For me, 2007 has been a bit of a drought year in terms of reading. The arrival of my son Ben in January put pay to any thoughts of doing anything other than sleeping after going to bed. Having said that, I did manage at least one book per month on average, so below is a list of them with a one-sentence review.
You may think that there seems to be no links between the books in terms of the order I read them. And you’re probably right. On the other hand, I do find serendipity to be wonderfully surprising if you allow it to be. For example, I tend to buy my books from Oxfam bookshops (in Tickhill and Durham) and then put them on my shelves. Once I’ve finished a book my next selection is based upon either something I’ve heard, read or quite fancy finding more about.
So here, in chronological order, are the books I’ve read in 2007…
Montaigne – The Complete Essays (11 September 2006 – 21 January 2007) – Definitely one to come back to, a wealth of wisdom!
Gogol – Dead Souls (23 January – 18 February) – Enjoyable, but ultimately frustrating as Gogol never finished it.
Freeborn – Dostoevsky (20-27 February) – Great background to one of my favourite authors.
‘Che’ Guevera – The Motorcycle Diaries (28 February – 5 March) – Read after watching film on TV (the latter was actually better…)
Milton – Big Chief Elizabeth: How England’s Adventurers Gambled and Won the New World (6 March – 8 April) – A really enjoyable story and true. Didn’t realise it’s the 400th anniversay of Jamestown in 2007 until I saw the exhibition in London in the summer!
Conrad – Heart of Darkness (9-12 April) – Really bizarre and written in a way I didn’t really like. What actually happened?! Read after listening to a BBC Radio 4 In Our Time programme about it and found it lying on my shelves…
Edmonds & Edinow – Wittgenstein’s Poker: the story of a ten-minute argument between two great philosophers (13-30 April) – Patchy. Good for background on Popper and Wittgenstein but makes too much of the poker ‘incident’.
Hearn – Across the Nightingale Floor (1 May – gave up) – Despite hearing good things about it, I didn’t like the style of writing.
Lacey & Danziger – The Year 1000 (2-14 May) – Interesting, if only for background to the medieval period I teach!
Pinker – How the Mind Works (17 May – gave up) – Impressed with Pinker’s performance on In Our Time, but got sick of his in-your-face Darwinism here.
Martell – Life of Pi (25 June – 7 July) – My favourite book of the year; absolutely loved it! The rest of my family are now reading it and I’ve just bought a signed, limited-edition illustrated hardback version. The descriptions are great throughout, the author is a Philosophy graduate, and there’s a fantastic twist at the end.
Gorky – Fragments From My Diary (14-17 July) – Patchy but illuminating about Russia at the time of the Revolution and after.
Faulks – Birdsong (18-29 July) – A worthy runner up to Life of Pi for my second-favourite book of the year. In turns horrific and erotic, it’s a wonderfully evocative and haunting read.
Berlin – Russian Thinkers (1 August – gave up) – Summer holidays not the best time to read this – postponed until later.
Verne – Among the Cannibals (20-25 August) – Very good, like all of Verne’s novels. I can see why I haven’t seen it on sale before – it’s a bit racist towards the Maoris in parts!
Hardy – The Well-Beloved (26 August – 14 September) – Kept waiting for it to get better as it’s Hardy and ended up finishing it. Not his best, but probably worked better in serialised form.
Robb – Balzac (15 September – 14 October) – I have since found that the story of Balzac’s life is actually more interesting than his novels. I enjoyed this biography.
Balzac – Eugenie Grandet (17-30 October) – Great on the corrupting power of money, but overall not as good as I’d expected.
Gaarder – Sophie’s World (1-25 November) – One of my favourite books which I re-read as I lent my paperback copy to one of my philosophically-minded pupils. It’s a great introduction to Philosophy and wonderfully constructed.
Muggeridge – A Third Testament (25-30 November) – About the ‘spiritual wanderings’ of writers such as Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, etc. Reasonable, but not earth-shatteringly great.
Tanner – Schopenhauer (26 November – 7 December) – Read after an In Our Time programme mentioned how influential his philosophy was. Tanner could have explained things a little better.
Andersen – Fairy Tales (8 December – dipped in-and-out) – Read a few off-and-on until Christmas.
Porter – Enlightenment: Britain and the Creation of the Modern World (20 December – Present) – Too early to tell, really. Seems OK although I haven’t done as much reading as usual over Christmas: probably something to do with my 11-month-old son Ben!