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Books We Read in 2023

By the Fordham University Libraries Staff

Aaaaand, that’s a wrap.

This work is in the public domain in its country of origin and other areas where the copyright term is the author’s life plus 70 years or fewer.

The 2023 Fall semester, and general Roman calendar year, are coming to an end. The Fordham Library News Blog explored a lot in the past year. We turned up the heat on Valentine’s Day; we rejoiced with celebrations commemorating the Fordham Museum and the 50th anniversary of hip-hop; of course, we’d be remiss not to highlight techniques on how to search for resources from our collection, such as databases focusing on both business and art.

Naturally, as library people often do at this time of year, we reflect upon the details and events of 2023–and that includes a list of the books we read over the past year. One of the many perks of working at a library is perhaps the most obvious: We are surrounded by books! Read on to discover what books our library staff could not put down in 2023.

Kirsten Lee, Distance Learning and Scholarly Communication Liaison

The Deluge by Stephen Markley  

In California in 2013, Tony Pietrus, a scientist studying deposits of undersea methane, received a death threat. His fate will become bound to a stunning cast of characters–a broken drug addict, a star advertising strategist, a neurodivergent mathematician, a cunning eco-terrorist, an actor-turned-religious-zealot, and a brazen, young activist named Kate Morris, who, in the mountains of Wyoming, begins a project that will alter the course of the decades to come.

Kirsten says: Terrifying look at our climate future that will have you losing track of which natural disasters are occurring in the book and which you just saw on the news happening now. Gorgeous writing and thoughtful yet approachable discussions of policy and climate science.

Hello Beautiful by Ann Napolitano

William Waters grew up in a house silenced by tragedy, so when he meets the spirited and ambitious Julia Padavano his freshman year of college, it’s as if the world has lit up around him. With Julia comes her family, as she and her three sisters are inseparable. William experiences a newfound contentment with the Padavanos; every moment in their house is filled with loving chaos. But then darkness from William’s past surfaces, jeopardizing the sisters’ unshakeable devotion to one another.

Kirsten says: This family drama unfolds over the decades and takes you to some surprising places as allegiances shift. Napolitano’s writing is absolutely stunning; I had to read some particularly beautiful passages aloud to friends while devouring this novel.

The Heaven & Earth Grocery Store by James McBride

In this complex novel, McBride takes a mash-up of plots and more than a dozen main characters, each with his or her own history, and weaves them together seamlessly with humor, empathy, and a determined sense of justice.

Kirsten says: Incredible character study of a mixed Jewish and Black community in 1930s Pennsylvania. Packed full of unforgettable characters with some dark and disturbing moments, but also levity and magic in a way that keeps the world feeling so full of life that it’s almost bursting.

Maria Sanchez, Access Services and Circulation Support Staff

Spellbook of the Lost and Found by Moira Fowley-Doyle

One stormy summer night, Olive and her best friend, Rose, begin to lose things. It starts with simple items, but soon it’s clear that Rose has lost something bigger. When they discover the ancient spellbook, full of hand-inked charms to conjure back lost things, they realize it might be their chance to set everything right. Unless it’s leading them towards secrets that were never meant to be found.

Maria says: This book was a fantastic read about a group of kids who cast a spell without realizing the price they will pay for it. The author’s writing immerses you in the world and you walk away feeling magic absolutely can exist.

Mindful Thoughts for City Dwellers: The Joy of Urban Living by Lucy Anna Scott

This beautifully illustrated, little book leads the reader on a joyful journey through the city. From noticing urban nature to embracing noise as sound, Scott shows us how to find a home for the head, and the heart, in the metropolis– humanity’s greatest invention.

Maria says: This book is for anyone that lives or works in a city and feels they need to get away to destress or have some tranquility. We learn that we can connect to nature in the biggest of cities, be grateful for the opportunities cities offer to connect with others, and how to view cities in a more positive light.

Hannah Herrlich, Emerging Technologies Librarian

Danubia by Simon Winder

Danubia tells the history of the very peculiar Habsburg dynasty, and the people they ruled, who spoke many different languages, lived in a vast range of landscapes, believed in rival gods, and often showed a marked ingratitude towards their oddball ruler in Vienna.

Hannah says: This was an informative read for those who have very little prior knowledge about the history of central Europe/former Habsburg territory/area along the Danube River. Winder’s writing style is relaxed, and albeit at times confusing, but overall this was a good window into the past of this area and the Habsburg Dynasty.

The Gift of Fear by Gavin de Becker

Covering all the dangerous situations people typically face, de Becker provides real-life examples on restraining orders, self-defense, and more. But the key to self-protection, he demonstrates, is learning how to trust our own intuitions.

Hannah says: I must’ve been on a non-fiction kick this year. This book discussed some pretty heavy topics in a digestible format. The author helps the reader to distinguish cumbersome anxieties and legitimate worries, and urges us to trust our most hominid, if not animalistic, instinct we have– fear.

Nick Alongi, Head of Access, Information & Collection Services, and Operations, Quinn Library

Rivers of London series by Ben Aaronovitch

This bestselling UK series follows Peter Grant, an ordinary constable-turned-magician’s-apprentice, as he solves crimes across London in a sensational blend of inventive urban fantasy, gripping mystery thriller, and hilarious fantasy caper.

Nick says: This series is set in modern-day London, and features a black male lead character, who’s a cop, and finds himself drafted into the magical investigative unit arm of the police. The whole series was a fun and light read. The writing style and themes feel similar to Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files series.

The Book That Wouldn’t Burn (The Library Trilogy #1) by Mark Lawrence

Nick says: This book is a blend of science fiction and fantasy. It’s a bit hard to describe the plot without giving away any spoilers, so here is the official description…

…The boy has lived his whole life trapped within a book-choked chamber older than empires and larger than cities. The girl has been plucked from the outskirts of civilization to be trained as a librarian, studying the mysteries of the great library at the heart of her kingdom. They were never supposed to meet. But in the library, they did. Their stories spiral around each other, across worlds and time. This is a tale of truth and lies and hearts, and the blurring of one into another. A journey on which knowledge erodes certainty and on which, though the pen may be mightier than the sword, blood will be spilled and cities burned.

Anthony Califano, Access Services Support Staff & Online Learning Assistant

The Woman In Me by Britney Spears

Pop star Spears recounts her rise to superstardom and the suffering she endured during her 13-year conservatorship in this chatty and sometimes searing debut memoir. The time frame spans from Spears’ childhood in Louisiana into the final stages of the “Free Britney” movement. The focus remains squarely on Spears’ lack of control—over her fraying family of origin, her public image, and eventually, her own life.

Anthony says: An emotionally empowering memoir about a pop star many of us grew up with, but never truly understood. Spears shows the importance of telling her story, on her own terms.

Atomic Habits: Tiny Changes, Remarkable Results: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones by James Clear

Clear, one of the world’s leading experts on habit formation, reveals practical strategies that will teach you exactly how to form good habits, break bad ones, and master the tiny behaviors that lead to remarkable results.

Anthony says: A remarkable book that includes scientifically proven facts about human behavior and many words of wisdom that we can implement in our daily lives.

Gabriella DiMeglio, Archives and Special Collections Librarian

Big Swiss by Jen Beagin

Greta lives in an ancient Dutch farmhouse in Hudson, New York, and spends her days transcribing therapy sessions for a sex coach who calls himself Om. Greta becomes infatuated with his newest client, a repressed married woman she affectionately refers to as Big Swiss. One day, Greta recognizes Big Swiss’s voice in town and they quickly become enmeshed. While Big Swiss is unaware Greta has eavesdropped on her most intimate exchanges, Greta has never been more herself with anyone. Her attraction to Big Swiss overrides her guilt, and she’ll do anything to sustain the relationship.

Gabriella says: Big Swiss mixes dark humor with serious themes like privacy and trauma. Reading the book feels a lot like the plot — peeking into strangers’ lives as a break from your own.

The Fordham University Libraries wishes you a joyful holiday season, and we look forward to seeing you again in 2024!
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