A bookmobile librarian’s very informal journey through the books picked up in 2023

Annie Windholz
6 min readJan 8, 2024


I sit around books everyday. I won’t say there is a science at all to the books that I check out from the library to read. Mostly it’s based on the mood that I’m feeling that day. So this list is not all the hottest, newest items off the shelf. It’s simply where the wind took me while driving a Bookmobile bus around the city, going through some human experiences in my personal life, and figuring out who I am in my 30s.

My favorite books of the year

My Life by Emma Goldman. I’m only halfway through this autobiographical tome, but I’m taking my time. I’m calling this my “year with Emma” the reflections with the so called most dangerous woman in America.

Never Whistle at Night: An Indigenous Dark Fiction Anthology. Great writers, stories woven together expertly by the editors, and important concepts played with in creative ways. Calming for my anxiety to read anxiety inducing stories for some reason.

Old Faithful Authors who continue to be read as bangers

This Side of Brightness by Colum McCann

Old Babes in the Woods by Margaret Atwood

Dear Senthuran: A Black Spirit Memoir by Akwaeke Emezi

Books that blew my mind

No Bad Parts by Richard Schwartz: I read this in a feverish COVID haze so that probably biased this review. I’m not sold on the “parts” therapy model and how also a spirituality, but the paradigm shift in thinking of ourselves was fascinating. Schwartz argues that we are all multiples, on the multiple personality spectrum and we need to honor and recognize these “parts” within us.

Everything is Fucked: A Book about Hope by Mark Manson: I didn’t go into this thinking I would like it at all, went into it in a desperate place. But a lot of it resonated with me, and I geeked out at the existential players from history he pulled in and brought to life, and his thesis that we should abolish hope.

“Because pain is the universal constant of life, the opportunities to grow from that pain are constant in life. All that is required is that we don’t numb it, that we don’t look away. All that is required is that we engage it and find the value and meaning in it.”

“The problem isn’t that we don’t know how not to get punched in the face. The problem is that, at some point, likely a long time ago, we got punched in face, and instead of punching back, we decided we deserved it.”

Books with great starts/potential but didn’t make it for me

Hokuloa Road by Elizabeth Hand (super predictable in a way you thought it was a red herring, but it was what it was)

The List by Yomi Adegoke (I was ready for a existential dive into what it’s like to truly reckon with your idealistic politics when they come face to face with you, but this is not what this book was unfortunately).

Yellowface by Kuang R.F. (This book was getting a lot of buzz and I was interested to read it. I didn’t love the writing style, and in the end thought this could be more of a thought piece article than a book).

Books I was surprised to love

Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle by Emily and Amelia Nagoski (Again, read in a place of desperation and need for paradigm shifts, and this one did it. Takeaways: Stress needs to be released somehow, so make sure it’s being released in other ways if not in the moment/ situation that causes the stress. Also, a big focus on how women specifically deal with stress under a patriarchal system. Very good.)

Carry On by Rainbow Rowell (Harry Potter fan fiction where Harry and Draco form a romance. It was a nice distraction and felt important at the time. I tried the second in the series and wasn’t hooked though, so maybe it was just the right time and place to read it for me. Worth it if you’re looking for a nostalgic Harry Potter romp with rainbow themes though).

The Book of English Magic by Phillip Carr-Gomm (purchased on a return trip to the UK this fall! I also read this in a COVID haze, and things got witchy and I loved it. It propelled me onto a greater reflection quest that I had been looking for.

The Writer’s Retreat by Julia Bartz (this book really launched me into reading mode this year. It hooked me and I read it faster than I’d read a book in a long time. Spooky feminist ghost story with some fun themes to grapple with tossed in).

Books I was surprised to like

Buy Yourself the Fucking Lilies by Tara Schuster (Another one I picked up off the shelf while I was in a tough place this year. Library patrons at work had been recommending it. Just really forced me to admit I was in a hole at the time and needed to start digging myself out).

Enjoying my foray into Audiobooks with the Libby app

The Candy House by Jennifer Egan (Not sure I would have been able to read this in print as it’s also a tome, but through audiobook I found it very nice and compelling on long drives and walks with my dog).

The Cloisters by Katy Hays (Love witch stories with some spooky feminist vibes)

Books I was disappointed in

A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson. TW: misogyny, body shaming, ableism. I grew up reading Bill Bryson as a kid, but didn’t realize what a product of his times he is until reading as an adult today. While his writing is readable and engaging, he is very much punching down with his jokes (fat, ugly, stupid are words used liberally for others) and the few women he meets on the trail he fixates on making fun of their bodies, intelligence and attractiveness (i.e. calling a waitress “Betty Sluts” because of the high price at a restaurant, saying another has the face of a horse, or when a female hiker asks their star sign when she meets them alone on the trail and they say “Cunnilingus” and “Necrophilia”, then proceed to make fun of her relentlessly (if I was the female hiker who met them, I would feel the opposite of safe with that interaction). While he also makes fun of his partner on the trail (Katz) and occasionally pokes fun at himself, the vast majority of this book pitches himself as the know it all and the people around him as burdensome or worthless with a heavy dose of mysogny. Can’t say I was impressed, but glad I finally read this classic travelogue of the AT.

Books I’m glad I finally read

Being Heumann: An Unrepentant Memoir of a Disability Rights Activist by Judith Heumann

Marbles: Mania, Depression, Michelangelo and Me by Ellen Forney

I don’t want to be an Empath Anymore by Ora North (Totally get it that the concept of empath is overhyped and dubious. But I think reading a book about empaths really helped me do some kind of internal shift in thinking about myself and the way that I can best move through the world using the energy that I have before it runs out and I need to recharge alone with myself).

The Hundred Years War on Palestine by Rashid Khalidi

Let this Radicalize You by Mariame Kaba and Kelly Hayes (I feel like I was already on board with much of what was talked about in this book by prison abolitionist icon Mariame Kaba, but the title alone is a mantra to live by. Instead of falling into despair at tough things, let it radicalize you. I think this is my takeaway for 2024.

Book I’m reading now:

On Wars by Michael Mann

‘Military medicine has produced a major decline in those dying of their wounds… yet weapons, especially airpower, have increased civilian casualty rate, and it is now routine to define the total population of a country as the enemy’

‘War is a peculiar activity: it is designed to kill a very large number of people , and this surely requires a very high level of justification. Self-defense is generally considered such a justification, but we will see that this is quite and elastic concept.’

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