The Best Books I Read in 2023

December 12, 2023

I have read many books in 2023; let’s forget most and talk about the good ones.

There is no particular order, but I broke down my recommendations by categories: technical, non-fiction and fiction.

This is a yearly tradition! You can read my book reviews from previous years:
2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021 and 2022.


Surprisingly, I don’t have anything to recommend in this section for 2023.


Engineering in Plain Sight

Engineering in Plain Sight

This is a beautifully illustrated book, from Grady Hillhouse, the host of the Practical Engineering channel on YouTube.

The YouTube channel covers various topics on civil engineering and infrastructure. The book offers a chance to dig deeper into specific areas of interest: the electrical grid, communications, roads, bridges, sewers …

There are many illustrations, on every other page, and the explanations are helpful without getting too long or technical.

I particularly enjoyed the parts about the power grid and telecommunications because they are so easy to relate to. If you look outside, or take a walk in your neighborhood, you’ll be able to see (and recognize!) the infrastructure.

You may never look at a utility pole the same way. 😄

Atomic Habits

Atomic Habits

Many people recommended this book. I did not love it, but I have my reasons.

Atomic Habits felt like a great summary of the other books that I had already read on the same topic. I felt the same way when I finally read Dracula, since I had watched so many vampire movies…

I can still recommend it: if you would prefer to read one (more definitive) book on the topic.

The Ultimate Book of Everyday Knots

The Ultimate Book of Everyday Knots

Knots were the rabbit hole that I fell into this year.

It all started relatively innocently with a YouTube recommendation for a video: The 10 BEST Knots in Life. It’s 16-minute long, but it doesn’t waste any time.

If you take nothing else away from this post, go watch that video and learn a knot.

After I watched this, I started to wonder:

Based on a comment from Reddit – “why would you learn knots from a book?!” – I ended up spending some time on Animated Knots, which is an excellent resource; although it is more of a reference.

I also tried a few books, and The Ultimate Book of Everyday Knots was really good. The pictures are clear, with different colored ropes and step-by-step instructions.

Knots are kind of fun. And useful if you know a few good ones.

A City on Mars

A City on Mars

I knew the Weinersmiths were writing some kind of book about space and stuff: I was already sold. I have read and can recommend most of their books.

I would consider myself a pro-space. I read and enjoyed The Case for Mars amongst others. I wanted to get excited about space! (don’t we all?)

But the book starts, in a way, with an apology. They wanted to write about space and colonies … but the more research they did, the more problems they found.

So, yes, it’s a bit of a downer … or you could take it as a roadmap to all the work that we have ahead of us. I also think that it’s an important book to advance the discussion, if we’re serious about the topic. Unbridled enthusiasm can only take you so far.

A City on Mars is well-researched, funny, with the right amount of on-topic discussion and side stories.




How good is Wool?

It’s not bad.

I knew it was on Apple TV, and as is often the case, I decided to read the books first before tackling their screen adaptation.

I thought the first book of the Silo series was interesting; a murder story with plenty of mysteries to uncover:

But even the first book wasn’t perfect. I could feel some rough edges; a certain lack of polish that one could expect from a new writer (or a lack of editor).

As for the other books … I cannot recommend them. Shift (book 2) moves away from the main story, trying to build enough world to hold things together. And by Dust (book 3), you can feel how the writer wants to get this over with.

As for the TV show, I think they did a pretty good job. I don’t agree with all the choices they made, but it’s generally improving the story and pacing things better. My hope is that future seasons take what’s good from the books, and continue to fix the rest.

Dragon’s Egg

Dragon's Egg

This book came up on 3 different occasions, during the last year. It seemed to inspire a certain nostalgia.

This isn’t fantasy: it’s neither about dragons nor their eggs. First published in 1980, this is a science fiction story in the first contact theme.

Humans have discovered life on a neutron star. You can try to imagine how different, how alien, it would be compared to human life.

The whole book covers this clash of civilizations. It is both a fleeting moment and the story of everything 😄

I recommend you don’t research the book too much before you try it: enjoy the journey.

Closing Thoughts

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