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Best Reads of 2023

3 months ago

This is my first time starting a thread, so hopefully it will work.

What were your best reads of 2023?

I couldn't get down to just one book, so here's the list I came up with:

West With Giraffes, by Lynda Rutledge

It took me a while to warm up to this book, but in the end I really, really liked it. Set in 1938 and based on a true event: the acquisition of 2 young giraffes by the then new San Diego Zoo. The setting is well rendered – the Depression, Dust Bowl, Jim Crow South, the coming war—as the giraffes are trucked across the US from New York to San Diego. The settings change with the journey, the story held together by the 3 people in the truck who try to keep the giraffes alive (driver, zoo employee, aspiring journalist) as they meet new people in each town they pass through. Cover blurb quite accurately captures it: Part adventure, part historical saga, and part coming-of-age love story, WWG explores what it means to be changed by the grace of animals, the kindness of strangers, the passing of time..

Foster, by Claire Keegan

Simple first-person narrative of a young girl (about 10 y/o)who is sent to stay with another couple for the last few months of her mother’s latest pregnancy and is returned home once the baby is born. Written from within the girl’s POV, the story must be teased out by the reader – the craft displayed in this beautifully-written narrative is phenomenal – how much you end up knowing about the girl, her family and the husband-wife caring for her, without ever being told a thing other than the little girl’s childishly unaware observations.

Some Desperate Glory by Emily Tesh

This is the fun one on my list! A wild ride of a space opera with really cool ideas of alternate realities, black hole space and AI’s, but also with depth to the characters and events that make you stop and think. The POV character is an arrogant, unlikeable young woman who discovers that she’s been fed a load of crap by a fascist regime – this takes a lot of growing-up for a 17-y/o to realize and accept; on top of having to learn that the destruction of humanity’s Earth was actually a ‘best-outcome-for-the-many’ within the wider system of linked space-faring civilizations, due to humanity’s aggressiveness. Makes you the reader think too!

The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey by Walter Mosley

Not particularly comfortable for me to read, nor particularly uplifting, but told so well that you are immersed in the not-always-happy black African-American experience of Ptolemy’s life. You see the story only from within the main character of Ptolemy (much like Foster, above), an elderly black man fading into dementia who is given the opportunity to reverse his dementia at the price of a drastically-shortened life. An interesting exploration of the priorities that drive our decisions and what trade-offs we will make to achieve our goals.

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