One good thing about finding solace in books is that no matter how bad the year is, you are destined to have highs in the pages of the printed words. 2023 was not the best of years for me but I can look back with fondness on most, if not all the books I read. Looking back, I may not have enjoyed the 2023 TBR list as much as I anticipated when I settled on the list; mostly due to external factors and not necessarily based on the quality of the reads. However, it was a good year with books. Doing this a bit differently this year, I have chosen the following 5 books that I enjoyed the most. 3 of them are fiction and the remainder are non-fiction.


The Color of Water

Despite having read only one book by James McBride before this year, I consider him one of my favourite novelists. I was completely blown away by Deacon King Kong  when I read it a few years ago. Now reading his memoir based on the life of his mother, his position in my rank of writers is further cemented. It is storytelling at its best, as James McBride makes both the sublime and mundane resound in exquisite prose. The Color of Water is easily one of the best memoirs I have read in the last few years.


Family Matters

Rohinton Mistry’s Fine Balance is one of the most impactful works of fiction that I have ever read. It is one of those books you read and conclude that the author will never come so close again. Not because you doubt his ability and craft, but because the work is so close to perfection that it can’t be equalled or bettered. This was the context in which I approached Family Matters this year. It did not match up to Fine Balance but almost no other book would. However, Family Matters is proof that Rohinton Mistry is the master of the subgenre of family saga fiction. Very few writers can write a compelling tale out of mundane family sagas and everyday life. Family Matters is an excellent specimen of that.



Rotten Row

While I have had a couple of  Petina Gappah’s books on the shelves, Rotten Row is the first of her works that I got to read. Like most collections, there are hits and misses, but the hits far outnumber the misses. I particularly enjoyed Copacabana, Copacabana, Copacabana and In The Matter Between Goto and Goto. The former is set in the city centre and mostly in a public transport bus. That is a setting that contains a recipe for excellent short stories. The latter is odd, creative and very thoughtful.



The Son of Good Fortune

I have a thing for migration tales. They reveal a lot about the human condition. I have read a few good ones in the last few years and this year I read The Son of Good Fortune. I consider it the best of all novels I read in 2023. While the writing is not the best, the story, the pacing and the subtle hints in the storyline leave for a very impacting experience. It explores the human condition exceptionally well and at the end, one is forced to ponder for a bit. The themes of belonging, definition of home and survival are all explored in this relatively short volume.



A Good Provider Is One who Leaves

Ever since I read this book, I think about its content often. I refer to it in conversations and it has provided an extra lens to view 21st-century migration. It is creative non-fiction at its best; exploring the path of several generations of a Filipino family as they seek opportunities abroad to better the lot of their family.  A most excellent read it was.



As usual, in all the books I have read this year some quotes, phrases and paragraphs have resonated with me this year. These paragraphs are not limited to these top 5 books. Below are 5 of the best paragraphs from the books I read.

A Burning 2Family Matters 1Football in Sun and Shadow 5How To Be A Revolutionary 4The Son of Good Fortune (5)

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