Ep. 58: 22 in 2023: My Year In Books!

Are you a reader? I hope so. This episode is all about every book I read in 2023. There were 22 of them and here are my mini reviews. 

I tell you details. Whether I read the book or listened to it, how I found it, whether I loved it or left it. 

There was a lot of poignant coming of age novels with queer POC female protagonists, a lot of memoirs, mostly by Black folks, but not only, a few classics, a few super new releases. There was young adult fiction and a bit of sci fi thrown in. I hit every genre as long as I hear good things often enough from enough brilliant people. 

Enjoy, and tell me what you loved reading this year. I am on to my reading list of 2024 and I am stoked about what's on it. 

You can connect with me, Micah Riot, as well as see my tattoo art on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/micahriot/

Micah's website is www.micahriot.com 
The podcast is hosted on Buzzsprout but truly lives in the heart of Micah's website at:

episode transcript

Micah Riot: 

what? Hello, my darlings, hello. This is Micah Riot coming at you with the second episode of 2024 of Ink Medicine Podcast. Today, you're going to hear all about my reading of the last year. I ended up having read 22 books in 2023 and I wanted to tell you all about it. People really liked this episode last year and I really like to talk about the books that I've read. So here we are. I was scrolling today, as I do many days, for at least some part of the day, and I saw a video where a person said I read 100 books last year and I hated it. And they talk about how they spent a lot of time listening at three times the speed and reading while in the treadmill, making themselves nuts like trying to read 100 books over the course of the year, and they feel frazzled and they don't remember anything they read. And they also said authors spend years writing these books. Shouldn't we be savoring them? Or rather, they said I would like to savor the books that I'm reading. And it made me feel better because I did see, over the last couple of years, a lot of readers online talk about how many books they have read, and it's usually from 100 to 300, which, of course, is not something the average person can just do. Of course, if you commit, you can get through a lot more books than, say, I did. My goal for reading is about two books a month, which feels very manageable to me. I could probably swing three if I tried really hard and had them all lined up and was very excited about them all, but two books a month feels just fine to me. So my goal is going to be still 24 for 24. Perhaps I'll make it 25 or 26. We'll see. I tend to pick my books carefully. I use my Goodreads account. I write down the ones that I hear about, the ones that people recommend and the ones that I want to read, and then, when I want to get my next batch of books from the library, I go to their website. I have been books from my list, so I always have something sitting around that I am excited to read, and that is the key to me reading regularly. If I let too much time lag between one book and the next, I'm off my game. I'm not in the habit and it's harder. The other reason I like Goodreads is because I do like to know what other people think of the books that I'm choosing to read, because it helps me make my decision. Often times when I'm walking and I see a free library and I go in there and I look at the books in there. If a book catches my eye, I'll often times go and put it into Goodreads to see what the rating is, to see if I want to take it home, and I will not ramble too much longer. Let's get to it. We have 22 books to get through. The first one I read was All this Could Be Different by Sarah Thincombe Matthews. This book is very new. It came out in August of 2022 and I read it as my first book of 2023. This book follows a young woman of color in her journey post college to set up her life, her depression and dating adventures. It's very queer. It has beautiful writing. I really enjoyed it. I really could not put it down. It's really a beautiful work and I recommend it. It was one of my favorites. Right after that, I jumped into Memory Mumbo by Achi Obejas. This book is from a while back. It's from 1996. I wish I had to discover this book back then, when I was a fresh immigrant and feeling real gay and real uncomfortable with it. I really needed books like this and they weren't around where I was, no library had them. I didn't know they existed. So anyway, this book is about a young lesbian who's Cuban and she lives in Florida with her family Sorry, she lives in Chicago. She is trying to figure out her place in this world as a Cuban person, as a queer person. She has this girlfriend. There's a lot of violence and conflict in her life. There's characters that are bad people and there's whole family members and it's kind of a messy, poignant story about the immigrant experience of a young queer person with a big family that are all in each other's business. Again, another one I really loved but not put it down. My next one was Cures for Heartbreak by Margot Rob. Picked this one up in the library very randomly, based on the cover and the location of it on the shelf and reading the back, and it's also a bit of a retro young adult novel about a girl dealing with her mother's cancer diagnosis and death while growing up and all the bad entails. Really, really great. Enjoyed the writing style. Next we had Roses in the Mouth of a Lion by Bushra Rehman. This was the novel that I've been recommending to people through the year. It's in my probably top three of the year. It's another coming of age story about a Muslim girl who grows up in Queens with her best friend, and it's colorful. It has a very visceral style of writing. You could really feel yourself under that Queens son, in those parking lots, in those houses, climbing around trees and dusty old buildings and running away from other kids. So this young woman grows up in a very religious environment with her family and she realizes she's queer. She starts doing things that she's not supposed to be doing, like listening to different music and wearing smaller clothes, and then she's accepted to a prestigious high school in Manhattan. So she starts going across town to the school and discovers a whole new world, which of course creates a lot of issues for her back in her Pakistani-American family. So it's just heartbreaking and so beautifully done. I believe there is a second book written by the same author about the girl's life after she grows up, and if I can get ahold of it my library does not have it If I can get ahold of it I will read it this year, after the first four books of my year being all kind of coming of age Young Woman Stories. I Read Heavy by Kiese Lehmann. It is fantastic. It's written like a letter to his mother about his childhood and his relationship with his body and with food and with being a black man in America and with sexuality and manliness and being a child and having a mother who seemingly did what she could but didn't do all that much for him as he was growing up wasn't really there for him. In case it's not clear, it is nonfiction. If there are books it's hard to talk about because you don't want to not do them justice, and I wish I could translate through my voice how powerful this memoir is, how gorgeous his writing is and how raw it hit me when I was reading it. It was kind of a random book I picked up at Harbin. I was there and finished my book and needed something else to read and I went to their little tiny bookstore area and picked this up and brought it back on my friend who was with me, who was hanging around reading her own book. You're gonna love that. It's amazing and it was so one of my top books of the year Heavy by Kiese Lehmann. The next one was Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner. This book is about a woman dealing with her mother's cancer and death Kind of a coming of age story. But she is a little bit older, she's college aged and on, and her relationship with her mother was complicated, as they often are. And the book also centers food a lot. She is Korean American, her mother was the Korean parents and her mother was a great source of love in her life but also a great source of pain, and her relationship with cooking and food follows that trajectory. She's trying to learn how to cook Korean food. The book goes between her current life and her past memories of her mother and it is a very worthy read if you don't mind the heavy topic. At number seven we have Pachinko by Min Jin Lee. I actually listened to that one. It's sort of this epic family saga that feels almost like another sort of hundred years of solitude type of book. It's very long, there's a lot of different characters. That follows different storylines and there's different generations and the kids keep growing up and having their own lives and you have to kind of follow. They didn't keep it all straight, like having a drawing of the family tree would be helpful in this book. It's about Korean people living in Japan, about racism, discrimination that Koreans face in Japan about occupation, and it's quite intense and epic. I enjoyed it. I did not fall in love with it like a lot of people did, but it was a solid read. I am going to make a note and say that there were some books that I attempted to read this year that I did not finish or kind of lost interest in before I finished purposefully or not. So I am not mentioning those in this list. All the books that I mentioned in this list are books that I actually finished. Some of them I listened to. Most of them I actually read on paper, in a paper format. So there you go, I will say when I actually listened to them instead. So the next book that I picked up from a free library near my house was 10 Steps to Nanette by Hannah Gatsby. It's a long book and I believe I read it in two chunks, kind of like halfway, took a little break of probably a couple weeks and then picked it back up. Actually, I loved it. I thought it was an excellent memoir. Hannah Gatsby is a fascinating human, just so brilliant, and this book is about her life and how she came to be who she is today, who we know her to be the famous comedian that she is within that flux special and book rights and all that she talks about her whole childhood and her family, which is its own thing. Her mother was very funny herself. Quick note here I listened back to the recording I made and I absolutely forgot to mention that Hannah Gatsby really spent most of the book talking about her different mental illnesses and how she figured out that she had them, and also queerness and also queer rights and the timeline with which they came to Australia, where she's from. So those are really big themes in the book and I totally forgot to mention them. Carry on yeah, I finished it on an airplane and ended up giving it to my next door seatmate because she and I were talking about books and I was like here you go, if you will read it. Number nine we have Glucose Revolution by Jesse Inchauspe Inchauspe, I'm still not pronouncing her name correctly. I talked about this book at some point in the podcast. I feel like this book has really saved my ass as far as caring for my body. It was a really quick read. I read it in a day. It essentially has a bunch of tips on how to manage your blood sugar, because managing your blood sugar is the key to your health and as I started to feel like I was getting closer to becoming pre-diabetic or diabetic, I needed to shift to the way that I did my food and essentially just mostly just changed the order of how I eat. This book was super helpful in getting me on the right track so that I'm not experiencing giant drops in blood sugar and feeling sick and then needing to eat more sugar to put myself back on track. So if you are experiencing unstable blood sugar, if you feel so sleepy that you just pass out after you eat, or if you, or when you have a low blood sugar, if you experience that, or if you, like me, feel more nauseous and just sick, if you have low blood sugar, like kind of break out in a cold sweat and feel like you're dying, then you should probably look into managing your blood sugar better and perhaps this book. It's very useful. It was probably the most useful thing I read this year, number 10, the Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein. This is an oldie, not a goodie. I hated this book. It was so. It's from the perspective of a dog who belongs to a man who is like a race car driver and he's got a wife and a daughter and the dog is apparently has a lot of thoughts, and the dog can smell and feel that the wife is sick. So you know, the mom of the family ends up dying and the dog is like the guy's best friend and it really just reads like some man's, like man dream his life, like the between the car racing and the very cool, smart dog and the hot wife, like it just is so man centered, it's like the most manly book, but sort of written by a man who thinks he's a really good man. I just I hated it, annoyed me so much. Okay, next we have Finding Me by Viola Davis. I love a good memoir. Given a celebrity memoir doesn't matter. Viola Davis is, of course, a really clearly a really interesting, talented human and the book was stunning. I loved it. I loved finding out more about Viola Davis, about where she came from, about her path, her career. You know, there's nothing really in it that is particularly surprising when she talks about how difficult it was, how much of a character actress she was to the people who taught her and then the people who did or did not hire her, and what a rough intent to wrote it was for her to get to where she is today. But I think the thing that I loved the most was how she talks about her family. Her parents, in particular her father, was quite abusive when she was a little kid and then, as she got older and her parents got older, he became a lot more gentle and soft and loving towards her mother and she forgave him for all the ways in which he was a tyrant in their family when she was growing up and her talking about the forgiveness was just stunning, was the best part to me. At the book Number 12, we have Remarkably Bright Creatures by Shelby Van Pelt. This is a book that is from perspective of an octopus and it's a little story that takes place in a coastal town. That's about this aquarium tank and this octopus and the woman who cleans the aquarium in her life. Like there's mystery, death and there's these other side people and there's a kid who like kind of travels up from SoCal up into I guess it's what Seattle area, not Seattle, oregon, oregon coast, somewhere up there. I read it while I was at Harbin and as I was holding the book, while I was like standing in line for coffee or tea. People kept being like I love that book and I was like it's okay, it's fine, I'm glad you loved it. I felt like it was predictable. I felt like it was really centered around whiteness. Just not all the characters had to be super white, super straight, super skinny, super whatever conventionally attractive. I was just kind of bored with the author's imagination. And the octopus was cool but there could have been more octopus in the book, like it's supposed to be. From perspective of the octopus, she was partially, but it could have been more, more in that way. Number 13. I listened to that one on a little road trip. I did by myself. Are you there, god, it's me. Margaret. By Judy Bloom. Y'all probably know it. It's a children's classic. I just enjoyed it. I love young adult books. I love a good classic. Like you can see why it's a classic. It's just it's delightful. I want to talk about it because I feel like you all know what it's about. Next book I read was that was number at number 14. We have Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zeven and this was one of those books I kept seeing in all the bookstores. I kept hearing people talk about how good it was. One of my friends said it was their, one of their favorite books of all time. So I ended up getting it from the library and reading it for a couple weeks in September and I loved it. It was fantastic. It was really really well written. It was slowly, paced in just the right way where you could really savor it. I just really like I haven't. You don't often get a chance to read a book that's that well written, where the language is just so delicious and delightful that you want to savor it, that you want to take your time with it, and this was one of those books. The storyline was good. It got a little bit predictable in the end, but overall it was really good. It was creative. I'd never read a story like this before. The context was new to me. You could tell that the author did really intentional and intense research. The themes of video games and computer game program writing it's kind of like the context of it. The character development was beautiful. I really liked it. I would say it was probably the book that I felt like was the most well written in in this lineup. This next book is very special and very quirky and probably the funnest book I read this year. It's called Schmutz and it's by a person named Felicia Berliner. It's not anything I hear about from other people. I don't even really know where the recommendation came from. It might have been from Goodreads. It's from 2022. It was published in 2022. So just you know, it was like six months before I, maybe about a year before I read it myself that it's been in the world and so that's probably why I haven't heard of it before. And what it is? It's a book about a young girl in a Brooklyn Hasidic community. Her name is Rizal and she discovers porn. She ends up having a laptop for her job, which is unusual for girls her age and that in that context, in the Hasidic community, girls don't usually get education after a certain grade. They've got, they learn to read and write and count and all of that, but they don't get higher education traditionally and she is very smart. So she ends up with a job and ends up going to community college and has a laptop for that and she discovers porn and she gets addicted to porn. And the book is essentially her figuring out her desires versus what her family and community wants from her, if she can really live with the two together, with what she wants and what they want from her. She keeps getting set up on marriage dates and keeps feeling like she cannot handle that, and so she keeps rejecting the men, keeps watching the porn, feeling guilty and feeling afraid of getting caught, but keeps watching the porn and obsessing over it. She ends up making some friends at her community college with some kids that are really different from her, and one of the things I loved about this book too is that she speaks Yiddish, so she refers to body parts and all the different sexy things in the porn with the different Yiddish terms, some of which she seems to have made up herself, that sound right to her, and she talks about this in detail. So I loved reading this book. I thought it was so quirky and creative and different and really really well written. I believe it's the author's first book, and I would totally love to read really anything else that they come out with. At number 16 we have A Gentleman in Moscow, which is a book I read most of a bunch of years ago and really loved, but it got a little bit dense in the middle and I stopped, so it never made it into my red books lists before, but I decided to finish it this year. I just had I don't know 100 or so pages left, so I listened to the rest of it this year and was really happy about it. I was really happy I finished it. I picked the story back up really easily where I left off. It follows a man who is who was royalty before the revolution the communist revolution in Russia of the turn of the century, and his is his sentence for being a royal is that he is to spend his life. He's got a life sentence living in a fancy hotel in Moscow, in the middle of Moscow, and so he he's a shame present in this hotel. He cannot leave and so he spends his life there and he becomes a waiter at the Boyarsky, which is their fancy restaurant. There and he meets people, he has lovers, he has friends and he ends up even helping raise some young people. I don't want to say much more. I think it's kind of a twist and a surprise in the story. He's a really charming character, he's a really beautiful human, and to get to know a human who has so much dignity yet who's imprisoned for life, yet it's not in the in a regular kind of jail, but in a hotel with a fancy restaurant. It's was fascinating. I know that these things happened in Russia at that time, but it was still such a perspective that I'd never read before. So I loved it. And I loved it so much that the next book I ended up reading actually listening to was another Amor Towel's book called Rules of Civility just his more famous book it's the same author from A Gentleman in Moscow, and I hated it. It has great ratings and it's from a perspective of a young woman who lives in New York in the 20s. She is Russian-Jewish and American and she drinks too much, and the book is kind of like a long-leandering story of her kind of a love affair with a guy that she meets randomly and all the stuff happens. Blah, blah, blah. I was so bored by it. I just thought it was so basic and boring. I'm kind of. I'm always so surprised, you know, when you read a book and you love it, and then you're like this author is clearly talented and this is clearly fascinating, I will read something else by them. And then you try to read something else by them and it's completely a failure in your brain. It's so jarring, I think. And you know, on the other hand, when you read something by somebody that you love and you read something else by them and you love it even more, that's like the biggest joy. I love discovering an author who just writes amazing shit, then I love all of it. This was not the case here. Number 18 I read Worthy by Jada Pinkett Smith. I wanted to read it partially because Jada's been getting so much shit in the media and her book has been getting such bad reviews by people who didn't read it. Like it just came out in, I believe, october and September of this year and people just got on her case for whatever reason I don't understand. She kind of talks about it in the book. In the end of the book she addresses all the ways in which people have criticized her and shows that it's all BS. I have never had anything but good vibes from her. She's a human. She tries to do her best. She makes mistakes like everybody else. She's really talented, she's beautiful, she's raised some really cool children. I have respect for her and I wanted to read the book to know that the people writing bad reviews were wrong to yell at the people who were criticizing her and because she wrote a bunch about ayahuasca and, as you know, it is a topic I am passionate about and interested in knowing more about, especially people's accounts of their work with Mama Aya, and so I read the book by Jada Pinkett Smith and it was great. I actually listened to it and it was great. Number 19, another book I listened to because I got into like a groove there for a moment. It's called I'm Glad my Mom Died and it's by Jeanette McCarty. It's a memoir by a girl who was an iCarly, which was a show I was too old for did not watch around like early 2000s, and it's about her life as a childhood star, a Hollywood star. It's about eating disorders, it's about addiction, it's about abuse. It's very intense, it's very well written and it's how she comes to understand how abusive her mother was after her mother's death, and it's a masterpiece. Actually, really, I couldn't put it down. It was also hard to read, but the way that the author, jeanette the person this all happened to set it up and how clearly she shows us how messed up her mother was and how little she saw of it, like the juxtaposition of her childhood self and then her mother's twisted care and narcissism, is chilling and described extremely well. If this is a topic that interests you. If you like memoirs like this, it's a good one. Number 20, we have the absolutely true diary of a part-time Indian by Sherman Alexi. This is a classic, classic Young Adult novel that I never read back in the day, when I would have read it in middle school or high school. So I picked it up Now it was at the library, it was looking at me, I got it and it was really good. I enjoyed reading it. It's an excellent Young Adult book. I know there's some stuff about Sherman Alexi out there in the world that did not look it up. There were some allegations about sexual harassment that people have spoken out about him and I did not look into this because I don't want to. I'm not interested in reading like everything he's ever written, but this book was good. The second to last book I read was she Drives Me Crazy by Kelly Quinlan. It's a cute little Young Adult novel about a girl who is getting over her ex-girlfriend in high school when she gets into like a little car Fender Bender with the popular girl and then they end up getting to know each other more than they really meant to and fall in love, and it's adorable. It's a little romance novel, young Adult, lesbian themed really cute. I love that this exists Again. I would have given an arm for that to exist when I was like 12, 13 and really wanted to read this type of story. I'm glad the kids today have it. Number 22,. I finished off the year with A Great Read. I'd been hearing about the Long Way to a Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers for years. I've had a lot of like awesome, fabulous, nerdy queer clients tell me to read it. It was on my list. It probably buried deep, and I finally got around to it. I got it from the library, I read it and I loved it. It's so cute and cozy. It's sci-fi, written by a person who clearly cares about humanity and cares about life and loves living beings. It's really just like the coziest, sweetest little sci-fi story and it goes on. There's other parts, but they're kind of separate books. They don't really follow each other all that well, but it's about this world that Becky Chambers creates. That's sort of like a post-earth world where there's all these different types of creatures, different aliens living together in this galaxy and there's everything that we have here Like big, loud markets and raves and like people falling in love and also cross species love and polyamory and different family structures. Interesting food Like they eat bugs, because that's a sustainable food they don't eat like animal flesh. It's fantastic. There's a bunch of AI stuff that's actually very heartwarming and not scary the way that AI feels to me now here and after the first book early this year. So we're what. Midway through January I read another one of Becky Chambers books, but I will talk about it next year. But I recommend that you start with the long way to a small angry planet by Becky Chambers whenever, because it was fantabulous and with that we're done going over the books that I read last year. I hope you enjoyed this episode. I hope that you read some good stuff. If you want to recommend me something, please, please, please do. I will write it down that will get around to it and that will read it, please do. You're welcome to send me a message. You can also leave a review with your recommendations. Other people will see them too. If you've been thinking about writing me a review, please do rate me on Apple podcasts or whatever. Wherever you listen, I would really appreciate it. It's marketing a podcast is no easy task, to such an extent that I don't really do it. All I'm doing is just putting out some episodes and telling you about them on social media. Okay, thank you so much for listening out and I'll talk to you next week. Thank you.