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Books Read in 2023

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A Theme of Africa, Animals, Faith, and Hope

Looking back on this list, there’s quite an imbalance of fiction to nonfiction with only two novels making the cut. Even the books I was hoping to finish by the end of the year are nonfiction (Altruism by Mathieu Ricard and The Body by Bill Bryson — the illustrated hardcover for its amazing photos and illustrations.)

Books about the history of the Congo are enough to bring you down, but I balanced it with some levity in Magnusson’s books, which were just okay but still delightful. I started off the year with Nick Cave’s book, and I plan to read it again before midnight on December 31st. It has stuck in my soul like sugar syrup.

If I had to choose a favorite aside from Faith, Hope, and Carnage, it would be Tom Holland’s book, Dominion, mostly because his thesis has totally shaped and changed my thinking about the impact Christianity has had on our own time and place. I’ve listened to hundreds of hours of Tom via his podcast The Rest is History, and between his lectures, interviews, and this book, I am thoroughly convinced by his argument that Christianity was the most influential revolution in the history of the world — impacting us all whether we’re practicing Christians or not.

List and Ratings of Books Read in 2023

Dancing in the Glory of Monsters: The Collapse of the Congo and the Great War of Africa — A compelling and thorough account of the devastating conflicts in East Africa, exposing the complexities and consequences of war and power. 4 out of 5 stars.

King Leopold’s Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror, and Heroism in Colonial Africa — A haunting historical account that exposes the atrocities committed during the colonization of the Congo by King Leopold II of Belgium, revealing the dark legacy of European imperialism. 5 out of 5 stars.

A Traitor to His Species: Henry Bergh and the Birth of the Animal Rights Movement — A thought-provoking exploration of humanity’s relationship with animals, delving into the ethical and moral dilemmas surrounding animal rights. It was especially poignant to see the different but complementary approaches of a man like Bergh versus George Angell. 5 out of 5 stars.

Battle Elephants and Flaming Foxes: Animals in the Roman World — Definitely thorough, this book illuminates the fascinating roles and symbolic significance of animals in ancient Rome, providing an exploration of their impact on warfare, entertainment, and cultural representation. 3 out of 5 stars.

Dominion: How the Christian Revolution Remade the World — Tracing the transformative impact of Christianity on world history, this book explores the profound influence of the Christian faith on shaping societies and cultures. 5 out of 5 stars (though I recommend reading the book rather than listening to the audio book. I wish Tom had read it rather than the narrator who was chosen).

The Dark Romance of Dian Fossey: Unveiling the captivating and complex life of primatologist Dian Fossey, this book explores her dedication to mountain gorilla conservation amid personal challenges. 5 out of 5 stars for me.

Faith, Hope, and Carnage by Nick Cave and Sean O’Hagan offers a profound exploration of the creative process, intertwining Cave’s lyrics and O’Hagan’s visuals, providing a unique insight into the artistic collaboration that shaped the identity of Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds. 5 out of 5 stars.

Land of a Thousand Hills: My Life in Rwanda — A personal memoir by Rosamond Carr offering a poignant account of life in Rwanda, capturing the beauty, resilience, and challenges faced by its inhabitants. Plus, I have a new hero in Carr. She was incredibly brave, compassionate, and magnanimous, and I want more people to know about her. 5 out of 5 stars.

The Song of Achilles — A captivating retelling of Greek mythology, focusing on the epic relationship between Achilles and Patroclus. 4 out of 5 stars.

Burger’s Daughter — A powerful novel by Nadine Gordimer, this narrative explores the impact of apartheid on one woman’s life as the daughter of a political activist. 3 out of 5 stars for me.

The Warden — I had been meaning to read Trollope for years, so I started with this classic novel, which explores themes of morality and social justice in a small English town. 4 out of 5 stars.

The Swedish Art of Aging Well — Offering insights into the Swedish approach to aging, this book explores cultural and lifestyle factors that contribute to healthy and fulfilling senior years. 3 out of 5 stars.

The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning — A practical and reflective guide on decluttering and organizing one’s life, embracing the Swedish philosophy of “death cleaning.” 4 out of 5 stars.

Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times — Exploring the transformative potential of embracing life’s dormant periods, the book started off strong but wavered. I wanted to like this book more than I did. 3 out of 5 stars.

What about you? What books did you read this past year?

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