Marci’s Annual Book Round-Up for 2023
If you’ve been reading my posts for a bit, you already know that each January (except when I’m on parental leave!) I post an annual book round-up.
I share with you some of my favorite books from the previous year with a very quick blurb about how they made my heart sing. If you want to check out my complete list of books, please join me on Goodreads!
Ok, let’s get to it.
(I am sharing these books based on the order I read them.)
You are the One You’ve Been Waiting For: Bringing Courageous Love to Intimate Relationships by Richard Schwartz I absolutely loved this book. If you are a fan of or interested in IFS add this to your list, regardless of relationship status. If you are curious about the parts of yourself that become reactive and activated, particularly in relationships, read this book. It will not only help you grow but also help you understand your inner world with greater clarity and compassion.
Innovations and Elaborations in Internal Family Systems Therapy, Edited by Martha Sweezy and Ellen L. Ziskind
Ok, so you’re noticing a theme. Another fantastic IFS book – this one a compilation on a variety of topics from a variety of authors. If you’re on an iFS journey, add this one to your bookshelf.
Black Cake by Charmaine Wilkerson This story has just about every ingredient (see what I did there?) that makes for one delicious book – family secrets, travel across time and location, suspicions of murder, relationship difficulties and repair. Wilkerson is a skilled storyteller and boy do I want some of that black cake.
The Warmth of Other Suns: the Epic Story of America’s Great Migration by Isabel Wilkerson If you are American, READ THIS BOOK…then read Caste by Isabel Wilkerson (just released as a major motion picture titled Origin).
I cannot overstate how much I love and appreciate Isabel Wilkerson’s work and writing. She is not only a brilliant historian but an unbelievably talented writer and storyteller. There is a reason she won the Pulitzer for this book. It should be mandatory reading for all Americans. The audiobook narrator is absolute perfection.
Belly of the Beast: The Politics of Anti-Fatness as Anti-Blackness by Da’Shaun Harrison
As someone who is perhaps a foil to Harrison – thin, white, cis – this book streeeeetched me.
The politics of bodies at the intersection of fatness and Blackness is painful and complicated. Harrison exploration of self-love, ugliness, policing, health, drugs all as it relates to fat Black bodies was mind bending for me.
One of the reasons I read is to expand my understanding of how others experience and navigate the world. This book did that for me in spades.
Horse by Geraldine Brooks I have little to no interest in horses so went into this book a bit skeptical that I’d love it as much as everyone else. But boy oh boy, did I fall in love with the fictionalized story of the real horse Lexington and his groomer Jarret.
I felt much more conflict about the parallel modern day story woven throughout. But the beautiful prose and glimpse into a little known part of Civil War America had me hooked.
Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver The writing and brilliance of this book really deserves a 5/5. But I found aspects of this book so grueling to read – like 2/3 through I had to shove myself to the finish. So this book for me, as a reader, is closer to a 4.5.
Kingsolver, yet again, crafts an epic novel with a protagonist that just grabs right a hold of your heart. I found myself in tears, yelling, pleading, hand wringing on his behalf.
A searing critique of the opioid crisis with insight into a place essentially foreign to me.
After finishing this book, I had to reach for something much lighter.
Romantic Comedy by Curtis Sittenfeld OMG I enjoyed this book SO much, an absolute delight! If you need a rom com to brighten your spirits along with a peek into the inner workings of Saturday Night Live – pick this baby up!
Vagina Obscura: An Anatomical Voyage by Rachel E. Gross Deeply researched and utterly fascinating. I can’t believe how much I didn’t know about the many organs inside my own body. I liked how the author organized the book’s content, my favorite chapter being the uterus given my own experience with endometriosis. Strong recommendation for anyone who has a body and is into science.
The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone and How WE Can Prosper Together by Heather McGhee This is, without a doubt, in my top 5 books that have impacted me GREATLY. McGhee brilliantly describes the various ways that racism, enacted through policy, brings every one of us down. And how, through policy, we can lift all of us together. Life is not a zero sum game.
This should be mandatory reading.
The author is a fantastic narrator if you’re considering the audio version.
An Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Moods and Madness by Kay Redfield Jamison I deeply appreciated this memoir – the bravery and generosity the author shares of her experience with bipolar disorder (formerly known as manic depressive disorder), particularly as a mental health professional, is very moving.
I imagine this book to be incredibly useful for anyone who has a friend or loved one with this illness as well as for anyone working in behavioral health.
Jamison’s insights are all the more compelling given that she is a psychologist whose research and clinical work are with mood disorders. She handles the questions related to the ethical concerns of practicing/researching with an illness unflinchingly and with compassion.
Her central points about love and relationships and their role in her mental health were deeply moving.
Feed Yourself: Step Away from the Lies of Diet Culture and into Your Divine Design by Leslie Schilling A friend and colleague, Leslie Schilling is a professional and writer I deeply admire. Finally, we have an expert speaking to the urgent need we have to uproot diet culture out of the spaces that should be safe, particularly church. Written in a no-nonsense yet compassionate style, Leslie has written the anti-diet book for Christians that has been missing. I hope this will be used in book clubs across religious congregations around the globe!
Fat Talk: Parenting in the Age of Diet Culture by Virginia Sole-Smith How in the world does one navigate parenting amidst the toxic tide of diet culture? Sole-Smith has written the definitive response to this complicated question. I love Sole-Smith’s writing style – her research woven together with compelling stories, make for a satisfying reading experience. Mandatory reading for anyone who interacts with children.
Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann You know the phrase, “stranger than fiction?” As I listened to this book I kept thinking, “this is more horrifying than fiction.”
If you are into true crime and US history, this book is for you. The painstaking research is evident throughout. However the title may lead you to believe this book is far more about the genesis of the FBI. While you get some of that, most of the focus is on the massacre of the Osage Indians for their oil rights, with some of the most chilling facts/evidence at the tail end of the book.
As a nation we have not but must reckon with our treatment of the Indigenous peoples. Learning a bit of this history seems the very least we all could do.
Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals by Oliver Burkeman
Have you ever read a book and thought, “Wow, It was awfully nice of the author to write a book just for me!”
That was this book for me.
I rarely re-read books but intend to read this one annually. I have wrestled with my relationship with time for years now – trying to create new systems, attending workshops, buying bullet journals, and online applications like Trello.
Turns out that this anti-time management book has been precisely what I have needed. Burkeman helped me rewire and reframe my relationship to time and while it’s still a work in progress, this book has brought a lot of clarity and relief.
Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times by Katherine May What a beautifully written book by an introspective, very likable soul. May has inspired me to think of the seasons in my life through a new light – truly lovely to read as I head into winter.
Now if only I could tuck in by the fire, sleep for longer stretches, read, and learn to bake bread…
Oh William! & Lucy by the Sea By Elizabeth Strout I’m not sure who I love more – Elizabeth Strout or Lucy Barton, the protagonist of this 3-part series. Strout, via Lucy, captures the beautiful and painful interior of the human experience with such accuracy and depth. I nearly fall in love with every sentence and sentiment.
Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner Yowsa – Zauner is a spectacular writer and the audiobook is stellar. As Zauner grapples with her very complicated relationship with her mother, as she is dying from cancer. We ride alongside her relational journeys not only with her family, but also that of race (she is Korean American) and cultural heritage. If you’re into food writing, this one got it in spades.
Homecoming by Kate Morton My kind of book to escape to – twists, turns, beautiful setting, interesting characters, great writing, relationships over generations. Kept me guessing until the end.
The Island of Sea Women by Lisa See I LOVED this story. An epic, gorgeously crafted historical fiction. I was captivated by the writing, the setting, the history, the characters. I found the history of this small island of the coast of South Korea both excruciating and enthralling. The audiobook narrator was fantastic.