Reading and Gaming Highlights of 2023

I read more than I watch or listen, and so here are highlights from this year of the close to 200 books I read or reread in 2023. I get the majority of my reading from NetGalley, BookBub deals, ARCs, and the library. I include publication dates so I can remember what I will recommend for Nebula reading; bolded titles are eligible for award stuff this year; titles in italics indicate a forthcoming title.

Here are some of my favorites in speculative reading from this year:

  • F.M. Aden – The Bride of Death (Northern Light Press, March 1, 2024) – Lovely fairytale retelling.
  • Emma R. Alban – Don’t Want You Like a Best Friend (Avon, Jan 9, 2024) YA – queer Victorian romance with a whiff of The Parent Trap.
  • Cassie Alexander – AITA? (2021) – Fun paranormal sexy romance.
  • Julia Armfield – Our Wives Under the Sea (2022) Lovely, eerie horror.
  • Rachel Aukes – The Lazarus Key Waypoint, (Jan 8, 2024) – Thriller with fish & wildlife officers going up against dinosaurs
  • Bridget E. Baker – The Birthright Series, 2020. Solid space opera, and I liked the PoV changes from book to book. I read the first three and will be picking up the other five when I get the chance.
  • S.A. Barnes – Ghost Station (April 9, 2024) Great psychological thriller on a space station.
  • Redfern John Barrett – Proud Pink Sky (Amble Press, 2023) Linked short stories of a gay homeland. Enjoyed this a lot.
  • Stephen Baxter and Terry Pratchett – The Long Earth Parallel earth series, 1st of four.
  • Melissa Blair – A Broken Blade (2021) – Solid YA fantasy, first of three books.
  • Marie Brennan – The Market of 100 Fortunes (Aconyte, Feb, 2024) Loved this Legend of the Five Rings tie-in novel.
  • Tobias Buckell – A Stranger in the Citadel (Tachyon Publications, 2023), Terrific world-building and a librarian questioning that world.
  • Octavia E. Butler – Mind of My Mind. Rerelease of work by one of my favorite writers. Everyone should read Octavia. Over and over again.
  • Sebastien Castell – The Malevolent Seven (2023). Absolutely solid and fun fantasy that lives up to the excellence of Castell’s other works.
  • Heidi Catherine – The Whisperers of Evernow (2019) Interesting premise, YA.
  • Beth Cato – A Thousand Recipes for Revenge (47North, 2023) I love Cato’s work and this was no exception. Plus — food and fantasy! First of 2 and I’ve already preordered the sequel.
  • P. Djèlí Clark – The Dead Cat Tail Assassins (Tor, April 23, 2024) Delightful secondary world fantasy.
  • David Clawson – My Fairy Mother is a Drag Queen (2017) – Fun Cinderella retelling. YA.
  • Lex Croucher – Gwen and Art are Not in Love (Tor Macmillan 2023). YA queer romance, fun and frothy.
  • Alex Evans – I Am a Barbarian (BooksGoSocial, Dec 17, 2023) Fun YA secondary world fantasy.
  • Philip Jose Farmer – Lord of the Trees (2012), The Mad Goblin (2013) Typical crazy-ass Farmer and a certain amount of (literal) cock-swinging.
  • Brandon Gillespie – Atom Bomb Baby (2023) Strong whiff of Fallout fanfic about this book, but in a good way.
  • Nicole Glover – The Conductors (2021) Loved this alternate history with magicians running the Underground Railway; first of two books
  • Kim Harrison – American Demon (2020) I always enjoy Harrison and this was no exception.
  • Christina Henry – The House that Horror Built (Berkeley, June 14, 2024) Solid horror about the cinema, nicely creepy.
  • Kevin Hincker – The Ghost with a Knife at Her Throat (August 13, 2023) I adored this urban fantasy, which had some cool twists. First in a series and I’m picking up the rest.
  • S.J. Himes – The Necromancer’s Dance (2016) First in an urban fantasy series of the vampires/werewolves ilk, fun gay fantasy with lots of action.
  • Dara Horn – Eternal Life (2018) Is living forever a boon or a curse? Lotsa historical texture.
  • Kat Howard – An Unkindness of Magicians, A Sleight of Shadows (2023) Loved this duo of mannerly magician books.
  • Sarah Zachrich Jeng – When I’m Her (Berkley, March , 2024) Compelling story of female friendship.
  • Mary E. Jung – Blossom and Bone (2022) Cozy fantasy feel to this series that I really enjoyed, first of a 3 book series.
  • T.J. Klune – In the Lives of Puppets (2023) Terrific SF retelling of Pinochio. One of my favorite reads of the year.
  • Tim Lebbon – Among the Living (Titan Books, Feb 6, 2024) Lebbon is always good, and this is solid and compelling.
  • Ann Leckie – Translation State (2023) More in Leckie’s complex and compelling SF universe, along with one of my favorite characters of all time, Qven.
  • Britney S. Lewis – The Undead Truth of Us (2021). YA zombie with a lot of emotion to it.
  • Megan Mackie – Death and the Crone (2023) Enjoyed this older woman romance in Mackie’s Lucky Devil setting.
  • Melissa Marr – Remedial Magic (Tor, Feb 20, 2024) Cozy fantasy with a lovely lesbian romance.
  • J.R. Martin – The Engineer’s Apprentice (2023) Solid beginning to a steampunk series.
  • Zoe Hana Mikuta – Off With Their Heads (Disney, April 24, 2024) Great queer Alice in Wonderland riff with Gideon the Ninth vibes.
  • Jo Miles – Dissonant State (2023) Fun space opera that has me looking for the beginning of the series.
  • Premee Mohamed – The Siege of Burning Grass (Rebellion Publishing, March 12, 2024) If you buy one book in 2024, this should be it.
  • Sunny Moraine – Your Shadow Half Remains (Tor, Feb, 2024) Creepy horror of the everyone is the enemy apocalypse variety.
  • Silvia Moreno-Garcia – Silver Nitrate (2023) Sharp-edged horror set in cinematic history.
  • Tamsyn Muir – Harrow the Ninth (2020), Nona the Ninth (2022) I loved Gideon and Harrow but bounced hard off the third book for some reason.
  • Patrick Ness – The Rest of Us Just Live Here (2015) – YA and I LOVE this book about what it’s like to not be the Chosen One so much.
  • Naomi Novik – A Deadly Education (2020), The Golden Enclaves (2022) Fabulous entry into the genre of magic schools.
  • Allison Saft – A Dark and Drowning Tide (Random House, Sept 17, 2024) Loved this secondary world fantasy frenemies to lovers take on a murder mystery.
  • Lilith Saintcrow – A Flame in the North (Orbit, February 13, 2024) I always enjoy Saintcrow and this was a pleasurable read but I like her more modern fantasy stuff considerably more.
  • Robert Shearman – We All Hear Stories in the Dark (2022). I’m still working my way through this massive three volume set and enjoying it enormously. Highly recommended if you love short stories.
  • A.J. Steiger – Eye of a Little God. (January 2, 2024). Well-executed psychological horror.
  • Neal Stephenson and Nicole Galland – The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O. (2017) Great time travel corps stuff with a fun romance. There’s a sequel, which I need to pick up.
  • Andrew F. Sullivan – The Marigold (2023) Fabulously unhinged horror.
  • Lavie Tidhar – The Circumference of the World (2023) His usual brilliance, so much lovely stuff in this!
  • K.B. Wagers – A Pale Light in the Black (2020) Fun start to a series.
  • Khan Wong – The Circus Infinite (2022) Terrific SF with a runaway teen with special powers.
  • Z. J. Ryder – Twisted Neuros (2023) I love this story of an AI trying to figure out its own existence.

In anthologies and collections, I recently began a project to go through all my anthologies and collections to see which I want to keep. So far that’s included:

  • Space Opera, edited by Brian Aldiss. Keeping for historical relevance more than any innate quality.
  • Light Years and Dark, edited by Michael Bishop. Keeping for the high degree of original fiction, the quality of writers and works, and the editorial vision.
  • The Black Science Fiction Society’s Genesis: An Anthology of Black Science Fiction Book One, edited by Jarvis Sheffield. Keeping for the breadth of established and new voices.
  • A Larger Reality: Speculative Fiction from the Bicultural Margins, edited by Libia Brenda. Keeping because I love books with the stories in the original language as well as English, plus the range of established and new voices.

In my short fiction reading club, in which we read classic stories of F&SF, we read: Ray Bradbury’s “The Fog Horn,” Karen Joy Fowler’s “Standing Room Only”, Robert Heinlein’s “All You Zombies,” and “The Green Hills of Earth,” Anne McCaffrey’s “The Ship Who Sang,” Vonda N. McIntyre’s “Of Mist, and Grass, and Sand,” C.L. Moore and Henry Kuttner’s “Vintage Season”, Clifford Simak’s “Desertion,” Connie Willis’ “A Letter from the Clearys”, and Roger Zelazny’s “Auto-da-Fe.” I’ve found these craft-focused sessions, which are part of my Patreon community, illuminating and useful in terms of learning more about F&SF history as well as craft tips and tricks.

In video/computer games, I started playing the early version of Baldur’s Gate 3 in early September, and I’ve been obsessed with it. Earlier in the year, I was playing Sun Haven and really enjoyed it, along with occasional bouts of Darkest Dungeon. If you’re a Stardew Valley fan, you will like Sun Haven, because there’s a lot of similarities and fun writing. I continue to play Pokemon Go on my phone.

RPG-wise I’m running a live game of D&D 5e and playing in two f2f homebrew D&D campaigns, one virtual D%D campaign plus Esper Genesis on Twitch. That sounds like more than it really is, which is a chance to game once or twice each week. Early in the year, I played in a game of Apocalypse Hearts run by Lowell Francis and want to recommend the Open Hearth gaming community for people interested in finding interesting story-focused games to play online. I also used the Party Backstory Generator tool by Justin Sirosis in my D&D game as the session 0 and found people really grooved with it and generated some interesting connections.

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About Cat Rambo

I am a science fiction and fantasy writer and editor. My three collections of short stories are THE SURGEON'S TALE AND OTHER STORIES (with Jeff VanderMeer), EYES LIKE SKY AND COAL AND MOONLIGHT, and NEAR + FAR (forthcoming this September).
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