Reading is one of my favorite hobbies. I read over 110 books in 2023, and had 18 books flagged with 5 stars. I keep the 5-star rating for books that profoundly touched me, and many years I don’t get to 10 books with five stars. But this year has been a great reading year in terms of picks, and I actually had to think deeply on how to select my ten favorites from the list.
I read fiction and non-fiction. I read digital books, print books, and listen to audiobooks. My favorites are a mix of these genres and formats.
10. Rebecca West: The Return of the Soldier. A story about a shell-shocked soldier returning to his wife (whom he does not remember) and to his first love.
9. Edith Wharton: The Custom of the Country. A portrait of the folly of the upper classes in early 20th century America – but the story still sounds true and actual.
8. Willem Elsschot: Lijmen/Het Been. A parody that holds many truths about our modern society.
7. Willem Frederik Hermans: De donkere kamer van Damokles. What is true and what is a figment of our imagination?
6. Rebecca Giblin & Cory Doctorow: Chokepoint Capitalism: How Big Tech and Big Content Captured Creative Labor Markets and How We’ll Win Them Back. I had to pause reading this book many times – it is dense and its contents is frustrating, but it is an important book. There are definitely links to academic publishing and chokeholds as well.
5. Alfred Tennyson – In Memoriam. Poems about loss and grief.
4. Hella Haasse – Heren van de thee. Dutch planters in colonial Indonesia, and on not being accepted by your family for who you are.
3. Jeroen Brouwers: Datumloze Dagen. On the relationship between a father and son.
2. Elizabeth Stuart Phelps: The Story of Avis. Sometimes, the strongest feminist manifestos are novels about the crushed hopes and dreams of women.
1. Edith Wharton – Ethan Frome. A deeply depressing story about unmet needs and lost dreams.