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  • Writer's pictureBassam Tarazi

The 10 Best Books I Read This Year (2023)

I read 21 books this year (full list below). Not too shabby considering we welcomed a baby boy into our lives this September! As I’ve done for the past couple of years (2021 and 2022), here are my 10 favorite books—and my least favorite. Enjoy.


Demon Copperhead (Barbara Kingsolver) The-Once-In-A-Lifetime Book


In March I said this in a newsletter:


“I usually save my book reviews for the end of the year but I couldn't on this one. There are good books, and there are great books, and then there are the, "No! No! I don't care what you're doing; you have to read this book right now!"-books. Demon Copperhead is that book. It's now on my Mt. Rushmore of fiction. It's heart-breaking, it's funny, it's life affirming, it's un-put-down-able.” 


And then it went on to win the Pulitzer.


I would finish chapters, dumbfounded, staring at the ceiling. I’d look at my wife and say, “How? How does someone write this well?”


I think about this book all the time. It’s changed me. It was as if reading it triggered some sort of epigenetic response, altering my psyche. There is Before DC, and After DC. I’m jealous of anyone who is about to pick this book up for the first time.



The Psychology Of Money (Morgan Housel) The Should-Be-Mandatory Book


I’ve heard Morgan Housel speak on various podcasts, and I’ve seen this book littering all kinds of “Best Of” lists. Money is that weird thing that completely runs our lives, but we hate talking about it. It’s both tangible and invisible. A binary value of it means something completely different to two separate people. 


We all owe it to ourselves to understand that how we look at money is more important than how much of it we have. I’ve always felt pretty good about my relationship to money, but Housel has illuminated so many blind spots and “So that’s why I always react that way” revelations. He breaks down our psychological drivers around money in 20 easy-to-digest ideas that you can pluck in any order like the petals of a baked artichoke. You’re going to be better for it. Financial wealth is so much about mindset and emotional health.


This book should be required reading in high school.



Tom Lake (Ann Patchett) The Of-Course-Ann-Would-Make-This-List Book


If you know me, you know I love Ann Patchett. Her newest did not disappoint. She has such an incredible way of showcasing everyday life, in all its color, like her work is a literary version of Norman Rockwell. Each time I opened this book I felt like I was being swaddled, not because it was childish, but because I was being wrapped in nostalgia and Americana, and because I cared so deeply about every character. Their dreams became my dreams, at times. 


It’s a story about reminiscing about the lives we lived when all our dreams could come true, when small choices impact the trajectory of who we might be. It’s a tale about love, gratitude, and the shock that kids have to learn that their parents were once young, even as a parent has to decide how much of that life they want to reveal. 


Note: I listened to the audiobook for this one, and it’s narrated by Meryl Streep. Go grab a cup of tea and a cozy blanket!


The Wager (David Grann) The True-Survival-Story


Who doesn’t love a good shipwreck-on-a-deserted island tale? I mean, from the confines of your home, of course. Not actually stuck on a Godforsaken island ripped bare by the elements near Cape Horn. 


Yes this book tells the true story of duty, mutiny, and run-ins with the indigenous of Patagonia, but it is also an incredible look into the lives on a merchant ship in the 1740’s. I was almost as impressed with learning about how these giant ships were built, staffed, and run, as I was about what happened when the ship was smashed to pieces in the middle of nowhere, tens of thousands of miles from home, with no Wi-Fi or UberEats to help.


Note: This book is the next movie adaptation for Scorcese and Dicaprio.


How To Do Nothing & Saving Time (Jenny Odell) The Books To Change How You Interact With The World


Jenny Odell is the analog to our bustling world; the antidote to our modern-day whirlwind. When you read her words you almost feel like you’re in a meadow in the Cotswolds and you somehow forgot your phone. 


Crush it. Growth hack. Productivity. Do. More.


No. Stop. Breathe. Be intentional. I put her books as one entry because they do feel connected. If you’re trying to find a way to gracefully step out of the double dutch of your frantic life without having to go full Luddite, read Jenny. She’ll help you find the joy in nothingness and show you how our current relationship to time has us believing that everything needs to be measured and optimized. Not so. In fact, life is more interesting when the second hand doesn’t rule our every move.


What time is it? Where’s my phone? Jennnnnnny!



Trust (Hernan Diaz) - The Have-Patience Book


Trust shared the Pulitzer with Demon Copperhead, so that’s rare air, but, man…this was a slow burn. So slow that halfway through I almost didn’t leap across the chasm to the bounty waiting in the latter pages. 


If you’re going to read this, you have to commit to getting to “Book 3.” It’s like one of those British shows that takes you four episodes to figure out what the hell is going on. If you can reach Book 3, you’ll enjoy the ride the rest of the way.


It’s a book about the roaring 20’s, about the crash of ‘29, about the titans of finance, their relationships, and their obsession with controlling everything. If you like the show The Gilded Age mixed with some mystery, you’ll like this. Maybe the most powerful line in the book:


My job is about being right. Always. If I’m ever wrong, I must make use of all my means and resources to bend and align reality according to my mistake so that it ceases to be a mistake.



Yearbook (Seth Rogan) The-Giggling-Out-Loud Book


Seth Rogan tells stories about his life. Do I need to say more? It’s unsurprisingly juvenile, but there are some really cool behind-the-scenes moments about how some of his movies got made, and all the strange meetings that sound too good to be true if they weren’t real. The story about a hiking/camping trip is worth the price of admission. 


Note: I was halfway through reading the book when I heard he narrated the audio book so I listened to it the rest of the way. No better way to experience these stories than out of the mouth of the man who lived them.



Smart Brevity (Jim VandeHei) The-Businessy-Book


Work, in the modern office, is about influence; and influence doesn’t have time to sift through reams of email word vomit. This book, by the co-founders of Axios, has all kinds of gems to ensure your writing gets read without having to stuff the brain of your reader into informational foie gras.


For someone who likes the verbose end of the ledger, this book was a handy set word shears.


Make your point. Make it clear. Get out of the way.


The Seven Husbands Of Evelyn Hugo (Taylor Jenkins Reid) The-Because-My-Wife-Read-It-And-Told-Me-I-Should-Too Book


You know when you read a book and can’t wait for it to be a movie or a series? This was that book for me. It was my first baptism into Taylor Jenkins Reid, and I have to say, what a delight! 


Evelyn Hugo is a Hollywood movie icon who is finally ready to tell the tales of her storybook life, including all seven husbands, naturally. She chooses Monique, an obscure magazine writer, to pen the piece, much to the surprise and confusion of Monique. What transpires are the twists and turns through the Hollywood of old as one woman tries to unpack, and come to terms with, the choices she made, before it’s too late.


The pages of your book will be greased with your popcorn fingers, I assure you.



The Worst Book I Read: Lincoln In The Bardo - George Saunders


The whole thing felt like a fevered dream (it kind of was), wrapped in a riddle, decorated with inside jokes from a time I wasn’t alive for. It ended, much to my relief, and before I put it down I had to check that I wasn’t reading a foreign language version. And it’s not that I don’t like George Saunders. I loved his book, The 10th Of December. In fact it made it on my “best of” list two years ago


Lincoln In The Bardo was just one of those books that made me feel like a stranger in a strange land. I tried to high five, it was handshaking. We tried to give a kiss on the cheek goodbye, but went the same way and bonked heads instead. It happens!


Maybe you'll have better luck. Adios, Arrivaderci. Happy New Year!



The Other Books I Read:

Bull Mountain

Musk

The Price Of Time

Punch Me Up To The Gods

Happiest Baby On The Block

Co-Active Coaching

Big Swiss

Beartown

What’s Our Problem?

The Coaching Habit

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