Our Editors Share Their Favorite Books
We believe that style goes far beyond the clothes you wear and transcends into other parts of your life. Just as clothes are a great way to expand your horizons so too are books. Our editors love to read and we asked them what some of their favorite books were this year. There were some new, some old, some fiction, and some non-fiction, but we hope one of these will end up in your rotation next year.
For me, this past year has been full of huge life changes and tectonic professional shifts. I officially retired from the Army after 20-plus years of service and finally transitioned into running He Spoke Style as a full-time enterprise. Going from basically having my entire schedule set for me by the powers that be to needing to create my own structure was, to be honest, a very welcome change but one that required a bit of thought. I’m very routine oriented and when a long-standing routine gets upended, it generally takes me a while to steady myself again.
Thankfully, I took the advice of many commenters and picked up a copy of James Clear’s “Atomic Habits,” which I absolutely devoured. It is full of extremely practical and easily actionable advice — a blueprint, really — that helped me set up a an amazingly healthy and productive morning routine and gave me the tools to develop new habits as well as break some bad ones that I’d been trying to shake. It’s an easy read that I highly recommend to anyone looking to make a positive change (or changes) in their lives.
I’m a pretty voracious reader, and generally read across all genres, from biographies to fantasy novels. This year, I got hooked by Brandon Sanderson’s ”Stormlight Archive” series, which, if you’re unfamiliar, is a pretty daunting set of books. They’re each like 1,300 pages and there are currently four in the series. I read them all in about a month and a half, I couldn’t put them down. The character development, world building, and interconnected storylines are simultaneously incredibly detailed and expansive, while also feeling quite intimate.
Additionally, as fantasy goes it’s fairly easy to follow – to the point that you’re not having to jot notes down about character names. The second in the series, “Words of Radiance” was my favorite, but the first, ”The Way of Kings” was absolutely breathtaking. If you’re into fantasy novels at all, I cannot recommend them highly enough. And unlike a very famous other fantasy author who will remain nameless, Sanderson is pretty amazing at cranking out the content and not falling behind schedule on releasing the next books in his various series.
I can’t confess to being a fiction lover; thus, my favorite reads are always rooted in non-fiction, namely philosophy or history. This year I’ve kept William Hazlitt’s “The Spirit of the Age” on my nightstand because the language is exquisite. Hazlitt, known for being one of England’s greatest essayists, surveys the poets and writers of the time and adumbrates their worldview and style. This slim read makes it a riveting one for those who adore reading such gorgeous English. It seems rare to see a global language feel exclusive. It’s modern enough to comprehend, but traditional and unusual enough to please the mind.
Choosing the best book I read this year was difficult as I spend quite a bit of the year with my nose in books. One topic that really has captured my attention over the past year is addictive technology and the influence of social media in our lives.
I read a number of great books on this subject in my quest to really gain a better understanding of how we have become a culture that is simply unable to look away from screens. Of particular interest to me was how algorithms, suggested content, artificial intelligence, and customized feeds create feedback loops and black holes of dubious information that is gobbled up by us on a daily basis.
The book that best exemplifies this is “The Chaos Machine” by Max Fisher. The author is a New York Times reporter who set out on a quest to document the role that giant tech companies play in the proliferation of misinformation. He covers everything from Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, TikTok, Reddit, and Google.
Fisher excels in looking at both the macro and micro levels of the issue. He simultaneously examines the tech leaders and policies that have shaped the services that dominate our daily existence as well as the impact it has on individual people.
It is certainly not the most uplifting read, however, it is one that had a profound impact on my understanding of social media and internet companies and is a book that I recommend on a regular basis.
I’m a middling golfer at best. But, I get out when I can. Dr. Bob Rotella’s book “Golf is Not a Game of Perfect” is about much more than chasing a little white ball around a field. It’s helpful for setting and managing expectations, living up to them, and managing stressful and challenging situations. It’s not terribly long and reads rather quickly, which is great for tapping into at the end of the day.
For me, this year was filled with a lot of change and frankly, chaos. I had some significant pivots in my professional life, joined this amazing He Spoke Style team, and watched my two boys grow into their new (and wild) milestones. I truly love to read, but it is more of a luxury now than it used to be. For my professional life I absorb a lot of very heavy scientific material, so I tend to read fiction for mere pleasure. This year I dabbled into some internet favorites or best sellers and honestly, was not super impressed. Plots fell short, characters weren’t relatable or believable, and the writing was just not elevated. So, my favorite book – well books – turned out to be two re-reads from years past.
The first is Pat Conroy’s “Lords of Discipline.” This book was released before I was even born, yet it holds up. It’s that coming-of-age tale of four boys transitioning into manhood but as cadets in a military institute. Perhaps it is because I have boys of my own, but it hit me harder this year than any other time I have read it. Conroy’s writing is beautiful and poetic, yet oftentimes heartbreaking. The guy just really makes you feel. Plus, I truly believe no other writer has captured the beauty and feel of southern coastal areas quite like Conroy – he remains unmatched.
Secondly was “A Gentleman in Moscow” by Amor Towles. Again, the writing is stunning. Following a Russian Count sentenced to house arrest within a hotel by the Bolsheviks, it depicts his emotional journey to find purpose in the face of reduced means and outside turmoil. Even though the book’s setting is the better part of a 100 years ago and half a world away, it is incredibly relatable. Life throws you curveballs and it is all about how you handle circumstance and the relationships you build. Scene after scene Towles creates this gorgeous narrative that you can’t put down.
This was one of the best books I read in 2023. I love Paris and I love impressionism and both subjects – in the superbly capable hands (or rather, pen) of King – were fascinating to learn more about during this pivotal decade of French art.
Things like the siege of Paris, Ernest Meissonier and, most unequivocally, the transcendental role played by Manet (who I previously overlooked as an artist) were all told in page-turning fashion thanks to King’s scintillating prose and his curation of interesting facts (without belaboring the mundane). Although the storyline played out by the artists and the reigning class each year felt a bit like a merry-go-round of déjà vu, it was a ride I didn’t want to get off.
Which books did you enjoy this year? Share them with the community down below in the comments.