Books read in 2015

booksI’ve been rather belatedly inspired to record the books I’ve read during 2015, so here is my list with some comments. I enjoyed looking back at what I’d read over the past year and hope that you find it interesting too!

I’ve only included books I’ve read all the way through, which might in part explain the lack of theology books, which are far more likely to get read in part…

As I’m working largely from memory, there might be more that I don’t remember (or don’t remember whether it was this year or the year before). I also haven’t named those books that I read but didn’t finish…

Novels
War and Peace by Tolstoy. I enjoy Russian literature, particularly Dosteovesky and Solzhenityzn, and thought that it would be good to read this classic. The scale is epic and the cast list fairly enormous and there are chapter-long digressions on the nature of history and the role of individuals verses processes in causing events (so fairly standard then!). I didn’t really agree with Tolstoy’s point of view and I didn’t really engage with his characters, but the insight into the elite of 19th century Russia and the sweep of the novel was fascinating. I’m glad I’ve read it, but it’s not near the top of my re-read pile!

Elif Shafak – Honour, The Flea Palace, 40 Rules of Love, The Bastard of Istanbul
Shafak is an excellent author, by turns strange and compelling. Honour was an excellent exploration of honour killings and the struggles of minorities living in 70s Britain. The Flea Palace was a strange, twisting exploration of personalities in Istanbul. Forty Rules of Love was a fascinating introduction to Sufism. The Bastard of Istanbul was brilliant and fearless, exploring the complexities of families, the Armenian Genocide and modern-day Turkey.

Arthur Conan Doyle – A Study in Scarlet, The Sign of the Four, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes
Having belatedly enjoyed the excellent BBC series Sherlock, it also inspired me to start re-reading or reading the original books (it’s so long ago I can’t remember if I’ve read them all or not!).

The talented Mr Ripley by Patricia Highsmith. A book I read to discuss, rather than because I wanted to! Ripley is an anti-hero, but I didn’t really care about him or any of the other characters enough or engage with what the book was trying to do…

Arthur Ransome – Swallows and Amazons, Swallowdale, Peter Duck
All re-reads with my daughter!

Shooting script by Gavin Lyall. Entertaining pulp!

The Wheel of Ice by Stephen Baxter. A Doctor Who novel by a leading sci-fi author – well written, well plotted, and entertaining.

Graphic novels
Neil Gaiman – Sandman vols 1 & 2 Preludes and Nocturnes, The Dolls House
I enjoy Neil Gaiman’s novels, but had never got around to reading his most famous creation, Sandman. Dark and disturbing, with some memorable storylines.

Sci-fi/Fantasy
Terry Pratchett – Mort, The Dragons of Crumbling Castle.
I re-read Mort after Pratchett sadly died earlier this year. It seemed appropriate, and remains one of my favourites. I read Dragons with my daughter and we both enjoyed (most of) the different stories.

The Hobbit by JRR Tolkein
Another re-read with my daughter, and as excellent as ever!

Pattern recognition by William Gibson. Having read his excellent latest novel The Peripheral, late last year, this spurred me to catch up with some of his earlier books that I hadn’t got around to reading. An enjoyable book, with memorable characters and scenes, although the plot was rather similar to Neuromancer.

Robert Silverberg – King Valentine’s Castle, Majipoor Chronicles, Valentine Pontifex. An indulgent re-read of some classic sci-fi. The scale of the world of Majipoor awed me when I first read these and they were definitely worth re-reading.

Margaret Atwood – Oryx and Crake, Year of the Flood, MaddAddam
Attwood prefers the term ‘speculative fiction’, insisting that everything in her books is capable of happening. That is, of course, one of the things that makes them so concerning… Excellent, bleak, and worryingly possible, although I remain slightly disappointed with how MaddAddam ends.

Poetry
The Butterfly’s burden by Mahmood Darwish. English translations of three books by this Palestinian poet, speaking of love, Arabic myths, the Palestinian struggle.

Sounding the Seasons by Malcolm Guite. Excellent sonnets going through the church year. It was great to be able to hear Guite at Greenbelt and I’ve already used a number of his poems in services.

Two cures for love by Wendy Cope. Enjoyable and thought-provoking!

Over the moon by Imtiaz Dharker. An exploration of her feelings of loss after the death of her partner. Moving, funny, profound. I used ‘Christmas Eve on the Number 4’ as part of my Christmas Night Communion sermon.

Theology
Faith in the face of Empire by Mitri Raheb. A challenging theological and historical reflection on the geo-politics of the Palestinian-Israel conflict, which I’ve reviewed here.

Justice and only justice by Naeem Ateek. An excellent book developing Palestinian Liberation Theology and exploring the history of the Israel-Palestine.

Laudato Si’ by Pope Francis and Song of the Prophets by Rev Dr Susan Durber. I’ve discussed them both in my post of Jeremiah and Climate Change.

Covenant and Calling by Robert Song and Strangers and Friends by Michael Vasey. I read both of these in preparation for the Shared Conversations, along with a lot of Issues in Sexuality and the relevant bits of The Moral Vision of the New Testament by Richard Hays.

Whose Promised Land? by Colin Chapman. A discussion of the history, theology and sociology of the continuing conflict over Israel-Palestine. Hopefully my review will follow shortly!

Memoir
I was going to write that I don’t normally read this sort of book, but then discovered that I’ve read three this year…

Our Zoo by June Mottershead. Enjoyable reminiscences of the creation of Chester Zoo.

In the Name of Sorrow and of Hope by Noa Ben Artzi-Pelossof. A memoir of of Yitzhak Rabin and his assassination, written by his granddaughter. I read this as a way of marking the 20th anniversary of the assasination and I blogged about it here.

117 Days by Ruth First. A moving account of Ruth’s time in solitary confinement in apartheid-era South Africa.

Other non-ficiton
Human Evolution by Robin Dunbar. One of the new Pelican range. Well-written, engaging and a different approach to human evolution, based on insights from primatology and psychology. Complete, of course, with a discussion of the Dunbar number!

The Dark Net by Jamie Bartlett. An interesting and revealing exploration of how the internet is used for illegal and dubious purposes (like, frankly, every other tool that humans have invented…)

This Changes Everything by Naomi Klein. Well worth reading to gain a better understanding of why climate change is such a significant issue and what we can do about it.

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So, how many have you read? Any suggestions to go on my reading list for this year?

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