A list of classics, modern classics and contemporary literature; some history, science, philosophy and a little silliness.
First a recap of my 2015 Reading List. I did not quite get through all of it; three books on that list did not get read which is why they reappear on my 2016 list. It is tempting to say that, with the birth of our first child, with me being the at-home parent while trying to study part-time; perhaps my list was over-ambitious. But countering that is the fact that I got through three additional books that were not on my original 2015 list – Suite Française, The Light Between Oceans and The Witches of Eastwick. While not of the same volume as the ones I did not read, they do close the gap. The reason I pushed these books up was my desire to see their respective film adaptations. I can’t guarantee I won’t do the same this year, especially since a certain Martin Scorsese film is in the works.
While many people get through a lot more books a year than I do, by my standards, my 2016 list is no less ambitious:
Thus Spoke Zarathustra, by Friederich Nietzsche
The 13-and-a-Half Lives of Captain Bluebear, by Walter Moers
The Canterbury Tales, by Geoffrey Chaucer
A Division of the Spoils, by Paul Scott
The Selfish Gene, by Richard Dawkins
The Mill on the Floss, by George Eliot
The Naked and the Dead, by Norman Mailer
Goa, by Luis de Assis Correia
Far From the Madding Crowd, by Thomas Hardy
Why I Am Not a Christian, by Bertrand Russell
Amsterdam, by Ian McEwan
The White Tiger, by Aravind Adiga
The Return of the Native, by Thomas Hardy
The Penguin History of New Zealand Illustrated, by Michael King
The Chronicles of Narnia, by CS Lewis
The Portable Atheist, by Various (edited by Christopher Hitchens)
The three books from last year are the three physically large ones – the History of New Zealand, The Chronicles of Narnia and The Portable Atheist. I’ll make a bigger effort to get through these this year.
I am continuing my journey, possibly never to end, of working my way through books of Indian history, literature and authorship. This year there are three books to that end – A Division of the Spoils, Goa and The White Tiger.
I first read A Division of the Spoils, the fourth novel of Paul Scott’s Raj Quartet, over a year ago. I had planned to take a breather before writing a review, having already written up the first three; The Jewel in the Crown, The Day of the Scorpion and The Towers of Silence. But too much time went by and I think I need to refresh my memory. It won’t be easy having left it behind for so long. I have also finally managed to get The Jewel in the Crown TV series on DVD and will probably watch it next year alongside this last novel.
Goa is the region of India my family originates from but I am not aware of any good history books, in English, on the region. This book, written by a journalist originally from Goa and described as a ‘compilation’ or a ‘compendium’ of history on Goa, which I found while visiting Goa, is probably the closest I have come across.
The White Tiger won the 2008 Booker Prize. After reading it, my wife began planning a trip to India but, as Delhi was about to host the Commonwealth Games, decided to defer and instead made a trip to Mexico. Fortunate for me as I was also on holiday in Mexico and that is where we first met.
I have also been working through some of the more philosophical books on my shelves. In the past year or so I have read Michael Picard’s This is Not a Book and Bertrand Russell’s Power. The Nietzsche and Russell on this year’s list is a continuation of that effort.
Thomas Hardy is my father’s favourite writer. I’ve had Jude the Obscure and Tess of the d’Urbervilles on my shelves for a long time but, as the time came to read them, I decided I wanted to read more of Hardy’s oeuvre. So I am going to read two Hardy’s a year for the next three years starting this year with Far From the Madding Crowd and The Return of the Native.
Similarly, I had planned to read Middlemarch this year but, since I have Eliot’s earlier novel, The Mill on the Floss, on my shelves, I decided to read that first and leave Middlemarch for next year.
It is going to be interesting to read two of the great Victorian realist novelists together over the next couple of years. When Hardy’s Far From the Madding Crowd was first published, anonymously, some thought Eliot was the author.
The remainders are books that I had meant to have read by now but have been on the backburner. They include a medieval classic (The Canterbury Tales), a modern classic (The Naked and the Dead), a science classic (The Selfish Gene), another Booker Prize Winner (Amsterdam) and one book that may be hard to categorise (The 13-and-a-half Lives of Captain Bluebear).
By number of books or number of pages it does not appear to be too challenging. But, with a lot of classics and some hard-going non-fiction in there – not to mention the studying to do and the baby to care for! – it will be plenty for me to juggle along with everything else next year.