Wrapping up 2023: Books

Photo by Patrick Tomasso on Unsplash

I’ve been returning to non-work reading more and more in the last five years, and this January I bought a Kobo Elipsa, my first e-reader. It definitely influenced me to read more. Here are my favorites, what I’m still buried in, and what’s hopefully coming soon.

Runners up and winner

One runner up: How To Focus
By Thich Nhat Hanh, 2022

Over the last week of November, I caught my second round of COVID. During my recovery I spent two days reading this small Thich Nhat Hanh book that I had picked up from Acapella Books several weeks ago. “How To Focus” was a beautiful and simple return to mindfulness practice. Lots of meditation books include short chapters that are so vague they relate to everything just a little. This book, however, reminded me of the benefits regular meditative practice and how simple thought patterns/structures can be useful for reflection.

Another runner up: Moon Witch Spider King
By Marlon James, 2022

Marlon James has dominated my reading in the last several years. The Dark Star Trilogy’s (Black Leopard, Red Wolf is the first one) second installment came out last year, but it takes me so long to consume these novels. One, because I don’t want them to end; but two, because they are so dense and ornately patterned. I didn’t think that I could like a narrator more than the Tracker from the first novel, but Sogolon, the Moon Witch, tells a better story. She begins life as a servant, eventually becomes the mother of a half-lion brood, and then spends avenging wronged women like a film noir superhero. Eventually, her story catches up with the action from Black Leopard, but almost as an afterthought. This is one of the best novels I’ve ever read.

Winner: Emergent Strategy: Shaping Change, Changing Worlds
By Adrienne Marie Brown, 2017

A strange, meandering book that reflects activist intention, synthesizes the beauty and patterns of the natural world, and uses the science fiction of Octavia Butler as a kind of talisman. Brown has decades as an organizer, speaker, and contemplative practitioner; Emergent Strategy was the first in her series of books catching and presenting all of that expertise. I listened to the book first in an audio format on a series of several hours long walks during the summer. Later, I switched to reading it so that I could go back and reflect on some the longer passages. I like that the book is a patchwork of essays, interviews, conversations, poems, and memoir-like reflections that all seem to work well together. I think I gave out almost a dozen copies of this book over the year.

Want to “play” the Tournament of Books 2024?

Several friends and I started following the Tournament of Books this year. The 2024 Tournament Short List was just published this week. Have a look at what they have selected and how the tournament works (it takes place in March). If you’re interested in joining a “reading team” with some of us, please let me know via email.


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