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  • Writer's pictureDeborah Zafer

A Year in Reading 2023

Updated: Dec 27, 2023

I managed to read a lot this year and these were my favourites in the order I read them:

Milk Fed by Melissa Broder

Incredibly readable, very sexy story about an unhappy single woman who falls in love with an orthodox woman who works in the frozen yoghurt parlour she frequents.

Night Bitch by Rachel Yoder

Pretty undescribable book about new motherhood. I loved most of this but wasn't so sure about the end. But it isn't like anything else I've read so it definitely makes the list.

Death and The Penguin by Andrey Kurkov

This is an incredibly moving, interesting, funny and memorable parable about dictatorial societies and I loved the ending.

Fierce Attachments by Vivian Gornick

A wonderful book about mothers and daughters and life and New York and walking and everything. Highly recommend.

Parallel Lives by Phyllis Rose (non-fiction)

This interesting book looks at the institution of marriage by examining the marriages/relationships of five prominent Victorian couples. Well written and thought-provoking.

Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin

I am sure everyone has heard of this and whilst it did dip a little in the middle and I may, possibly, have skipped some of it, I thought the characterisation was brilliant and I didn't want it to end.

The Chosen by Chaim Potok

I loved this as a teenager and found it a really interesting re-read as I saw it so differently from my adult perspective. It is suberbly well written and moving.

In Praise of Messy Lives by Katie Roiphe (non-fiction)

A really interesting collection of essays about modern life and how conventional we have become - exploring amongst other things parenting, TV, Hilary Clinton, Joan Didion and a lot more.

Ten Days by Austin Duffy

This is a very moving exploration of life with dementia and its impact on the sufferer and others.

The Shards by Brett Easton Ellis

As someone who has always loved BEE I couldn't not read this and it didn't disappoint although it is very long and very weird but also incredibly funny and sexy and cool.

Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert

Finally I read this! I am so pleased I did. It is everything everyone says it is and it is also referenced so frequently in other books that it feels like something one must read. I absolutely loved it.

Soldier Sailor by Clare Kilroy

This is one of a few books I've read this year about new motherhood and is the most visceral and enjoyable. I loved the writing and found it completely absorbing and brilliant.

Cleanness/What Belongs To You by Garth Greenwell

I read both of these books by GG this year and was smitten with Cleanness in particular. It is incredibly well written, with the absolute best sex scenes I've ever read in any novel. What Belongs To You covers some of the same ground so is a good follow up but not (in my view) as brilliant as Cleanness which blew me away.

Germinal by Emile Zola

Another one I have meant to read for years and I am so pleased I did. It is far more readable than I anticipated and really moved me.

Abigail by Magda Szabo

Like a darker, grown-up boarding school novel for those of us who loved Malory Towers as kids. This is an incredibly well-written story about a young girl's wartime experiences of being separated from her family and sent to boarding school for her safety. I've never read any of her books before but will now seek more out.

The Years by Annie Erneaux

Again, someone I have meant to read for years. I was completely absorbed by this strange, interesting, undescribable book and intend to read all of her books this year.

The Hero of This Book by Elizabeth McCracken

Another book about mothers and daughters. This is moving and hilarious and the mother leaps from the page so vividly.

So Late In The Day by Claire Keegan

Everything she writes is, in my view, perfect. It is very short but manages to contain more truth and wisdom than most long books. I just love her and will always read everything she ever publishes.

Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates

I had read this many years ago but had forgotten it so decided to reread and I am so glad I did. It is the entirely unsparing, brutal and fascinating account of a marriage disintegrating. Completely brilliant writing. I wanted to underline every sentence.

The Copenhagen Trilogy by Tove Ditlevsen

This is made up of 3 books about the life of the author Tove Ditlevsen. It is quite bleak - especially the last book - but incredibly well written and she is a very interesting person to spend time with. I especially loved the first book about her childhood which I found really moving.

Giovanni's Room by James Baldwin

This was probably my book of the year, with a lot of stiff competition. I can't believe I never read James Baldwin before and will make sure to read all of his books this year if I can. This is just an incredible, taut, terrifying, sexy, moving, provocative book about knowing/not knowing ourselves and I can't recommend it enough.

The American Lover by Rose Tremain

My final read of 2023 was this book of short stories in which I especially loved the title story, Juliette Greco's Black Dress and The Jester of Astapovo about the death of Tolstoy.

Other books I enjoyed this year but didn't quite make the list were: The Lost Shtetl by Max Gross, The Fell by Sarah Moss, I'm Sorry You Feel That Way by Rebecca Wait, Deception by Philip Roth, A Sport and Pastime by James Salter, Clock Dance by Anne Tyler, Minna Needs Rehearsal Space by Dorthe Nors and The Writing School by Miranda France.

Onwards to more reading in 2024.

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