Nithin Bekal About

Favorite books of 2023

13 Jan 2024

28 books. 8900 pages. That’s more than I was expecting to read this year. I also just realized that my first favorite books post was written almost exactly 10 years ago!


Despite not being much of a graphic novel reader, two of this year’s favorites of mine are graphic novels. Aside from those, this year’s fiction reading was dominated by fantasy novels.

Maus (Art Spiegelman)

This graphic novel tells the story of the author’s father, Vladek, a Jewish survivor of the Holocaust. The story is presented through the lens of conversations that Art has with Vladek in the modern day. Although primarily about Vladek’s experiences in a concentration camp, it also shows the complexity of the father-son relationship in the present day. Be warned, though - this book can be a gut wrenchingly painful read.

Season of Mists (Neil Gaiman)

Another graphic novel, and this was a thoroughly enjoyable addition to the Sandman series. I found the previous books in this series to be a bit disjointed, but here there’s a single story that constantly held my attention.

Gardens of the Moon (Steven Eriksen)

The epic fantasy novel drops the reader right into the action without any background on the story or the characters. I’ve tried reading this book in the past, and given up after a few pages. This time I powered through the first 100 pages until I could start making sense of the story, and was rewarded with beautifully written prose and incredible worldbuilding.

The Secret Projects novels by Brandon Sanderson

In 2022, Brandon Sanderson announced that he had written 4 novels in secret during the pandemic, in addition to all the other novels he published. The Kickstarter for publishing these books broke all records and raised over $40 million. 3 of those books made it onto this list:

  • Tress of the Emerald Sea: Beautiful fairy tale adventure inspired by The Princess Bride. But here the girl that goes on an adventure to rescue her man.

  • Yumi and the Nightmare Painter: Sanderson’s ability to write action is in full display here. One of the protagonists fights nightmares that manifest in the real world by painting them. You wouldn’t expect that to be the formula for edge-of-the-seat excitement, but somehow he manages it. Had a genuinely surprising revelation at the end.

  • The Sunlit Man: Set in a world where sunlight instantly incinerates everything, people have to live in airborne cities that constantly fly to keep them on the dark side. An offworlder arrives and challenges the tyrant that rules that world. While it has connections to Sanderson’s Stormlight Archives series, it works really well as a standalone story.

Non fiction

Pale Blue Dot (Carl Sagan)

One of the best books on space exploration out there. The title refers to the photo of the Earth taken by the Voyager space probe from 6 billion km away. In it, our planet spans a single pixel amidst the vastness of space, and Sagan uses that to reflect on our place in the cosmos. This beautiful passage is a perfect example of what to expect from this book.

Look again at that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every “superstar,” every “supreme leader,” every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there–on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.

Staff Engineer (Will Larson)

There are a lot of books for people taking the engineering management track, but not many for those of us on the Staff track. This book has become the canonical book in the space. There’s a lot of practical wisdom in the first half of the book. The second half contains interviews with Staff+ engineers from many different companies, providing insights into the many different roles that Staff+ engineers play.

An Elegant Puzzle (Will Larson)

Another great book from Larson to complement the Staff Engineer book. This one is written for engineering managers. However, part of Staff engineers’ role is to be a partner to an engineering manager, and I found this a great way to understand their perspective.

Don’t Make Me Think (Steve Krug)

If The Design of Everyday Things were to be written from the perspective of web usability, this book would be pretty close to what it should look like. In this short and engaging book, Krug walks you through how to think about usability. A decade is a long time for the Web and UX, but his advice holds up pretty well, and will likely do so for another decade.

Ruby Under a Microscope (Pat Shaugnessy)

If you’re a Ruby programmer looking to understand the internals of the CRuby implementation, this is the book for you. With clear illustrations, it walks you through different aspects of the Ruby VM, while also helping you get a deeper understanding of the Ruby object model.


This year is my first as a parent, so a good chunk of my reading was related to parenting.

Bringing Up Bebe (Pamela Druckerman)

Druckerman is an American journalist raising children in France, putting her in a great position to write this entertaining comparison of French and American parenting styles. The writing is witty and engaging, and I found myself reading chapters about things that won’t ever affect me. The contrast with French culture also made me realize how crazy parenting in North America seems by comparison.

Precious Little Sleep (Alexis Dubief)

Sleep training a baby can be life changing for the parents, going from constant sleep deprivation to getting decent amount of sleep every night. This book does a great job organizing all the information out there about the subject. However, I found the writing style annoying. The content comes from a blog the author used to write, so it feels like reading a random blog on the internet. If all the fluff had been edited out, this would have been 50 pages shorter and way more easy to read. Still a very worthwhile read.

The Birth Partner (Penny Simkin)

This book is a guide for the support person during the birth. This has great advice on how to deal with the many difficult decisions you’ll have to make in the hospital during the birth. I picked this up a few days before the birth of our child, and only managed to finish a third of the book when she was born, and regretted not starting it sooner.


I’ve set myself a reading goal of 30 this year, which is slightly more than the 28 I finished this year. That’s going to be tough if I’m going to continue with the Malazan series I started last year with 9 more 1000-page tomes to go!

I was also hoping to make progress last year on the series I’d already started earlier, like Dune, Hyperion Expanse and Murderbot Diaries, but never made any progress there. I’m hoping to finish at least the Murderbot series this year.

This is part of my Favorite Books of the Year series. You can find the other posts below, or follow me on Goodreads.

2023    2022    2021    2020    2019    2018    2017    2016    2015    2014    2013   

Hi, I’m Nithin! This is my blog about programming. Ruby is my programming language of choice and the topic of most of my articles here, but I occasionally also write about Elixir, and sometimes about the books I read. You can use the atom feed if you wish to subscribe to this blog or follow me on Mastodon.