What I’ve read in 2023

Fernando Lelo Larrea
6 min readDec 3, 2023
Caption: Man reading book in library, by Dave Cutler

As we step into December, I relish the opportunity to take a hiatus and reflect on my year’s reading — a tradition I’ve upheld for six years now, sharing my favorite books after devouring at least one per week. If you’re curious, you can peruse my book reviews from 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021 and 2022. Over this time, I’ve immersed myself in close to 365 books, a habit that has found companionship among friends, family, and fellow book enthusiasts. I hope my choices, reading habits, and unbridled passion for learning through the words of many talented authors provide you with inspiration.

In 2023, I’ve maintained a swift and consistent reading pace. Having already achieved my goal of 52 books with a month to spare, along with six books currently in progress and several lengthy flights on the horizon, I’m confident in surpassing 62 once again. This year, my reading repertoire comprises 28 non-fiction and 24 fiction works, marking my highest ratio of fiction yet, thanks in part to my subscription to Bookish. I’ve delved into 32 books in English, 20 in Spanish (a record, owing to the rich literary offerings of Madrid), and my second full book in French (though my initial aim was to complete three). The settings of the novels I’ve explored span Spain, Mexico, England, Ireland, Argentina, Italy, Armenia, Serbia, Korea, Colombia, among others. The diverse array of authors hailing from these countries and others, including Russia, Portugal, the USA, South Africa, and France, has provided me with a truly global literary experience

My reading journey in 2023 has touched upon various themes, from history (2), politics (3), biographies (2), and science (2) to global affairs (3). Intriguingly, I’ve ventured less into the realms of business, venture capital, or startups. However, the predominant theme, much like the previous year, revolves around healing, personal journeys, acceptance, and mental health. These past two years have been a profound exploration — a journey of self-discovery, understanding, and the crafting of a revised identity aligned with my values, objectives, and reality. It’s a process untethered from egos, distractions, and inertia. Just as last year, this personal healing journey has been accompanied by books, and I’m grateful for those who have eloquently documented their thoughts and experiences during challenging times — a sentiment shared by most of us.

These are my top ten readings of 2023:

I have been fully devoted professionally to training myself on Climate Finance and investing out of Rumbo Ventures. Thus, my reading on business and startups has been adjusted towards educating myself on climate change, and I’ve recently written about 11 Books That Illuminated the Challenges of Climate Change for Me.

Non-Fiction

1- The Book of Disquietby Fernando Pessoa | Just the word in Spanish (and Portuguese), desasosiego, feels so heavily accurate to current moods. Written around 1930, it’s a tormented person’s diary that could easily be an admired Twitter account. “Pride is the emotional certainty of our own greatness. Vanity is the emotional certainty that others perceive in us. Pride without vanity manifests itself as timidity. Vanity without pride manifests itself as boldness”.

2- What’s Our Problem? A Self-Help Book for Societies by Tim Urban | by the brilliant mind behind the “Wait but Why?” blog, a long, unbalanced, (very) deep analysis of American society and its division. Following a clear, smart, and simple framework, Urban lets himself on a succession of rabbit holes to criticize current political affairs and

3- What We Owe the Future by William MacAskill | This is cutting-edge philosophy being taught at Oxford: we can change the course of history, on behalf of future generations, and we have a moral obligation to do so. How do we improve our moral values and navigate the rise of Artificial intelligence and climate change more fairly? We need to choose wisely.

4- The Wager by David Grann | I’m currently finishing this book, enjoying it as the Salgari books that made me love literature as a teenager. Ships, naval battles, shipwrecks, castaways, mutinies, and courts, from an incredibly well-documented 1742 true case. Historic adventures that ran out of fashion but should come back. They’d have a fan in me.

5- The Good Enough Life, by Avram Alpert | It took me some time to get to love this book. It is not self-help, but more of a sociology treaty, on a topic that I found recurrent this year: the dangers of perfectionism and a pursuit of greatness.

Fiction

1- The Maniac— by Benjamin Labatut | How can one write a biography about a mathematician and make it high literature? Labatut is so talented, smart, and enjoyable. Three stories about brilliant minds and how we came to be in today’s AI cliff. I’d recommend it to everyone who reads this post.

2- Ceniza en la Boca— by Brenda Navarro | This year I’ve been reading many more fiction, intended to experience a broader set of emotions and learn from them. Brenda Navarro’s book made me cry, felt close to home, shook me, and opened my eyes. I have a profound admiration for her work.

3- Como si existiese el perdón by Mariana Travacio | If I had the gift of writing, I’d ask to write like Travacio. A short story written in short sentences. Simple language. Reminiscences of Rulfo. Violence in the Argentinian pampa. And what a title! (As if there were forgiveness)

4- Strange Flowersby Donal Ryan | Books are always associated with the place and conditions when the book is read. I went through this one while visiting Ireland, and it’s as Irish as one gets. The book opens in the early 1970s, in the wake of Moll Gladney’s disappearance: an empty bed, a missing suitcase, a one-way train ticket and a vast and terrible silence.

5- Tu Rostro Mañanaby Javier Marías | Last year I read Corazón tan Blanco and said that I’d make an effort to read Marías full work. This is his greatest work: a three-part, 1,350-page brick where very little happens, yet it’s one of the greatest books I have ever read. A modern Proust, an erudite writing about silence: “One should never tell anyone anything, nor give information or pass on stories or make people remember beings who have never existed or trodden the earth or traversed the world, or who, having done so, are now almost safe in uncertain, one-eyed oblivion”.

I plan to conclude my current reading list by the end of December, with the possibility of updating it as the year comes to a close. I trust that these recommendations offer both inspiration and insight, shedding light on the themes occupying my thoughts of late. I welcome you to reciprocate by sharing your own reading selections. What are the must-reads for 2024 in your opinion? Let’s embark on a thoughtful conversation about literature. Dive into some exceptional books and perhaps take a break with Ted Lasso; after all, once that’s done, there might not be anything else worthwhile on the screen. Happy reading!

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Fernando Lelo Larrea

Venture Capital Investor. Entrepreneurship. Economics. Seeking Innovation & Impact.