In 2023, I read 4,389 pages.
This was a year with some marked life shifts that were followed closely by priority shifts. Consequently, my book count was down somewhat compared to 2022 and 2021. I make this observation entirely without regret, as the year was full of enriching experiences that took place beyond printed pages.
As always, I started many more books than I ever finished, and those listed here are the ones that kept me engaged until the end. Compared to previous years, many of these titles were a bit longer. I also spent much more time immersed in fiction.
Per tradition, I am sharing a one-sentence summary1 and a notable quote from each book.
2023 Reading List
The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt by Edmund Morris
This first installment of a three-part biography delves into the life of Theodore Roosevelt, chronicling his journey from a fragile young boy with precarious health to becoming one of the most influential presidents in American history.
Pages: 960 | Approximate listening time: 26 hrs, 36 min
“It is not often that a man can make opportunities for himself. But he can put himself in such shape that when or if the opportunities come, he is ready to take advantage of them.”
Is This Anything? by Jerry Seinfeld
In this collection, the brilliant comedian Jerry Seinfeld shares his best stand-up comedy routines, offering a hilarious and insightful glimpse into his unique perspective on life.
Pages: 480 | Approximate listening time: 6 hrs, 19 min
“[As a kid] there’s a level of boredom where you simply cannot support your bodyweight … Adulthood is the ability to be totally bored and remain standing.”
The Kill Chain by Christian Brose
Brose provides a thought-provoking analysis of how modern conflicts are shaped and fought in the digital age by exploring the intersections of technology and warfare.
Pages: 320 | Approximate listening time: 9 hrs, 44 min
“This is the real source of dysfunction in our defense system – the fundamental lack of incentives and accountability for turning small-scale innovation into large-scale disruption – and it remains pervasive as ever …
If we are to prevent history from repeating itself, we need to abandon the belief that the same system that has contributed to our current failure will somehow get us out of it.”
Essentialism by Greg McKeown
Essentialism is a guide to simplifying life and honing in on the core of what truly matters in pursuit of growth and fulfillment. (A lot of books aim to do this, but I liked McKeown’s framing of “the disciplined pursuit of less.”)
Pages: 288 | Approximate listening time: 6 hrs, 14 min
“Remember that if you don’t prioritize your life, someone else will.”
Rabbit, Run by John Updike
This 1960 novel chronicles the tumultuous journey of Harry “Rabbit” Angstrom, a restless and searching young man, as he navigates through personal struggles, relationship woes, societal pressures, and the pursuit of meaning.
Pages: 288 | Approximate listening time: 12 hrs, 5 min
“There is this quality, in things, of the right way seeming wrong at first.”
The Enchiridion by Epictetus
This ancient guide provides practical wisdom and insights on cultivating inner strength, resilience, and ethical conduct to live a virtuous life.
Pages: 33 | Approximate listening time: just read this one
“People are not disturbed by things, but by the views they take of them.”
The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
There and back again, an inspiring adventure with Bilbo Baggins as he sets out on a quest to reclaim the Lonely Mountain and treasure within, encountering fantastical creatures, overcoming great personal challenges, and building beautiful friendships along the way.
Pages: 300 | Approximate listening time: 10 hrs, 25 min
“I have found that it is the small everyday deed of ordinary folks that keep the darkness at bay. Small acts of kindness and love.”
Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World by Jack Weatherford
This thoroughly researched account explores the life and legacy of Genghis Khan, shedding light on his profound impact on shaping the modern world through conquest, governance, and cultural exchange.
Pages: 312 | Approximate listening time: 14 hrs, 20 min
“You may conquer an army with superior tactics and men, but you can conquer a nation only by conquering the hearts of the people.”
Atomic Habits by James Clear
Clear offers pressure-tested, practical strategies and actionable advice in memorable terms, empowering you to build habits which bring you closer to your aspirational self.
Pages: 320 | Approximate listening time: 5 hrs, 35 min
“Every action you take is a vote for the type of person you wish to become. No single instance will transform your beliefs, but as the votes build up, so does the evidence of your new identity.”
A Little Life* by Hanya Yanagihara
This novel follows the lives of four college friends as they navigate the beautiful and tragic complexities of love, friendship, and trauma, in a poignant and emotionally-charged exploration of human connection and resilience.
Pages: 832 | Approximate listening time: 32 hrs, 51 min
“You won’t understand what I mean now, but someday you will: the only trick of friendship, I think, is to find people who are better than you are—not smarter, not cooler, but kinder, and more generous, and more forgiving—and then to appreciate them for what they can teach you, and to try to listen to them when they tell you something about yourself, no matter how bad—or good—it might be, and to trust them, which is the hardest thing of all. But the best, as well.“
*I feel I have a duty to not recommend this book to anyone. Truly. It pulled me in from the beginning and I struggled to put it down, but it was earth-shatteringly tragic and depressing (and I think gratuitously so).
The Creative Act: A Way of Being by Rick Rubin
The personal anecdotes and philosophical reflections of Rick Rubin, the famous American record executive and producer, exploring the nature of creativity and artistic expression.
Pages: 432 | Approximate listening time: 5 hrs, 45 min
“How shall we measure success? It isn’t popularity, money, or critical esteem. Success occurs in the privacy of the soul. It comes in the moment you decide to release the work, before exposure to a single opinion. When you’ve done all you can to bring out the work’s greatest potential. When you’re pleased and ready to let go.
Success has nothing to do with variables outside yourself.”
Hot Water by P.G. Wodehouse
A delightful and humorous tale woven in classic Wodehouse fashion with his signature wit and charm; a story of mistaken identities, romantic entanglements, and uproarious situations, captivating from the beginning. This was my second Wodehouse book (the first was last year), and it came recommended by my dad.
Pages: 256 | Approximate listening time: 7 hrs, 16 min
“One of the drawbacks to life is that it contains moments when one is compelled to tell the truth.”
As always, thanks for reading to the end.
Drop 2024 book recommendations in the comments below!
- Drafted with support from generative AI.