Books I read in 2023

These are the books I finished reading, for the first time, in 2023. I’ve included a few notes.

  • Breasts and Eggs, by Mieko Kawakami. I quite enjoyed this one. It was my favorite this year. It’s got poverty in Japan, middle age and deciding whether or not to have children, being middle aged and thinking back and going back to places one lived or visited when young. Highly recommended.

  • War Without Rules, by Bert Spalding. Mistake to read this one. I found it as a book recommendation from a podcast episode I had enjoyed listening to. My brief note upon completion: pretty poor book. More about philosophy; I’d prefer facts. And I’m not even going to check my longer review.

  • Mastering Emacs, by Mickey Petersen. I enjoyed this one. It had a lot of useful information, some of which I was able to apply immediately, and some of which I’m using even as I write this. It was a digital copy, and I noted that as with most (all?) textbook type books, I wish it were a print copy, because Kindle just isn’t that great for info display on the screen or for moving around to find what I want to refer to again.

  • Getting Started with SQL, by Thomas Nelda. It was a fast and easy read. It gave me some confidence that I can jump right in and get started.

  • Hear the Wind Sing, by Haruki Murakami. Pretty enjoyable. Lots of beer. Some lovely scenes, although I couldn’t get much in the way of a plot.

  • Pinball 1973, by Haruki Murakami. Interesting. Also some fine scenes.

  • One Fine Day, by Matthew Parker. My second favorite of the year.1 Goes from east to west across much of the British Empire on September 29, 1923. Also goes from that day, at a location, or for a person at that location, and goes way back in time to what brought that particular dominion or colony or protectorate or territory to the state it was in on September 29, 1923. I learned quite a bit, and was surprised by something that affects my life now 100 years later.

Rangoon had been freshly laid out by colonial architects after the conquest of Lower Burma in the 1850s, but in 1923 there was still a forested area between the old city centre with its massive Shwedagon pagoda and the new city to the south. Here unwary travellers were still being picked off by tigers.

Wow! That caught my attention. It went on:

The menace presented by wild animals was real. In Burma in 1923, 111 people were killed – sixty-two by tigers, fourteen by leopards or panthers, sixteen by elephants, nine by crocodiles; the rest perished thanks to bears and buffaloes, with one each accounted for by a wild boar and ‘black lizards’.

Could this be why trail running in the jungles is not such a popular activity? Could this be one reason for the paucity of trails through the national parks of Thailand? For the imposing fences around many homes, both in towns and in the countryside? And there’s more.

The figures from India, reported in the British press at the end of September 1923, correspond to the much larger population, but show a similar hazard. Tigers were blamed for 1,603 deaths, leopards 509, wolves 460 [I had to look up wolves in India—yes, there are!], bears 105, elephants 55, hyenas 9. Some 20,000 were killed by snakes.

I thought I had it rough with the occasional pack of wild dogs.

  1. Disclaimer, started in 2023, finished in early 2024, but I’m counting it on the 2023 list. ↩︎

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