Books I Read in 2023

And why they were great

Leo Cookman

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In 2013 I set myself the challenge of reading 50 books in a year. This was to combat a lack of reading on my part in the preceding years. A significant lapse for someone who considered themselves to be a writer. I managed it and wrote about the experience here. I really enjoyed it and discovered a lot of books I wouldn’t have otherwise read but the demand to read a book a week was more pressure than was comfortable for something supposed to be for pleasure. Since then I wish I could say I kept up healthy reading habits but I didn’t. It actually sent me on a spin to not just read but write, what I thought to be ‘proper’ or ‘mature’ books. This led me to write more than a few things I didn’t like, and tackle notoriously long and/or difficult books. I read Ulysses, Middlemarch, The Count of Monte Cristo and some others of the ‘Canon’, and, while not without their pleasures, I can’t say enjoyed any of them (except Monte Cristo, that was great). But because these texts took so long to read, and were such a slog, along with research texts for stuff I was writing either for Wisecrack or my own writing, I’d basically slowed my reading habits to a crawl again.

It was just after the pandemic and watching the animation series Primal which I loved, the creator, Genndy Tartakovsky, mentioned he was inspired by the original Robert E. Howard stories of Conan the Barbarian. I had loved the Conan comics as a kid and decided to give the stories a read. My sister bought me the complete collection for Christmas that year and I devoured them and it reminded me not just that I loved to read, but WHAT I loved to read. It wasn’t ‘The Canon’, or ‘Books you must read before you die’, or ‘This year’s must reads’, or whatever is trendy on social media right now, I like to read adventure. I like excitement. I like mystery. Specifically, I like what could be called ‘pulp’.

The term ‘Pulp’ doesn’t mean much anymore but it used to mean books made for mass-consumption produced at high volume as low-cost paperbacks that would often end up unsold and then pulped. These were your ‘dime-store thrillers’, your murder mysteries, your adventure novels, etc. Often used as a dismissive term, Pulp novels basically laid the ground work for all the genres pop-culture so loves today. It was also an extension of some of the genres we now call…

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Leo Cookman

Peripatetic Writer. “Time’s Lie” out now from Zero Books.