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263: Unabridged Book Awards for 2023


Episode graphic: a trophy with text Unabridged Awards for 2023

In our annual Unabridged Awards episode, Jen and Ashley share awards we created for some of our favorite books from 2023. We each share three books in this episode, but if you're interested in more of our favorites, be sure to also check out this month's Bookish Fave posts on our blog.


Patreon pals, be on the lookout for additional awards coming your way on January 1st! In addition to monthly bonus episodes, we are now releasing more content on Patreon for subscribers. (Our exclusive Bookish Gift Ideas Guide just came out on Monday!) We appreciate your support so much. If you haven't joined us there yet, you can check the details out here.





Bookish Check-in

Ashley - Ali Hazelwood’s Love, Theoretically (Bookshop.org | Libro.fm)

Jen - Safiya Sinclair’s How to Say Babylon: A Memoir (Bookshop.org | Libro.fm)


Our Unabridged Book Awards

Ashley’s Awards:

  • Best Historical Fiction Love Story within a Spooky Read - Isabel Cañas’s Vampires of El Norte (Bookshop.org | Libro.fm)

  • Favorite Found Family Book - Sangu Mandanna’s The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches (Bookshop.org | Libro.fm)

  • Prize Winner I’m So Glad I Read - Barbara Kingsolver’s Demon Copperhead (Bookshop.org | Libro.fm)


Jen's Awards:

  • Favorite Cozy Sci Fi (who knew that was a thing!?!) - Becky Chambers’s The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet (Bookshop.org | Libro.fm)

  • Best Moment of Bookish Synchronicity - Anthony Ray Hinton’s The Sun Does Shine: How I Found Life and Freedom on Death Row (ghost writer Lara Love Hardin, also the author ofThe Many Lives of Mama Love: A Memoir of Lying, Stealing, Writing, and Healing) (Bookshop.org | Libro.fm)

  • Favorite Audiobook and Tribute to a Classic - Ann Patchett’s Tom Lake, narrated by Meryl Streep (Bookshop.org | Libro.fm)


Unabridged Book Awards from Previous Years


Unabridged Spotlight

Listen in to hear what Jen and Ashley are spotlighting this month, and let us know on social media what you'd like to spotlight!


(A note to our readers: click on the hashtags above to see our other blog posts with the same hashtag.)


Interested in what else we're reading? Check out our Featured Books page.

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Ashley’s Awards:


Book cover of Isabel Cañas’s Vampires of El Norte

Best Historical Fiction Love Story within a Spooky Read


Isabel Cañas’s Vampires of El Norte (Bookshop.org | Libro.fm)


From the Publisher:

"As the daughter of a rancher in 1840s Mexico, Nena knows a thing or two about monsters—her home has long been threatened by tensions with Anglo settlers from the north. But something more sinister lurks near the ranch at night, something that drains men of their blood and leaves them for dead.


"Something that once attacked Nena nine years ago.


"Believing Nena dead, Néstor has been on the run from his grief ever since, moving from ranch to ranch working as a vaquero. But no amount of drink can dispel the night terrors of sharp teeth; no woman can erase his childhood sweetheart from his mind.


"When the United States invades Mexico in 1846, the two are brought abruptly together on the road to war: Nena as a curandera, a healer striving to prove her worth to her father so that he does not marry her off to a stranger, and Néstor as a member of the auxiliary cavalry of ranchers and vaqueros. But the shock of their reunion—and Nena’s rage at Néstor for seemingly abandoning her long ago—is quickly overshadowed by the appearance of a nightmare made flesh.


"And unless Nena and Néstor work through their past and face the future together, neither will survive to see the dawn."


Book Cover of Sangu Mandanna’s The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches

Favorite Found Family Book


Sangu Mandanna’s The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches (Bookshop.org | Libro.fm)


From the Publisher:

"As one of the few witches in Britain, Mika Moon knows she has to hide her magic, keep her head down, and stay away from other witches so their powers don’t mingle and draw attention. And as an orphan who lost her parents at a young age and was raised by strangers, she’s used to being alone and she follows the rules...with one exception: an online account, where she posts videos 'pretending' to be a witch. She thinks no one will take it seriously.


"But someone does. An unexpected message arrives, begging her to travel to the remote and mysterious Nowhere House to teach three young witches how to control their magic. It breaks all of the rules, but Mika goes anyway, and is immediately tangled up in the lives and secrets of not only her three charges, but also an absent archaeologist, a retired actor, two long-suffering caretakers, and Jamie. The handsome and prickly librarian of Nowhere House would do anything to protect the children, and as far as he’s concerned, a stranger like Mika is a threat. An irritatingly appealing threat.


"As Mika begins to find her place at Nowhere House, the thought of belonging somewhere begins to feel like a real possibility. But magic isn't the only danger in the world, and when peril comes knocking at their door, Mika will need to decide whether to risk everything to protect a found family she didn’t know she was looking for...."



Book cover of Barbara Kingsolver's Demon Copperhead

Prize Winner I’m So Glad I Read


Barbara Kingsolver’s Demon Copperhead (Bookshop.org | Libro.fm)


From the Publisher:

"From the acclaimed author of The Poisonwood Bible and The Bean Trees, a brilliant novel that enthralls, compels, and captures the heart as it evokes a young hero's unforgettable journey to maturity


"Set in the mountains of southern Appalachia, Demon Copperhead is the story of a boy born to a teenaged single mother in a single-wide trailer, with no assets beyond his dead father's good looks and copper-colored hair, a caustic wit, and a fierce talent for survival. Relayed in his own unsparing voice, Demon braves the modern perils of foster care, child labor, derelict schools, athletic success, addiction, disastrous loves, and crushing losses. Through all of it, he reckons with his own invisibility in a popular culture where even the superheroes have abandoned rural people in favor of generations ago, Charles Dickens wrote David Copperfield from his experience as a survivor of institutional poverty and its damages to children in his society. Those problems have yet to be solved in ours. Dickens is not a prerequisite for readers of this novel, but he provided its inspiration. In transposing a Victorian epic novel to the contemporary American South, Barbara Kingsolver enlists Dickens' anger and compassion, and above all, his faith in the transformative powers of a good story. Demon Copperhead speaks for a new generation of lost boys, and all those born into beautiful, cursed places they can't imagine leaving behind."


Jen's Awards:


Book cover of Becky Chambers’s The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet

Favorite Cozy Sci Fi (who knew that was a thing!?!)


Becky Chambers’s The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet (Bookshop.org | Libro.fm)


From the Publisher:

"Rosemary Harper doesn’t expect much when she joins the crew of the aging Wayfarer. While the patched-up ship has seen better days, it offers her a bed, a chance to explore the far-off corners of the galaxy, and most importantly, some distance from her past. An introspective young woman who learned early to keep to herself, she’s never met anyone remotely like the ship’s diverse crew, including Sissix, the exotic reptilian pilot, chatty engineers Kizzy and Jenks who keep the ship running, and Ashby, their noble captain.


"Life aboard the Wayfarer is chaotic and crazy—exactly what Rosemary wants. It’s also about to get extremely dangerous when the crew is offered the job of a lifetime. Tunneling wormholes through space to a distant planet is definitely lucrative and will keep them comfortable for years. But risking her life wasn’t part of the plan. In the far reaches of deep space, the tiny Wayfarer crew will confront a host of unexpected mishaps and thrilling adventures that force them to depend on each other. To survive, Rosemary’s got to learn how to rely on this assortment of oddballs—an experience that teaches her about love and trust, and that having a family isn’t necessarily the worst thing in the universe."



Book cover of Anthony Ray Hinton's The Sun Does Shine

Best Moment of Bookish Synchronicity 


Anthony Ray Hinton’s The Sun Does Shine: How I Found Life and Freedom on Death Row (Bookshop.org | Libro.fm)


From the Publisher: "In 1985, Anthony Ray Hinton was arrested and charged with two counts of capital murder in Alabama. Stunned, confused, and only twenty-nine years old, Hinton knew that it was a case of mistaken identity and believed that the truth would prove his innocence and ultimately set him free.


"But with no money and a different system of justice for a poor black man in the South, Hinton was sentenced to death by electrocution. He spent his first three years on Death Row at Holman State Prison in agonizing silence—full of despair and anger toward all those who had sent an innocent man to his death. But as Hinton realized and accepted his fate, he resolved not only to survive, but find a way to live on Death Row. For the next twenty-seven years he was a beacon—transforming not only his own spirit, but those of his fellow inmates, fifty-four of whom were executed mere feet from his cell. With the help of civil rights attorney and bestselling author of Just Mercy, Bryan Stevenson, Hinton won his release in 2015.


"With a foreword by Stevenson, The Sun Does Shine is an extraordinary testament to the power of hope sustained through the darkest times. Destined to be a classic memoir of wrongful imprisonment and freedom won, Hinton’s memoir tells his dramatic thirty-year journey and shows how you can take away a man’s freedom, but you can’t take away his imagination, humor, or joy."


Book Cover of Ann Patchett’s Tom Lake

Favorite Audiobook and Tribute to a Classic 


Ann Patchett’s Tom Lake, narrated by Meryl Streep (Bookshop.org | Libro.fm)


From the Publisher:

"In the spring of 2020, Lara’s three daughters return to the family's orchard in Northern Michigan. While picking cherries, they beg their mother to tell them the story of Peter Duke, a famous actor with whom she shared both a stage and a romance years before at a theater company called Tom Lake. As Lara recalls the past, her daughters examine their own lives and relationship with their mother, and are forced to reconsider the world and everything they thought they knew.


"Tom Lake is a meditation on youthful love, married love, and the lives parents have led before their children were born. Both hopeful and elegiac, it explores what it means to be happy even when the world is falling apart. As in all of her novels, Ann Patchett combines compelling narrative artistry with piercing insights into family dynamics. The result is a rich and luminous story, told with profound intelligence and emotional subtlety, that demonstrates once again why she is one of the most revered and acclaimed literary talents working today."

 

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