In the December 2023 newsletter, I asked readers what books stuck with them that they read in 2023.

B: Books that are lingering in my mind that I read this year… a chance to wax nostalgiac!

There are many…

Dr. No by Percival Everett – I love this author who is now on my auto-read-anything-new-he-writes list. Every book of his is distinctly different and the only thing you can be sure of is that it will be good and get you thinking.

Hell Bent by Leigh Bardugo, book 2 of her Lethe-Stern dark fantasy series.

Small Mercies by Dennis Lehane – I rate this right up there with Mystic River and Shutter Island.

Becoming the Boogeyman by Richard Chizmar – the 2nd Boogeyman book. Can’t wait for the 3rd. A very unique structure that adds depth to the story.

The Viper by John Verdon, #8 in the series. This police procedural series with great characterizations is on my must read list.

2034: A Novel of the Next World War by Elliot Ackerman & James Stavridis – Taiwan, China, USA are the focus. Scary because it’s not far-fetched.

The Shards by Bret Easton Ellis – a literary serial killer thriller that hooked me.

Sing Her Down by Ivy Pochoda – another author on my must read list. This one is about 2 lady convicts.

Drowning by T J Newman – an airliner ends up in the ocean and the rescue mission keeps the pages flying.

An Honest Man by Michael Koryta – imho, his best book ever. Being a horror fan, I’m finding his aka Scott Carson worth the read as well.

The Mantis by Kotaro Isaka – I found this assassin’s tale very affecting.

There were lots more really excellent books I read, but they didn’t fit the “lingering” criteria.

Thanks for your newsletters!

B

Tracey: One of the books I read this year that has stayed with me was “The Hawk’s Way” by Sy Montgomery. I am an avid bird lover, so for me this story was inspiring, uplifting, but also difficult to read. There is much celebration, but also much death. There is so much to learn about raptors.
“You don’t train a hawk to do things for you. You train a hawk to accept you as her servant.”

Christine: This past year it was a book series that I just had to go through all of them that kept me wanting more, and I kept thinking about, and then would google more information on the actual homes and people depicted in the books: Alyssa Maxwell’s Gilded Newport Mystery Series with Emma Cross as the Reporter/ Sleuth. Although I am not in Newport one of the families depicted in the books are the Vanderbilts whose family also had a beautiful home/property here in Vermont where we love hiking around on and looking out onto Lake Champlain from the property.
~Christine Boera

Vic: What books from this year is still on my mind? Actually, it’s three nonfiction books that I read together to influence my nutrition decisions:

The Obesity Code by Jason Fung MD
The Insulin Resistance Solution by Rob Thompson, MD
Glucose Revolution by Jessie Inchauspe

These three books combined are great for people wanting to change their eating habits without giving up everything they think is good. They’re especially good for pre-diabetics and diabetics.

I’ve read a lot of good fiction this year as well as a lot of light, forget immediately books. To keep the list short I’ll choose The Spare Man by Mary Robinette Kowal. I keep recommending this combination of science fiction and mystery to friends and family.

I keep looking over the list of books I’ve read this year and can find many more that stand out. (Quiet, Vic, quiet. You don’t want this list to go on forever…)

Max: A book that still lingers? Well, one of the memorable books I read this year was “The Queen’s Lover,” by Francine du Plessix Gray. It basically is the story of the French Revolution of the late 1700s, as told from the perspective of Queen Marie Antoinette’s real-life Swedish friend and lover, Count Axel von Fersen. The book is a novel, but is cleverly based on actual historic records — letters, journals, diaries, flyers, court recordings etc. of the time. All the characters are real historic figures.
The novel lingers in my mind for two reasons: the positive portrayal of Marie Antoinette and King Louis XVI as kind, generous, likeable people; and the vivid depiction of how suddenly a civilized society can descend into extreme barbarism, complete with sham trials, beheadings, disembowelments, and mass murder of innocents. The book, although fiction, is a sobering mirror of our modern times.

Phil: Hi Graeme. The book I read this year that’s still lingering in my mind is DARK SKY (Joe Pickett series) by C.J. Box. Thank you and Merry Christmas

Mary Jo: For me, this was Looking for Jane, a debut novel from Heather Marshall.

At a time when momentous court decisions are being handed down in the U.S., this book about a secret network of women fighting for the right to choose (inspired by true stories) was a reflection of how far we have (or perhaps, more accurately, haven’t) come in the protection of reproductive rights. The story, though, isn’t about abortion. It’s about the journeys women made about motherhood and what being a mother means.

Marlene: Books that I have read that linger in my mind are any of the Richard Osman books and Killers of a Certain Age by Deanna Raybourn. All of Osman’s were enjoyable and with definitely memorable characters. In the Killers book Raybourn discusses the lives of four ladies that were recruited as assassins when young. Now they have surprisingly reached retirement age and “the company” has decided to fully “retire” them – which turns out to be an unfortunate decision on their part. Next up I plan to read Vera Wong’s Unsolicited Advice For Murderers by Jesse Q. Sutanto as soon as I finish The Bulletproof Barista by Cleo Coyle.

Mark: Although I read about 10 fiction books for every non-fiction book, the book I read this year that’s going to stay with me the longest is certainly Barbara Tuchman’s classic history of the run-up to and first month of World War I, “The Guns of August.” She does a marvelous job of drawing out the sheer inevitability of it all, the buffoonery and self-aggrandizement, to the point of insanity, of leaders, both political and military, from the four main protagonists (Germany, France, England, Russia), and the importance of the various main events, especially how the fact that the generals were all “trying to win the last war” (in Churchill’s words) led to the endless stalemate of trench warfare when it was discovered that this war was NOT like the preceding ones. It cannot be recommended highly enough. The account ends at the beginning of September, 1914, just before the Battle of the Marne, about which she says:

“The Battle of the Marne was one of the decisive battles of the world not because it determined that Germany would ultimately lose or the Allies ultimately win the war but because it determined that the war would go on. There was no looking back, [French leader Joseph] Joffre told the soldiers on the eve. Afterward there was no turning back. The nations were caught in a trap, a trap made during the first thirty days out of battles that failed to be decisive, a trap from which there was, and has been, no exit.”

For fiction, it will be Erich Maria Remarque’s “All Quiet on the Western Front” (yes, I’m on a World War I jag at the moment!). Horrifying, with occasional very black humor, and impossibly moving at the end; here are the last two paragraphs, referring to the protagonist, who had survived in the trenches for about three years, and is killed just before the end of the war:

“He fell in October 1918, on a day that was so quiet and still on the whole front, that the army report confined itself to the single sentence: All quiet on the Western Front.
He had fallen forward and lay on the earth as though sleeping. Turning him over one saw that he could not have suffered long; his face had an expression of calm, as though almost glad the end had come.”

Linda: I read two books this year that I cannot forget. Of course, one was Silo, which I had read before but had to read again. Fascinating series. Gets you thinking about what could come of our earth. Then I read “King of Torts” by Grisham. It was a book for some reason I had never read before. So it got me into wanting to read more of his books that I have already read.

Joyce: A book I read this year that lingered in my mind was Call the Canaries Home by Laura Barrow.
Character development was excellent and the story line compelling. The book skipped between several time periods weaving stories together of women–mothers and daughters and sisters. It embodied the power of family, and sisters in particular, to overcome loss together and heal one another. I believe it was one of the ‘first reads’ from Amazon and I have added this author to my ‘watch list’ for future works!

Jessica: I read the book River Woman River Woman by Jennifer Givhan and I can’t over that fact she slept with the guy who killed her friend and he had set her husband for murder. I can’t get over Jubilee by Jennifer Givhan. I wanted to shake her and tell her to stay away from that guy and that she almost killed herself saving a doll. I also can’t over Trinity Sight by Jennifer Givhan. It ended in a cliffhanger so you really don’t know if the little girl is okay and if she really sees her son after she makes it home. I also read King of Fools by Amanda Foody and I can’t over that one of the characters was killed. One character I really wanted to make it to end of the series. I also read The Cabin at the End of the World by Paul Tremblay. I don’t like that is no ending to the book. No endings drives me crazy. I read Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno Garcia and I can’t believe the twist to the end. Recently I listened to Beacon 23 by Hugh Howey and I can’t get over that he killed all those people. I am watching the show Beacon 23. It’s not like the book, but it’s still good.

Janice: The book I read this year that lingers in my mind:
Prophet Song by Paul Lynch, who just won the Booker Prize. If anyone wonders what a fascist takeover of a free country might look, this is far more convincing than 1984. In the US at least, this isn’t a hypothetical issue—though Lynch’s novel is set in Dublin. The unfolding events are experienced through members of a single family and their neighbors. Orwell’s classic is a political fable rather than a novel, but Lynch grounds his warning in his very convincing characters, who struggle with confusion, denial, despair, resistance, and more—a range of responses as their nation gradually breaks into a civil war. Not to be missed!

Chris: I’ve read some great books this year, but the one I keep thinking about is “Lessons in Chemistry” by Bonnie Garmus. This story of a very independent and very smart young woman chemist who has to deal with the rampant sexism of the 1950s and 1960s really got me riled up. My newly widowed mother in the 1960s had to deal with a lot of that, too, so that’s probably why it had such an impact on me. Things are better these days for women in the workforce, but there is still room for improvement. I hope Ms. Garmus is working on some more books.

Donna: I finally finished the Wool/Silo ebook books and wow, what an amazing trilogy. Like you, I pictured humongous silos dotted throughout the landscape of Georgia, and the enormity of those staircases seemed unfathomable.

I did start the series on Apple TV+ but haven’t finished it and it does a good job of bringing the first book to life.

Elizabeth: The book I can’t get out of my mind is What Happened to the Bennett’s by Lisa Scottoline. I liked it so much, I proposed it to our book club.

Ginny: Lingering books I read this year:

NF: Midnight in Chernobyl – because of how little we know about effects of radiation
YA: All Thirteen by Christina Soontornvat – cave rescue
Myst: books by Jane Harper – The Lost Man, Exiles, for her ability to create atmosphere
SF: the Murderbot series by Martha Wells – because of humanizing robots
Fic: A Woman Is No Man and Evil Eye by Etaf Rum – insights into Palestinains

Gregory: A book that lingers with me is The River by Peter Heller. It is an excellent story about a float trip on a remote river in Canada, but the death of one of the characters really messed with me for quite some time.

Order of Books » Newsletter » Reader Mailbag: Books That Stuck With You In 2023

4 Responses to “Reader Mailbag: Books That Stuck With You In 2023”

  1. Sheila: 6 months ago

    Dear Graeme,
    I have a literary conundrum that you and the participants in OOBs might be able to help me solve. This past summer I read a historical novel titled Trust and Treason by author Margaret Birkhead. I so enjoyed the novel that I wanted to learn more about the author and see if she had written a sequel. Apparently, she had only written this one book and as I researched more about her, I kept running into dead ends. I couldn’t find anything on her life, no birth date, no death date and absolutely nothing beyond the one book.
    I hope that someone would be able to shed some light on this remarkable author who did a stellar job on her first work.
    Thank you so much for your time and thanks for Order of Books.
    Sincerely,
    Sheila

    Reply

    • Graeme: 5 months ago

      Hi Sheila,

      I researched it and confirmed she has only written the one novel.

      Honestly – it’s surprisingly common. Over at Book Notification we’ve been creating databases of all the book awards, and it’d surprise you to see how many authors won or were nominated for an Edgar etc and then never wrote anything after that book.

      Reply

  2. Joyce Cox: 6 months ago

    Actually a question: do you have an app for your new website? I can never remember the name of the site and app would make it easier. Is one in the works?

    Also I love to follow what you are reading…and the others who write in. So much reading to do…so little time! That s why I listen to audio books whenever I cannot physically read a book.

    Thank you for all you do!

    Joyce

    Reply

    • Graeme: 5 months ago

      Hi Joyce – no app at this time for Book Notification. We want to launch more of the primary features on the website first. I wouldn’t expect to see an app until 2025. In saying that you can create a shortcut to the homepage of the site on your mobile phone or tablet.

      Reply

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