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2023 Reading wrap-up

I haven't been keeping statistics for very long, but even without them I can tell 2023 has been my best reading year. It's not about the numbers. I'll never stop repeating that reading 50 books doesn't make you a better reader than the person reading 10. Preferring classics to middle-grade fantasy doesn't either. All reading is valid and good as long as you find pleasure in them.

I'd rather talk about the books that enchanted me, transported me, that I finished as a slightly different person than who I was when I started them. Those books have doubled in number since previous years when there were about 8 of them that I could gleefully (or not) arrange into a pile that I would draw to illustrate this recap. But before revealing that list, here are a few stats.

Numbers, numbers, numbers

In 2022 I'd read 45 books in English and 58 in French. In 2023 I had a similar balance with 55 books in English and 79 in French. I consider here the language in which I read the books, not the original language. I sometimes read anglophone books in translation for a number of reasons, especially if they're at the library. I'm not reaching towards a 50/50 balance. I'm not reaching towards any specific goal with those stats, I should start by saying. Only to broaden my horizons and find different perspectives than the white, able-bodied, cis-het men writing in French or English.

I read 74 books written by women and 42 by men (taking into account that each one of Pierre Bottero's book I struggled through counts as one), as well as 7 non-binary authors. More than a third of total books had a queer author or main character, which was better in 2022 when that proportion reached 50%. A little less than a fourth of the books I read were written by non-white authors.

I only re-read 5 books in 2023, which is something I'd like to do better in 2023. It's all well and good to pile new books upon new books, but I'd love to revisit old favourites. I have very little memories of them to ensure the experience will be just as pleasant as the first time, and if it's not the case, then those books can go and make room for others.

As for book-buying, I clearly lost all sense of control with 58 new titles, about half of them new and half second-hand. Among the former are mainly ebooks on sale and physical books acquired with a voucher.

In 2023 I joined NetGalley and had access to 15 advanced-reading copies in digital format, so that I could read books before their release, in French as well as in English. It's an experience I've loved and am delighted to keep doing in 2024 (I already have a few titles waiting for me on my e-reader). I also beta-read 5 books for writer-friends that I thank deeply for their trust. I picked up 16 books from the library.

Genre-wise, you don't change a winning team as we say in French. Fantasy is still my top genre with 40 titles, but contemporary literature was right behind with 26 titles. I read the same number of sci-fi books as last year, 13. However, I read more non-fiction (16), which I'm very happy about. I'm starting to read essays that deal with neither writing nor my PhD, and I hope to keep doing that in 2024.

I read 17 short-story collections and only 2 poetry collections, but it's still better than the humiliating zero of 2022.

I read 99 adult books, 27 YA and 8 middle-grade, in a similar proportion as last year.

I didn't re-read any book by Robin Hobb in 2023, and so other authors appear in the list of longuest books. The biggest books I read in 2023 are Our Share of Night by Mariana Enríquez (768 pages), The Name of the Wind and The Wise Man's Fear by Patrick Rothfuss (724 and 1108 respectively).

As for countries, I mostly read books from France (54), which was a change from last year's USA-centric stats. The USA aren't far behind with 42 titles. 11 came from England, which leaves 26 for the rest of the world, showing that I still have a huge potential for improvement.

And the winners are...

Les Portes de l'Envers, short-story anthology Mémoires de la forêt, Mickaël Brun-Arnaud Piranesi, Susanne Clarke The Wind in the Wall, Sally Gardner & Rovina Cai Into the Forest, Jean Hegland The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows, John Koenig Sea of Tranquility, Emily St John Mandel Vénère, Taous Merakchi Julia and the Shark, Kiran Millwood Hargrave The Tea Dragon Festival, Kay O'Neill Honey Girl, Morgan Rogers Drowned Country, Emily Tesh Catherine House, Elisabeth Thomas Cimqa, Auriane Velten

This list is presented in alphbetical order of authors, but it just might be that Piranesi is my favourite-favourite.

I'm very happy to see French literature back on the podium when it was almost absent from last year's.

An illustrated pile of books, in a black frame, leans on a row of books in a decor of dried vegetations, an autumn-coloured scarf and a golden compass.

Special mentions go to:

  • Kiffe ta race, Rokhaya Diallo et Grace Ly

  • Kerhoded, Hélène Néra

  • Du Thé pour les fantômes, Chris Vuklisevic

  • 84, Charing Cross Road, Helene Hanff

  • Sorrowland, Rivers Solomon

  • Sirem et l'oiseau maudit, Yasmine Djebel

  • Dreamer's Pool, Juliet Marillier

  • No Sex Club, Betty Piccioli

  • Say I Boo, Morgan Spellman

  • Emblèmes, Ina Siel

  • Legendborn, Tracy Deonn

  • La Cité diaphane, Anouck Faure

  • Tonnerre après les ruines, Floriane Soulas

I also have to give a special award to Nous Serons l'Incendie by Jeanne Mariem Corrèze, which I had the honour of beta-reading but which hasn't been published yet.

Do you enjoy reading stats ? Do we have favourites in common?

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