2023 was the reading year for me. I read an astonishing 402 books. (Actually, the true number is higher. Computer problems erased part of my list, and I have tried to reconstruct as much of it as I could, but I'm certain I left a number of them out.) Admittedly, some of these titles were rather short, but there were a number of hefty volumes also -- including a couple of 1000-pagers, so it all pretty much balanced out. In past years, I felt that completing more than 250 books was a terrific accomplishment, but 402? Wow.
And, with few exceptions, I enjoyed them.
Authors I read a lot of this past year include Lee Goldberg, Donald E. Westlake, Erle Stanley Gardner, Christopher Golden, Max Allan Collins, Lawrence Block, James Lee Burke, Bill Crider, Dean Koontz, Mickey Spillane, and F. Paul Wilson -- top notch authors, all of them.
2023 was also the year I finally got around to reading Howard Brown's two pulpish prehistorical fantasies about the barbarian warrior Tharn, and an early romance novel by Murray Leinster under his "Louisa Carter Lee" pseudonym. I read a number of early Sax Rohmer short stories, and am closing in on my complete read of the original Tom Swift novels. I started reading Martin Edwards' mystery novels (oh, why hadn't I read them before?), and picked up again (after too long an absence) with the Dave Robicheaux novels by James Lee Burke, Elvis Cole/Joe Pike novels by Robert Crais, and the D.A. Doug Selby books by Erle Stanley Gardner. I fanally read Neil Gaiman's AMERICAN GODS and started in on E.E. "Doc" Smith's creaky SF classic Lensman series. I started Lee Goldberg's MONK series and found I could not stop with just one; I had the same reaction with his DIAGNOSIS MURDER series. I started going through my hefty backlog of books from Hard Case Crime, wondering how Charles Ardai manages to select so many great and varied titles. I read books about authors Harlan Ellison, C. M. Kornbluth, and John W. Campbell. I gagged as James Patterson and Brian Stitts tried pitifully to revive Doc Savage and the The Shadow (making me more determined to read Will Murray's far superior continuing adventures of Doc Savage and his gang in 2024). I became a kid again, reading the Danny Dunn juvenile books by Jay Williams and Raymond Abrashkin. Speaking of being a kid, I finally read the complete NARNIA books by C. S. Lewis. I spent an enjoyable afternoon in Leonard Wibberley's Grand Fenwick.
My favorite books of 2023? Sorry, I can't, I just can't. It's like comparng apples to oranges. I can however unhesitatingly recommend the book I finished this Saturday -- THORN HEDGE by "T. Kingfisher," an amazing updated fairy tale that speaks to the power of story.
As for the books I had hoped to read in 2023 had something else also bright and shiny not also crossed my path -- at the top of the list is Sheridan le Fanu's UNCLE SILAS (I've been trying to read this one for years). Also Ann Radcliffe's THE MYSTERIES OF UDOLPHO (ditto). I started William Godwin's CALEB WILLIAMS, but was drawn away by something else. So they are on the schedule for 2024. And there's my "I'm So Ashamed I Haven't Read This Yet List," which includes LeGuin's THE LEFT HAND OF DARKNESS and THE DISPOSESSED, Peake's GORMENGHAST books, and Huxley's BRAVE NEW WORLD. I'll never run out of books by John Creasey, and I have maybe a couple of dozen unread books by Basil Copper. And short stories...there's a gazillion of stories now available online in the old pulps by Henry Kuttner, Murray Leinster, Manly Wade Wellman, Robert Silverberg, Nelson S. Bond, Frank Belknap Long, and others. I'm also hoping to track down the few books by August Derleth that have been avoiding me. And then, there's all the new stuff coming out.
2023 was a good reading year. Let's hope 2024 matches or exceeds it, if not in number at least in quality.