I developed an interest in reading “just for fun” this year. In fact, I have always had a passion for reading. However, I used to primarily read academic papers and nonfiction books, particularly those of a technical nature.
Earlier this year, I discovered the convenience of borrowing library books through Libby and being able to read them on my Kindle. This revelation sparked a new reading journey. Throughout 2023, I successfully cultivated a habit of reading for entertainment purposes, often surpassing my reading for educational purposes.
Below is a list of books I read for entertainment this year, excluding those related to business, self-help, academia, and technical subjects.
If you want to see my recommended list, most of which is nonfiction, check out my top-level books page.
Note that this is just a list. These are not reviews. Also, the included descriptions are taken from the publishers, and are not my own.
- Standalone Fiction
- Series, Fiction
Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann
I discovered this book when I saw a trailer for the movie.
In the 1920s, the richest people per capita in the world were members of the Osage Nation in Oklahoma. After oil was discovered beneath their land, the Osage rode in chauffeured automobiles, built mansions, and sent their children to study in Europe.
Then, one by one, the Osage began to be killed off. The family of an Osage woman, Mollie Burkhart, became a prime target. One of her relatives was shot. Another was poisoned. And it was just the beginning, as more and more Osage were dying under mysterious circumstances, and many of those who dared to investigate the killings were themselves murdered.
As the death toll rose, the newly created FBI took up the case, and the young director, J. Edgar Hoover, turned to a former Texas Ranger named Tom White to try to unravel the mystery. White put together an undercover team, including a Native American agent who infiltrated the region, and together with the Osage began to expose one of the most chilling conspiracies in American history.
Camp Zero by Michelle Min Sterling
In remote northern Canada, a team led by a visionary American architect is breaking ground on a building project called Camp Zero, intended to be the beginning of a new way of life. A clever and determined young woman code-named Rose is offered a chance to join the Blooms, a group hired to entertain the men in camp—but her real mission is to secretly monitor the mercurial architect in charge. In return, she’ll receive a home for her climate-displaced Korean immigrant mother and herself.
Rose quickly secures the trust of her target, only to discover that everyone has a hidden agenda, and nothing is as it seems. Through skillfully braided perspectives, including those of a young professor longing to escape his wealthy family and an all-woman military research unit struggling for survival at a climate station, the fate of Camp Zero’s inhabitants reaches a stunning crescendo.
Atmospheric, fiercely original, and utterly gripping, Camp Zero is an electrifying page-turner and a masterful exploration of who and what will survive in a warming world, and how falling in love and building community can be the most daring acts of all.
Hidden Pictures by Jason Rekulak
Mallory Quinn is fresh out of rehab when she takes a job as a babysitter for Ted and Caroline Maxwell. She is to look after their five-year-old son, Teddy.
Mallory immediately loves it. She has her own living space, goes out for nightly runs, and has the stability she craves. And she sincerely bonds with Teddy, a sweet, shy boy who is never without his sketchbook and pencil. His drawings are the usual fare: trees, rabbits, balloons. But one day, he draws something different: a man in a forest, dragging a woman’s lifeless body.
Then, Teddy’s artwork becomes increasingly sinister, and his stick figures quickly evolve into lifelike sketches well beyond the ability of any five-year-old. Mallory begins to wonder if these are glimpses of a long-unsolved murder, perhaps relayed by a supernatural force.
Knowing just how crazy it all sounds, Mallory nevertheless sets out to decipher the images and save Teddy before it’s too late.
The House in the Pines by Ana Reyes
Maya was a high school senior when her best friend, Aubrey, dropped dead in front of the enigmatic man named Frank whom they’d been spending time with all summer.
Seven years later, Maya lives in Boston with a loving boyfriend and is kicking the secret addiction that has allowed her to cope with what happened years ago, the gaps in her memories, and the lost time that she can’t account for. But her past comes rushing back when she comes across a recent YouTube video in which a young woman suddenly keels over and dies in a diner while sitting across from none other than Frank. Plunged into the trauma that has defined her life, Maya heads to her Berkshires hometown to relive that fateful summer—the influence Frank once had on her and the obsessive jealousy that nearly destroyed her friendship with Aubrey.
At her mother’s house, she excavates fragments of her past and notices hidden messages in her deceased Guatemalan father’s book that didn’t stand out to her earlier. To save herself, she must understand a story written before she was born, but time keeps running out, and soon, all roads are leading back to Frank’s cabin.
Utterly unique and captivating, The House in the Pines keeps you guessing about whether we can ever fully confront the past and return home.
Northern Spy by Flynn Berry
A producer at the BBC and mother to a new baby, Tessa is at work in Belfast one day when the news of another raid comes on the air. The IRA may have gone underground in the two decades since the Good Friday Agreement, but they never really went away, and lately bomb threats, security checkpoints, and helicopters floating ominously over the city have become features of everyday life. As the news reporter requests the public’s help in locating those responsible for the robbery, security footage reveals Tessa’s sister, Marian, pulling a black ski mask over her face.
The police believe Marian has joined the IRA, but Tessa is convinced she must have been abducted or coerced; the sisters have always opposed the violence enacted in the name of uniting Ireland. And besides, Marian is vacationing on the north coast. Tessa just spoke to her yesterday.
When the truth about Marian comes to light, Tessa is faced with impossible choices that will test the limits of her ideals, the bonds of her family, her notions of right and wrong, and her identity as a sister and a mother. Walking an increasingly perilous road, she wants nothing more than to protect the one person she loves more fiercely than her sister: her infant son, Finn.
Riveting, atmospheric, and exquisitely written, Northern Spy is at once a heart-pounding story of the contemporary IRA and a moving portrait of sister- and motherhood, and of life in a deeply divided society.
Sea of Tranquility by Emily St. John Mandel
Edwin St. Andrew is eighteen years old when he crosses the Atlantic by steamship, exiled from polite society following an ill-conceived diatribe at a dinner party. He enters the forest, spellbound by the beauty of the Canadian wilderness, and suddenly hears the notes of a violin echoing in an airship terminal—an experience that shocks him to his core.
Two centuries later a famous writer named Olive Llewellyn is on a book tour. She’s traveling all over Earth, but her home is the second moon colony, a place of white stone, spired towers, and artificial beauty. Within the text of Olive’s best-selling pandemic novel lies a strange passage: a man plays his violin for change in the echoing corridor of an airship terminal as the trees of a forest rise around him.
When Gaspery-Jacques Roberts, a detective in the black-skied Night City, is hired to investigate an anomaly in the North American wilderness, he uncovers a series of lives upended: The exiled son of an earl driven to madness, a writer trapped far from home as a pandemic ravages Earth, and a childhood friend from the Night City who, like Gaspery himself, has glimpsed the chance to do something extraordinary that will disrupt the timeline of the universe.
A virtuoso performance that is as human and tender as it is intellectually playful, Sea of Tranquility is a novel of time travel and metaphysics that precisely captures the reality of our current moment.
TRUST by Hernan Diaz
I went through a list of past Pulitzer Prize winners and I picked this one up. Ultimately, I’m glad I read it. But, I am also a little less sure that looking at Pulitzer Prize winners is a good idea.
Even through the roar and effervescence of the 1920s, everyone in New York has heard of Benjamin and Helen Rask. He is a legendary Wall Street tycoon; she is the daughter of eccentric aristocrats. Together, they have risen to the very top of a world of seemingly endless wealth—all as a decade of excess and speculation draws to an end. But at what cost have they acquired their immense fortune? This is the mystery at the center of Bonds, a successful 1937 novel that all of New York seems to have read. Yet there are other versions of this tale of privilege and deceit.
Hernan Diaz’s TRUST elegantly puts these competing narratives into conversation with one another—and in tension with the perspective of one woman bent on disentangling fact from fiction. The result is a novel that spans over a century and becomes more exhilarating with each new revelation.
At once an immersive story and a brilliant literary puzzle, TRUST engages the reader in a quest for the truth while confronting the deceptions that often live at the heart of personal relationships, the reality-warping force of capital, and the ease with which power can manipulate facts.
I always read series in-order. Who doesn’t? I think there are people that don’t.
Anyway, I list the books in each of these series that I completed.
Crescent City series by Sarah J. Maas
This book (and series) is consistently atop the best science fiction and fantasty lists. A wee bit romantasty, but here we go.
|House of Earth and Blood (Crescent City Book 1)
|Bryce Quinlan had the perfect life-working hard all day and partying all night-until a demon murdered her closest friends, leaving her bereft, wounded, and alone. When the accused is behind bars but the crimes start up again, Bryce finds herself at the heart of the investigation. She’ll do whatever it takes to avenge their deaths.
Hunt Athalar is a notorious Fallen angel, now enslaved to the Archangels he once attempted to overthrow. His brutal skills and incredible strength have been set to one purpose-to assassinate his boss’s enemies, no questions asked. But with a demon wreaking havoc in the city, he’s offered an irresistible deal: help Bryce find the murderer, and his freedom will be within reach.
As Bryce and Hunt dig deep into Crescent City’s underbelly, they discover a dark power that threatens everything and everyone they hold dear, and they find, in each other, a blazing passion-one that could set them both free, if they’d only let it.
With unforgettable characters, sizzling romance, and page-turning suspense, this richly inventive new fantasy series by #1 New York Times bestselling author Sarah J. Maas delves into the heartache of loss, the price of freedom-and the power of love.
Jack Reacher series by Lee Child
My in-laws watched the TV series for this and enjoyed it. So I decided to try out the books. This is not deep stuff. But, I like the writing style, I like the characters, and enjoy the adventures. You can call me low-brow or something, I don’t care. I blinked and boom, read half the series.
|Killing Floor (Jack Reacher, Book 1)
|Ex-military policeman Jack Reacher is a drifter. He’s just passing through Margrave, Georgia, and in less than an hour, he’s arrested for murder. Not much of a welcome. All Reacher knows is that he didn’t kill anybody. At least not here. Not lately. But he doesn’t stand a chance of convincing anyone. Not in Margrave, Georgia. Not a chance in hell.
|Die Trying (Jack Reacher, Book 2)
|Jack Reacher is an innocent bystander when he witnesses a woman kidnapped off a Chicago street in broad daylight. In the wrong place at the wrong time, he’s kidnapped with her. Chained together, locked in the back of a stifling van, and racing across America to an unknown destination for an unknown purpose, they’re at the mercy of a group of men demanding an impossible ransom. Because this mysterious woman is worth more than Reacher ever suspected. Now he has to save them both—from the inside out—or die trying….
|Tripwire (Jack Reacher, Book 3)
|Ex military policeman Jack Reacher is enjoying the lazy anonymity of Key West when a stranger shows up asking for him. He’s got a lot of questions. Reacher does too, especially after the guy turns up dead. The answers lead Reacher on a cold trail back to New York, to the tenuous confidence of an alluring woman, and the dangerous corners of his own past.
|Running Blind (Jack Reacher, Book 4)
|Across the country, women are being murdered, victims of a disciplined and clever killer who leaves no trace evidence, no fatal wounds, no signs of struggle, and no clues to an apparent motive. They are, truly, perfect crimes. In fact, there’s only one thing that links the victims. Each one of the women knew Jack Reacher—and it’s got him running blind.
|Echo Burning (Jack Reacher, Book 5)
|Thumbing across the scorched Texas desert, Jack Reacher has nowhere to go and all the time in the world to get there. Cruising the same stretch of two-lane blacktop is Carmen Greer. For Reacher, the lift comes with a hitch. Carmen’s got a wild story to tell—all about her husband, her family secrets, and a hometown that’s purely gothic. She’s also got a plan. Reacher’s part of it. And before the sun sets, this ride could cost them both their lives.
|Without Fail (Jack Reacher, Book 6)
|Skilled, cautious, and anonymous, Jack Reacher is perfect for the job: to assassinate the vice president of the United States. Theoretically, of course. A female Secret Service agent wants Reacher to find the holes in her system, and fast—because a covert group already has the vice president in their sights. They’ve planned well. There’s just one thing they didn’t plan on: Reacher.
|Persuader: A Jack Reacher Novel (#7)
|Jack Reacher lives for the moment. Without a home. Without commitment. And with a burning desire to right wrongs—and rewrite his own agonizing past. DEA Susan Duffy is living for the future, knowing that she has made a terrible mistake by putting one of her own female agents into a death trap within a heavily guarded Maine mansion.
Staging a brilliant ruse, Reacher hurtles into the dark heart of a vast criminal enterprise. Trying to rescue an agent whose time is running out, Reacher enters a crime lord’s waterfront fortress. There he will find a world of secrecy and violence—and confront some unfinished business from his own past.
|The Enemy: A Jack Reacher Novel (#8)
|Jack Reacher. Hero. Loner. Soldier. Soldier’s son. An elite military cop, he was one of the army’s brightest stars. But in every cop’s life there is one case that changes everything. For Jack Reacher, this is that case.
New Year’s Day, 1990. In a North Carolina motel, a two-star general is found dead. His briefcase is missing. Nobody knows what was in it. Within minutes Reacher has his orders: Control the situation. Within hours the general’s wife is murdered. Then the dominoes really start to fall.
Somewhere inside the vast worldwide fortress that is the U.S. Army, Reacher is being set up as a fall guy with the worst enemies a man can have. But Reacher won’t quit. He’s fighting a new kind of war—against an enemy he didn’t know he had. And against a conspiracy more chilling, ingenious, and treacherous than anyone could have guessed.
|One Shot: A Jack Reacher Novel (#9)
|Six shots. Five dead. One heartland city thrown into a state of terror. But within hours the cops have it solved: a slam-dunk case. Except for one thing. The accused man says: You got the wrong guy. Then he says: Get Reacher for me.
And sure enough, ex—military investigator Jack Reacher is coming. He knows this shooter–a trained military sniper who never should have missed a shot. Reacher is certain something is not right–and soon the slam-dunk case explodes.
Now Reacher is teamed with a beautiful young defense lawyer, moving closer to the unseen enemy who is pulling the strings. Reacher knows that no two opponents are created equal. This one has come to the heartland from his own kind of hell. And Reacher knows that the only way to take him down is to match his ruthlessness and cunning–and then beat him shot for shot.
|The Hard Way: A Jack Reacher Novel (#10)
|Jack Reacher was alone, the way he liked it, soaking up the hot, electric New York City night, watching a man cross the street to a parked Mercedes and drive it away. The car contained one million dollars in ransom money because Edward Lane, the man who paid it, would do anything to get his family back.
Lane runs a highly illegal soldiers-for-hire operation. He will use any tool to find his beautiful wife and child. And Jack Reacher is the best manhunter in the world.
On the trail of vicious kidnappers, Reacher learns the chilling secrets of his employer’s past . . . and of a horrific drama in the heart of a nasty little war. He knows that Edward Lane is hiding something. Something dirty. Something big. But Reacher also knows this: He’s already in way too deep to stop now. And if he has to do it the hard way, he will.
|Bad Luck and Trouble: A Jack Reacher Novel (#11)
|From a helicopter high above the California desert, a man is sent free-falling into the night. On the streets of Portland, Jack Reacher is pulled out of his wandering life and plunged into the heart of a conspiracy that is killing old friends . . . and the people he once trusted with his life.
Reacher is the ultimate loner—no phone, no ties, no address. But a woman from his old military unit has found him using a signal only the eight members of their elite team would know. Then she tells him a terrifying story about the brutal death of a man they both served with. Soon Reacher is reuniting with the survivors of his team, scrambling to unravel the sudden disappearance of two other comrades. But Reacher won’t give up—because in a world of bad luck and trouble, when someone targets Jack Reacher and his team, they’d better be ready for what comes right back at them.
|Nothing to Lose: A Jack Reacher Novel (#12)
|Two small towns in the middle of nowhere: Hope and Despair. Between them, nothing but twelve miles of empty road. Jack Reacher can’t find a ride, so he walks. All he wants is a cup of coffee. What he gets are four hostile locals, a vagrancy charge, and an order to move on. They’re picking on the wrong guy.
Reacher is a hard man. No job, no address, no baggage. Nothing at all, except hardheaded curiosity. What are the secrets that Despair seems so desperate to hide?
With just one ally—a mysterious woman cop from Hope—and many enemies, Reacher goes up against a whole town, hunting the rich man at its core, cracking open his terrifying agenda, asking the question: Who has the edge—a man with everything to gain, or a man with nothing to lose?
A Leaphorn & Chee Novel series by Tony Hillerman
I discovered this through an ad for the Dark Winds TV series on AMC, which is apparently based on this book. The ad was interesting, so I thought I’d give the book a shot.
|The Blessing Way: A Leaphorn & Chee Novel #1
|Homicide is always an abomination, but there is something exceptionally disturbing about the victim discovered in a high, lonely place—a corpse with a mouth full of sand—abandoned at a crime scene seemingly devoid of tracks or useful clues. Though it goes against his better judgment, Navajo Tribal Police Lieutenant Joe Leaphorn cannot help but suspect the hand of a supernatural killer.
There is palpable evil in the air, and Leaphorn’s pursuit of a Wolf-Witch leads him where even the bravest men fear, on a chilling trail that winds perilously between mysticism and murder.
The Murderbot Diaries series by Martha Wells
I found this while browsing past Hugo/Nebula award winners in search of a new science fiction novella. I could crank through quickly. I’m just about caught up to the current-end of this series. Turned out to be a ton of fun.
|All Systems Red: The Murderbot Diaries #1
|“As a heartless killing machine, I was a complete failure.”
In a corporate-dominated spacefaring future, planetary missions must be approved and supplied by the Company. Exploratory teams are accompanied by Company-supplied security androids, for their own safety.
But in a society where contracts are awarded to the lowest bidder, safety isn’t a primary concern.
On a distant planet, a team of scientists are conducting surface tests, shadowed by their Company-supplied ‘droid — a self-aware SecUnit that has hacked its own governor module, and refers to itself (though never out loud) as “Murderbot.” Scornful of humans, all it really wants is to be left alone long enough to figure out who it is.
But when a neighboring mission goes dark, it’s up to the scientists and their Murderbot to get to the truth.
|Artificial Condition: The Murderbot Diaries #2
|It has a dark past—one in which a number of humans were killed. A past that caused it to christen itself “Murderbot”. But it has only vague memories of the massacre that spawned that title, and it wants to know more.
Teaming up with a Research Transport vessel named ART (you don’t want to know what the “A” stands for), Murderbot heads to the mining facility where it went rogue.
What it discovers will forever change the way it thinks…
|Rogue Protocol: The Murderbot Diaries #3
|Who knew being a heartless killing machine would present so many moral dilemmas?
Sci-fi’s favorite antisocial A.I. is back on a mission. The case against the too-big-to-fail GrayCris Corporation is floundering, and more importantly, authorities are beginning to ask more questions about where Dr. Mensah’s SecUnit is.
And Murderbot would rather those questions went away. For good.
|Exit Strategy: The Murderbot Diaries #4
|Murderbot wasn’t programmed to care. So, its decision to help the only human who ever showed it respect must be a system glitch, right?
Having traveled the width of the galaxy to unearth details of its own murderous transgressions, as well as those of the GrayCris Corporation, Murderbot is heading home to help Dr. Mensah—its former owner (protector? friend?)—submit evidence that could prevent GrayCris from destroying more colonists in its never-ending quest for profit.
But who’s going to believe a SecUnit gone rogue?
And what will become of it when it’s caught?
|Network Effect: The Murderbot Diaries #5
|I’m usually alone in my head, and that’s where 90 plus percent of my problems are.
When Murderbot’s human associates (not friends, never friends) are captured and another not-friend from its past requires urgent assistance, Murderbot must choose between inertia and drastic action.
Drastic action it is, then.
|Fugitive Telemetry: The Murderbot Diaries #6
|When Murderbot discovers a dead body on Preservation Station, it knows it is going to have to assist station security to determine who the body is (was), how they were killed (that should be relatively straightforward, at least), and why (because apparently that matters to a lot of people—who knew?)
Yes, the unthinkable is about to happen: Murderbot must voluntarily speak to humans!
|System Collapse: The Murderbot Diaries #7
|Am I making it worse? I think I’m making it worse.
Following the events in Network Effect, the Barish-Estranza corporation has sent rescue ships to a newly-colonized planet in peril, as well as additional SecUnits. But if there’s an ethical corporation out there, Murderbot has yet to find it, and if Barish-Estranza can’t have the planet, they’re sure as hell not leaving without something. If that something just happens to be an entire colony of humans, well, a free workforce is a decent runner-up prize.
But there’s something wrong with Murderbot; it isn’t running within normal operational parameters. ART’s crew and the humans from Preservation are doing everything they can to protect the colonists, but with Barish-Estranza’s SecUnit-heavy persuasion teams, they’re going to have to hope Murderbot figures out what’s wrong with itself, and fast!
Yeah, this plan is… not going to work.
Wild Robot series by Peter Brown
This is a middle-grade fiction series. I noticed my stepdaughter reading it and I told her I’ll also read whatever books she reads so we can talk about them together. So, here we go!
|The Wild Robot (#1)
|When robot Roz opens her eyes for the first time, she discovers that she is all alone on a remote, wild island. She has no idea how she got there or what her purpose is–but she knows she needs to survive. After battling a violent storm and escaping a vicious bear attack, she realizes that her only hope for survival is to adapt to her surroundings and learn from the island’s unwelcoming animal inhabitants.
As Roz slowly befriends the animals, the island starts to feel like home–until, one day, the robot’s mysterious past comes back to haunt her.
From bestselling and award-winning author and illustrator Peter Brown comes a heartwarming and action-packed novel about what happens when nature and technology collide.