This week’s Top Ten Tuesday topic from That Artsy Reader Girl is a freebie and I’ve decided to share the books I bought this year that I am most excited about reading.
Piranesi by Susanna Clarke
It is rare these days that I buy a new release. I’ve been disappointed enough times that I will wait to see how awards and reviewers react before deciding I really want to put my money there. But Piranesi piqued my interest strongly enough, and was available enough, that I did not wait. I don’t think I have ever bought a book before it won a major award. Recently, my wife said she’d be interested in reading it and I teasingly said, ‘Isn’t it amazing that I already have a copy.’ She’s now pinched it.
The 100% Solution: A Plan for Solving Climate Change by Solomon Goldstein-Rose
What is frustrating about climate change is that it is an eminently solvable issue. You just have to get past the other stuff. What other stuff? Various biases and prejudices that cloud the issue. I am equally frustrated by the denialists as I am by those who overlook the responsibility of the non-Western world to help, those who reject the West helping the non-West as some sort of new colonialism, or those who balk at potential of human ingenuity and new technology and those who argue the only solution is to halt the activities that have delivered progress and demolished poverty, choosing instead to embrace regression. The bias against nuclear energy is possibly the best example of reason being overwhelmed by fear and prejudice (I also watched Pandora’s Promise for the first time this year and would strongly recommend it). What I look forward to in The 100% Solution is its pragmatism, its optimism and its progressivism.
Napoleon by Adam Zamoyski
I used to complain that, for someone who had a large impact on history, there were no good biographies on Napoleon. Sure, you could find some at the library, but they have been written a generation or more ago. Most modern popular history books covered one aspect of Napoleon’s life – Napoleon in Russia, Napoleon in Italy, Napoleon at Waterloo, Napoleon in exile, etc. Then Andrew Roberts’ Napoleon the Great came out to great reviews and I was pleased and bought it as soon as I could. Roberts participated in an Intelligence Squared debate with Adam Zamoyski, author of one of those books I ignored – 1812: Napoleon’s Fatal March on Moscow. They debated one of the premises of Roberts’ book – that if Napoleon was fairly assessed by the standards of history then, like Alexander or Peter or others, we would be calling him ‘Napoleon the Great’. It was a fascinating debate, in good spirit, and it ended with a surprise – Zamoyski revealed he was working on his own biography of Napoleon! It’s had great reviews too. Roberts has also been complimentary of it. It’s going to be fantastic to read these two books one after the other.
The Nancy’s by RWR McDonald
I don’t read much that might be categorized as crime or young adult fiction, but The Nancy’s is written by a kiwi, got great reviews, has an awesome cover, the sequel has already been released (June this year) and it may get adapted for the screen. And it sounds like it is not easily categorizable as crime or YA anyway. My wife has pinched this one too.
A Very Stable Genius by Philip Rucker and Carol Leonnig
When Trump was elected, I was fond of saying that this was going to be like the Second World War, by which I meant that, even 50 years from now, new books will be published with new information and new perspectives that will reshape our thinking. Such will be the impact of this dangerous flirtation with anti-democracy and aspiring authoritarianism. But who can wait? Amongst a steady precipitation rapidly turning into a flood, Rucker and Leonnig’s book, I believe, will be among the best first drafts of this history.
The Bura Quartet – This Earth of Mankind, A Child of All Nations, Footsteps, House of Glass – by Pramoedya Ananta Toer
I try to read a novel series every year and am always looking for new ones to add to my TBR. I only heard of the Buru Quartet recently – a series set in colonial Indonesia – but immediately knew I had to have it.
Tyll by Daniel Kehlmann
I have not been very good at following the International Booker Prize. When I looked over the 2020 nominees, Tyll was one I picked out that I might be keen on with its basis on folklore I am not familiar with and the Thirty Years War – an obvious next destination after all my recent reading on the Reformation. It did not end up winning the International Booker Prize but that didn’t make me less keen to get it.
The Red and the Black by Stendhal
French literature is a notable omission in my reading. Apart from The Count of Monte Cristo and Notre Dame de Paris, I have not read much. Partly because some French classics feel overwhelming, partly because there is the consistent suggestion that too much is lost in translation. I have so far avoided Proust and Zola for these reasons, perhaps wrongly. The Red and the Black might be a good way to start again.
Paradoxes by Mark Sainsbury
Considered a classic university text, it was much slimmer than I expected. Logic is said to be a distinct way of reasoning, different from common sense and other ways of thinking. Some might even credit it with being superior given its relative strengths. Yet, you can start with some obviously true statements and, following logical reasoning, end up with an obviously false conclusion – a paradox. I have a growing interest in books that will make me a better thinker and I hope this will be one.
Flight 714 to Sydney by Hergé
Tintin, as well as Asterix, was rainy day reading in the school library when I was a child. I’ve always felt affection for them even though I seldom finished any and I didn’t understand the cleverer jokes in Asterix. Lately, I’ve been collecting them and rereading them. Flight 714 to Sydney is one my schools never had and I’m looking forward to reading it for the first time.
Of course, I bought a lot more than this in 2021, but these are the ten I am most excited about. Apart from the Tintin, I probably won’t get to most of them anytime soon – my TBR pile is extensive!