media like air or water. And unlike smell, which is limited by the slow diffusion of molecules, hearing works at the considerably faster speed of sound. Some senses have a few of these qualities, but hearing has them all, which is why some animals rely so heavily upon it. William Stebbins once encapsulated this beautifully: ‘Very different from other forms of stimulation, [sound] can impart information on current events at an unseen distance,’ he wrote.

tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow book cover with rainbow letters over an illustrated wave in the background2. Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin. 5/5 book review Really lovely tale about friendship, connection, and videogame creation. Not a combination I would’ve necessarily thought to connect to, but it was captivating and immersive in such an earnest way.

“To allow yourself to play with another person is no small risk. It means allowing yourself to be open, to be exposed, to be hurt. It is the human equivalent of the dog rolling on its back—I know you won’t hurt me, even though you can. It is the dog putting its mouth around your hand and never biting down. To play requires trust and love.”

“On the night Sam went missing, it occurred to Sadie that nothing in life was as solid-state as it appeared. A childish game might be deadly. A friend might disappear. And as much as a person might try to shield herself from it, the possibility for the other outcome was always there. We are all living, at most, half of a life, she thought. There was the life that you lived, which consisted of the choices you made. And then, there was the other life, the one that was the things you hadn’t chosen. And sometimes, this other life felt as palpable as the one you were living.

3. Outlive by Peter Attia, MD. 4 star rating An important reframing on long-term health, or ‘healthspan’. The book goes down some narrow alleys it might not need to delve into so thoroughly, but my biggest takeaway is in thinking about health with long-term goals in mind, as in the “Centenarian Decathalon,” or the ten activities you want to be able to do for the rest of your life, which are then reverse-engineered into exercises that you should be able to do now in order to sustain those for life.

“Exercise is by far the most potent longevity “drug.” No other intervention does nearly as much to prolong our lifespan and preserve our cognitive and physical function. But most people don’t do nearly enough—and exercising the wrong way can do as much harm as good.”

“In Medicine 2.0, you are a passenger on the ship, being carried along somewhat passively. Medicine 3.0 demands much more from you, the patient: You must be well informed, medically literate to a reasonable degree, clear-eyed about your goals, and cognizant of the true nature of risk. You must be willing to change ingrained habits, accept new challenges, and venture outside of your comfort zone if necessary. You are always participating, never passive.

Do you see anything here that you loved or hated? Have you read any great books this year? I’d would love to hear your recommendations!