Surveying my 2023 books read list, at first, it seemed I’d slipped below my average of 50 books a year. Last year it was 61, so I entered 2023 with a small cushion. My first count for this post was 42, but then I kept finding ones I’d missed, so I may have made 50. There are more non-fiction books this year than last, which may be because my preferred eBook reader, “OverDrive,” was discontinued and replaced by a product called “Libby.” Influenced by age-induced distaste for change, I am unable to get comfortable with the new program and so have regressed to reading more actual physical books.
Following are 20 of the best, which I certainly recommend – starting with non-fiction:
- Die With Zero: Getting All You Can from Your Money and Your Life, Bill Perkins. This book is already influencing me. It offers tips and a philosophical approach to getting the most out of your money—and your life. It recommends putting lifelong memorable experiences ahead of simply making and accumulating money for one’s Golden Years.
- 50 Great Myths of Popular Psychology: Shattering Widespread Misconceptions about Human Behavior, Scott O. Lillienfeld, Steven Jay Lynn, John Ruscio, Barry L. Beyerstein. Super fun to learn how many “commonly held” truths are totally and completely bogus. So good that after listening to the audiobook, I ordered the hard copy and went through it again – this time with a highlighter.
- Calling Bullshit: The Art of Skepticism in a Data-Driven World, by Carl T. Bergstrom and Jevin D. West. Most of us can spot “old-school bullshit” but an avalanche of new-school bullshit filled with math, science, and statistics can be overwhelming. This book provides tools to cut through and understand what is happening as well as pointing out a host of fun examples.
- Starry Messenger: Cosmic Perspectives on Civilization, Neil deGrasse Tyson. As a writer, Tyson keeps getting better and easier to read. Here he wanders through a way of looking at science and how it causes us to see the world differently. It’s a mix of brilliance and beautiful truths that apply to everyone and remind us how precious life is and how great it is to be alive. Especially now.
- A Lot of People Are Saying, Nancy Rosenblum and Russell Muirhead. Discussion of new types of conspiracies undermining ways we recognize and find what is true.
- Good Thinking: Why Flawed Logic Puts Us All at Risk and How Critical Thinking Can Save The World – David Robert Grimes. I was lucky enough to meet and hear Grimes speak at this year’s CISCON in Las Vegas. He’s a scientist focused on logical fallacies and cognitive biases driving our understanding and conversation across a host of topics; vaccination, abortion, 9/11 conspiracy theories, astrology, alternative medicine, wrongful convictions to racism. Great read.
- Justice: What’s the Right Thing to Do?, Michael J. Sandel. The role of justice in society and the moral dilemmas we face in public life. More engaging than I expected.
- Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, Yuval Noah Harai. It deserves to be a #1 International bestseller. It’s a brilliant story of humanity’s creation and evolution. Harari is a brilliant and meticulous scholar, building his case on the past twenty years of breakthroughs in history and human understanding.
- Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup, John Carryrou. Well-told story of the brief and brilliant history of Theranos and its charismatic founder, Elizabeth Holmes. I may have read this in 2022 and left it off my list. Shouldn’t have. It’s very good.
- Think Again: The Power of Knowing What You Don’t Know, Adam Grant
- Wardroom Warriors: The Pleasures of Peacetime Military Duty, or How to Avoid a Court Martial at Age Twenty-five, By Andy Forrester and Rich Marin
- Exponential Theory: The Power of Thinking Big, Aaron D. Bare. The author gave me his book when I attended a business start-up social event with my youngest daughter, Ginger. It provides the reasons and rationale for why change is accelerating so rapidly. Better book than I thought it would be.
- Total Darkness, Mark Edward. I met Edward a couple of years ago at CISCON and now consider him and his partner, Susan Gerbic, friends. They are wonderful people engaged in important work exposing psycics and, what Susan calls, Grief Vampires. In this book, Mark uncovers many of his most elaborate magic setups and how he used them to maintain his grip as the most sought-after psychic entertainer in the 1980s and 1990s in Los Angeles. While now retired, he still does guest stints at The Magic Castle and other venues.
- The Sharp Brains Guide to Brain Fitness: 18 Interviews with Scientists, Practical Advice, and Product Reviews, to Keep Your Brain Sharp, Alvaro Fernandez and Dr. Elkhonon Goldberg. Good tips for old-timers like me.
- That Time of Year: A Minnesota Life, Garrison Keillor. Essentially, an autobiography, but told by one of the finest writers of our generation.
Now to Fiction:
- The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue,E. Schwab. Reminded me of 1985’s “Perfume,” by Patrick Suskind, this is far less dark. Amazingly fun and resilient female protagonist.
- Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch, Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman. After watching the television series, Good Omens, way more than we usually do, I wanted to read the book. It’s fun, but this may be one of the rare instances where I liked the movie better.
- The Keeper of Lost Things: A novel, Ruth Hogan. Storytelling at its best – wonderfully created characters, wisdom, and witty.
- Insane City, Dave Barry. No one writes better comic novels than Dave Barry. I was lucky to find this audiobook where he reads the story, too.
- Ready Player Two, Ernest Cline. I loved Ready Play One and consider it one of the best Sci-Fi books ever. How could I not read the sequel? It came out in 2020 and, while not as good as the original, it was fun to see the characters again.
- Neverwhere: #1, Neil Gaiman. Gaiman’s Neverwhere books and urban fantasy fiction have always intrigued me and I’ve friends who are big fans. It’s a fun world he’s created. It helps me understand why his books are so popular and also, why I probably won’t read more of them.
- The Book of Psalms: 97 Devine Diatribes on Humanity’s Total Failure, David Javerbaum. Very funny and hilarious – if you’re in the right mood.