Amber’s Year in Books 2023 – About IBD Podcast Episode 147

What did you read over the past year? If you made a reading goal: did you hit it? The books I read in 2023 included biographies, fantasy, fiction, and romance. Plus, I had several authors who live with Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis on the show this year, so I read their books as well. Hear more about some of the books I enjoyed in 2023, how you can hear more from authors with IBD, and ways that you can hit those reading goals this year.

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Books mentioned in this episode:

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Find Mac Cooney (mix, sound design, and theme music) at:

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Transcript

[Music: IBD Dance Party]

Amber Tresca 0:05
I’m Amber Tresca and this is About IBD. I’m a medical writer and patient educator who lives with a J pouch due to ulcerative colitis. It’s my mission to educate people living with Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, about their disease and to bring awareness to the patient journey.

Amber Tresca 0:20
Welcome to Episode 147.

Amber Tresca 0:23
This is my year end book episode for 2023. I will take you through some of the books that I’ve read this year let you know a little bit about why I picked them up what they’re about, and if they relate to chronic illness.

Amber Tresca 0:36
As you might already know, I am not really one for making new year’s resolutions. I don’t set out to read a particular amount of books each year. Although I do take part in the yearly Reading Challenge offered by my local library. They offer a theme each month and the librarians select a few books, which is nice because it narrows things down. They also have several book clubs, both in person and virtual.

Amber Tresca 0:59
If you have a reading goal for 2024, or you are just looking for someone to curate suggestions for you, I highly recommend looking towards your local library or independent bookstore and finding out what they offer in 2023.

Amber Tresca 1:12
I also interviewed a few authors who live with IBD on this show, I read their books as well. So stick around to the end to hear more about those authors and how you can support them.

Amber Tresca 1:28
I started off the year reading a lot of autobiographies. I read three by female comedians. Why Not Me by Mindy Kaling? Yes, Please, by Amy Poehler, and Bossy Pants by Tina Fey. Some of these aren’t new. So they’ve kind of been on my list for a while.

Amber Tresca 1:49
And I think in January, I was just looking for something light, something that would make me laugh, but also maybe had a little deeper meaning in it, especially from women who are really successful and have something to teach.

Amber Tresca 2:03
I actually listened to all three of these books, my library offers a lot of audiobooks, which is fantastic. I know there’s a big debate right now as to whether or not listening to an audio book is actually reading. I feel that’s kind of gatekeeping. Because here’s the thing, I have a lot more time to listen to a book than I do to read a book. So I consume a lot more by listening than I do with reading.

Amber Tresca 2:31
My day job is writing. And in my spare time, which I have very little of anyway, I’m usually editing audio. So I obviously can’t read a book during those times, I will take a book with me almost everywhere I go. So when I’m sitting and waiting for a doctor’s appointment, or waiting for a kid to get out of an activity, I might get in a few pages of reading, but I have a lot more time where I’m making dinner, doing laundry, you know all of those things where I can listen to a book. And so that tends to be where I consume most of the books during the year.

Amber Tresca 3:06
All three of these books were really entertaining, I got a lot out of them. And it was also kind of on the lighter side and just perfect for winter listening. These women read their own books, which I also found fabulous because they’re experienced actresses. And I think the best way to hear these women is in their own voices. So I recommend all of them. They don’t always say things that I agreed with or enjoyed. But that is also part of the reading experience.

Amber Tresca 3:35
I decided I liked this biography situation so much that I kind of continued, especially in the beginning of 2023. Everybody was reading or as I consumed it listening to Spare by Prince Harry. That book was really long, but I have to say it was pretty easy to consume because it was just so much tea. It was just so much going on. There’s been some discussion as to how much he actually wrote or was involved with the book. But I will say that it did make a good story. And as far as the family drama goes, I think that it is far heightened above what most of us experienced because there’s so much on the line. But I think it’s fair to say that almost everyone has family drama in their life. And so can relate to some of the things that he was talking about.

Amber Tresca 4:25
So everybody was talking about it when it came out. It was available at my library on ebook so I went ahead and listen to it. And I think it’s one of those things that you almost have to read or listen to because so many people are going to be referring to it. And the story is still ongoing and unfolding in that. And Prince Harry’s book will give you a nice foundation to understand what’s happening as we watch what the royal family does in the future.

Amber Tresca 4:55
I also listened to Orange is the New Black by Piper Kerman. That book has been out for a while as well. And of course, I also watched the series, which is on Netflix, and the book in the series are two completely different things.

Amber Tresca 5:10
But it is someone who had such vastly different experiences from my own, that I really did want to listen to what she had to say. It was interesting in that respect, and then also to give some background as far as where the series came in, and how the two were different because the series does get into some really wild storylines that are clearly not real life. So I do recommend Orange is the New Black because it does give a little taste of what it was like for Piper to go through the justice system.

Amber Tresca 5:40
Another biography from an actress that I read, was Born With Teeth, and that is by Kate Mulgrew. And she is quite famous, has a very long career, I don’t think I really watched much that she was in until she was on Star Trek. And so that was one of the reasons that I was interested in her biography.

Amber Tresca 6:02
And I’ll tell you, she has led a life and was so interesting, everything that she went through, up until and through her years on Star Trek, there were so many things in this book that were both amazing and also heartbreaking. I liked getting this background on Kate, and how she came to Star Trek and what she was living through at the time, when she was filming those first few seasons.

Amber Tresca 6:29
I will say that Kate did live through some very scary experiences, and she was attacked when she was younger. So if that’s something that someone might find upsetting, they might not want to choose that biography to listen to.

Amber Tresca 6:43
But Kate had so many great insights that she is able to share from the things that she has learned throughout her lifetime. So I really do recommend Born With Teeth.

Amber Tresca 6:54
Another really interesting sort of biography that I listened to was where the deer and the antelope play by Nick Offerman, if you’ve watched Parks and Recreation, you’ll know Nick Offerman from that show.

Amber Tresca 7:09
The part of this book that sticks out to me the most was Nick’s family dynamics, and how really brutally honest he was about how they navigated the pandemic, and how he and his siblings had differing opinions about risk mitigation, how they had some misunderstandings, and then how they came back together and resolved those differences.

Amber Tresca 7:34
I don’t think there’s anyone who hasn’t had a little bit of that, either with friends or with family or with coworkers or whomever in their life during the pandemic. So I think it’s really worthwhile to listen to what Nick had to say, and how he approached that problem, and also the honesty and the vulnerability with which they dealt with it. And then of course, the rest of the book is a delight. Nick is quite political. So if that’s something that you’re not interested in his book might not be for you. But maybe read a summary, I think his voice is exceptional and truly worth listening to.

Amber Tresca 8:10
I listened to another Star Trek related book called Fan Fiction, by Brent Spiner, and Jean Darst. I don’t even really know what to say about this book, because it was part biography, part, fever dream, and it was acted out. So it was Brent Spiner. And then also some of the other actors from the Star Trek franchise, which made it really interesting, but I didn’t really know what I was getting into when I started it. So it was kind of a nice way to wrap up my deep dive into autobiographies because this was also partly fiction.

Amber Tresca 8:48
And so it kind of transitioned me to thinking more about leaving that biography space and getting back into fiction. And it was really just something completely different to engage with. And I truly enjoyed it. Even though I don’t usually like audiobooks that have a lot of voices, and a lot of acting I kind of prefer just one voice. I find that easier to consume and to keep up with the thread of the story. But Fan Fiction by Brent Spiner was a lot of different voices, and I still very much enjoyed it. It was like listening to a radio play.

[Music: About IBD Transition]

Amber Tresca 9:26
Coming up next, some of the popular fiction that I read this year.

Amber Tresca 9:42
As I mentioned, I often follow along with my local Library’s reading challenge each year and they recommend books usually more popular fiction. It’s not the type of thing that I usually consume. I’m usually more reading some science fiction from the 50s or 60s or something like that or some Kurt Vonnegut. If you listen to my 2022 books, you’ll see that I went on a deep dive that year into many of Kurt Vonnegut’s books.

Amber Tresca 10:07
But through the spring, I was picking up some of these more popular fiction titles. One of them was Wrong Place Wrong Time by Gillian McAlister. This is a time travel books. So maybe you could classify it as science fiction a little bit.

Amber Tresca 10:22
In this book, the main character is the mother of an older teen, and he gets involved in a situation, and she wants to try to find a way.

Amber Tresca 10:31
The main character of this book is a woman who is the mother of an older teen, the team gets into some hot water and some trouble with the police. Suddenly, this main character finds herself going back in time. And she’s solving the mystery of how the situation came to be that her son got involved in so much trouble, because there was time travel involved, you do have to pay attention a little bit more to what’s going on, and to keep up with the thread of the story. But it was a fun read, and something that was a little bit different as far as the storyline.

Amber Tresca 11:03
I also read Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevon. This book is about some friends who decide to go into business together and to make a video game together. And then through everything that happens with them and their families.

Amber Tresca 11:17
One of the characters in this book does have a physical disability. So it does relate to chronic illness a bit. And I found it interesting in the way that the character was portrayed and how he dealt with or rather, didn’t deal with what was happening to him medically. It was a fun read. And I think it also had that little bit extra bonus, which was a character with a disability, which we don’t often see in popular fiction.

Amber Tresca 11:41
Another book I read that was a recommendation from the local library book club was The Dead Romantics by Ashley Poston. The main character in this book is a ghost writer, which is really interesting because she can also actually see ghosts.

Amber Tresca 11:57
So she has left her small town and she lives in the city where she does her work. And she has to come home because her father has died. She sees the ghost of a person that is known to her. He’s confused as to how he actually died. And the main character needs to help him along his journey.

Amber Tresca 12:15
So a little bit different than the things that I normally read. It’s not spooky at all. It’s more of a romance. I know it sounds like heavier material. But it was actually a pretty light read and I did enjoy it.

Amber Tresca 12:26
Another book I read because there was a movie involved and it was recommended through the library was Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens. This is the story of a young girl whose name is Kaya, as she grows up in the swamps of the Carolina coast.

Amber Tresca 12:43
She has a really brutal and abusive upbringing. She eventually ends up living on her own in the family home, which is out in the swamp, she never goes to school, or anything like that. And of course, that’s upsetting to some people in the town because they don’t understand her or her lifestyle. And she gets involved in a murder.

Amber Tresca 13:04
So this story takes you through her whole life. I did watch the movie after I read the book. And the two are pretty close to one another. The story was really heartbreaking at times. But I did really enjoy all of the descriptions of the area in which Kyle lived, and how she went about learning about the natural world. She just did a lot of observing, and really becomes an expert in the area, even though she’s completely unschooled.

Amber Tresca 13:29
It’s another book and a movie that a lot of people were talking about. So that’s why I picked it up. But I think the characters are pretty unusual. And it gives a glimpse into what is a really unusual story in life.

Amber Tresca 13:41
Another thriller slash mystery that I read this year was The House in the Pines, by Anna Reyes. This is the story of a young woman who witnesses her friend die right in front of her when they’re young. She develops some really unhealthy coping mechanisms over the years, she was also in a very strange relationship with a man.

Amber Tresca 14:02
And years later, she begins to understand that the two are related, but she doesn’t know how she has developed some really unhealthy coping mechanisms. So she has to untangle that and then track down the mystery of her friend’s death, and figure out exactly what happened to her because her memories don’t seem quite right.

Amber Tresca 14:19
So it’s a bit of a supernatural thriller. And it also takes on that idea of whether or not you can actually come home. And I think you could make a case for the character, possibly experiencing some post traumatic stress. So I think there’s a tie in to chronic illness there. Because dealing with traumatic experiences is important in order to process them and then develop some healthier coping mechanisms.

Amber Tresca 14:44
Through the summer. I got into a little bit of a Margaret Atwood kick. So I read the Testaments and The Heart Goes Last. The Testaments takes you back into the world of The Handmaid’s Tale. So if you’ve ever read that book, The Testaments might be something that you also want to read. It gives some backstory on the characters, which is really interesting. It’s certainly not as groundbreaking as The Handmaid’s Tale was, but it’s certainly worth reading if you want to get more of that world and understand what happened before the events of The Handmaid’s Tale. And then after.

Amber Tresca 15:20
The second Margaret Atwood book that I read is The Heart Goes Last. This is, again, a little bit of a post apocalyptic society breaks down story. And it follows a couple who lose everything, as society is sort of unraveling. And then what happens as the government tries to keep people from being homeless and living in their cars, this couple does. So they develop these work programs.

Amber Tresca 15:46
And you’re going back and forth between different jobs, and you’re living in sort of government housing, only, of course, there’s some more nefarious things happening. And even though the government is trying to keep everybody working and happy, there’s also an undercurrent of dissatisfaction and people that are rebelling against it.

Amber Tresca 16:05
I haven’t really decided upon what the message of this book was. So I don’t really know. But if you’ve enjoyed Margaret Atwood in the past and her other books, I think it’s worth giving this one a try.

Amber Tresca 16:16
Another author that I picked up because I watched a miniseries based on her book was Stephanie Land, and I read Maid and Class. These books are somewhat autobiographical. And they tell the story of Stephanie who is a woman that grew up in the Pacific Northwest, and what she lived through as a single mother, trying to keep her life on track, while she was also dealing with abusive boyfriends and a family that is less than helpful, and raising her children and trying to go to school to become a writer, which is her dream.

Amber Tresca 16:47
I found Maid to be really engaging, and it brings you into Stephanie’s world where she has to figure out how to move forward. While it seems like it’s constantly two steps forward, and one step back.

Amber Tresca 17:00
Class is a continuation of her story and what happens as she’s trying to finish out getting her degrees and start work as a writer, while raising a small child having another child and all the time working as an organizer or a housecleaner.

Amber Tresca 17:15
One of the things that Stephanie talks about is how difficult being a cleaner was on her body and how she was living on ibuprofen. And I found that really relatable, because many of us who live with IBD also have joint pains or even become diagnosed with arthritis. And so that was something that was really interesting to get her perspective on.

Amber Tresca 17:35
Another really popular author that I read two books of this year is TJ Klune. I read Under the Whispering Door and In the Lives of Puppets, I enjoyed both of these books.

Amber Tresca 17:46
They’re sort of modern fantasies, I would say, Under the Whispering Door is another story where there are ghost characters, and the main character has died. But he has some unfinished business, he meets some people that are supposed to help him crossover. But instead he gets enmeshed with them and figures out some things that he didn’t learn in life.

Amber Tresca 18:07
In the lives of puppets is a version of the Pinocchio story. I didn’t enjoy this book as much possibly because I listened to it. And there were many different characters in the book. And they all had very distinct ways of speaking, that I think were sort of difficult to translate into an audio book. It’s a fantasy adventure. And I’ve seen it described as Swiss Family Robinson meets Wall-E.

Amber Tresca 18:32
But I will say that even though I’ve enjoyed some of his other books, this one I did not enjoy as much, I would instead recommend the House in the Cerulean Sea, if you’re looking to read something by TJ Klune.

Amber Tresca 18:44
In the fall of 2023, I wanted to listen to some shorter audiobooks. So I specifically went looking for books that were less than a four hour or so listening time, I found plenty of them.

Amber Tresca 18:59
And the first one that I listened to was Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds. This book has won so many awards. And for good reason. The story takes place in one elevator ride, which is about 60 seconds long.

Amber Tresca 19:12
The main character is on his way to make some poor decisions. And in his elevator ride on the way down from his apartment to the main floor he encountered some people from his past that make him think differently about what he’s about to do. It was a really engaging story.

Amber Tresca 19:28
And in the audio book, the author talks about how he came to the character and all of the people that he interviewed in order to create the story. And that is absolutely worth listening to as well, because you get a little insight as to what it is like to be a teen who was under a lot of pressure and dealing with gang violence.

Amber Tresca 19:48
The second shorter book that I listened to, was Red at the Bone by Jacqueline Woodson. This is the story of two families who are brought together by an unexpected pregnancy. The story starts out with that A child then turning 16 and then goes back in time to understand everything that led up to her coming of age party in 2001.

Amber Tresca 20:08
It’s kind of a smaller story. It’s a family drama, but I really enjoyed it because it also dealt with class and status, and how parenthood affects people in different ways.

Amber Tresca 20:18
I sometimes also choose books that my children are reading, so that we can read these books together and talk about it. One of those that I read this year was Hatchet by Gary Paulsen. My son really enjoyed this book. And I think that’s because it’s the story of a boy who survives a plane crash, and he has to survive by himself for a while. And basically, all he has with him is his hatchet. So it’s a young adult adventure story. And if you have school aged kids, they’ll probably read this in class. So it’s something that you can pick up and enjoy together.

[Music: About IBD Transition]

Amber Tresca 20:53
Coming up next, books by authors who live with an IBD.

Amber Tresca 21:09
And of course, I engaged with several books this year that are written with people who have IBD. The first is a cookbook, The Plant based Crohn’s and Colitis cookbook, by Helena Rose Murphy. She created all the recipes and took the photographs. If you want to hear more about her, you can go back to Episode 127.

Amber Tresca 21:30
So of course, I ordered her cookbook from Amazon. It is fantastic. It is a Vegan Cookbook that contains recipes that are curated for people who live with Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis. So it offers foods that you can eat while in remission, and then also offers some things that you can eat while you’re in a flare up. Or how you can convert a recipe to be what you need it to be for wherever your disease is at that time.

Amber Tresca 21:54
The photos in it are amazing. It’s just a really beautiful cookbook. And so many of the recipes are interesting and different and colorful and creative. And so if you’re looking for some inspiration on some new recipes to try this year, I definitely recommend The Plant Based Crohn’s and Colitis Cookbook.

Amber Tresca 22:13
Another author I had on the show this year was April, Michelle Harris, who wrote I Pooped My Pants. You can go back to Episode 133 to learn more about her. But her book is her own story of how she pooped your pants in public and how she dealt with that, as well as stories of many other people living with IBD and how they either poop their pants or had an embarrassing experience due to living with IBD.

Amber Tresca 22:41
If you’re looking to hear some stories of other people who live with IBD, especially the embarrassing ones, I definitely recommend I Pooped My Pants. And also you should follow April all over the interwebs because she has a thriving virtual assistant business and she teaches other people how to start their own.

Amber Tresca 22:59
And the last author that I interviewed this year is Joseph Alexandra Miller, who’s the author of the Purple Rose. You can hear more about him on episode 143. The Purple Rose is narrative poetry. And it is loosely autobiographical. And it is the story of a boy who’s in high school and is diagnosed with IBD. And everything that he goes through as far as the diagnostic process, how he deals with his friendships, how his family handles things, and then ultimately how he integrates living with IBD into his life, and figures out how to pursue his dreams.

Amber Tresca 23:35
Joseph is also doing great work in the community. So you’ll want to keep up with him on social media and see what he’s up to next, and also find out ways that you can support his mission.

Amber Tresca 23:45
I also interviewed author Adam Finkelstein, on episode 130. Adam wrote a book based on his experiences as a child living with IBD called Up and Adam. This is a children’s book that Adam wrote to help kids develop positive associations with going to the doctor.

Amber Tresca 24:01
Adam went through a lot being a child with IBD. And he and his family had lots of tips and tricks and little rituals that they used to get him through all of the ins and outs of the testing, and the doctor’s appointments. And he put all of that into this book to help kids feel less alone. And then also to give families a starting point on how they can cope with some of the things that other families might not be dealing with. Up and Adam is really charming and helpful,

[Music: IBD Dance Party]

Amber Tresca 24:30
And that will do it for my year 2023 in books. I will include links to all of these titles in the show notes, as well as a few more things that I engaged with this year that didn’t make it into the show.

Amber Tresca 24:45
If you’re looking to do more reading, I recommend that you engage with your local library or independent bookstore. My family also had a great time this year in touring some used bookstores and picking up some great titles along the way.

Amber Tresca 24:58
Instagram and your podcast app are both really great tools in deciding what to read next. Also, if there’s nothing local to you, or you just don’t feel like going to things in person, there are lots of virtual book clubs that are online. I can guarantee you that no matter what the genre is that you are into, you can find a book club that you can join and discuss the titles with a community that loves it just as much as you do.

Amber Tresca 25:24
In your podcast app, if you do a quick search, you’re going to find all kinds of shows about books, people who give reviews, people who focus on a particular genre, or people that interview authors.

Amber Tresca 25:37
As always, thanks for listening. If you have a recommendation for me, you can find me all over the interwebs as About IBD. My DMs are open.

Amber Tresca 25:47
Thanks for listening. And remember until next time, I want you to know more about IBD.

Amber Tresca 25:56

About IBD is a production of Mal and Tal Enterprises.

It is written, produced, and directed by me, Amber Tresca.

Mix and sound design is by Mac Cooney.

Theme music is from Cooney Studio

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