2023 in Books

2023 in Books
Photo by Distingué CiDDiQi / Unsplash

Like many things in life, I have always wished I was more of a reader than I am in reality. Blame the speed of modern life, the abundance of screens, or just general laziness; I’ve never been great at sitting down and reading a book. And so it’s only been recently that I’ve given myself a free pass to “read” books via audiobooks, and it has been a game changer. And now I do consider myself a reader — or listener — of books.

And no such assertion could be complete without me compiling and posting about it on the internet! But actually, I just wanted to challenge myself to see — what did I really retain in listening to this many books? And what do I want to remember about the year 2023 in the books I read (mostly listened to)? So if you’re not interested, feel free to skip this one.

Table of Contents


A few breakdowns of the books I’ve read, courtesy of my Goodreads alternative, The StoryGraph.

I read a total of 47 books. As you can see, I favor nonfiction and heavily favor audiobooks 😄. The total was 17 fiction and 30 nonfiction. I actually only “read” 8 books if you don’t count audio - 2 digitally and 6 on actual real paper.

Of interest, one stat that isn’t tracked here but that I tallied myself is that I read more male authors than female authors this year. But as I finished this blog, I realized that every author I featured is female. Do with that what you will.

Best and Worst

Best Fiction

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes

By Susan Collins

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As an enthusiast of the Hunger Games series, I can confidently say that this book stands out as the best yet. Particularly for those familiar with the storyline of the entire series, this prequel is not just a compelling narrative in its own right; it also skillfully interweaves elements that foreshadow future events. The way it connects to and enriches the overarching story is remarkable. In my opinion, this book represents Suzanne Collins' most exceptional work, showcasing her storytelling prowess and deepening the series' already rich tapestry.

Best Nonfiction


By Glennon Doyle

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Admittedly, I might be among the last to uncover the remarkable journey of Glennon Doyle and her extraordinary family. However, I gladly share this revelation if it guides even one more person to her inspiring book. This narrative is a masterclass in self-discovery, comprehending the nuances of love, and the art of nurturing family bonds. Its profound impact and invaluable lessons are perhaps paralleled only by another essential read for families I mention below, “When Life Gives You Pears.” Both books offer transformative insights, each in their unique way, making them must-reads for anyone seeking deeper understanding and connection.


Britney Spears' “The Woman in Me” falls short in terms of its writing quality. As someone who is a strong supporter of Britney and shares the millennial nostalgia for her era, it's disappointing to acknowledge that this book doesn't quite meet expectations. Despite my enthusiasm for her work, I must concede that this particular piece didn't make for a compelling read.

Must Read

Here, I've curated a selection of reads that might resonate with you, considering your current life stage, profession, or interests. While I'm not here to dictate your reading choices, I hope these suggestions provide you with fresh perspectives!

Must Read for Parents

Good Inside

A Guide to Becoming the Parent You Want to Be

By Dr. Becky Kennedy

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While I may be a recent arrival to the Dr. Becky Kennedy fandom, her impact is undeniably profound. "Good Inside" stands as the most practical, relatable, and actionable parenting book I have encountered. Its insightful guidance spans a broad spectrum, making it essential reading for parents with children aged 5 to 25. Additionally, if you’re social media connoisseur, following Dr. Becky's insightful posts adds another layer of valuable parenting wisdom. Her approach is not just informative but transformative, making her work a cornerstone in modern parenting resources. In a world full of platitudes and “must dos” in parenting advice, Dr. Becky actually delivers actionable, relatable, real-world practical advice.

Must Read for Technologists

Engineering Management for the Rest of Us

By Sarah Drasner

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Having been an admirer of Sarah Drasner's work for many years, I approached "Engineering Management for the Rest of Us" with considerable expectations. Remarkably, the book surpassed them, thanks to Sarah's profound expertise in both the human and technical facets of software engineering. This book emerges as an indispensable resource for those in software leadership, distinguished by its blend of practical wisdom and deep insights. My preference generally leans towards nonfiction, yet this book stands out on my must-read list. Its relevance and applicability to the day-to-day challenges faced in software leadership make it exceptionally valuable.

Must Read for Families

When Life Gives You Pears

The Healing Power of Faith, Faith, and Funny People

By Jeannie Gaffigan

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Jeannie Gaffigan, co-architect of the comedic brilliance evident in Jim Gaffigan's stand-up, navigates the dual roles of a working professional and mother to five children. Her life takes an unexpected turn when she confronts a daunting medical diagnosis: a pear-shaped brain tumor. In "When Life Gives You Pears," Jeannie showcases resilience, drawing strength from her family, faith, and an inexhaustible well of humor. Her journey, marked by the traits of both a superhero and the relatability of an everyday individual, offers a profound narrative. This inspiring account resonates deeply, appealing to a wide audience, regardless of their faith background.

All the Books


Highly Recommended

While there aren’t many in here that I “didn’t like” or hated, there are a few that I highly recommend:

  • Apples Never Fall by Liane Moriarty
    This book follows a family with four kids - close to home for me - and the case of their missing mother. It is a fascinating look at family dynamics with adult children and the impact that family life together can have on the function of the family unit as a whole.
  • The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
    It is frankly embarrassing to put this book on the list because I hadn’t read it before…for someone named “O’Leary” that feels pretty bad. Even more embarrassing was a text I sent an English teacher friend while reading the book: “Wow. Oscar Wilde is like a really good writer it turns out.” Perhaps the “best written” I’ve ever read.
  • Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir
    My oldest read this book first - at 12 - and loved it. He loves science fiction more than I do, but I was pleasantly surprised about this book in the end. It does have Andy Weir’s kind of ”casual” style for dialogue (internal and external) but worth your time for sure!
  • The Guest List by Lucy Foley
    Perhaps the only book on this fiction list that I want to read again - a great book of twists and turns and a number that I didn’t figure out until the very end. A lot of fun to read…and based in Ireland 🇮🇪
  • The Last Thing He Told Me by Laura Dave
    A fascinating thriller. Read this because of its place on Reese’s Book Club and she’s yet to steer me wrong.



Highly Recommended

While there aren’t many in here that I “didn’t like” or hated, there are a few that I highly recommend:

  • Devil in the Grove: Thurgood Marshall, the Groveland Boys, and the Dawn of a New America by Gilbert King
    I have a blog that has been in draft form for some time about this book called ‘What we Owe Thurgood’ - again as a Maryland boy I’ve known of Thurgood Marshall for a long time, and of course he is best known for Brown v. The Board of Education. But Devil in the Grove shows you not only how smart Thurgood was, but just as brave as other great Civil Rights activists..and we owe him so much as a country.
  • Twelve Years a Slave by Solomon Northup
    I was profoundly moved by this book, so much so that it left me in a state of awe. Reading it before watching the movie adaptation amplified the experience, as both mediums presented the narrative with remarkable power. The discomfort I felt while reading is essential to its impact. It drives home the harrowing reality of the subject matter, making the story resonate on a deeper level. This book is a must-read for anyone seeking to comprehend the full extent of the atrocities of slavery; it offers a visceral, unflinching look into one of history's darkest chapters.
  • Better Living Through Birding: Notes from a Black Man in the Nature World by Christian Cooper
    Christian Cooper was thrust into the global spotlight following an incident in Central Park, where he faced life-threatening accusations rooted in longstanding racist tropes. It's regrettable that this distressing event is what brought him to public attention. However, if this incident catalyzed the creation of his book, then it may have served a larger purpose for our society. His work offers an extraordinary exploration of the Black experience in America, delving into both the collective journey and the intricate nuances of individual lives. Cooper's book is a critical and insightful contribution to the ongoing dialogue about race and identity in America.
  • The Culture Map: Breaking Through Invisible the Boundaries of Global Business by Erin Meyer
    Throughout my career, I've had the privilege of collaborating with colleagues from across the globe, the most notable being my tenure at GitLab. When I departed in 2022, the company boasted around 1,500 team members spread across 65 countries. However, Erin Meyer's insightful book just as profoundly deepened my understanding of working with global teams and partners. Meyer's exploration of scientific and cultural dynamics has significantly enhanced my ability to engage with people from diverse backgrounds and cultures, offering insights that were as influential, if not more so, than my direct professional experiences.
  • Brotopia: Breaking up the Boy’s Club of Silicon Valley by Emily Chang
    This book should be required reading for anyone working in startups or in Silicon Valley. The "bro-culture" prevalent in Silicon Valley is a widely acknowledged phenomenon. However, Chang's meticulous reporting and insightful analysis bring a newfound clarity and depth to understanding the extent of these issues. More crucially, she offers a comprehensive understanding of how to dismantle this exclusive culture and foster an environment where everyone feels included. Chang goes beyond social considerations, convincingly illustrating how embracing inclusivity isn't just morally imperative; it's also beneficial for business success. Her work illuminates the path towards a more equitable and prosperous corporate landscape.
  • Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis (re-read)
    I try to read Mere Christianity every year. C.S. Lewis brings such insight and logic to the understanding of the Christian faith, while being careful to avoid the things that divide Christians and focus instead on the truth that Christianity aims to reveal. Faith is hard, but C.S. Lewis helps.
  • The Woman Who Smashed Codes: A True Story of Love, Spies, and the Unlikely Heroine Who Outwitted American’s Enemies by Jason Fagone (re-read)
    I love this book, and if I had read it for the first time this year, I would have featured it. However, I re-read it as part of writing a talk about Elizebeth Smith Friedman. The peculiar story of the history of cybersecurity, The Woman Who Smashed Codes is the story of a code-breaking Quaker poet from Indiana who hunted Nazi spies and her role in founding a modern science. You should read it.


What’s Next?

What books do you think I should read next? Comment below what is missing my lists and are “must reads” that I don’t have listed here?

Books I have on my radar include:

A huge “thank you” to The StoryGraph - an independent alternative to Goodreads from Nadia Odunayo that helps me track all of these great books and statistics.
Note: The links above are Amazon affiliate links and if you buy the book through them I get a small commission.