== Leo Qin ==

My Favorite Books of 2023


Some Stats

According to my Storygraph, in 2023 I read 28 books of a total of 8965 pages. 12 books were “adventurous” in mood, and 10 were “reflective” or “emotional”. 80% was nonfiction, and the most popular genres were LGBTQIA+ (13 books), Science Fiction (11 books), and Contemporary (8 books).

A caveat - I only started tracking my reading in mid-August, while I was traveling in Philadelphia, so this recap is not the focus of a complete year. I did find, however, that it is much easier to sustain the reading habit while traveling - if I’m not around my other hobbies, reading seems to be a natural alternative. So, I guess I’ll have to travel more.

Finally, before we get started - if you haven’t heard of Storygraph before, I highly recommend it! They have a very functional free tier and competent mobile apps, and overall I’ve found it an enjoyable way to track the books I read without feeding my data to Amazon (a la Goodreads).

My Favorite Books of 2023, In No Particular Order

Light From Uncommon Stars, by Ryka Aoki

The cover of Light From Uncommon Stars, by Ryka Aoki

As I wrote above, the most common genres that I read were LGBTQIA+, Science Fiction, and Contemporary, and this book is a LGBTQIA+ Science Fiction novel in a contemporary setting. Specifically, it’s a queer and trans story with diverse Asian American (Vietnamese, Japanese, Maybe-Southeast-Asian-but-actually-extraterrestrial-refugees) characters set in the San Gabriel Valley of the LA metropolitan area (this also happens to be exactly where I live). Oh and also, magic is real, the devil is real, and aliens are real. Basically, there was never a chance that I wouldn’t enjoy this story.

That aside, what I find the most enjoyable about this book is how well it manages to tell all of these stories without being hard-to-follow or feeling rushed. Katrina’s development as a musician is easy to identify with, even to me, someone who played viola for two years in middle school and was never higher than fifth-to-last chair. Shizuka and Lan’s romance is deeply likable, and the context of Lan’s family as interstellar refugees who own a donut shop lands earnestly even/especially if you’re familiar with the history.

Find it on Storygraph

The Tragedy of Heterosexuality, by Jane Ward

The cover of The Tragedy of Heterosexuality, by Jane Ward

This book, written by Professor Jane Ward at UCSB, read to me as an outside observer’s report on what heterosexuality is, why it is that way, and if it does needs to be like that. Feeling myself often to be an outside observer of the oddness of heterosexuality, I enjoyed reading this field report for the way its observations on the ways that heterosexuality can be absurd, performative, and yes, often tragic.

In particular, the book has a very interesting segment about the seduction industry, which I had anticipated would be treated as somewhat of an easy and obvious target. However, there is more nuance and the book explains in depth how the industry has changed in response to Me Too and other broad developments in norms. One anecdote that really stuck out to me was a segment where course attendees were taught to rationalize feminist thought by making it an element of their own masculinity to be celebrated and proud of. The gender binary really is a hell of a drug.

Find it on Storygraph

Project Hail Mary, by Andy Weir

The cover of Project Hail Mary, by Andy Weir

A few months ago, I found myself compelled to re-watch “The Martian” starring Matt Damon and adapted from another of Andy Weir’s books. This was a really odd decision, as I almost never re-watch movies, but it lead me to remember the name when I came across Project Hail Mary. This being the first book of his that I read, I was surprised (pleasantly) at the ease with which the first-person observational form of writing flowed.

At 476 pages, this is the longest book that I read this year, but I finished it a single plan-free day of vacation. The main character’s stream-of-consciousness writing of style rings true especially for its descriptions of the engineering process, in particular the inescapably iterative nature of engineering… Nothing ever works right the first time you try it!

Find it on Storygraph

Honorable Mentions

  1. We Are Legion (We Are Bob) by Dennis E. Taylor
  2. The Not Wives by Carley Moore
  3. Yellowface by R.F. Kuang
  4. Moby Dyke: An Obsessive Quest To Hunt Down The Last Remaining Lesbian Bars In America by Krista Burton
  5. Wild Things by Laura Kay
  6. Go Around by EJ Noyes
  7. Sea of Tranquility by Emily St. John Mandel
  8. Crying in H-Mart by Michelle Zauner

Other Books I Read

  1. Futuristic Violence and Fancy Suits by David Wong
  2. Portrait of a Thief by Grace D Li
  3. We Have Always Been Here by Lena Nguyen
  4. Frankissstein by Jeanette Winterson
  5. Upgrade by Blake Crouch
  6. Assistant to the Villain by Hannah Nicole Maehrer
  7. If You Could See the Sun by Ann Liang
  8. I’ll Be The One by Lyla Lee
  9. Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel
  10. Long Live the Tribe of Fatherless Girls by T Kira Madden
  11. Edge Case by YZ Chin
  12. No Boy Summer by Amy Spalding
  13. It Came from the Closet: Queer Reflections on Horror by Joe Vallese
  14. The Midnight Library by Matt Haig
  15. The Kaiju Preservation Society by John Scalzi
  16. Several People Are Typing by Calvin Kasulke
  17. Mooncakes by Suzanne Walker