January 2023 Reading Review

2023 has started off quite bookishly. I love putting together these monthly reviews, mostly because it’s interesting to see what I actually remember about books after I’ve finished them. Luckily, I have my notebooks to help me fill in the cracks. This post was easy to write because all of the books were memorable!

Addy’s Surprise | A Prayer for the Crown-Shy | When You Greet Me I Bow | The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up | Addy Learns a Lesson | Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow | Signal Fires | A Psalm for the Wild Built | The Marriage Portrait | Chouette | Fellowship Point | Future Home of the Living God | The Perilous Plot of Professor Poopypants | The Attack of the Talking Toilets | The Wrath of the Wicked Wedgie Woman | The Bluest Eye


Signal Fires: This was gorgeous. A thought-provoking tale about family secrets and what happens when we hold them too tightly and in shame. I cried all throughout this book. I’ve read three memoirs by Shapiro but this was my first experience with her fiction – and wow. I hope she’s going to be writing more.

The Marriage Portrait: This was a slow burn for me, but Lucrezia’s story was captivating. Set in Italy in the 1500s, we meet a young Medici girl who is married off to a cruel and power-hungry duke. She believes he is going to kill her and the reader is carried along on her journey of survival, which includes the most luscious descriptions and gorgeous details. I can see why so many of my friends are working to become O’Farrell completists.

Chouette: The story of an unusual baby and a mother’s love. What happens when your baby totally defies expectations in the most painful ways? The story of Chouette tackles this question beautifully. When Tiny takes an Owl lover and delivers an Owl Baby, no one knows how to react. As she becomes more isolated due to the care Chouette requires, Tiny loses more and more of herself. “I’m trying to say she’s already perfect. She’s a small perfect thing in this world. She doesn’t need to change for you to love her.” My goodness — this book had this Autism Mama’s heart going all pitter-patter. Oshetsky speaks my language!

The Bluest Eye: This was my third reading of The Bluest Eye and each visit to Ohio with this cast of characters becomes more meaningful. This time around I thought a lot about how feelings of worthlessness affect people’s behaviors. The world seems to be pretty good at telling people they are worthless, doesn’t it? And American society has held on to fairly particular definitions of worth and beauty for generations, much to our detriment. Toni Morrison was brilliant and I’m looking forward to picking up Sula this week.

A Psalm for the Wild Built & A Prayer for The Crown Shy: These are the first two books in the Monk & Robot series. The monk is Sibiling Dex, a tea monk. The robot is Mosscap. These two unlikely friends are exploring what, exactly, do humans need? Along the way, with its wonderful wisdom and humor, Mosscap helps Dex realize that it’s okay to just LIVE and that we don’t have to earn the right to enjoy life and to rest. This series is lovely and life-affirming. I’m anxious to know if a third book is in the works!


Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow: Such an epic undertaking. Sadie and Sam’s friendship began at a children’s hospital as 12/13 year olds in California. They happen to bump into each other as college students in Boston and realize that they have a rare relationship: together, they can imagine and program the most incredible video games. This story takes us through their thirties and all of their ups and downs. My only complaint is that I felt like this book dragged a little in the middle. But it did a great job showing happens when we don’t communicate and make assumptions about how others are thinking and feeling. What wise lessons!

Fellowship Point: I loved how this book was written and the language used throughout. Agnes and Polly, lifelong friends, grew up in Philadelphia and their families owned land on Fellowship Point in Maine. In their eighties, they decide to find ways to ensure that Fellowship Point stays wild and isn’t sold off to the developers chomping at their bits, waiting for them to die. As they explore different ideas, we learn so much about their family histories and how their current lives came to be.

The Future Home of the Living God: this Louise Erdrich novel was published in 2017 and plunked us into a weird, sort of apocalyptic United States. What is happening? Basically, something is going wrong with pregnancies and babies after they’re born. What? Not sure. But pregnant women have become a hot commodity and Cedar Hawk Songmaker is pregnant. That puts her in danger. This book was so compelling and I couldn’t turn the audio off. I had to know what was going to happen to her even though I still don’t quite understand!

When You Greet Me I Bow: a wonderful book of essays about being Buddhist by Norman Fischer. He is a poet who grew up and identifies as Jewish. I loved how his Jewish perspective informs his Buddhism and vice versa. This book is broken into four parts and explores different ways of working Buddhism into your own life. I read this with a friend and our discussions made this a rich and wonderful experience.

The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up: I love rereading this book! This time I paid careful attention to the opening chapters, how to prepare yourself for the big tidy. I am embarking on a year of Less and am still in its infancy stage, so this was especially helpful for me right now.


Bronwyn and I read two Addy books in January: Addy Learns a Lesson and Addy’s Surprise. I am really loving the Addy books and am finding them meaningful in my own life. Sometimes I catch myself thinking about her throughout the day! The author covers some really difficult territory, but does so in a way that can be tolerated by younger children. I can’t imagine that writing these books was an easy task.

Bryce and I read three Captain Underpants books last month: The Perilous Plot of Professor Poopypants, The Attack of the Talking Toilets, and The Wrath of the Wicked Wedgie Woman. I don’t have a lot to say about these books other than: Bryce loves them and I have to admit that they’re pretty clever. So why not have adventures with The Waistband Warrior?

While putting together this post, I realized that I didn’t dislike anything I read in January. And that’s because I’m very happy to abandon anything that isn’t sparking joy! Anytime I catch myself avoiding the book I’ve picked out, then I know it needs to go. There are too many good books out there and life is short. I don’t want to waste it reading something I’m not enjoying!

How has your reading life been treating you? Do you have any recommendations for me? I’d love to hear from you in the comments! I’m planning to be back on Wednesday with an update on this week’s reading. Take good care!


13 thoughts on “January 2023 Reading Review

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  1. As I said I would, I listened to Chouette at the end of last week, and I can see why you liked it so much (it wasn’t for me, but that’s okay!). My wait for Signal Fires is moving very slowly, but I know it will be worth it! I think it says a lot about your willingness to stop reading something that isn’t clicking for you that you enjoyed everything you read last month. I wish I could be better about DNFing, but sometimes I just need to know how it ends even if I’m not liking it.


  2. I thought that Chouette is the perfect book to stop and think. It was wonderful… and eye *and* mind opening!

    Great reading month! (and I thought of you this weekend and hoped you were all cozy and warm!)


    1. I love reading that you also enjoyed Chouette! I thought that it was a great way to describe how I feel about my own life. And yes — we stayed pretty warm inside this weekend. The weather was absolutely wild!


  3. What a great reading month! I also loved The Marriage Portrait, and I have A Psalm for the Wild Built on hold. I really need to take DNF’ing to heart, especially since I just finished Winter Solstice. Eventually I switched to audio and it was such a slog, but for some reason I didn’t want to give up. It wasn’t worth it 🙂


    1. Ugh – I’m sorry that you slogged through Winter Solstice. There’s something about that one that really missed the mark for me, too. Which was weird because I’ve loved everything else by her that I’ve read! I hope you enjoy A Psalm for the Wild Built. I love that the books in that series are so short. It makes them so approachable!


  4. Thanks to you, the Monk & Robot series is on my TBR list. Thank heavens for libraries! Right now I am reading The Thursday Murder Club. (I plan to write about it next Monday.) As light as a souffle and just as delicious.


  5. You had another great reading month Katie! I really like that you include in your summary the books you and your children read together. I loved The Marriage Portrait and I liked Fellowship Point. I am in the (rather long) queue for Signal Fires.


  6. I’m pretty sure DNFing with abandon is one key to a great reading life! Shapiro did write some fiction a while back but I don’t think any of it was fantastic like Signal Fires. Going to share my January reading wrap up today; it was a great reading month for me, too!


    1. I think you’re right about Shapiro’s earlier fiction. I won’t plan to go back and read any of her older stuff but will look forward to anything new that she publishes!


  7. You write such nice summaries of your books and reading. I have Signal Fires on my list but it will be awhile before it comes up from the library. Currently I’m thoroughly enjoying The Night Watchman. I loved Poet Warrior. My local group is reading Rules of Civility which is a reread for me. I’m skimming it so I can be part of the discussion. It’s readable but doesn’t hold a candle to the other two books I mentioned.


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