Monday, January 22, 2024

The Books of 2023 -- The Annual Book Report

I always enjoy pulling together this annual reading summary --  what hit the mark, what missed, any new discoveries.

This year I read 55 books with a total of 17,785 pages. Not my best, not my worst. And for the most part, they were worth the time. And really, that's the most important part!

Books with links click back to my reviews earlier this year. 

Here is my Top Twelve (in no particular order)

Death of a Bookseller -- Bernard J. Farmer (mystery) -- This was the 100th British Library Crime Classic offering and I think it might be my favorite of the many I've read. Set in the world of antiquarian book collecting, it was both a well crafted and intriguing mystery and conveyed a good deal of information!

Truly, Madly, Deeply -- Alan Rickman (autobiography/memoir) -- This is the diary of the late actor and not written in a prose form but as diary entries, some longer than others, most short. He takes us behind the scenes of his life and career. After I read it, I liked him even more.

All About Me -- Mel Brooks (autobiography) -- I laughed all through this autobiography, as you might expect from a book by the writer/director. From his happy childhood, through his celebrated film career and his marriage to actress Anne Bancroft, Brooks is both honest and generous -- and yes, very funny!

I Must Say -- (autobiography_ Martin Short -- Martin Short is another favorite actor/comedian of mine and this book (written in the late 1990s, long before "Only Murders in the Building") is a gem. Like Brooks, Short is funny but also honest as he recounts his career, his friendships with actors including Steve Martin, Andrea Martin and Gilda Radner, and most touchingly, his children and marriage, a relationship cut painfully short by the untimely death of his wife. I was going to pass this one along; I couldn't part with it.

The Gershwins and Me -- Michael Feinstein (biography/memoir/analysis) -- It was hard to know if this was more about George and Ira Gershwin and their music or the author/singer but in any event, it was fascinating. For those interested in the composing team, this is not a linear book but bounces around from show to show, and not necessarily in order. And it doesn't matter. You'll learn loads -- and be entertained.

Lessons in Chemistry -- Bonnie Garmus (fiction) -- Now a television series, this bestseller follows the life of Elizabeth Zott, chemist-turned-cooking-show-host and her relationship with the father of her child, her colleagues, her daughter and her work. I wasn't sure when I started this. Then I couldn't put it down.

Tom Lake -- Ann Patchett (fiction) --  Patchett is another favorite author and this one is -- at least for me -- her best. Is it because it combines theatre with Michigan and cherry orchards? Maybe. But it's also a wonderful story, as a woman tells her three daughters of her life as an actress and the now-famous actor with whom she once worked. Exquisite.

Devil in the White City -- Erik Larson (history) -- This is an oldie I discovered for the first time, focusing on two people during Chicago's World's Fair (The Columbian Exposition). One, celebrated architect Daniel Birnbaum; the other, a serial killer. It's history -- but Larson writes as close to fiction as one will find in a history book.

The Fifth Risk -- Michael Lewis (non-fiction) -- The author of "The Big Short" and "Moneyball" turned his attention to politics in this excellent look at the early days of the Donald Trump transition and how numerous departments were thrown into chaos by lack of planning and badly placed leaders who were given cabinet positions because of influence and not because of any knowledge in the area in which they were charged. Chilling.

On Tyranny -- Timothy Snyder (non-fiction) -- The shortest book I read all year (126 pages) and the most powerful. Snyder looks at how democracies fail and lists 21 points, demonstrating how they were instrumental in slowly tearing down democracies in the past over centuries. It is a chilling warning -- and one that is happening as I write this -- bit by bit -- in our own country. And what can we do about it? Snyder has answers. All we have to do is implement them with courage and resolution.

Kaffe Fassett in the Studio -- Kaffe Fassett (arts) -- The designer of fabrics, knitting and needlework patterns and more invites readers into his life and home -- and what a home it is! The array of color and patterns may startle you (it did me and I'm a color nut). It will also enchant you. His life is interesting; his work is magnificent. I keep going back to it.

These Precious Days -- Ann Patchett (essay) -- This is one of two essay books by Patchett that I read this year and the one I most enjoyed. Every piece was a gem. Many, if not all, had been published before but most were new to me. Another book with which I could not part.

Books by Category


As always, mysteries led the pack, many by favorite authors in series, including Martin Walker, Jacqueline Winspear, Louise Penny, Elly Griffths and Christopher Fowler, among others. Also frequently appearing on the mystery list were vintage offerings from the British Library Crime Classics series.  

The Hollywood Spy -- Susan Elia Macneal

Murder at Monk's Barn -- Cecil Waye

The Button Man -- Mark Pryor

Bruno, Chief of Police -- Martin Walker

Sergeant Cluff Stands Firm -- Gil North

Murder Underground -- Mavie Doriel Hay

Harbor Street -- Ann Cleeves

The Sunlit Weapon -- Jacqueline Winspear (Sad news, Maisie fans -- Winspear's next Maisie book will be the last in the series.)

Black Diamond -- Martin Walker

Doctored Evidence -- Donna Leon

The Locked Room -- Elly Griffiths

The Death of Kings -- Rennie Airth

The Methods of Sergeant Cluff -- Gil North

The Paris Librarian -- Mark Pryor

The Bullet that Missed -- Richard Osmun

The Last Remains -- Elly Griffiths (More sad news for fans of this series -- this is the last of the Ruth Galloway books.)

Murder in the Mill Race -- E.C.R. Lorac

The Crow Trap -- Ann Cleeves

The Figure of Eight -- Cecil Waye

The Decent Inn of Death -- Rennie Airth

Blood from a Stone -- Dona Leon

Hidden Depths -- Ann Cleeves

The Sorbonne Affair -- Mark Pryor

The Crowded Grave -- Martin Walker

A World of Curiosities -- Louise Penny

The Devil's Cave -- Martin Walker 

Death of a Bookseller -- Bernard J. Farmer

Through a Glass Darkly -- Donna Leon

Final Acts -- Martin Edwards, ed.

The Memory of Blood -- Christopher Fowler

Fatal Pursuit -- Martin Walker

Suffer the Little Children -- Donna Leon

Post After Post-Mortem -- E.C.R. Lorac

The Twist of a Knife -- Anthony Horowitz

Biographies, Autobiography, Memoir

Biographies/Memoirs was the next most-read category with offerings ranging from the Royal Family to show business to a favorite children's book writer/illustrator. Another highlight in that list was of a man you've never heard of -- yet who had a remarkable story to tell.

Truly, Madly, Deeply -- Alan Rickman 

The Queen, Her Life -- Andrew Morton

Waiting for Home -- John Schneider

Eleanor -- David Michaelis

The Gershwins and Me -- Michael Feinstein

Elizabeth and Philip -- Tessa Dunlop

The Tale of Beatrix Potter -- Margaret Lane

All About Me -- Mel Brooks

I Must Say -- Martin Short

Elizabeth and Margaret -- Andrew Morton

Neither Here Nor There -- Bill Bryson



I don't actively seek out fiction but often one is recommended or comes my way. Two remarkable ones are listed in more detail above, but I also found books of interest by two upcoming authors and one whom many call an old favorite.

Lessons in Chemistry -- Bonnie Garmus

Haunting Paris -- Mamta Chaudry

The Book of Two Ways -- Jodi Picoult

Shadowland -- Richard Lassin

Tom Lake -- Ann Patchett

Historical Fiction

I am not world's biggest historical fiction fan. "The Woman Before Wallis" about Wallis Simpson and Consuelo Vanderbilt, was interesting enough and probably had some truth to it. But I'm still not fond of the genre.

The Woman Before Wallis -- Bryn Turnbull

History and Contemporary Issues

Two of the most fascinating and timely books I read  fell into contemporary issues and one in the history category. If I had to recommend any two books from this list that are important to read now, they would be "On Tyranny" and "The Fifth Risk."


Devil in the White City -- Erik Larson

The Fifth Risk -- Michael Lewis

On Tyranny -- Timothy Snyder


These Precious Days -- Ann Patchett

This is the Story of a Happy Marriage -- Ann Patchett


The best eye candy came from designer Kaffe Fasett, who shared in glorious colorful detail his home packet (and I do mean packed) with his art, fabrics, quilts, and needlework.

Kaffe Fassett in the Studio -- Kaffe Fassett 


And the ones I wouldn't recommend? (Remember, it's purely a matter of taste!) -- Bill Bryson's "Neither Here Nor There," Gil North's "The Methods of Sergeant Cluff," and (unless you are into historical fiction fluff) "The Woman Before Wallis."


And now, we're into 2024! More mysteries, to be sure, but the big, fat Barbra Streisand autobiography is my current read and sneak preview -- it's terrific!

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Sandy K. said...

Oh my goodness, I have loved scrolling through this rich post. You have certainly done a lot of reading; well done! From your list I noted a number of times (Lessons in Chemistry, On Tyranny, Devil in the White City and the lovely Louise Penny literary mysteries) which I also loved. Chemistry I picked up on my Kindle when flying to visit relatives this spring, and finished it during the two flights. Wonderful!

What I want to read, based on your reviews, are Truly, Madly, Deeply; I Must Say; Tale of Beatrix Potter. They sound wonderful, and I would like to stretch my genres this year. Thank you for your wonderful year-in-review.

Also of note - I have started up my blog and am a month in! Quite excited! Stop by sometime!

Yvonne said...

At almost one book per week, I think this is a great accomplishment. I haven't read books for years, although in my youth I read them quite often. I love Barbra Streisand, and have watched an interview with her that was quite lengthy. Her book sounds like a delightful read, so enjoy.

Susan Kane said...

Wow. It is hard to imagine such determination and joy you had with these books!

Tom said...

...being dyslexic makes reading difficult for me. I short articles all day, but I haven't read a book in years.

Lowcarb team member said...

Wow Jeanie, many thanks for putting this excellent post together.
I'm going to have to return to it again and check out some of the books.

You are definitely a mystery lover but the Barbara Streisand book sounds good too! Here's to more great reading in 2024.

All the best Jan

My name is Erika. said...

It is always fun to read your book posts Jeanie, and it is fun to see what you read and enjoyed in 2023. And you are good to be able to pick your top 12. I usually find that I might love a book and forget about it and then read something I don't really love and I think about it a lot. I guess I am just not good at picking books. The 4 of your top 12 that I have read I agree are great books. And you can't go wrong with Kaffe Fassett. I have a few of his quilt books just because they are such gorgeous eye candy. I enjoyed this post, and here's to a great year of reading in 2024. hugs-Erika

Mae Travels said...

What an impressive list! I've read some of these titles, especially the mystery and detective fiction, and I think I share your opinions to a great extent. Good luck with a serious repeat this year.
best, mae at

Rita said...

Great list! I love your book reviews even if I haven't been reading books for ages because of my macular puckers in my eyes. (Used to be just one but now it is in both eyes.) I am also a mystery fan, but enjoy a variety of genres. I am hoping to try audio books again this year. I have had trouble focusing on them. Too easily distracted--lol! But I will give that a go again this year. :)

Terra said...

I like your round up of books and see we share some of the same reading tastes. I do like memoirs of comedians. I think I will buy the Death of a Bookseller, I like to support those programs that bring out older books.

ashok said...

55! are a voracious reader.

Lisbeth said...

You did very well with your reading last year. Lots of interesting books. I am currently reading Lessons in Chemistry and just loved it from page one. Patchett is also someone I have to read. Death of a Bookseller sounds like something I would like. I am also listening to Devil in the White City. Fascinating.
Hope you find a few good books in 2024.

eileeninmd said...

Hello Jeanie,
I enjoyed this post and your list of books.
I like how you listed the books and categories.
I do tend to stick to mysteries, I have read quite a few of them on your list, not all of them though. I see a few I will add to my reading list.
I am sad to read there will be no more Ruth Galloway books. I also loved all the Winspear books on Maisie. Take care, have a wonderful day!

David M. Gascoigne, said...

I salute you and all readers everywhere, Jeanie, and I am happy that in Michigan you can still read a dictionary too!

La Table De Nana said...

Absolute applause!:)

Sue in Suffolk said...

124 for me!
I've read many of the crime fiction that you have in your list although I've never been able to get into Louis Penny and I'm a new reader of Mark Pryor, so several left to read.
I've made a note of some of the others.
Love sharing book ideas so thankyou for your list

Carole @ From My Carolina Home said...

Wow, you are such a prolific reader! I've read some of the same ones, and I see a couple I need to put on my to-read list.

R's Rue said...

Well done.

gluten Free A_Z Blog said...

What a great post ! I really enjoyed it and its a great inventory for you of your amazing amount of reading. I do love Ann Patchett too.

DVArtist said...

Wow! That's a lot of reading. Good for you.

carol@The Red Painted Cottage said...

Jeanie, I loved Lessons in Chemistry. We watched the 8 episodes of it on Apple TV streaming just last week. Mr. cottage loved it, as I liked it, but was disappointed it didn’t follow more of the book. The end was different and they omitted other parts but I know that was for time and costs. I did add Mel Brooks and These Precious Days essays to my list. I’m reading another good one now. It reads like a memoir but it’s fiction.

DUTA said...

You're definitely an avid reader. They say, reading a lot of books increases emphaty towards other person's feelings, and that's a good quality.

This N That said...

I'll file this away in case I get the urge to read a book!!

DeniseinVA said...

That's an impressive number of books Jeanie and you have given me a great list for future reads. Thank you my friend :)

Salty Pumpkin Studio said...

Wow! You have put together a fantastic lists of books. Great post. Thank you!

~Lavender Dreamer~ said...

We love so many of the same books! Sad that Maisie Dobbs series is ending...boohoo! I need to read some of the autobiographies! Thanks for sharing...I know this is a LOT of work for you! Happy reading in 2024!

Karen said...

I so look forward to your annual book review! Thank you Jeanie.
Apparently Louise Penney has another book coming this year. You led me to her initially. Now she can't write fast enough to feed my addiction. Kaffe Fassett is a big deal in my knitting circles. I didn't know he had a book. Looking forward to finding it too.
Have a great day, I'm off to read.

Joanne said...

I haven't read any of your favorites (though I did attempt Lessons in Chemistry and didn't enjoy enough to finish)... but I see at least 3 memoirs I want to add to my list!

Carola Bartz said...

This is a great list, Jeanie, and I have to say I always enjoy your book posts. Of all the books mentioned here I think I'm most interested in Timothy Snyder's "On Tyranny" - I do want to know what we can do that we keep our democracy beside voting, writing a letter to the newspaper and contacting our congresspeople. That seems to be the usual answer, but I don't feel that it changes anything. I'm planning to do my book post next week - hopefully that will indeed happen.

Sherry's Pickings said...

lots of fabulous books here jeanie. I will hunt up quite a few of them at my local library! I do have Tom Lake on my TBR pile along with mmm - rather a lot of books...

Beatrice P. Boyd said...

I have always enjoyed seeing and reading the synopsis of what you have read or are currently reading, Jeanie. I have read only a few of those on your list, notably Erik Larson and Donna Leon. I do enjoy historical fiction and read a number of those last year. My book tally was 58 for 2023 which includes Kindle and printed books, but my audio total was 74 due to the 3 cozyBritish series which i listened to from late fall until early January until I ran out of listens 😟 The Streisand memoir is on my hold list at the library. Thanks for the martin Short recommendation.

Sandra Cox said...

I really liked Alan Rickman too.
Do you do the Goodreads Challenge?

Lorrie said...

I always enjoy reading about what other people are reading and have found some great books this way. I'm a mystery lover, too. I see you have two Ann Patchett's in your list. I've not read her yet, but hope to soon. Last year I read 85 books, fewer than previous years. Here's to happy hours with books!

roughterrain crane said...

I was really surprised to know you had read books in so many genres.

Misadventures of Widowhood said...

You must be a fast reader to have read that many books, considering you also live a busy and full life. I'm also impressed at how much work and time you must have put into pulling this post together.

Linda @ Life and Linda said...

Kudos Jeanie, you are such an avid reader. I am reading audio books, so I can work around the house. Are you on Goodreads?
So glad you are taking time for yourself.

Sandra Cox said...

Good job on the reads.
Death of a Bookseller sounds intriguing.
Have a great one.

Judy at GoldCountryCottage said...

Jeanie, this is a great post. I think I will order the Brabra S. book. I really like her and have heard some snipets of her life and it sounds interesting. Thanks for all the info. xxoJudy

Carol @Comfort Spring Station said...

You are a prolific reader with a variety of types of books. I enjoyed your re-examining the books. There is something for everyone in your books. I've read little this year due to medical issues but hope this coming year will be different.

Pam Richardson said...

Great post, Jeanie. You are a prolific reader and what a list of books that you read. I look forward to your book reviews. This post took time, thank you!

Veronica Lee said...

Your book roundup is truly inspiring!
55 books in a year! That's quite an accomplishment!

Here's to another year filled with fantastic reads in 2024!

Hugs and blessings, Jeanie

Iris Flavia said...

WOW, that is a LOT of reading!
I´ll get some done on the NetFlix-bus and hopefully back on the railway-trip in Germany. said...

Thanks so much Jeanie, and I must say I want to read many in your top 12, especially the Kaffe Fassett one. I admire the variety of books you read last year, I am stuck reading cozy mysteries, so I need to broaden my reading experience! Great recommendations, thanks~

Lisa from Lisa's Yarns said...

I'm so glad you loved Lessons in Chemistry! I have started to watch the series on Apple TV and I think they did a really good job with it! I'm maybe 3-4 episodes in so have time to change my mind but so far I like it. That was my top read in 2022. My best of 2023 was Hello Beautiful - you might enjoy that one, too!

Maggie from Stillness at Cherith said...

Love books and reading!
Thanks for the recommendations :)

Sandra Cox said...

Have a grand reading weekend, Jeanie.

Fundy Blue said...

Wow! 55 books with a total of 17,785 pages! That's an accomplishment, Jeanie! I read and enjoyed Bonnie Garmus's "Lessons in Chemistry." I loved every word! I know I would really find Timothy Snyder's "On Tyranny" interesting. Oh, and Alan Rickman's diaries! So many good books here, Jeanie! You sent me down a rabbit hole because I was wondering how many pages I had read this year. The answer is coming in a future post. I'm still adding up! LOL Happy reading this year!

anno said...

These reading round-ups are some of my favorite posts of yours -- and here I see so many favorites that I heard about from you earlier in the year, including the Alan Rickman diaries and the Kaffee Fassett book... not to mention Ann Cleeves (whose work I've been bingeing through). Not sure how I missed your review of Jodi Picoult's The Book of Two Ways, but that sure looks interesting as well.

Looking forward to more of your reviews in the year to come. May you enjoy many hours of happy reading!

Karen said...

UPDATE! Louise Penney's next book THE GREY WOLF, will be released in October.

Bleubeard and Elizabeth said...

You put me to shame. What a wonderful collection you have given us from 2023. Simply amazing, dear Jeanie.

Deb Nance at Readerbuzz said...

I greatly enjoy seeing what books others loved reading. I've read and enjoyed three of your top reads, and I will now be contemplating the Alan Rickman book.

Dixie @ Arranged Words said...

Wow! Amazing to read 55 books! My list looks paltry compared to yours.
A lot of goodies here. I am taking notes. :)

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