Best Books of 2023

Time to read: 5 minutes

I read a lot of good books in 2023.
In total, I read 80 books, and I would say that 72 of them were good, which makes for a 90% hit rate.

Amongst the 80 books then, there were some that I felt were truly wonderful, for a variety of reasons. These are the ones I will mention here.

L’invention des cafés parisiens 🇫🇷

This is a large-sized book, published in September of 2023, replete with photographs and quotes, that retells the history of the French Café. Those places, with their magical je ne sais quoi, hold a special place in my heart. So many poems and books were written in them! News passed around by word of mouth! Philosophical debates had! Absinthe consumed! The one where Voltaire hung out is one of the first in the western world (est. 1686), and still in operation – as a restaurant – today! Le Procope, in Saint-Germain. The history of french literature and philosophy is inextricably linked to them. I’m a bit of a history nerd on some subjects, and it turns out coffee shops is one of them… and this book presents them brilliantly.
L’invention des cafés parisiens on Goodreads

Una ragazza d’altri tempi 🇮🇹

I love crime, I’m a bit of a history nerd, and find that romance, when the characters are relatively well written, can make you feel things and give a colourful story. Well. This book has all of those things as well as time travel… and some spicy scenes. Oh. And it’s set in regency England. I cannot wait for it to be translated to english so that I can buy it as a gift for several friends! It’s already been recommended… but none of the friends that I think will love it speak italian. Yet.
Una ragazza d’altri tempi on goodreads

Στη χώρα του χωσέ 🇬🇷

Grim. Rough. Vulgar. Poetic. A collection of writings about one man’s time in the army. Greece is one of a small set of european countries to still have conscription. The time to serve has dropped from the two years my dad served to one year. This book conveys what the life in there feels like. I never served, but I have heard the stories from my dad, my brother, and several friends. This book does the service justice, and is very nicely written as a bonus. Would love to recommend it to friends, but unless you’re greek, I am not sure it will make sense. Some of the slang and expressions are untranslatable. Still one of my favourite books of the year!
This book on goodreads

Leading professionals 🇬🇧

I could summarise this in a couple of sentences: Professionals cannot be managed, they need to be lead. And even that is a challenge. Pointed in a direction, with parameters, and let go. Consulting, Law, Medicine… all are populated with smart, self-sufficient, and self-directed people. Managing them is impossible (think Gregory House or Harvey Specter), but give them a good environment, a pair of leaders to play good cop bad cop, and significant freedoms, and they will deliver you the world. It’s a recipe that has been successfully working for decades, though I do not know any other reference to it as clearly as in this book. Worth a read if you work in these spheres.
Leading professionals on Goodreads

L’incroyable histoire du sexe 🇫🇷

Who doesn’t like comic books? And who isn’t curious about sex? This is a fascinating story of sex from amoebas to today. It is fun, easy to follow, educational, and simply a delight to go through. Available in English too!
L’incroyable histoire du sexe on Goodreads

A court of thorns and roses 🇬🇧

Is there anyone left on the planet who has not heard of ACOTAR? And if there is… HOW? I even found ACOTAR-themed tights on snag!
This is an adventure based in another world. There are elves. There are strange creatures. There are… tribes, shall we say. Alliances. It is a fun adventurous saga that evolves across four (and a half) tomes (this is only the first one). I found it odd at first, and have to admit that it started getting really good from the end of this first volume… which, at 432 pages, is not a small commitment. But if I got through that so easily, then it’s nicely written, isn’t it?
If you enjoy quests, and challenges, and plot twists, and intrigue, and acts of heroism (do suspend your disbelief), oh, and a few spicy scenes, it is a fun read. I’m a chaise-longue adventurer myself, so this was very enjoyable.
A court of thorns and roses on goodreads

Maîtresse de cérémonies (Mistress of ceremonies 🇫🇷

Written as a memoir, this is a beautiful retelling of the salient memories of the author, who has organised events for large corporations, royal families, and more. In it you will learn how to make events memorable and how to do some things right. Like laying cutlery… tines down for a french set, the crest being on the back, and tines up for the english who put the crest on the front instead. Nerd much? Yes. I devoured all the savoir-faire books at the libraries I had access to growing up. Yes. LibrarieS. And I’m still collecting nerdy rules-based knowledge. If you know me, you won’t be surprised. This book is lovely company, and one of the few I intend to re-read.
Maîtresse de cérémonies on goodreads

Final thoughts

Having written this, I am realising that amongst my favourites of the year, I have full representation of the four languages I am fluent in. I don’t think this has happened before in a favourites list!

If you only read in one language, please do not feel bad about this. My languages are an accident of my birth combined with my father’s profession, and going to a private french school, where languages are taken more seriously than in English schools as far as I have seen from the fluency of the two sets of people.

Meanwhile I know that I have been very lucky, and am grateful for this every time I deeply understand and feel moved by a beautiful sentence in a language that isn’t the one I was born into (Greek).

If you do read any of these and enjoy them, I’d love to have a discussion, so drop me a message and we could meet for an impromptu coffee-bookclub.

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