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BookManBookWoman Top 10 Books 2023

Every year my husband, Larry Woods, and I share a list of our Top 10ish books that we read that year. Below is our list. 

Love to have your feedback and suggestions

Best Books 2023  – Saralee – BookWoman

1. Tom Lake, by Ann Patchett – Daughters spend the lockdown of Covid with their Mother and work on the family cherry farm in Michigan.   Love the way Patchett ties in the  play Our Town, especially when I heard Ann talk about how much she admired Kent Cathcart who was a drama teacher in Nashville high schools.  Cathcart cast my husband Larry Woods in the county wide play contest in 1959 and Larry portrayed the narrator of Our Town. Buy some cherry preserves and curl up and read. 

2. The Heaven & Earth Grocery Store, by James McBride starts out with a murder mystery in Pottstown, PA. McBride goes back decades to explain how the murder happened and it involves race and xenophobia, the KKK and lots of music. 

3. Hello Beautiful by Ann Napolitano picked by Oprah and President Obama as one of their favorites of 2023. Four sisters in Chicago show their love and loyalty to each other. The book is a tribute to my favorite book of all time, Little Women. I immediately read Naplitano’s previous book Dear Edward which is absolutely wonderful and akso belongs in my top 10 books of 2023.  I have not watched the tv series. 

4. And There Was Light -Abraham Lincoln and the American Struggle by Jon Meacham. I actually listened to this. I appreciate the courage and the willingness of President Lincoln to mostly do the right thing though it did not happen fast enough.

5. Demon Copperhead: A Pulitzer Prize Winner by Barbara Kingsolver. I am glad I read this novel. It is the story of what opioids are doing to our country, especially in Appalachia where I grew up.  So did Kingsolver and she lives there now. She is brilliant. It is also a tribute to David Copperfield by Dickens. 

6. Jane Austen, the Secret Radical by Helena Kelly  – My dear friend Kathleen suggested this for our bookclub and it was thought provoking. Did Jane make  a lot of digs at the establishment through her novels? Hmmmmm

7. Marple Twelve New Mysteries (Miss Marple Mysteries) 12 authors  Naomi Alderman, Leigh Bardugo, Alyssa Cole, Lucy Foley, Elly Griffiths, Natalie Haynes, Jean Kwok, Val McDermid, Karen M. McManus, Dreda Say Mitchell, Kate Mosse, Ruth Ware bring Miss Marple back to life with their perception of how Marple would solve murders in 12 different short stories. Which led me to read and thoroughly enjoy the original Agatha Christie – Miss Marple The Complete Short Stories Collection.

8.  The Benevolent Society of Ill-Mannered Ladies by Allison Goodwin – Clever uppity single women who are twins and  in their 40’s do not behave as expected in Regency England.  It helps to be uppity if you are aristocratic and wealthy. Named one of 10 best mysteries 2023 by the Washington Post. I’ll definitely read the series to see what is next for these women who are  considered “on the shelf”

9.  Resurrection Walk (Lincoln Lawyer) by Michael Connelly So entertaining. Connelly weaves this through alternating chapters. One told by Lincoln Lawyer Mickey Haller and the next by his brother Harry Bosch. Soooooo good, especially since I can picture the actors who portray these characters in the tv series and The Last Devil to Die,-A Thursday Murder Club, by Richard Osman, absolutely brilliant, fourth in the series. I want to be these people when I grow older. 

10. Sisters in the Wilderness: The Challenge of Womanist God, by Delores S. Williams. This book will stay with me, we studied it in my Sunday morning Bible class. Drawing on the biblical figure of Hagar mother of Ishmael, cast into the desert by Abraham and Sarah, but protected by God. Williams finds a prototype for the struggle of African-American women.

11. Honorable mention –  A Most Tolerant Little Town-The Explosive Beginning of School Desegregation, by Rachel Louise Martin. I am in the middle of  reading this true story of the integration of the Clinton, Tennessee school system which is in Anderson County, adjacent to Scott County where I grew up. I was told when I was much younger that if the outsiders from the KKK had stayed away there would have been peaceful integration of the Clinton school system.  I am not so sure. 

Best Books of 2023 – Larry Woods – BookMan

1. City on Fire by Don Winslow- First novel in organized crime trilogy-the really bad guys are evil but possess human qualities. The good guys are excellent and surprising characters. The plotting twists are sublime. The second book in the trilogy- City of Dreams – is not as strong.

2. Bring the war home : the white power movement and paramilitary America, by Belew, Kathleen, 1981- All the Jan.6 white power organizations – their origins (primarily in the Vietnam War), twisted beliefs, their armaments, their hatred, and their strategies to coalesce and overthrow democracy including their 5 day national planning conference in Estes Park,Colorado in October 1992

3. RED RISING,  by Pierce Brown- Excellent first book in a fantasy trilogy. Universe dominated by humans divided into tribes named for colors. Our hero understands the psychology of leadership and power as he fights his way up the hierarchy. The seventh volume (Light Bringer) in this series was just published to rave reviews 

4. Dark Angel,  by John Sandford -Running through the graveyard after midnight -the action by the daughter Letty is fast & furious with hackers in California

5. The Furies, by John Connolly.   Two crime books in one. Both superb. This Connolly writes the most frightening stories with truly strange characters.He is in a league with Michael Connelly and Stephen King.

6. THE LAST RIDE: MURDER MONEY AND THE SENSATIONAL TRIAL THAT CAPTIVATED NASHVILLE, by Tate, Martha Smith,  The Gourley -Powell murder and trial in 1968-1969 in Nashville. Is true crime at its worst. An extraordinary childhood for the biggest car dealer in Nashville (Gourley) who was literally abandoned in the early 1900s at age 5 by his parents who deserted him at the Nashville train station; lived in a boarding house growing up; and was murdered. Police arrested his business partner Powell. Nashville police made a very incompetent investigation.The trial description featuring some of the best lawyers in town is intense.

7. Chasing the Thrill: Obsession, Death,and Glory in America’s Most Extraordinary Treasure Hunt,  by Daniel Barbarisi   A poem for clues to a multi million dollar buried treasure “in the Rocky Mountains north of Santa Fe”. Treasure found by an unknown person just weeks before the poet died.

8. The extraordinary life of an ordinary man : a memoir, by Newman, Paul, 1925-2008,  Half written by Newman; other half by a dozen or so family members and friends. Harsh, scary to see/read Newman’s insecurities, easy to trace them to terrible parents, though Newman does not blame anyone but himself for his failings.

9. RACE THE LIGHT, by Robert Crais. Crais elevates his style in another California crime mystery

10. THE GHOSTS OF LANGLEY Into the CIA’s Heart of Darkness, by John Prados History of the spies. bureaucrats, traitors, victims. killers, liars and lawyers

11. Honorable mention  – King – A Life, by Jonathan Eig, have not finished this brilliant book by Eig because it is worth savoring every page.