The books I read in 2023

Guy Lipman
7 min readDec 26, 2023


For the last few years, I’ve written a post describing the books I’ve read in the previous year (see 2022, 2021, 2020, 2019, 2018). This serves to help me remember what I’ve read, and occasionally as inspiration to friends that might be looking for something to read.

This year I’ve enjoyed a lot of really good books, and why break a good habit.

As always, just because I read it doesn’t mean you’ll like it, so don’t feel any pressure to read something just because I enjoyed it.


Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow, by Gabrielle Zevin. Two podcasters I listen to recommended this original novel, and I wasn’t disappointed. You don’t need to be into computer games to appreciate it.

In Memoriam, by Alice Winn. A beautifully told story of two boys leaving Marlborough College to fight in the trenches in the first world war.

The short end of the Sonnenallee, by Thomas Brussig. A short and somewhat farcical novel, only recently translated into English, about children growing up in East Berlin, close to the Wall. If you liked Goodbye Lenin, you’ll enjoy this.

A history of Loneliness, by John Boyne. A harrowing read, from the perspective of an Irish priest, coming to terms with the failures of his institution.

The Poisonwood Bible, by Barbara Kingsolver. I loved her later books, The Lacuna and Demon Copperhead, so thought I’d go back and read this earlier novel. Set in the Congo, as four sisters come to terms with experience and aftermath of missionary life and colonialism. I learned a lot about the region and its history, and enjoyed it (though not as much as her later novels).

Old God’s Time, by Sebastian Barry. I try to read at least one book from the Booker long-list each year, and this was my choice this year. A short novel from the perspective of a retired police officer, coming to terms with his failed memory.

Coming up for air, by George Orwell. Definitely a product of its time, but an interesting reflection on life in England in the early decades of the 20th century.

The Overstory, by Richard Powers. A collection of intertwined stories, all rooted in our relationship with trees. I enjoyed its originality.

The world and all that it holds, by Aleksandar Zemon. A unique and somewhat fantastical journey of love and trouble, from Sarajevo in 1914 to Tashkent and Shanghai.

Liberation Day, by George Saunders. A collection of science fiction short stories isn’t the sort of thing I’d normally go for, but I enjoyed having my perspectives stretched.

Never — Ken Follett. I planned to take this contemporary spy thriller on holiday, but ended up reading it over 3 days before I left. I enjoyed it, but it certainly made recent geopolitical events even scarier.

The Secret History, by Donna Tartt. A few friends had recommended this story of misfits in a New England college, but I found it too hard to relate to any of the characters to really love it.

Becoming Ted, by Matt Cain. A satisfying story of a man emerging from a break-up and coming to terms with what he wants in life.

The Humans, by Matt Haig. A fable, told from the perspective of an alien sent to observe humans. I enjoyed it more than Haig’s non-fiction, but nowhere near as much as other people seem to have.

Doomsday Book, by Connie Willis. A mix of science fiction and historical fiction — an academic time-travels, ending up at the time of the Black Death. It was a reasonably easy read, but it isn’t really my choice of genre.

Thursday Murder Club Book 1, by Richard Osman. A few of my friends have raved about this ‘detective’ series, so I thought I’d give the first one a try. But I didn’t like the characters enough, and struggled to care who dunnit.

Biography / Memoir

Oh brother, is the story of John Niven’s relationship with his younger brother. Beautifully written, but tragic.

Fourteen, is the story of Shannon Molloy’s 14th year, at a school in rural Queensland where he coped with merciless bullying. Heart-wrenching yet ultimately uplifting.

Quaint deeds, by A. J. MacKinnon, is a memoir filled with thoughtful reflections and crazy adventures from his time teaching in Australian and English boarding schools.

Let that be a lesson, another memoir of teaching, this one by Ryan Wilson, based on his time teaching in English state schools. Hilarious in places, tragic in others, but inspiring and thought-provoking throughout.

Death be not proud, is the story of the illness and death of John Gunther’s son, from a brain tumour, at the age of 17. Inspiring and tragic.

A Billion Years. Mike Rinder was brought up a Scientologist in Adelaide, and joined the movement full time, rising to the top levels before defecting in 2007. A fascinating read.

A Banker’s Journey, by Daniel Gross, is the story of international banker Edmund Safra, who I’m embarrassed to say I knew very little about. It was a fascinating story of the man, his roots in Syria and Lebanon, and how he built up an international banking empire.

The Imposter’s War, by Mark Arsenault. The bizarre yet fascinating story of John Revelstoke Rathom, a journalist of murky Australian origins (and my great x 3 uncle), and his role convincing America to enter the first world war against Germany.

An Occupation for Gentlemen, the first half of the memoirs of Fredric Warburg, founder of publisher Secker & Warburg, who published books by authors like George Orwell and HG Wells. I will be reading the second volume in 2024.

The Prince of Mirrors, by Alan Robert Clark. Inspired by the life of Prince Albert Victor, heir presumptive, who died before his father became King Edward VII. A fascinating and emotional story, though unlikely to be totally based on fact.

Never Shaken, Never Stirred, by Christopher Reindorp. The fascinating story of Ann Fleming (wife of Ian Fleming) and Laura, Duchess of Marlborough, two sisters who worked their way through British society.

Data Science / Computing

Storytelling with Data, by Cole Nussbaumer Knaflic. Contained good advice on making data visualisations useful. Tool agnostic. I would recommend it.

Visualize This, by Nathan Yao. This contained a lot of beautiful examples of visualisations, with discussion of what made them good. It did talk a lot about how you’d do them in different tools, many of which were a bit outdated and people would be unlikely to use today.

I did an online course on data visualisation, that included five books by Edward Tufte: Seeing with Fresh Eyes, Envisaging Information, The Visual Display of Quantitative Information, Beautiful Evidence, and Visual Explanations. I learned a lot from the books, but there was quite a bit of overlap, so it is hard to remember what I read in which book.

The DevOps Handbook, by Kim, Humble, Debois and Willis. A good guide to making a tech platform that enables people to get things done. I am lucky to work for a company that already implements a lot of these practices, but it helped me appreciate the diffences with other companies.

Fundamentals of Data Engineering, by Reis and Housley. We read this for a company book club, and it taught me quite a bit of the background to things that I’ve been doing for a while.

Creating software with modern diagramming techniques, by Ashleigh Peacock. I’m always looking out for good ways to communicate software architecture and data flows. This explained how to do it using Mermaid, a nice code-based approach.

Other Non Fiction

I never thought of it that way, by Monica Guzman. How to engage in polarised topics. I’d say it was quite good, though not brilliant.

How to be a Liberal, by Ian Dunt. This had been on my list to read for a couple of years (I tend not to read non-fiction books that are over 500 pages). The first half was a bit of an effort (mostly history that was new to me, but well-written). The second half was more engaging, looking at the different challenges to Liberalism.

Viking Economics, by George Lakey. A look at the Nordic region over the past century, and the choices it has made. I learned a lot.

This Life: secular faith and spiritual freedom, by Martin Hagglund. Probably closer to a philosophical treatise and popular philosophy, but I found it incredibly thought provoking — I’m still digesting it almost 9 months later.

Can we afford the future?, by Frank Ackerman. Quite a short book, busting some myths about what economics really tells us about the need to tackle climate change. I thought it was good.

Less is More, by Jason Hickel. A very readable book arguing that capitalism is unsustainable (at least, in the form it has taken for the past few centuries). I found it convincing.

Ravenous, by Henry Dimbleby. The author, founder of Leon’s restaurant chain and and author of the UK’s National Food Strategy, looks at what is wrong with our food system and what could be done about it. Excellent.

Outlive: The Science and Art of Longevity, by Peter Attia. A very readable exploration of what stops us living longer and better, and what we can do about it. There was a lot that was extremely convincing.

Breath, by James Nestor. An exploration of the little known science of breathing, and its impact of our lives. Some of it was a bit extreme, but a lot of it was very sensible and worth knowing.

The Laws of Trading, by Agustin Lebron. An interesting high level reflection on crucial topics like liquidity, edge, and the role of technology. I’d recommend this to quite a few people I know that work in trading or trading adjacent areas.

Flash boys, by Michael Lewis. Perhaps surprisingly, I had never read too much about high frequency trading, but I felt I should know some more, and a Michael Lewis book is always the easiest way to learn. Very insightful.

Tracing your ancestors using DNA, by Graham Holton. I’ve done quite a bit of family tree research in the past, but I didn’t know anything about genetic testing, and what it can and can’t uncover. This was my first attempt to understand the topic — and some of it was a bit technical, but I do feel I learned a lot.



Guy Lipman

Fascinated by what makes societies and markets work, especially in sustainable energy. Views not necessarily reflect those of my employer.