2017

“a” means I listened on audiobook; “p” means I read on paper.

I’ve been pretty terrible so far this year at translating my haphazard notes on each book into public summaries/thoughts, hence the bare list below. Possibly, hopefully, I’ll get around to this on some future weekend…

1. Something Fresh, P. G. Wodehouse (p)

2. Mindset, Carol Dweck (a)

3. The Path, Michael Puett and Christine Gross-Loh (p)

4. The Undoing Project, Michael Lewis (a)

5. The Pigeon Tunnel, John le Carré (a)

6. The Gene: An Intimate History, Siddhartha Mukherjee (a)

7. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Jack Thorne, J. K. Rowling, John Tiffany (p)

8. The Third Reconstruction, William Barber II, Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove (a)

9. Hunger, Knut Hamsun (p)

For some reason this book took me 6 months or more to read even though it’s short. I want to think it’s great, but I guess my behaviour suggests against.

10. Gut, Giulia Enders (a)

11. Close Range, Annie Proulx (p)

Loved this book. I’d read Brokeback Mountain before – the short story that finishes this collection – but not anything else by Annie Proulx. Brokeback Mountain itself is unbeatably good and impossibly sad, so I’d recommend at least reading that (here). Close Range is a collection of other short stories set in Wyoming, similarly bleak, all of which I enjoyed and some of which packed a real punch. Now I just have to make the trek to the Laramie mountains…

12. West with the Night, Beryl Markham (a)

13. Where I Was From, Joan Didion (a)

14. California, Kevin Starr (p)

I know so many California facts now. Ask me about California, I’m your guy.

15. All Out War, Tim Shipman (a)

This was 688 pages (or in my case 32 hours of audio) of pure political gossip about Brexit. I feel a bit guilty for listening to it all, since I’ve now spent more time listening to the gossip around Brexit than thinking carefully about Brexit. But it was pretty compelling gossip…

16. Onto the Next Dream, Paul Madonna (p)

17. Dispatches Against Displacement, James Tracy (p)

18. Evicted, Matthew Desmond (a)

19. Camino Island, John Grisham (a)

Full disclosure: I listened to this in a car driving through Oregon and Northern California, and fell asleep for ~an hour of it. I considered not putting it on the list as a result, but I think it just about counts as read since people filled me in on the bits I missed when I woke up.

20. The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, Benjamin Franklin (a)

I’m planning to steal Franklin’s method of making virtues a habit over time, refitting his list of 13 virtues with my own since most of his seem pretty random to me. Mine will look pretty random in 291 years, but hey, better than nothing.

21. A Single Man, Christopher Isherwood (p)

22. The Day of the Locust, Nathanael Wood (p)

This novel was written in the 1930s about Hollywood, but reminded me in all sorts of ways of the film mother! – which, incidentally, is one of my favourite recent films.

23. Just A Few Notes, Ken Fitt (p)

24. Life & Times of Michael K, J. M. Coetzee (p)

25. Anathem, Neal Stephenson (p)

What an incredible, incredible book. My heart sings for it. I first came across Anathem ~5 years ago when I was studying philosophy and have wanted to read it since. I didn’t get around to it until now in part because it clocks in at 932 pages, which in most cases is unforgivable. In this case I totally forgive it. Whewph was it worth it.

Anathem is a science fiction novel that manages to discuss many fundamental questions of philosophy and physics in ways that are deeply well thought out, interesting, and actually serve the plot. It’s a miracle of a novel in that sense, since part of me wants to curl up and read about philosophy and physics in a dramatically compelling way forever. If that sounds appealing to you, then I recommend this book with highest praise; if not, definitely not, as it’s 932 bloody pages.