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10 Classic Books that Sum Up 2023

By Ashly Moore Sheldon • December 28, 2023

As the year draws to a close, it is customary to reflect back. For a fun twist on this tradition, we've gathered a set of classic books that sum up a handful of the events (both serious and not-so-serious) that dominated the headlines this year and had people talking. Here are ten reads that capture the essence of some of the big stories from 2023.

1. The Border Trilogy vis-à-vis 2 inspiring survival stories

On the first day of 2023, Avengers star Jeremy Renner was crushed by a snowplow as he tried to keep the seven-ton vehicle from colliding with a truck driven by his nephew. The accident left him in critical condition with more than thirty broken bones. The very next day, on January 2, NFL player Damar Hamlin suffered cardiac arrest and collapsed on the field. Both of these men, paragons of strength and fitness, came back from the brink, fighting to recover from these terrifying near-death experiences. This brings to mind the tenacious heroes from Cormac McCarthy's epic Westerns.

2. I, Robot vis-à-vis the rise of AI

 The wide release of ChatGPT got tongues wagging about the powers and dangers inherent in the broad use of AI. With chatbots seeming to adopt sentient qualities and wills of their own, many people worry we are headed for a future like that depicted in Isaac Asimov's collection of interlinked stories about robots who secretly run the world and a future in which humanity itself may be rendered obsolete. 

3. Anne of Green Gables vis-à-vis Taylor Swift 

With her record-breaking Eras Tour, her blockbuster concert film, and her coronation as Time Magazine's Person of the Year, Taylor Swift is having one heck of a year! When thinking about literary characters who could represent her winning qualities, several came to mind from Pride and Prejudice's Elizabeth to Miles from My Brilliant Career. But we settled on the plucky young redhead from L. M. Montgomery's beloved series. Like T-Swizzle, Anne's a creative genius who always speaks her mind and never backs down from a fight. On top of all that, Anne is also a diehard romantic. Which begs the question: Could Travis Kelce be Tay's Gilbert?

4. The Once and Future King vis-à-vis King Charles's coronation

On May 6, King Charles received his crown at age 75. This rite, filled with age-old traditions and grand ceremony hearkens back to the kings and queens of old. A complementary read would be T. H. White's masterful retelling of the saga of the legendary King Arthur.

5. A Thousand Acres vis-à-vis the end of Succession

On May 28, the wildly popular HBO dramedy about the toxic, ever-feuding Roy scions came to its perfectly terrible conclusion. Fans of the hilariously horrid clan will no doubt miss their over-the-top dirty dealings and desperate power grabs. Luckily, there are other such stories to enjoy, like that of the wealthy Iowa farming dynasty in Jane Smiley's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel reimagining Shakespeare's King Lear.    

6. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland vis-à-vis the Grimace Shake

This summer, when McDonald's released a shake named for its blobby, violet-hued monster mascot, the internet painted the town purple over it. Social media influencers staged elaborate photo and video montages of themselves consuming the shake and then dying a grisly death, often doused in lavender goo. This kind of surreal, colorful dark comedy seems a perfect fit for Lewis Carroll's trippy underground world, in which drinking certain beverages has a dramatic effect, indeed.  

7. Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus vis-à-vis Barbenheimer

Summer's blockbuster films Barbie and Oppenheimer may seem like completely different sorts of stories linked only because they were released on the same day. But upon reflection, we noted that each is based on an innovative creation that takes on a life of its own. In this way, Mary Shelley's groundbreaking 1818 horror novel about a lab experiment that turns monstrously powerful seems like a fitting match for both pictures. And we hear that now there's an actual Barbenheimer movie in the works. Perfect!

8. The Last Tycoon vis-à-vis Elon Musk

"These lights, this brightness, these clusters of human hope, of wild desire—I shall take these lights in my fingers. I shall make them bright, and whether they shine or not, it is in these fingers that they shall succeed or fail." Several of F. Scott Fitzgerald's novels portray wealthy men who wield outsized power over their realms. This quote from his final novel, unfinished at the time of his death and published posthumously, seems to perfectly capture the spirit of the notorious Tesla magnate who regularly makes a habit of shaking up the business world. 

9. I, Claudius vis-à-vis the Roman Empire trend

How often do you think about the Roman Empire? If you're a man—it's a lot. At least that's what the recent TikTok phenomenon seems to suggest. This trend took the form of women around the world asking the men in their lives a seemingly innocuous question about how often they think about The Roman Empire. Many said they think about it every day. If the Roman Empire is your jam, you probably love this masterpiece by Robert Graves about the pitiful stammerer who was destined to become emperor in spite of himself.

10. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory vis-à-vis our Teal Ticket Event

Okay, so it's not exactly worldwide news, but the ThriftBooks Teal Ticket Event was a big deal to us! In celebration of our 20th anniversary this past year, we sent out ThriftBooks Swag Boxes filled with goodies to 60 randomly selected patrons. And last month, we had the pleasure of hosting five lucky winners and their guests to The Land of ThriftBooks at our Phoenix location for a first-ever behind-the-scenes tour of ThriftBooks. Our inspiration? Charlie Bucket's lucky golden ticket win in Roald Dahl's scrumptious children's tale.

As always, we love hearing from you. So let us know if you have any thoughts on our 2023 retrospective here in the comments.

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