According to GoodReads, I made it through 36 books in 2023. Those ranged from historical fiction to business books to a few personal finance books towards the end of the year (to help me overcome my latest desire to start rampantly spending money on things I don’t need). I got most of my books from the used bookstore at the VB Public Library. I donated most of them back or gave them to friends when I was done. The few I couldn’t find there or check out, I bought on my Kindle. I only paid retail price for one hard-copy book this year, and that’s because I was getting on a plane, and I hadn’t brought my Kindle on that trip. I also finally upgraded my 10-year-old Kindle Touch to a Kindle Paperwhite this year! No more pop-out booklight! 😉
Here are the best six books I read in 2022.
1. The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson
I’ll admit I’m a bit late to the party on this 18-year-old best-seller. I stumbled upon it at the used bookstore in the library, along with its sequels. Once I started reading it, I couldn’t believe I hadn’t read it sooner. My overall, over-simplified summary: petite, reclusive computer nerd solves mystery with unexpected male companion, while stalking and spying on people and also being an all-around badass. But in a more serious context, this novel has many major themes, including violence against women, politics, journalism, and business. I found it quite captivating and very intelligently written, and I couldn’t put it down.
2. A Well-Behaved Woman by Therese Anne Fowler
I picked this one up at The Breakers in Newport and spent the next few days devouring it while I was on vacation in Watch Hill and New Jersey. One of my favorite memories of this summer was lounging under an umbrella on the beach at Ocean House, being transported to Gilded Age New York City and Newport through this fictionalized account of Alva Vanderbilt’s unconventional life and ambitions. I loved this book, but I may have read it too quickly because many of the the details escape me now. I loaned it to my mom on August 10th, and if she ever gives it back, I’ll probably re-read it.
3. The Alice Network by Kate Quinn
I’ve been smitten with historical fiction over the last several years, and when I shared that with a friend an fellow reader, she made this excellent recommendation. The novel is set in dual timelines–1947 post-war Europe and WWI enemy-occupied France. In one timeline, we follow the story of a young woman searching for her cousin who went missing during WWII. The other timeline unravels the tale of the women who served as secret agents in WWI, spying on the Germans and passing key information back to Britain. Add a dash of quirky characters and a whirlwind of drama, and this book will certainly keep you in its grips until you’re done. And maybe even for a few days afterwards. (Unless you’re like me, and immediately dive into the next one.)
4. Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown
At the beginning of the summer, I found myself feeling extremely overwhelmed and burned out by the number of meetings on my calendar and tasks I needed to get done on a daily and weekly basis. I can’t remember how I came to have this book in my possession–if I found it myself or someone gave it to me–but it couldn’t have come at a better time. To be completely honest, I still haven’t finished this one, but I’ve referred back to the first half of it many times since I started reading it. I took it with me to a solo dinners in June and July and read it slowly, taking notes as I went. It even spurred a few conversations with strangers who noticed it, which was an added bonus. “If you don’t prioritize your life, someone else will,” the author states. That is so true. And while this book didn’t change everything for me overnight, it started a slow journey to re-gaining control over my schedule throughout the second half of the year. It’s an effort I’m still working through, of course, and I’ll definitely pick this book back up to finish the second half once I’ve mastered the first half in 2023.
5. Old Money, New Woman by Byron Tully
Is there anything better than a supposed self-help book that mostly validates a lot of what you already do? Both of these last two were just that for me. I loved everything about this book, which I read immediately after its predecessor The Old Money Book by the same author. The down-to-earth approach and matter-of-fact advice for spending less, investing in quality, planning for the future, and establishing a values-based approach to personal finance was just the inspiration I needed in the fall. I was recovering from being sick for several weeks and feeling pretty down, which are prime conditions for me to start compulsively shopping. My favorite thing about this book was the advice to establish protocols for decision-making. “Establishing protocols–set-in-stone rule, boundaries, procedures, or points of reference that inform and shape choices–contributes to consistently good decision-making.” I wholeheartedly agree, and I’ve kind of been doing this in my head for years. But ever since reading this book, I’ve been jotting down ideas for protocols for both my personal life and for my businesses. I intend to formalize a list over the next few days, and review it whenever I’m having a hard time making a decision in 2023.
6. The Art of Frugal Hedonism by Annie Raser-Rowland & Adam Grubb
At the time of this writing, I’m about 75% of the way through The Art of Frugal Hedonism. This is another book that describes many things I already do–it’s mainly focused on strategies for reducing your consumption while raising your quality of life. There were some chapters in this book I couldn’t relate to, but there were lots of great ideas in here, too. Most of the chapters are short, sweet, and offer tidbits of (what I believe to be) common sense. For example, “Notice When You Have Enough” or “Undercomplicate Things” and “Limit the Burden of Choice.” Other chapters offer some advice that I’ll likely never follow–like growing and pickling and preserving a majority of my own food–but it’s still interesting to hear about the experiences of the authors who do just that!