2023 in Review

Reading Stats

61 Books

20,992 Pages Read

Average length 346 pages

Average reading time 4 days

50 Fiction / 11 Non-Fiction

18 Fiction Anthologies

41 Novels

2 Non-Fiction Anthologies

5 Memoirs

4 Essay Collections

Top Ten Books in No Particular Order with links to my reviews

“Being Ace: An Anthology of Queer, Trans, Femme, and Disabled Stories of Asexual Love and Connection”
Edited by Madeline Dyer
Type: Fiction Anthology
“We Have Always Been Here: A Queer Muslim Memoir”
Written by Samra Habib
Type: Memoir
“The Thirty Names of Night”
Written by Zeyn Joukhadar
Type: Novel
“A Master of Djinn”
Written by P. Djèlí Clark
Type: Novel
“The Disordered Cosmos: A Journey Into Dark Matter, Spacetime, and Dreams Deferred”
Written by Chanda Prescod-Weinstein
Type: Essay Collection
“We Don’t Swim Here”
Written by Vincent Tirado
Type: Novel
“Four Hundred Souls: A Community History of African America, 1619-2019”
Edited by Ibram X. Kendi with Keisha N. Blain
Type: Non-Fiction Anthology
“Invisible Son”
Written by Kim Johnson
Type: Novel
“To Shape a Dragon’s Breath”
Written by Moniquill Blackgoose
Type: Novel
“The Free People’s Village”
Written by Sim Kern
Type: Novel

“A People’s Future of the United States” Review

The title of the book is written across the black cover - one word on each line in various colors. The names of the editors are at the bottom of the cover.Full Title “A People’s Future of the United States: Speculative Fiction from 25 Extraordinary Writers”
Edited by Victor LaValle and John Joseph Adams
Published by Random House Publishing Group, February 2019
432 pages
Completed December 24, 2023

In these tumultuous times, in our deeply divided country, many people are angry, frightened, and hurting. Knowing that imagining a brighter tomorrow has always been an act of resistance, editors Victor LaValle and John Joseph Adams invited an extraordinarily talented group of writers to share stories that explore new forms of freedom, love, and justice. They asked for narratives that would challenge oppressive American myths, release us from the chokehold of our history, and give us new futures to believe in.

They also asked that the stories be badass.

The result is this spectacular collection of twenty-five tales that blend the dark and the light, the dystopian and the utopian. These tales are vivid with struggle and hardship—whether it’s the othered and the terrorized, or dragonriders and covert commandos—but these characters don’t flee, they fight.

Thrilling, inspiring, and a sheer joy to read, A People’s Future of the United States is a gift for anyone who believes in our power to dream a just world.

This was a really dark and interesting anthology. All of the stories take a potential dystopian scenario and run with it. All of them involve marginalized and oppressed people becoming more so due to things that are already problems in this country. The book was published in 2019 so a lot of ideas come from the actions of then President Trump – only catastrophic for a lot of people. It’s interesting reading it now in 2023 knowing that things did in fact get worse because of the COVID Pandemic. And while we don’t have President Trump anymore, we’re will dealing with COVID and various other issues that that have developed. The stories all show how the various characters are fighting to survive against what has happened. All of the characters still have hope for a better future despite everything that has occurred.

“Invisible Son” Review

The cover is blue with streaks of purple and red. The face of a black teen is on the front with short black hair and headphones around his neck. His shoulders are seen but part of the blue of the cover. Written by Kim Johnson
Published by Random House Books for Young Readers, June 2023
416 pages
Completed September 18, 2023

Life can change in an instant.
When you’re wrongfully accused of a crime.
When a virus shuts everything down.
When the girl you love moves on.

Andre Jackson is determined to reclaim his identity. But returning from juvie doesn’t feel like coming home. His Portland, Oregon, neighborhood is rapidly gentrifying, and COVID-19 shuts down school before he can return. And Andre’s suspicions about his arrest for a crime he didn’t commit even taint his friendships. It’s as if his whole life has been erased.

The one thing Andre is counting on is his relationship with the Whitaker kids—especially his longtime crush, Sierra. But Sierra’s brother Eric is missing, and the facts don’t add up as their adoptive parents fight to keep up the act that their racially diverse family is picture-perfect. If Andre can find Eric, he just might uncover the truth about his own arrest. But in a world where power is held by a few and Andre is nearly invisible, searching for the truth is a dangerous game.

This book deals with a lot due to the book starting in February 2020 and going through the summer to August. COVID, the murder of George Floyd, and the protests that took place in the aftermath all take place as Andre is trying to find Eric. I don’t want to spoil too much but since it’s the first year of COVID a lot happens because of that along with everything else. There’s a scene where Andre is eating some Ramen noodles and complains they’re too bland. Any reader who’s familiar with the symptoms of COVID will recognize that moment for what it is.

The crime Andre went away for is entirely someone else’s and the answers to why he was framed are all to realistic and simple considering who he’s dealing with. There’s a lot said about racism and the differences in how Black and Brown people are treated by the police and society and also the different outcomes for marginalized groups dealing with COVID along with everything else. I’m glad I read this book. I don’t want to ever get so comfortable in my own situation that I forget what others have dealt with and continue to deal with. This is definitely a book every white person should read. (That said if you’re currently dealing with ongoing issues from having had COVID and/or lost family members to COVID you may wish to avoid this book for that reason.)

As hard as it was I really enjoyed reading this book. Andre is a great characters and he has family and friends he can depend on. The family across the street was complicated but the kids are a good group of individuals who are finding their way. The ending is bittersweet – Andre is free at least, and there’s hope for the future, but his world is forever changed.

“Depart, Depart!” Review

The cover is dark toned water ripples at the top. There's a vague figure of a person in the background mostly under the water. The word Depart is reflected upside down in the water making the two words of the title - Depart Depart. The author's name is at the bottom Written by Sim Kern
Published by Stelliform Press, September 2020
94 pages
Completed June 22, 2023

When an unprecedented hurricane devastates the city of Houston, Noah Mishner finds shelter in the Dallas Mavericks’ basketball arena. Though he finds community among other queer refugees, Noah fears his trans and Jewish identities put him at risk with certain “capital-T” Texans. His fears take form when he starts seeing visions of his great-grandfather Abe, who fled Nazi Germany as a boy. As the climate crisis intensifies and conditions in the shelter deteriorate, Abe’s ghost grows more powerful. Ultimately, Noah must decide whether he can trust his ancestor — and whether he’s willing to sacrifice his identity and community in order to survive.

This a novella, so it’s shorter than my usual reads, but I still enjoyed it. It’s another ambiguous ending however I do think the main point of the story is made and clarified. I won’t spoil it by explaining further, but I felt like the main issue is resolved in a satisfying way so while I would have liked to see more I don’t feel like I need to. There’s an interesting group of characters and the way things played out was very realistic.

“Four Hundred Souls” Review

The book cover is mostly yellow or orange with a line of black down the middle in the shapes of black stick figures representing people walking in a line from top to bottom of the cover. The title and editors are over the top of the cover in white. Full Title: “Four Hundred Souls: A Community History of African America, 1619-2019”
Edited by Ibram X. Kendi with Keisha N. Blain
Published by One World, February 2021
528 Pages
Completed June 20, 2023

“The story begins in 1619—a year before the Mayflower—when the White Lion disgorges “some 20-and-odd Negroes” onto the shores of Virginia, inaugurating the African presence in what would become the United States. It takes us to the present, when African Americans, descendants of those on the White Lion and a thousand other routes to this country, continue a journey defined by inhuman oppression, visionary struggles, stunning achievements, and millions of ordinary lives passing through extraordinary history.”

“Four Hundred Souls is a unique one-volume “community” history of African Americans. The editors, Ibram X. Kendi and Keisha N. Blain, have assembled ninety brilliant writers, eighty of whom takes on a five-year period of that four-hundred-year span with ten lyrical interludes from poets. The writers explore their periods through a variety of techniques: historical essays, short stories, personal vignettes, and fiery polemics. They approach history from various perspectives: through the eyes of towering historical icons or the untold stories of ordinary people; through places, laws, and objects. While themes of resistance and struggle, of hope and reinvention, course through the book, this collection of diverse pieces from ninety different minds, reflecting ninety different perspectives, fundamentally deconstructs the idea that Africans in America are a monolith—instead it unlocks the startling range of experiences and ideas that have always existed within the community of Blackness.”

“This is a history that illuminates our past and gives us new ways of thinking about our future, written by the most vital and essential voices of our present.”

This is definitely a book everyone should read but obviously especially white people. There’s 80 essays written by 80 writers covering the span of 400 years broken up in 5 year spans. While each story is very surface level they all explain a lot about what was going on at the time. Everything is important to know and think about. Things haven’t actually changed as much as some would like to believe. The last story covers the span between 2014 and 2019 – COVID is mentioned briefly in the conclusion and acknowledgments. Anyone who’s been paying attention knows what comes next. The epidemic only highlighted what was already true about this country and how white people respond to black people.

“How Long ’til Black Future Month?” Review

On the cover a young black woman is facing towards the right in profile with her long hair styled with decorations that are white geometric shapes. The shirt or dress she is wearing has a thick collar that looks like two rows of white balls. The title of the book and authors name are on the top and bottom of the cover. Written by N.K. Jemisin
Published by Orbit, November 2018
416 pages
Completed June 14, 2023

“Three-time Hugo Award winner and NYT bestselling author N. K. Jemisin challenges and delights readers with thought-provoking narratives of destruction, rebirth, and redemption that sharply examine modern society in her first collection of short fiction, which includes never-before-seen stories.”

“Spirits haunt the flooded streets of New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. In a parallel universe, a utopian society watches our world, trying to learn from our mistakes. A black mother in the Jim Crow South must save her daughter from a fey offering impossible promises. And in the Hugo award-nominated short story “The City Born Great,” a young street kid fights to give birth to an old metropolis’s soul.”

This is a great collection of short stories all written by N. K. Jemisin. Some of them are early ideas that would become her larger works. Others are stories she had written for other publications. All are great. I also highly recommend reading the introduction to the book for more background and to know where the title of the book comes from. I really enjoyed each story and will likely read more by this author at some point.

“The Disordered Cosmos” Review

Full Title: “The Disordered Cosmos: A Journey Into Dark Matter, Spacetime, and Dreams Deferred”
Written by Chanda Prescod-Weinstein
Published by Bold Type Books, March 2021
336 pages
Completed June 3, 2023

“In The Disordered Cosmos, Dr. Chanda Prescod-Weinstein shares her love for physics, from the Standard Model of Particle Physics and what lies beyond it, to the physics of melanin in skin, to the latest theories of dark matter—along with a perspective informed by history, politics, and the wisdom of Star Trek.”

“One of the leading physicists of her generation, Dr. Chanda Prescod-Weinstein is also one of fewer than one hundred Black American women to earn a PhD from a department of physics. Her vision of the cosmos is vibrant, buoyantly nontraditional, and grounded in Black and queer feminist lineages.”

“Dr. Prescod-Weinstein urges us to recognize how science, like most fields, is rife with racism, misogyny, and other forms of oppression. She lays out a bold new approach to science and society, beginning with the belief that we all have a fundamental right to know and love the night sky. The Disordered Cosmos dreams into existence a world that allows everyone to experience and understand the wonders of the universe.”

Dr. Prescod-Weinstein included a chapter at the end of the book where she pointed out that while the book is challenging we shouldn’t be so hard on ourselves if we don’t understand everything. Especially since it’s stuff that takes years for people to fully understand. The point is that we get ideas of different elements of physics and then learn more about the challenges anyone who is not white and male have faced when trying to become physicists. I got more out of that part of it than anything else really. The learning of how much needs to change to make learning more welcoming to all. It’s also always fun when a fellow Star Trek fan can use various quotes and ideas from the show to explain things or make a point. I do think some people will struggle to get through the beginning of the book as the language is a bit complex but physics is complex. I think this a book worth reading to learn about various issues.

Books Finished so far in 2023

Below are the books I’ve read so far in 2023, not necessarily in order within the month of completion.

Books Finished in January

Nophek Gloss The Graven , by Essa Hansen
I liked the characters though the plot was a bit confusing and sometimes frustrating, but I still enjoyed it. I will need to check out the next book.
Black Sun – Between Earth and Sky , by Rebecca Roanhorse
This was a really interesting book. I enjoyed the different points of view characters their stories as things progressed. I am looking forward to reading the next book in the series.
Everyone’s a Aliebn When Ur a Aliebn Too by Jonny Sun as Jomny Sun
A surprise graphic novel! It was a fun read.
Africa Risen: A New Era of Speculative Fiction, edited by Sheree Renée Thomas, Zelda Knight, Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki
Love After the End: An Anthology of Two-Spiritand Indigiqueer Speculative Fiction, edited by Joshua Whitehead
This applies to the above two because I’m saying the same about both. I really enjoyed the stories in both anthologies. They each have a lot of interesting characters and stories about the characters. As with any anthology I read I look forward to looking up the various authors and seeing what else they have written.

Books Finished in February

Not a Nation of Immigrants: Settler Colonialism, White Supremacy, and a History of Erasure and Exclusion by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz
This was an interesting read – some history I already new about and some I did not. There was a lot of stuff I would say is important for us to know.
The Vanished Birdsz by Simon Jimenez
The way this story unfolded took some getting used to but I really ended up enjoying it. There’s a lot going on and a single paragraph can span several years which makes things even more interesting. The characters make it all wroth it.

Books Finished in March so far

Some Kids Left Behind: A Survivor’s Fight for Health Care in the Wake of 9/11 by Lila Nordstrom
I really enjoyed reading this and I feel like I learned a lot about the aftermath of 9/11 from the point of view of people like Lila – people who lived near the towers. There’s a lot I had never heard about or realized. Also a lot comparisons to be made about what is going on now with COVID