One reader’s year in books — 157 of them

By Ted Ayres | February 1, 2024

Since 1993, I have been keeping (and sharing with friends and family) a yearly list of the books read during the previous 365 days. Last year, I read 157 books, an all-time high for me (my previous high total was 141).

I enjoyed some favorite authors such as David Baldacci, C.J. Box, Scott Turow, Michael Connelly, Rinker Buck, David Grann, David
McCullough, Jeannette Walls, John Irving, Richard Russo and Robert Goldsborough. I discovered new-to-me authors such as Robert B. Parker (I really like his protagonist, Spenser, and I enjoy his books’ setting in Boston), Donald E. Westlake, Katherine Hall Page and Dorothy Belle Hughes.

My “classic” reads included
“Rebecca” by Daphne du Maurier;
several books by Agatha Christie; “Showboat,” “Cimarron” and “So Big” by Edna Ferber; “The Complete Sherlock Holmes, Volume 2”; and “The Fixer” by Bernard Malamud.

The majority of the books I read in 2023 came from the Wichita Public Library’s Ford Rockwell Branch.
Other sources included loans from friends and family, the Little Free Public Library on 29th Street (which beautifully models the nearby
University Congregational Church) and independent bookstores such as Watermark Books in Wichita, Flint Hills Books in Council Grove and The Dustry Bookshelf in Lawrence. 

For what it is worth, my personal “Top Ten” reads for 2023 were (listed chronologically as read):

“Marley and Me,” by John Grogan

“Life On The Mississippi,” by Rinker Buck

“The Path Between Two Seas,” by David McCullough

“Half American,” by Matthew F. Delmont

“The Wager,” by David Grann

“Furious Hour,” by Casey Cep

“And Hell Followed With It,” by Bonar Menninger

“Lessons In Chemistry,” by Bonnie Garmus

“Kingdom Quarterback,” by Mark Dent and Rustin Dodd

“American Prometheus,” by Kai Bird and Walther J. Sherwin

In one way or another, all fit author Anne Bogel’s definition of a good book: “A good book allows me to step into another world, to experience people and places and situations foreign to my day-to-day existence.” Buck’s book, for instance, shared the perils of piloting a boat down the Mississippi in modern times.

The most disappointing reads of 2023 were two books from my own library: “The Goss Women,” by R.V. Cassell and “Wealth and Poverty,” by George Gilder. Cassell’s story line was stilted, unbelievable and tacky. Gillder is a “supply-side” economist whose book I found racist and sexist (in
fairness, it was copyrighted in 1981).

As we race into 2024, the following books are in the queue: “The Old Lion,” by Jeff Shaara;
“Founding Partisans,” by Dr. H.W. Brand; “Goodbye Eastern Europe,” by Jacob Mikanowski; “Astor,” by
Anderson Cooper; “Oath and
Honor,” by Liz Cheney; “Empire Falls,” by Richard Russo; and “The Expendable Man,” by Dorothy Belle Hughes.

Happy reading to you and yours in 2024!

Ted Ayres has been reviewing books for The Active Age since 2020. He can be reached at