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Twelve Things: Favorite Reads of 2023

I’m not going to lie; I changed my Goodreads goal late in the year, and I can’t even remember what the original goal was. My  energy and mental capacity for reading this year just wasn’t what I hoped it would be. Usually, I try to end my  nights with some reading. Or, if there isn’t…


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I’m not going to lie; I changed my Goodreads goal late in the year, and I can’t even remember what the original goal was. My  energy and mental capacity for reading this year just wasn’t what I hoped it would be. Usually, I try to end my  nights with some reading. Or, if there isn’t a Chicago Bulls game that evening, I may even try to spend it by reading some comic books or getting through a novel. But, more often than not, that just wasn’t the case in 2023. I still read a great deal, though.

My reading primarily consists of comic books, so it’s easy to amass a larger number of reads. But I did my best to balance it out with traditional books.

This year, I read a lot of Captain America comics, got into a really cool young adult science fiction series, revisited a classic that I first read as a 15-year-old, discovered who could very well be my favorite non-Marvel superhero, and more.

Here are 12(ish) of my favorite reads from 2023:

The Lunar Chronicles (Cinder, Scarlet, Cress, and Winter) by Marissa Meyer

I was given the first book in this series, Cinder, by my friend Allison. It’s one of her favorites, and, as I got further into the story, I could easily tell why she thought it would be a good choice for me. The series as a whole is essentially a science fiction take on fairy tales. While it’s more than one book, I felt it was best to include the main series as its own one favorite as a nod to my enjoyment of how the four books work as an overall story.

Cinder, in particular, follows the story of a cyborg Cinderella in a  futuristic society and kickstarts the grander narrative for the series. If you’re a fan of Disney princesses, fairy tales, and Star Wars, this would be right up your alley.

To be honest, I’m not sure I’ve ever actually read an entire book series until this one. (I, however, haven’t yet read the nonessential, complimentary novella and book of short stories that accompany the four main novels.) I always just gravitated toward books that stood on their own, because then I don’t feel obligated to read an entire series. Nevertheless, The Lunar Chronicles is great. Cinder was easily my favorite of the four, but each one is good. It was fun to discover how they all connected and to experience how the story builds throughout.

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

I first read this book during my sophomore year of high school as one of the assigned books for my English Ten Honors class (shoutout to my teacher Mr. Clark). While I enjoyed it back then, I didn’t really appreciate it for what it is. I was not a reader until I graduated college. Back when I first read it, whatever books I read were for school. I hadn’t quite even gotten to the point of reading basketball nonfiction/sports journalism books quite yet. Revisiting the classic book now was a better experience overall for a multitude of reasons. As someone who now reads as a leisurely activity, I find more value in books. Not to mention, book bans are becoming more prevalent. So it felt fitting to reread Fahrenheit 451 with a more mature perspective. It was also just interesting (and somewhat unnerving) to read how that world, albeit one of science fiction, had similarities to reality.

Captain America (2004) #25

Taking place following the Civil War between the Marvel universe’s superheroes, this issue is heartwrenching and phenomenal. I finally read the Civil War comics run in 2023, which led me to this Cap comic. It’s undoubtedly one of not only my favorite reads of the year but also one of the best. Trying to explain what makes this such a good story is tough to do without spoiling anything. But, if you know, you know. If you don’t, read the Civil War comics run, and make sure this issue is one of the tie-ins you read as well.

Captain America: Sentinel of Liberty (2022) #11 by Jackson Lanzing and Colin Kelly

I’ve adored the Captain America: Sentinel of Liberty comic run since its very first issue, so I was especially sad to see it come to an end in 2023. Issue 11 was one of the standout issues of the run from this year’s releases, but it’s really a fantastic read overall. Lanzing and Kelly write Steve Rogers so well. At FAN EXPO Chicago in August, I asked them about writing this series, and they mentioned how Rogers made them better men — at least they hope so. Because you need to be your best self to write the “best boy.” Plus the artwork and coloring by Carmen Carnero and Nolan Woodard, respectively, elevate the narrative so much.

The Winter Soldier: Cold Front by Mackenzi Lee

This novel is about Bucky Barnes/the Winter Soldier, but it’s a different take on the character and his story compared to the comics and the MCU. Even so, I found it to still stay true to the essence of Bucky and really enjoyed an insightful and emotional mystery that examines how Bucky’s past connects to the Winter Soldier’s present. Mackenzi Lee does this by alternating from 16-year-old Bucky in 1941 to the Winter Soldier in 1954. Even with the switching, it’s easy to follow and examines the two different selves in a way that still makes for a harmonious story.

Captain America: Winter Soldier by Ed Brubaker

Given just how popular and renowned the Marvel Studios film Captain America: The Winter Soldier is, it’s no surprise that Captain America: Winter Soldier—the comic book series the movie is based on—is also excellent. I’m one of those people who got into comic books because I, as a fan of the movies, wanted to learn more about the characters and the source material the films are based on. So it was cool to see which panels were recreated in the film. Even if you know the story from the movie, it’s still worth experiencing. The narrative is so well done and is full of the action and emotion that you’d want. 

Hungry Ghost by Victoria Ying

Trigger warning: eating disorders

I’ve never had an eating disorder, but, for much of my life, I’ve struggled with body image and am no stranger to being criticized for eating habits/choices. So reading the graphic novel Hungry Ghost was an emotional read that resonated with me, especially as a young Asian woman. The story focuses on teenager Valerie Chu, her struggles with eating disorders, and her journey to healing and self-love. It’s honest and heartfelt, and the graphic novel form of storytelling helps to highlight the emotions presented in the narrative.

Look Out for the Little Guy! by Scott Lang

The fact this book even exists and is something that can be read is so weird but in the best way. Look Out for the Little Guy! is the autobiography by Scott Lang that was featured in Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania. It’s not written by some person at Marvel or even Paul Rudd. It is by Ant-Man himself and includes anecdotes and recollections from his life as a father and superhero. He writes about being a part of the Avengers, what it was like to become Ant-Man, and more. Content-wise, it’s nothing groundbreaking, but it’s an easy, fun read for fellow Marvel fans that captures the essence of the MCU’s Scott Lang.

Captain America (2023) #1 by Michael Straczynski

The (Steve Rogers) Captain America run that follows Lanzing and Kelly’s Sentinel of Liberty, this first issue was so good that it made me less sad about Sentinel of Liberty being over. Straczynski includes a great balance between superhero Steve and domestic Steve and writes him in a way that does both sides of the character justice. While I’ve highlighted the premiere issue of the run, the whole series thus far has been great.

Daredevil (2023) #1 by Saladin Ahmed

Being a comic book reader, especially of a major publisher like Marvel, can be so overwhelming. There’s so much available, which can make it daunting to even try reading anything. So, although I love the Daredevil series from Marvel Television, this was the first-ever Daredevil comic that I read.

I had heard good things about it, but I wasn’t sold on reading it until I read the synopsis. This new run begins with a resurrected Matt Murdock as a Catholic priest who has no recollection of his past life, including being Daredevil. That alone intrigued me enough to choose this as my starting point for Daredevil comics, and it was easy enough to follow along for someone who has some knowledge of and familiarity with Matt’s comics history but hasn’t been following his stories closely.

Marvel’s Voices: Avengers (2023)

The first thing that got me excited about this one-shot was Ethan Young’s awesome variant cover featuring (Steve Rogers) Captain America and (Robbie Reyes) Ghost Rider. The second thing that got me excited about this one-shot was my fellow Filipino Jason Concepcion’s Robbie Reyes story, and it did not disappoint.

Given how the Marvel’s Voices one-shot issues have a collection of stories about different characters, none of them are ever really in-depth. So the challenge for the writer is to create a short but compelling narrative. For Marvel’s Voices: Avengers, each of the stories does a good job of paying homage to each hero’s past and highlighting what defines their heroism while presenting something that’s worthwhile and hasn’t been overdone.

Invincible: Compendium One by Robert Kirkman

I’m one of those people who prefers to read the source material before watching the show or movie. So I wouldn’t allow myself to finally start watching Prime Video’s Invincible animated series until I read the comics that it’s an adaptation of. And I’m really glad I did. This is a terrific comic book series (from what I’ve read so far) with compelling characters, intriguing storylines, plenty of emotion, and a lot of relatability. It tells the story of Mark Grayson—a half-human, half-alien teenager who develops superpowers thanks to his dad’s Viltrumite heritage and, naturally, becomes a superhero.

Throughout the numerous issues, the narratives explore how he handles his powers and superheroism, grows as a person, and deals with life as a young man who wants to live his normal life but also has responsibilities as a powered individual committed to helping the world (and universe). I’ve been trying to venture more into comic books outside of Marvel, and this has easily been my favorite non-Marvel series.

Honorable mentions: Chasing Pacquiao, Rod Pulido, I Hope This Finds You Well: Poems by Kate Baer, Girl Taking Over: A Lois Lane Story by Sarah Kuhn with art by Arielle Jovellanos, Shang-Chi: Master of the Ten Rings (2023) by Gene Luen Yang and art by Michael Yg

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