Yay! 🎉 I met my 2023 Goodreads Reading Challenge by reading 52 books this past year. Yes, I am an avid reader, but even by my standards, that was quite a feat! When I think back to all that 2023 brought me – a move from Morgan Hill to Oakland; looking for, finding, and starting a new teaching position; and completing my 200-hour yoga certification – I can’t believe that I found this much time to read. Commuting the last six weeks of the 2023 school year helped since I was able to listen to audio books on the drive (3ish hours each day). With such a year, I am surprised that I was able to meet my goal – albeit finishing it on December 31, 2023. So today, I am sharing a list of really good books for you to check out!
This past year, I tried to search out and read books that represent many different characters and lives lived. I also sought BIPOC authors to help broaden my reading list. I truly love reading, and I love how through a novel I can experience the lives of others. 📚 I found many new authors that I have really enjoyed reading.
Some books were short and some were long; some light-hearted and some very, very dark; most were prose and a couple of were poetic. Most all of the books made me think, wonder, and question.
If you’re interested, the following books rated five stars in my mind.
A List of Really Good Books for You!
Council of Dolls by Mona Susan Powers – This story is a three generational story told by Dakota women. The story is in part told through the dolls each girl carried with them through their early years. The story speaks to the generational trauma of the Indian boarding schools and of the massacres of indigenous people. A beautiful story that brings much of our hidden history to light.
Fourth Wing by Rebecca Yarros – this book seems to be on everyone’s must read list! Even if you are not a reader of fantasy – I highly recommend this story of dragon riders. Yes, this story takes place in a school where teenagers go to be trained to fight and to fly dragons. Fourth Wing is full of magic and suspense. The story is very engaging with great characters, the fight for survival, and a few plot twists along the way.
Remarkably Bright Creatures: A Novel by Shelby Van Pelt – One of my favorites this past year! It is a feel-good, quick read. One of the main characters is an octopus living in a local aquarium that knows exactly how many days he has to live. An astute observer, he has to try to get the humans to see what he knows before he dies. This is a coming of age story and highlights the power of love and family. It is a story of being lost and then found.
Perfect Peace by Daniel Black – This story is about a large rural family living in the south. When the last child was born, the seventh son in the family, the mom Emma Jean decides to raise this child named Perfect as a girl. Emma Jean was able to keep this secret until Perfect turned eight and the truth become known. What I loved about this story was the many different and vivid characters in the family. They all become known to the reader. I found myself absorbed in all of their wantings, dealings with life, and cheering for their success.
Red at the Bone by Jacqueline Woodson – I love Jacqueline Woodson’s writing for children. She is a gifted storyteller, and I love her lyrical writing style. This was the first adult book of hers that I have read, and her writing did not disappoint. This is a multi-generational, coming of age story – but it also brings to light the experiences of the past – the pull of family history as one tries to move forward in life. It had me thinking about the long lasting affects (financial and emotional) and of the generational wealth that was wiped out by the Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921.
In the Time of Our History by Susanne Pari – A young Persian-American woman is at odds with her family’s traditions and ways of life. Strong-willed Mitra is banned from the family after rebelling against her father. She returns home after her sister’s death and the family tries to find reconciliation. This story is full of Persian culture and traditions. I love learning of about the foods, celebrations, and traditions woven into the story of a strong, smart woman making choices to live her life on her own terms.
Yellowface by R. F. Kuang – Wow, this story had a lot going on! It starts with a bang when a young Asian-American writer chokes to death on pancakes. No, this is not a spoiler alert – it happens right away. The story is the aftermath when her friend, a young white author, steals the dead author’s manuscript and publishes it as her own. This novel moves quickly and covers such topics as the power of social media, cultural appropriation, white privilege, and how one reckons with the truth.
Set My Heart to Five by Simon Stephenson – I recommend this book to everyone – it is light and fun. A laugh out loud experience! This is the story of a bot that begins to experience human emotions. While this book is light and fun, you can dig deeper into it to look at the human experience. Meaning, why do humans act and behave as they do? From a Bot’s perspective, human choices do not make a lot of sense.
Finding Me by Viola Davis – A masterpiece memoir. I am amazed at the level of trauma Viola experienced as a child, and that she was able to overcome. Her life is a testament to being focused and working hard. She is truly an inspiration. This story travels not only through her childhood but through her life as a women and her career. It is a story about how she came to terms with her past ,and how she choose to move forward.
Nightcrawling by Leila Motley. I choose to read this book because I moved to Oakland. This young author grew up in and set her novel in Oakland, CA. Ms. Motley began writing this book when she was only 16 years old and Nigthcrawling was published when she was 20. The story is about a young girl trying to find ways to pay the rent and keep a roof over her head. It speaks to the choices available and the ways one navigates life in such a situation. This story is dark and heart-breaking – a reality that many of us look away and isolate ourselves from. Leila Motley is a gifted writer, and I look forward to reading more of her work.
More Great Titles that I Loved this Past Year
- The Wedding Dress by Carrie Young
- Bossy Pants by Tina Fey
- Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo
- House of Sand and Fog by Andres Dubus
- Not a Genuine Black Man by Brian Copeland
- Someone Else’s Shoes by JoJo Moyes
- The Guncle by Steven Rowley
- Atlas of the Heart: Mapping Meaningful Connection and the Language of Human Experience by Brene Brown
- Remedy by John Roedel
- Magic Hour by Kristin Hannah
I’m off to a great start for my 2024 Reading Challenge. This year I choose to read 40 books. Yes, a step down – but I can get a bit obsessive. So 40 is my goal for this year. I just wrapped up my fourth book of 2024.