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Phoenix's top reads of 2023


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Explore the team’s favourite books of 2023! Choosing three from an entire year is a challenge and more recent reads tend to obscure what you read in February. Still, there are those that stay with you through the months. Why three? Because it's more than one but less than a list...

The time has come for Phoenix to share their highlights:

Light from Uncommon Stars by Ryka Aoki: I have excitedly screeched about this book throughout the year, usually starting with "This book is so wonderful! And I am so in love with Shizuka Satomi, she's an awesome violin teacher who's sent her students' souls to this demon because of this deal she made..." which has earned me a few quizzical, and some very enthusiastic looks!

In this book, you will get to meet Shizuka the violin teacher, Katrina, a trans teenager who has never known a safe place, who is just wonderful and kind and a magical violinist. You will just want to hold her tight and keep her safe. And finally Lan, a refugee from another planet, running a donut shop on earth. The 3 of them meet and, well... lots of stuff happens. 'Light from Uncommon Stars' will shatter your heart in tiny pieces and then rebuild it, slowly, gently, with such fierce tenderness. Seeing Katrina smiling, being loved so fiercely and protectively, was one of the many many highlights of the book. Oh and also, it will make you want to play the violin so badly!!

Tales From the Inner City by Shaun Tan: I loved this book so much, it nestled straight into my heart! It is full of profoundly moving tales about animals in the city and their relationships to humans. The tales span companionship and love between dogs and humans described in such a poetic and beautiful way, bears suing humans, souls of horses galloping through cites. The illustrations are breathtaking, I could stare at them for hours, my favourite being one of giant snails embracing luminously on the road. And the text of the stories is just mesmerizing, full of love, sometimes heartbreakingly sad and always straight to the heart.

To end with one of my favourite bits in the book: "But when that same parrot returns, leans in against our face to preen hair and eyebrows - our sorry excuse for feathers- it does so with such surprising tenderness. Can we call it love? Yes, let's call it love. The parrot will not mind, it will let us think whatever we want. Its heart trembles against our cheek like tiny jungle drums, the earth turns once again on its billion-year axis, and we think quietly to ourselves: what a strange privilege it is to be here, now, and living with a parrot."

BFFs by Anahit Behrooz: This was such an immense and special book to me, which I read just when I needed it. Almost every single page of my copy is folded-up, either because those words spoke directly to my heart or because there were thoughts that I wanted to go back to, again and again. When the outside world places hierarchies on different "kinds" of love, hierarchies that are embedded in the everyday life, the legal frameworks of what it means to be a family, it has felt so very necessary to read about the importance, meaningfulness, passionate intensity and intimacy of friendship-loves. Reading BFFs, which is not only fascinating but also gorgeously written, has felt both anchoring and like an expansion of the heart and of love. I don't have the words to describe just how much I loved it nor how much it meant to me, so I will end with some of Anahit's words from the Introduction: "Much of what follows in BFFs mirrors typical structures of romance - from whirlwind affairs to bruised break-ups - because these friendships, platonic though they are, are also romantic. I think of my friends: hands tangled in hair, lives lived in tandem, the first port in any storm. Understanding these relationships in all their passion, friction and tenderness is less to insist on the totalisation of romantic intimacy in all modes of relation, but rather to liberate the narrative of romance from its heteronormative, monogamous remits. Relationships that are platonic, but also romantic. Not queer, but queered."

Watch out for the rest of the team favourites, coming in the next few days on the website!

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