Books read in 2016

booksMy list of books I’ve read during 2016, with some comments. I’ve enjoyed keeping this list, and thinking about what I’ve read, and I hope that you find it interesting too!

Having been inspired to keep a list late on in 2015, I’ve kept it up during 2016. I’ve found it interesting to see what I’ve read and would be interested in your thoughts (and your own lists and recommendations). During the year I also wrote about my 3 book challenge – a selection of the 3 Christian books that I’d recommend. I have to confess to cheating slightly with the number I recommended!

I’ve only included books I’ve read all the way through, which rules out many of the books that I consult for preaching and teaching. I also haven’t named those books that I read but didn’t finish…

Novels and Stories

Resurrection by Leo Tolstoy. I much preferred this novel to War and Peace which I read last year. Tolstoy does still indulge in some lectures, but less than in War and Peace. Through a slightly contrived, but nonetheless plausible set-up, Tolstoy takes a Russian prince on a tour through Russian society, from the highest to the lowest, and explores the problems with the society as he goes. It’s very well done, although the end is a bit of a let down (but still worth getting to!).

A god in ruins by Kate Atkinson. One of my favourite authors being as unconventional as usual! An affecting take on World War II, particularly focusing on a bomber pilot but with Atkinson’s usual twists and turns.

The memoirs of Sherlock Holmes, The hound of the Baskervilles, The return of Sherlock Holmes, The Valley of Fear, His Last Bow by Arthur Conan Doyle. Continuing my reading/re-reading of them. As enjoyable as ever!

The Mabinogion translated by Sioned Davies. I was inspired to read this by Interesting Literature’s blog post on mediaeval literature  It is a collection of tales from mediaeval Wales, which I bought from the National Museum of Wales in Cardiff. The museum is well worth a visit, and I enjoyed the book’s fantastical tales of knights, King Arthur, magicians and the like.

I capture the castle by Dodie Smith. One of those books that I’ve meant to read for a while, but never got around to before. A well-written, coming of age tale set in 1930s England; well worth a read!

Opal Plumstead by Jacqueline Wilson. Read with my 6 year-old daughter. Wilson is a very good children’s and young people’s author, exploring family relationships from the point of view of the child. This books explores something of what life was like for ‘ordinary’ people in the run up to the First World War, with suffragettes, factory work, class and social boundaries all being explored.  It needed a few paragraphs skipping (there are some things I’m not explaining just yet!), and doesn’t finish with the usual ‘happy ending’ often expected of children’s books. I would have quite happily read it without my daughter! (Which is why it makes this list and many of the other books we read together don’t…)

Ottoline and the Yellow Cat by Chris Riddell. Riddell is The Observers’ cartoonist and so this book combines his wit and his drawing in a way which both my daughter and I enjoyed!

The Letters of Father Christmas by J R R Tolkien. Tolkien’s letters written to his children as if from Father Christmas, telling stories about his life by the North Pole. I read them over Christmas with my daughter and we both enjoyed them!

Sci-fi/Fantasy

Flatland by Edwin Abbott. A Victorian satirical sci-fi story, exploring what a two dimensional world would be like, and pointing out the problems with our limited thinking and class and gender structures as it does so. The ideas in it have subsequently been taken up by theologians and scientists.

Roverandom by J R R Tolkien. An entertaining tale of a bewitched dog and his adventures as a toy, on the moon and under the sea.

Foundation by Isaac Asimov. Well-written, good quality classic sci-fi. Totally disagree with Asimov’s world-view, but interesting and enjoyable!

Salvage Trouble and Tech, lies and wizardry by J S Morin. The first book (and short-story prequel) in a series of sci-fi/fantasy novels. The first two-thirds of Salvage Trouble were perfectly decent, well-written sci-fi, although a bit too close to (the much-lamented TV series) Firefly fan-fic to be original. Most of the last third was more interesting, as Morin explored some ideas and back stories of his characters. I think that the central premise (scientists can build spaceships but need wizards to magic the gravity!) just about holds… Still trying to decide whether to carry on with the series or not…

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, Harry Potter and the Chamber of SecretsHarry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J K Rowling. All re-reads with my daughter. She enjoyed then, and I enjoyed rereading them, including the chance to spot bits that become more important later on, which I hadn’t noticed before! We stopped after Azkaban as I think they become a bit too scary… (Not one of my more popular decisions!). I also enjoyed reading Emily Asher-Perrin’s reread of the whole series. I also re-read Fantastic beasts and where to find them after watching the very good film.

The Shepherd’s Crown, The Witch’s vacuum cleaner by Terry Pratchett. Crown was the last Discworld novel about the witches, some of his best characters. It wasn’t by any stretch his best book, unfortunately, but I miss his inventiveness and wit, and continue to quote him in my sermons!
Vacuum was another entertaining collection of his early stories, written for children which my daughter and I both enjoyed.

Plays

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J K Rowling. A very good addition to the series. As it’s unlikely I’ll get to see the play any time soon this was a good second best!

Poetry

The Fall of Arthur by JRR Tolkien. A sadly unfinished version of the legend of Arthur’s death. Excellent in its own right and interesting to see how it the ideas were taken into The Lord of the Rings. Christopher Tolkien’s essays on this and on the Arthurian legends and how his father used them to create his own version are also interesting, as are extracts from J Tolkien’s lecture on Old English poetry. I found the section on the drafting and redrafting of the poem rather less interesting!

Holy Luck by Eugene Peterson. Great poems, terrible title!

Making Coca for Kingsley Amis, Serious Concerns by Wendy Cope. Both re-reads at different times in the year when I was in need of cheering up after a particularly difficult day!

The other mountain by Rowan Williams. Complex, inspiring, thought-provoking and occasionally disturbing.

Learning to make an oud in Nazareth by Ruth Padel. Excellent.

Theology

Hearing God’s call by Susan Jones. Read to evaluate as part of a potential course. It was a helpful introduction to God’s call in the Bible and God’s call now, followed by a fairly detailed summary of the variety of types of church-based or church-authorised ministry. I think it’s a helpful book for people to read who are exploring this sort of call.

Introduction to the New Testament by John Holdsworth. Also read as part of evaluating a course. I’ve reviewed his Old Testament book, Lies, Sex and Politicians which I wasn’t altogether convinced by. I was even less taken with this book. It manages to be both too detailed (eg a discussion of Sitz im Leben) and too broad (covering far too much in each chapter). Its main device is to imagine a group discussion, which I found irritating and patronising.

What Prevents Christian Adults from Learning? by John Hull. I discussed (the most interesting) part of this during the year. As I wrote then, it’s an interesting, if slightly frustrating book (parts of it are rather abstract and over-generalise). Some of it, of course, is rather out-of-date, but parts of it remain thought-provoking and challenging, particularly the final chapter.

Other non-ficiton

The urchin in the storm by Stephen Jay Gould. A collection of essays I found secondhand. Gould was an excellent science writer, who sadly died aged 60. He argued against determinism and reductionism, for understanding emergent properties, contingency, and the importance of
I think he over-stated the role of contingency (see my review of Conway Morris’ Life’s Solution), but his approach to science helped me understand where Dawkins is wrong and the importance of critical realism.

Transforming the Way we Think edited by Veronica Strang. A very thought-provoking book, which I reviewed during the year.

Stories from Ancient Canaan by Coogan and Smith. Translations and analysis of Canaanite myths from the site of Ugarit.

In search of Kings and Conquerors by Lisa Cooper. An excellent discussion and analysis of the importance of the archaeological work of Gertrude Bell, and how that impacted on her later work in the new kingdom of Iraq as a diplomat and Director of Antiquities.

Galilee in the time of Jesus by Stephen Travis. A Grove booklet and therefore short, and also well worth reading.

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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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