Reading Log: 2023

This page is a quick list collection of what I’ve read this year. Books are listed in order of completion, not a ranking.

  1. Under The Bar, by Dave Tate
  2. City of Thieves, by David Benioff
  3. The Rule of Three, by Louie Simmons
  4. The Short Stories of Breece D’J” Pancake
  5. The Vertical Diet, by Stan Efferding
  6. Suttree, by Cormac McCarthy
  7. Stuff Every Beer Snob Should Know, by Ellen Goldstein
  8. Can’t Hurt Me, by David Goggins
  9. Stan Lee’s Alliances: A New Reality, by Kat Rosenfield, Luke Lieberman, Ryan Silbert

10. I’ll Never Get Out of This World Alive, by Steve Earle

Doc Ebersole lives with the ghost of Hank Williams—not just in the figurative sense, not just because he was one of the last people to see him alive, and not just because he is rumored to have given Hank the final morphine dose that killed him. In 1963, ten years after Hank’s death, Doc himself is wracked by addiction. Having lost his license to practice medicine, his morphine habit isn’t as easy to support as it used to be. So he lives in a rented room in the red-light district on the south side of San Antonio, performing abortions and patching up the odd knife or gunshot wound. But when Graciela, a young Mexican immigrant, appears in the neighborhood in search of Doc’s services, miraculous things begin to happen. Graciela sustains a wound on her wrist that never heals, yet she heals others with the touch of her hand. Everyone she meets is transformed for the better, except, maybe, for Hank’s angry ghost—who isn’t at all pleased to see Doc doing well.  A brilliant excavation of an obscure piece of music history, Steve Earle’s I’ll Never Get Out of This World Alive is also a marvelous novel in its own right, a ballad of regret and redemption, and of the ways in which we remake ourselves and our world through the smallest of miracles.–Goodreads.

This was…really good. I know I’m a Steve Earle fan boy, but I swear this one holds up on its own merits. Similar thematically to Mercy Street, which I reviewed last year, I enjoyed this one more.

11. Songs That Shook The Planet: Words + Music Vol. 26, by Chuck D

Hip-hop pioneer Chuck D, the legendary lyricist and cofounder of Public Enemy, takes listeners on an extraordinary journey through politically and socially conscious music. Part history lesson and part memoir, Songs That Shook the Planet spans genres and decades to call out the brave artists who continue to inspire necessary change in the world.

Songs included: Strange Fruit, People Get Ready, A Change Is Gonna Come, War, What’s Going On?, Living For The City, Get Up Stand Up, Nelson Mandela.

I have enjoyed the selections from the T Bone Burnett-led series on audible I have listened to so far. More podcast than book, Chuck D takes us through some of the songs that meant the most within his world.

12. The Violent Bear It Away, by Flannery O’Connor.


First published in 1960, The Violent Bear It Away is a landmark in American literature―a dark and absorbing example of the Gothic sensibility and bracing satirical voice that are united in Flannery O’Connor’s work.
In this, O’Connor’s second novel, the orphaned Francis Marion Tarwater and his cousin, the schoolteacher Rayber, defy the prophecy of their dead uncle that Tarwater will become a prophet and baptize Rayber’s young son, Bishop. A series of struggles ensues, as Tarwater fights an internal battle against his innate faith and the voices calling him to be a prophet while Rayber tries to draw Tarwater into a more “reasonable” modern world. Both wrestle with the legacy of their dead relative and lay claim to Bishop’s soul. All this is observed by O’Connor with an astonishing combination of irony and compassion, humor and pathos.

Review: I stopped reading this one on a couple of occasions, struggling to get through the first half. I think that might have been as much the audio performance as the written work. Accents and trouble distinguishing which characters were speaking. I file this under the same realm of Pliny The Elder IPA and Michael Jordan. Probably incredible for the time they came out, but better within the same realm have come since, so if you were exposed to those first, it is tough for them to hold up.

13. Project Hail Mary, by Andy Weir.


Ryland Grace is the sole survivor on a desperate, last-chance mission—and if he fails, humanity and the earth itself will perish. Except that right now, he doesn’t know that. He can’t even remember his own name, let alone the nature of his assignment or how to complete it. All he knows is that he’s been asleep for a very, very long time. And he’s just been awakened to find himself millions of miles from home, with nothing but two corpses for company. His crewmates dead, his memories fuzzily returning, Ryland realizes that an impossible task now confronts him. Hurtling through space on this tiny ship, it’s up to him to puzzle out an impossible scientific mystery—and conquer an extinction-level threat to our species. And with the clock ticking down and the nearest human being light-years away, he’s got to do it all alone. Or does he?

Review: This was…fun. For a nerd, I do not read a ton of space sci-fi. But this one won a bunch of awards, coming off Weir’s The Martian success. It had plenty of nerdy science problem solving, but done in a way that makes it easy to digest even if you don’t understand the science behind why problems are getting solved. It also had a morality twist or two for the protagonist. I also have a feeling this is one that is better as an audiobook because of the (spoiler alert!) language development stuff. Would recommend to nerd friends, and even tell non nerds not to be scared off from it. Plus, hey, a Ryan Gosling movie is coming, so…

14. If This Isn’t Nice, What Is?, by Kurt Vonnegut.

A collection of commencement speeches and other wit and wisdom from the New York Times–bestselling literary icon and author of Slaughterhouse-Five. Master storyteller and satirist Kurt Vonnegut was one of the most in-demand commencement speakers of his time. For each occasion, Vonnegut’s words were unfailingly insightful and witty, and they stayed with audience members long after graduation. This expanded third edition also includes more than sixty pages of further thoughts from Vonnegut (whose good advice wasn’t limited to graduation speeches). Edited by Dan Wakefield, this book reads like a narrative in the unique voice that made Vonnegut a hero to readers everywhere. Hilarious, razor-sharp, freewheeling, and at times deeply serious, these reflections are ideal not just for graduates but for anyone undergoing what Vonnegut would call their “long-delayed puberty ceremony”—marking the long and challenging passage to full-time adulthood.

Review: This a quick read. Vonnegut had a wit and humor to him that I greatly appreciate. This book collects a few of his speeches. Several of the subjects and jokes are repeated time and again, but it is still worth the short amount of time it takes to read.

15. Finding Balance in a Digital World, By Doreen Dodgen-Magee

Blurb: How do you know if you’re spending too much time with your devices? Tech tools often enhance our lives and open up possibilities for innovation and connection that would be impossible without them. But constant stimulation from devices can also have harmful effects causing stress, depersonalizing interactions, and impacting productivity. So how do you break technology habits you’ve come to rely on throughout the day to stay connected, both professionally and socially? Psychologist Doreen Dodgen-Magee shows how to get the most out of technology while letting go of harmful habits and forming positive new behaviors in their place. From creating tech-free zones to clarifying your values and being fully present for your commitments, Dodgen-Magee’s techniques will change how you engage with your devices so you reach for them more purposefully. You’ll learn how to lose the distractions and intentionally form healthy patterns—habits that actually help you achieve your goals.

Review: This was more podcast/interview than “book”, at just 37 minutes. But it was a quick reminder of the skills we are and are not developing in the an age with constant access to a screen.

16. Old Man’s War, by John Scalzi

Blurb: Perfect for an entry-level sci-fi reader and the ideal addition to a veteran fan’s collection, John Scalzi’s Old Man’s War will take audiences on a heart-stopping adventure into the far corners of the universe. John Perry did two things on his 75th birthday. First he visited his wife’s grave. Then he joined the army. The good news is that humanity finally made it into interstellar space. The bad news is that planets fit to live on are scarce―and alien races willing to fight us for them are common. So: we fight. To defend Earth, and to stake our own claim to planetary real estate. Far from Earth, the war has been going on for decades: brutal, bloody, unyielding. Earth itself is a backwater. The bulk of humanity’s resources are in the hands of the Colonial Defense Force. Everybody knows that when you reach retirement age, you can join the CDF. They don’t want young people; they want people who carry the knowledge and skills of decades of living. You’ll be taken off Earth and never allowed to return. You’ll serve two years at the front. And if you survive, you’ll be given a generous homestead stake of your own, on one of our hard-won colony planets. John Perry is taking that deal. He has only the vaguest idea what to expect. Because the actual fight, light-years from home, is far, far harder than he can imagine―and what he will become is far stranger.

Review: This was a pick from the book club I am in: A Book, A Beer, A Brotherhood. I did not realize going in this was another sci-fi book, so reading it right after Project Hail Mary was pure happenstance. I will say I liked PHM better, but this was still enjoyable. It is an interesting premise setup: using soldiers with a lifetime of experience. Although it did not feel like they explored how that helped them as much as I liked. There was an interesting conversation on what they missed about being “human” that most that led to putting the book down and getting philosophical in my own head for a while. Old Man’s War was the first of a series of books. Our club has not had our discussion on it yet. I’ll be curious to hear others thoughts on this before I decide if I continue on with the series. Again, remember my To Read list is perpetually out of hand. I have too many damn interests.

17. The Drunken Botanist: The Plants That Create The World’s Great Drinks, by Amy Stewart

Blurb: Every great drink starts with a plant. Sake began with a grain of rice. Scotch emerged from barley. Gin was born from a conifer shrub when a Dutch physician added oil of juniper to a clear spirit, believing that juniper berries would cure kidney disorders. “The Drunken Botanist” uncovers the enlightening botanical history and the fascinating science and chemistry of over 150 plants, flowers, trees, and fruits (and even one fungus).

Review: My friend Dena recommended this one to me, as she knows I’m a bit of a nerd and more than a bit of a drinker. I did not love the audiobook, but with some caveats. I listen mostly at 1.5-1.7x speed most days. I tend to only do a chapter or two a day. This book does not lend itself to this format. It is more of a reference book than a narrative one. That being said, I was interested in the subject matter, but think I would have preferred having this as physical read over a sped-up audio version. It is just to info rich and my retention skills were no match consuming it that way. But, apparently I mentioned that I would like to have this on hand for reference often enough my wife bought me a copy. Or, who knows, she may have just wanted to fresh cocktails. There are plenty of recipes to try and now I can easily reference them.

Also, to those who played my trivia contest a few weeks back, be glad I read this after the fact, as the alcohol category would have been much harder.

18. Marvel Super-Heroes Secret Wars (1984), by Mike Zeck.

Blurb: Drawn from Earth across the stars, the Marvel Universe’s greatest villains and heroes are set against one another by the mysterious and unbelievably powerful Beyonder, with the winner promised the ultimate prize. But as battle lines are drawn, new alliances forged and old enemies clash, one among them is not willing to settle for anything less than godhood. Can even the combined might of the Avengers, Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four and the X-Men prevent Dr. Doom from becoming the most powerful being in the universe? Collecting MARVEL SUPER HEROES SECRET WARS #1-12.

Review: Yes, I’m counting this as a book as it was a 12-issue-long event. Secret Wars was released in 1984, largely in an attempt to drive a new toy line, but hey, it became one of the bigger event stories in Marvel history at the time. It was later redone in 2015 and that version is considered top tier storyline. This version has the 80s cheesiness in ample portions, like seemingly half the issues having one character or another tried to get laid. Then again, if I’m facing certain death, I might do the same. So, you do you, Magneto. I am a Doom guy, and this one let Doom do most of the heavy lifting as the villain, so I always appreciate that.

Shooting for 23 books in 2023.
* The picture header is one of my actual bookshelves. Want to know a person? Look at the books they read.


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