Open Thinkering


Read what I’ve read: my books of 2007

Birdsong Sophie's World Life of Pi

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 MontaigneThe Complete Essays (11 September 2006 – 21 January 2007) – Definitely one to come back to, a wealth of wisdom!

Gogol GogolDead Souls (23 January – 18 February) – Enjoyable, but ultimately frustrating as Gogol never finished it.

Dostoevsky FreebornDostoevsky (20-27 February) – Great background to one of my favourite authors.

'Che' Guevera ‘Che’ GueveraThe Motorcycle Diaries (28 February – 5 March) – Read after watching film on TV (the latter was actually better…)

Big Chief Elizabeth MiltonBig 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 ConradHeart 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…

Wittgenstein's Poker Edmonds & EdinowWittgenstein’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’.

Across the Nightingale Floor HearnAcross the Nightingale Floor (1 May – gave up) – Despite hearing good things about it, I didn’t like the style of writing.

The Year 1000 Lacey & DanzigerThe Year 1000 (2-14 May) – Interesting, if only for background to the medieval period I teach!

How the Mind Works PinkerHow 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.

Life of Pi MartellLife 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.

The Name of the Rose EcoThe Name of the Rose (9 July – gave up) – I found this deathly boring and didn’t even reach my usual 50-page minimum. I loved the way people on Facebook told me I was wrong and had to like it!

Fragments From My Diary GorkyFragments From My Diary (14-17 July) – Patchy but illuminating about Russia at the time of the Revolution and after.

Birdsong FaulksBirdsong (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.

Russian Thinkers BerlinRussian Thinkers (1 August – gave up) – Summer holidays not the best time to read this – postponed until later.

Among the Cannibals VerneAmong 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!

The Well-Beloved HardyThe 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.

Balzac RobbBalzac (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.

Eugenie Grandet BalzacEugenie Grandet (17-30 October) – Great on the corrupting power of money, but overall not as good as I’d expected.

Sophie's World GaarderSophie’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.

A Third Testament MuggeridgeA Third Testament (25-30 November) – About the ‘spiritual wanderings’ of writers such as Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, etc. Reasonable, but not earth-shatteringly great.

Schopenhauer TannerSchopenhauer (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.

Fairy Tales AndersenFairy Tales (8 December – dipped in-and-out) – Read a few off-and-on until Christmas.

Enlightenment PorterEnlightenment: 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!

So, if you haven’t read Life of Pi, Birdsong or Montaigne’s Essays yet, I suggest you stop reading this and start reading those! 🙂

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