Reading by a pool.

2023 Reading List

I read 153 books last year, not the most since I started tracking in 2020 but also not the least. I don’t set a goal for the number of titles I read and I don’t track my progress throughout the year, I just happen to devour books (mostly audiobooks from the public library) while I’m traveling, running, cooking meals, or walking around exploring new places. Since most of my travel is solo I inevitably rack up a substantial reading list and I enjoy looking back over my notes from the year.

2023 Reading List Totals

153 Books Total
1 Kindle Book
1 Paperback Book

Reading by a pool.
Kindle, Coffee, Earbuds, Pool & Palm Trees

Favorite Book(s) Of 2023

As happened before, my favorite “book” last year was actually “books”. I love adventure travel stories and last year I stumbled upon Charlie Walker’s book Through Sand & Snow: A Man, a Bicycle, and a 43,000-Mile Journey to Adulthood via the Ends of the Earth. I couldn’t get enough of his perspective on travel, the world and different cultures, as well as the sheer adventures he had and I was bummed when it was finished. Then I was stoked to find that he had another book and I immediately dove into On Roads That Echo: A Bicycle Journey Through Asia and Africa. It’s safe to say that I’m anxiously awaiting more content from Charlie.

Charlie Walker books on a table.
Charlie Walker Books

Author Deep Dives

In addition to Charlie, I found a few authors that I enjoyed so much I ended up checking out the rest of their titles and reading them. These were two of my favorite author deep dives of last year.

Travel & Adventure

In 2021 I read two of Graham Field’s books about motorcycle touring around the world. Last year I read another three and laughed through his humor and travels. Different Natures combined 3 of his trips into one fun read. The final two books Near Varna and Not Working were based in Bulgaria, ironically where I was spending the summer when I read them, and I enjoyed his perspective on the unique culture that I was exploring. As a disclaimer, at times the language is a bit vulgar and some stories are a bit crude, so probably don’t listen with kids in the car.

History & Exploration

I read four Buddy Levy titles and enjoyed the incredible stories of Arctic exploration and South American expeditions. Empire Of Ice And Stone told the story of the Karluk and it’s crew after the ship sank and the crew endured incredible hardships. Labyrinth of Ice is about the Greely Expedition and their push for the farthest north and their four years stuck in the Arctic ice. River of Darkness follows the 16th-century expedition of conquistador Gonzalo Pizarro and his lieutenant Francisco Orellana in search of South America’s fabled El Dorado. The two split up and Orellana became the first European to navigate the Amazon River. And finally, Conquistador chronicles the story of Hernán Cortés, King Montezuma, and the conquering of the Aztec Empire in Mexico.

Travel & Adventure

I classify Travel & Adventure as contemporary accounts of seeing the world or living on the edge and these reads are often my favorites. Last year was no different and a few of these vied for the top spot on my favorite books of the year.

Nearly topping my list was Tim Slessor’s First Overland: London-Singapore by Land Rover. This was my only Kindle book and a followup (or precursor) to one of my top picks last year, Alex Bescoby’s The Last Overland. Tim’s book chronicles his six-man expedition in two Land Rovers driving from Europe to Singapore in 1955 over more than 12,000 miles across some of the world’s most difficult roads. The wild exploration and raw stories with such rudimentary gear makes today’s overland journeys seem tame in comparison.

Another close runner-up was Tom Fremantle’s Johnny Ginger’s Last Ride, my only paper book last year. This account of Tom’s 1996 bicycle tour from England to Australia was fun to read. He was following in the footsteps of his ancestor Captain Charles, the founder of Fremantle port, and it is a fantastic book of raw dirtbag travels, creating deep connections with local people and cultures, and some great humor on the side. A classic bike touring read.

Benedict Allen’s Explorer is a book about what it means to be an explorer in the 21st-century, as well as revisiting his first travels in New Guinea and going back 30 years later. Great stories and well written.

David Roberts has spent his life documenting expeditions into the most extreme places on earth, and in Limits of the Known following his diagnosis with throat cancer he reflects on a long life of adventure and humanity’s, and his own, relationship with extreme risk.

In 2006 Jordan Hansen and 3 friends spent 72 days rowing across the Atlantic Ocean in a race from New York to England. I enjoyed Rowing Into The Son for the adventures, misadventures, perspectives on discomfort, and his dedication to details. A good read about an extreme race.

The title of No Barriers: A Blind Man’s Journey to Kayak the Grand Canyon pretty much says it all. Cowritten with Buddy Levy (see above), Erik Weihenmayer tells an incredible story about living a life full of extreme adventures while being blind since his teens. He’s climbed the Seven Summits, including Mount Everest, climbed Yosemite’s El Capitan, and kayaked all 277 miles of the Grand Canyon. This book is a mix of adventure stories, inspirational motivation, and is all around incredible.

The Thrid Pole: Mystery, Obsession, and Death on Mount Everest is a gripping story told by Mark Synnott of an effort in 2019 to not only climb Everest, but to find George Mallory and Sandy Irvine’s Kodak film to prove their first ascent. Great history, technology, and current events all wrapped together.

Similar to the above Mount Everest tales, No Way Down: Life and Death on K2 is riveting, and maybe more daunting, raw, and wild. Graham Bowley writes about the 2008 season when disaster struck and a deadly avalanche destroyed a large section of the fixed guide ropes, leaving many climbers stranded on the mountain. The fateful event does not end well for everyone, but is an amazing read about real life on the Himalaya’s most dangerous peaks.

In The Unconquered Scott Wallace joins a National Geographic team to search for the Arrow People in Brazil’s Amazon Jungle in 2002. It is an incredible story of braving the jungle, tracking the tribe, attempting to avoid making contact, and struggling to get back out alive. A good read about history, anthropology, and the future of protecting the last uncontacted indigenous peoples.

When friends started sending me the movie trailer for King Arthur (based on a true story) I checked out Mikael Lindnord’s book Arthur: The Dog Who Crossed the Jungle to Find a Home. It’s a good story of an adventure racer who befriended a stray dog during a 435 mile race across South America and his tale of taking the dog home. Not my favorite book in this genre, but I think the film will be enjoyable.

Last but not least, Jane Ferguson’s No Ordinary Assignment is less adventure, more raw reality. In her memoir she talks about being a war correspondent for 13 years in the Middle East and South Asia. Battle zones are not exactly places of adventure, but her stories of reporting on the front lines wove a narrative that was hard to put down.


After Travel & Adventure my second favorite genre is History. I love learning about places and cultures via their history, especially when I’m traveling and exploring them in person, and I was able to do that quite often last year.


I enjoyed Anderson Cooper’s Astor: The Rise And Fall Of An American Fortune. His books are well written, researched, and always have just enough personal stories to make them a great read.

When Giants Ruled The Sky by Jeffrey Goeoghegan is a fascinating story of blimps and giant airships and how they were used for the military and their growing commercial use until two egregious disasters, one off the Pacific Coast of California that I’d never heard of.

In Guardians Of The Valley: John Muir And The Friendship That Saved Yosemite, Dean King tells how John Muir and his longtime editor Robert Underwood Johnson came together to push the creation of Yosemite National Park and kick off the American environmental movement. Yosemite is one of my favorite places on earth and this is a good read about it’s history.

And finally, A Fever in the Heartland is a difficult read from Timothy Egan about the KKK’s plot to take over America in the 1920’s. Lies, bigotry, and violence was hard enough, but the fact that it was mostly based in Indiana brought the story very close to home.


A little further from home, but actually where I was calling home for the summer, I did a bit of a deep dive into Eastern European history, focused on Bulgaria. I was living in Bansko for the summer and throughly enjoyed learning about the region while exploring the unique sites, people, and culture.

A History of Eastern Europe by Vejas Gabriel Liulevicius is a series of lectures that were well presented and kept my attention. Having not yet read much about the region or the history I found it all very interesting.

In Balkan Ghosts: A Journey Through History Robert D. Kaplan recounts his political travelogue in the Balkans between 1996 and 2000. He highlights places and people I vaguely remember hearing about in the news but it made more sense now being in the Balkans and understanding the geography a bit more.

To follow up the contemporary account by Kaplan, I read The Balkans: A Short History by Mark Mazower. Mark documents the region’s history through World Wars, the Cold War, the collapse of Communism, disintegration of Yugoslavia and more. It was fascinating to read while running and riding through the Bulgarian countryside.

In an effort to learn more about Eastern Europe I thought researching Central Europe would help. The Habsburg Empire: A New History by Pieter M. Judson is a long, very detailed book about the Habsburg history and shed some light on how the European states were shaped and evolved.

Following all the stories of Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union I checked out The Picnic: A Dream of Freedom and the Collapse of the Iron Curtain. In this book Matthew Longo tells a revolutionary story of the unraveling of the Iron Curtain through a picnic organized on the border between Hungary and Austria. Unsanctioned, illegal, and precarious, hundreds of people risked imprisonment to protest or escape across the iron curtain shortly before it fell.


My first stop in Europe that summer was Istanbul for a week and I listened to Thomas F. Madden’s Istanbul: City of Majesty at the Crossroads of the World while walking around exploring. It was a fantastic account of the very long history of city and a very enjoyable read.

In Afgansty: The Russians in Afghanistan 1979-89 by Rodric Braithwaite I learned about the Soviet invasion and occupation of Afghanistan, which I hadn’t known much about before. A great current events historical read.

I also read two first-person accounts of Iraq and Iran by Willam R. Polk. Polk had extensive experience working in the Middle East with high level officials and local leaders. His books Understanding Iraq: The Whole Sweep of Iraqi History, from Genghis Khan’s Mongols to the Ottoman Turks to the British Mandate to the American Occupation and Understanding Iran: Everything You Need to Know, From Persia to the Islamic Republic, From Cyrus to Khamenei were fascinating.

Noura Erakat’s Justice for Some: Law and the Question of Palestine is an interesting look into the ever-present conflict between Israel and Palestine. Over the years I’ve read many accounts on the history and current politics of the region and still have no idea what the right answer for peace will be.


The Escape Artist: The Man Who Broke Out Of Auschwitz To Warn The World is an intense story by Jonathan Freedland. The book follows a duo who became the first Jews to escape Auschwitz and their efforts to warn the last Jews of Europe of the fate that awaited them. It’s a heart-wrenching book about the Holocaust and the fight between information and misinformation.

I’ve read several of Brad Meltzer’s books and The Nazi Conspiracy: The Secret Plot To Kill Roosevelt, Stalin, and Churchill did not disappoint. He does a great job of weaving a historical story into an attention grabbing tale that highlights little known facts in history.


In 1923, after a 2 year expedition to colonize Wrangle Island for Great Britain, an Eskimo woman returned as the group’s sole survivor. Jennifer Niven’s book Ada Blackjack: A True Story of Survival in the Arctic is a wild story of Ada’s survival while her male companions all perished.

Into the Great Emptiness is another fantastic David Roberts book. This is an interesting story from the 1930’s when a group of explorers attempted to set up a weather station on the ice cap of the east coast of Greenland, 8,200 feet above sea level. Just reading it made me feel cold!


I’m always a sucker for “The history of the world through…” books like Salt and Cod, and Beer: A Global Journey Through The Past And Present was a good one. Not as good as Mark Kurlansky’s titles, but John W. Arthur does a great job of telling the story of the invention of beer, how it shaped societies, and how it is used in remote and untouched societies today.


I really enjoyed Ben Goldfarb’s Crossings: How Road Ecology Is Shaping the Future of Our Planet. The book is full of interesting stories and fascinating scientific studies all focused on how our road and track infrastructure impacts nature. This was especially interesting to me since I spend so much time traveling roads around the world.

After reading Crossings I checked out Goldfarb’s other book, Eager. In this book Ben writes about beavers, their natural history, their habitat, and how we’re changing it.

Much like Eager, Tom Walker’s The Wanderer chronicles Alaskan wolves and a scientific study that followed a lone wolf on a 5 month epic wander for 3,000 miles around remote Alaska. Definitely worth a read!


I read two of Tim Marshall’s books, starting with Prisoners of Geography: Ten Maps That Explain Everything About the World. Written in 2016 it was already a bit dated, but I enjoyed his look into how natural barriers like mountains, deserts, rivers and seas help form borders between nations.

A little more up to date, Marshall’s The Age of Walls: How Barriers Between Nations Are Changing Our World delves into the history of walls between nations, their efficacy, and today’s push toward isolationism and walls.

Science & Technology

I think that Henry Sanderson’s Volt Rush is a good, balanced, not too political look at the future of going green with solar, batteries, and electric vehicles. This topic can obviously get very political and I appreciated his unbiased scientific reporting on current and future events.

Oliver Franklin-Wallis’s book Wasteland: The Secret World of Waste and the Urgent Search for a Cleaner Future is also a good look at the hidden world of waste and how our consumer economy impacts the world in unseen ways, at least to those of us in the West.

Written more than a decade ago, Stephen Levy’s In the Plex: How Google Thinks, Works, and Shapes Our Lives was fascinating to me. It might be because I currently work in web design and SEO, but the evolution of the technology from the beginning to the behemoth it is today left me on the edge of my seat, figuratively speaking, because I was probably running while listening to it.

General & Humuorous

Trae Crowder and Corey Ryan Forrester are comedians and wrote Round Here and Over Yonder: A Front Porch Travel Guide by Two Progressive Hillbillies (Yes, that’s a thing.) as a hilarious travel guide around the United States and beyond. There’s nothing to really learn, but the laugh value made it a good read last year!

Dan Schreiber’s The Theory Of Everything Else: A Voyage Into The World Of The Weird is a comedic look at various eccentric beliefs, organizations, and people around the world and is a light read resulting in some laughs.

Another funny read was A.J. Jacob’s The Year of Living Biblically, a tongue-in-cheek book about how he tried to follow the Bible as literally as possible every day for an entire year.

Not as funny, but just as entertaining, The Art Thief: A True Story of Love, Crime, and a Dangerous Obsession by Michael Finkel satiated my appetite for “object thief” style stories like The Feather Thief, The Falcon Thief, and The Orchid Thief. Finkel’s book includes a lot of great art history, a personal tragedy, and an unsolved mystery of incredible loss at the end of the book. I highly recommend it!

And finally, Adam S. McHugh’s Blood From a Stone: A Memoir of How Wine Brought Me Back from the Dead was enjoyable not so much because I like wine, or memoirs for that matter, but because it was funny and informative and I lived in Santa Barbara Country for a decade.


I don’t read as many business books as I did in my 20’s but last year the Tropical MBA podcast recommended American Idol: Alan Mulally and the Fight to Save Ford Motor Company by Bryce G. Hoffman. It was a great book highlighting the kind of leadership and business practices I think I’d be interested in, if I were still interested in big business.

Walter Isaacson’s Elon Musk is an in-depth history and current look at Musk, his business career, his personal life, and what makes him one of the hardest driving entrepreneurs in the world right now.

Being a runner, Kara Groucher’s The Longest Race: Inside the Secret World of Abuse, Doping, and Deception on Nike’s Elite Running Team was both interesting and frustrating to see what coaches, companies, and sometimes athletes will do to win and what others endure to be part of the sport.

In John Perkins’ classic book Confessions Of An Economic Hit Man he exposes the corrupt systems that global powers use to further grow income inequality and increase ecological destruction. The more recent release includes new chapters focusing on China’s current spread of economical power around the world.

Similar to Confessions Of An Economic Hit Man, Walt Bogdanich’s When McKinsey Comes To Town: The Hidden Influence of the World’s Most Powerful Consulting Firm takes a look at how one of the most powerful consulting firms optimizes profits by cutting costs and how that impacts organizations, economies, communities, and more.

Fitness & Self Help

Michael Easter’s The Comfort Crisis: Embrace Discomfort To Reclaim Your Wild, Happy, Healthy Self definitely spoke to my AntiComfortable lifestyle. Easter dives into multiple stories of people breaking out of their comfort zone and finding success and strength in discomfort.

Along similar lines, Endure: Mind, Body, and the Curiously Elastic Limits of Human Performance by Alex Hutchinson takes a bit more of a scientific approach to pushing beyond our limits to accomplish incredible endurance feats.

Colin O’Brady’s The 12-Hour Walk discusses how simply stepping out your front door and walking unplugged for 12 hours is a great way to reset, think deeply, and achieve more in life.

A friend recommended Die With Zero by Bill Perkins and I enjoyed the unique look at working, saving, and spending while you are alive. Also, I feel like I’m sort of already living the message.

The Good Life: Lessons From The World’ Longest Scientific Study Of Happiness by Robert Waldinger was an interesting look into what really makes people happy, especially as they age and their answers slowly change.


And finally, politics is probably my least favorite genre, but I do try to stay current with national and world events as well as read perspectives from both sides, and both extremes, to find a better grasp on my own beliefs and what’s going on around the world.

Romney: A Reckoning by McKay Coppins was a fantastic read. I don’t think I’ve ever actually supported Romney, but this in-depth look at his life and his career makes me miss the kind of principled leadership that he stands for, whether I agree with him or not.

Billionaire Wilderness by Justin Farrell tells the story of housing inequality based on wealth more than politics, specifically in Teton County, Wyoming.

Conor Dougherty’s Golden Gates: Fighting for Housing in America taught me a lot about the housing crisis, especially in San Francisco, and the issues with Not In My Backyard.

Also focused on California, Bill Lascher’s The Golden Fortress: California’s Border War on Dust Bowl Refugees highlighted the struggles of another era when Californians closed off their state borders to other Americans and the similarities to today’s nationalistic anti-immigration stance.

Thomas Gabor’s American Carnage: Shattering the Myths That Fuel Gun Violence was an interesting look at the power of the gun lobby and how statistics can be manipulated or skewed to represent anything to its believers. I’m under no illusion that this book will change any minds, so read it only if you think you’ll agree with it.

Sticking with a similar title, American Carnage: On the Front Lines of the Republican Civil War and the Rise of President Trump by Tim Alberta was an in-depth look at another power hungry organization, the GOP, and what it will give up to stay in power. Again, this won’t change any minds, so probably don’t read it if you disagree.

I also read books that will challenge my own views and Nick Adams’ The Most Dangerous President In History about Joe Biden was one of them. I couldn’t tell if I wanted to laugh at the hysteria or cry at the hopelessness of our system, but anyone who insists on spouting the meanest name calling rhetoric to beat their opponents down is simply a bully, and I don’t like bullies.


Looking back on 2023 I feel like I enjoyed a wide range of titles, learned a lot about the global regions I was exploring, challenged myself with opposing views, and found some new favorite authors to follow. But, if there’s one thing I think I’ll take away from my 2023 Reading List its that I’d like to highlight a few less books next year. Sorting and reviewing nearly 70 titles in one post was not an easy task!

Book Formats

A quick note about how I obtain so many titles each year. I rely heavily on the public library system supplemented by an Audible membership and sporadic Kindle purchases. Through my library I have access to Libby and Hoopla and in both of my accounts I have massive wish lists and titles on hold. At times it’s hard to get newer or lesser known titles through the library, although you can often suggest books and they might purchase them for you, so I have Audible and use it to purchase my one title a month, or sometimes splurge for the 2-for-1 sales. If you have access to a public library I highly recommend taking advantage of the digital titles. Not only are the free, but the more we all use them the larger or digital shelves will be!

Annual Reading List Totals

2020 = 158 books
2021 = 161 books
2022 = 114 books
2023 = 153 books

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