Book List 2016 (Part Two)

If you haven’t already read it, part one of this post is here.

The Fire From Within – Carlos Castaneda (10/10)
This is one of the books I enjoyed most in 2016, even though some of the content was repeated from Castaneda’s previous works. It follows some of the later parts of his shamanic training, in which he learns some complex ideas about heightened awareness and the state of being he is aiming towards. You can read my full review here.

Echo Volume 1: Approaching Shatter – Kent Wayne (6/10)
This is the first part of a dystopian science fiction novel written by fellow WordPress blogger Kent Wayne. It has a promising storyline and is engaging and well written. My only issue with it is that this part is too short to really form a clear opinion. I am aware that part two (and maybe three) is already available, so I will be sure to read more of this in 2017.

Hideous Gnosis – Nicola Masciandro et al. (2/10)
Hideous Gnosis is a collection of essays analysing the Black Metal music genre. I found it a very hard going, despite having both a strong background in philosophy and appreciation of the genre. There were some interesting ideas hidden in there, but on the whole it was unnecessarily dense and poorly written. My full review is here.

The Cat Inside – William Burroughs (5/10)
This is a very short read. It is a collection of brief pieces of prose about cats, and the author’s relationship with them throughout his life. It is heart-warming, and shows a different facet to Burroughs than we are used to seeing, but I consider it to be a curiosity rather than an engaging read.

The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath (9/10)
I had been meaning to read this for a long time and finally got round to it this year. It is a semi-autobiographical story from the perspective of a girl with major depressive disorder. It does an extremely good job of showing how it feels to be on the inside of a depression in its various phases, and how it can come about seemingly from nowhere. I found The Bell Jar to be well written, engaging and emotional.

Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte (10/10)
Another book I have been meaning to read for years, but I am of the opinion that we unconsciously save books for when we are best able to benefit from them! Although this is not the usual genre I like to read, I absolutely loved Wuthering Heights. Not only does it demonstrate the attitudes towards class, race, mental health and gender of the time, but it is also deeply symbolic, and unintentionally shows so much about Jung’s anima theory.

The Brain – David Eagleman (5/10)
This book is a companion to a BBC television series about recent developments in neuroscience. It is written for the layman, and in short sections on different topics. It was interesting, and a straight forward read, but it didn’t teach me a lot that I hadn’t heard about before. I would have preferred a more in-depth approach.

Fluence – Stephen Oram (9/10)
A near-future dystopian novel about social media taking over to the degree that personal influence points replace currency, the class system and government. I found this very enjoyable, thought provoking and inspiring. You can read my full review here.

Notes from Underground – Fyodor Dostoyevsky (9/10)
The last of the existential novels I read this year. This one is short and in two distinct but related parts. I got a lot out of it, and it made a couple of concepts really click in my mind. Firstly the concept of rational and irrational parts of man being equally necessary, and secondly the absurd nature of spite and its constant presence in humanity.

The Divided Self – RD Laing (9/10)
This is a very interesting book that covers a lot in such a short space. It challenges the prevalent methods of treating psychosis, putting forward a well reasoned case for individual based therapy to discover root causes of mental illness, over and above the treatment of symptoms with medicines alone. Laing explains very clearly the ways in which schizophrenia might come about, and how it would feel to experience symptoms that distance us from the reality lived by the majority.

Blink – Malcolm Gladwell (4/10)
From the blurb, I was expecting this book to discuss the differences between decisions made in an instant and well-considered rationalised thought, perhaps with some scientific explanation as to where such ‘hunches’ come from. Instead, Blink read as a collection of anecdotes about times when snap decisions have and have not been beneficial. It is entertaining enough, but didn’t satisfy my curiosities.

Toxic Nursery – Carlie Martece (10/10)
Toxic Nursery is a semi-autobiographical coming of age story from the perspective of a girl with dissociative personality disorder, previously known as multiple personality disorder. From the first few pages it is colourful, funny, shocking, emotionally wrenching and endearing all at once. It also gives an insight into the attitudes to mental health in the UK, and the short-comings of available psychiatric treatment. My full review can be found here.

Them: Adventures with Extremists – Jon Ronson (8/10)
This is a light-hearted, humanistic look at some extreme attitudes held by various groups across the world. Journalist Jon Ronson spends quality time with members of the Ku Klux Klan and Aryan nations, along with conspiracy theorists, Christian fundamentalists and Islamic extremists. He takes a close look at the Bilderberg Group who supposedly rule the world from a secret room somewhere, and uncovers a truth of sorts. I reviewed this in full here.

I have also re-read a couple of favourites this year, which i haven’t listed because it felt like cheating! And I read half of Ulysses by James Joyce, but found it a struggle and have abandoned it for now. At the moment, I am reading the author’s preferred version of American Gods by Neil Gaiman, which I am really enjoying so far. I am also in the midst of C G Jung’s Red Book, finally. I have had the full folio version for years but found it physically difficult to read properly due to its size, and I now I have a copy of the reader’s edition. It is taking a little while because I am savouring it and allowing its contents to be absorbed wholly: it is so profoundly relevant to me, as I knew it would be.

My reading list is as long as ever with new things being added all the time, so who knows what 2017 will bring. My favourite contemporary author Steve Erickson has a new book out in February called ‘Shadowbahn’ which I am looking forward to, and Stephen Oram is soon to release a collection of short stories. But I plan to start with a few things I got on a recent trip to the occult bookstores of London, and with gifts received from family over the festive season. Here’s a peek:

books-2016-2

Advertisements

7 thoughts on “Book List 2016 (Part Two)

  1. Wow, your 2016 reading list almost looks like mine; not to mention, it includes a few titles that have been among my all-time favorites for decades (like Wuthering Heights, for instance…one of the darkest, most insane “love stories” ever composed). Lately, I read more of the type of philosophical/psychological things you listed (like Burroughs and Jung and Carlos Castenada), but suffice it to say, our tastes in literature are quite similar. So here’s a few I read in 2016 (or recent years) that I would like to recommend to you, if you haven’t read them already:

    1) The Book (on the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are) by Alan Watts. As all of Watts’ books, it retains a playful tone while delving into some of the deepest metaphysics and philosophy. In this case, “who you are” is God (or god or Brahma or The All), a notion that may seem blasphemous to some but is completely in line with what Eastern and Western mystics alike have discovered in their meditation and contemplation.

    2) Under The Loving Care of the Fatherly Leader by Bradley K. Martin. An EXHAUSTIVE tome detailing the history of Communist North Korea from pre-Korean War times up to Kim Jong Il (who was still alive at the time of the book’s publishing). A bit of a chore, as there are well over 100 pages of end-notes after the 900 pages of text, but the writer managed to keep it engaging and fascinating throughout. What better time to learn about an oppressive regime averse to all personal freedoms than to coincide with the inauguration of our own Dictator?

    3) Born In Tibet by Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche. Before abandoning monk-hood and traveling to the U.S. to expose Westerners to Buddhism (and therefore, before he became so influenced by the hippies and American culture that he became an alcoholic, drug addict, womanizer and downright crazy person), Trungpa was a revered “tulku” in Tibet. Shortly into his teens and twenties, the Chinese invaded Tibet and forced Trungpa and a large group of followers (along with many other Tibetans, like the Dalai Lama) to escape across the vast, inhospitable country on foot or on yak across the world’s largest, most formidable mountain range. Trungpa’s voice is more honest in this memoir than in many of his later books and to me, it served as a great inspiration should I need to leave my own homeland. If it comes to that, sure, I’ll have to save $, renew my passport, apply for citizenship in another country, and wait for the bureaucratic process to play out…but I will NOT have to spend months on foot in the freezing cold with communist bombs exploding all around me. Puts things in perspective, even in the Age of Trump.

    4) Hyperbole & A Half by Ally Brosh. Containing many of the brilliant entries that you can find on her website of the same name, Ally is not like any other blogger you’ve read. She is hilarious, brutally honest, completely open about her struggles with depression, and she draws endearingly hilarious pictures of herself throughout her posts. The book is worth buying, even if you’re familiar with her blog, because there are several brilliant entries that she wrote just for the book. My pitiful little post about depression on my blog pales in comparison to Ms. Brosh’s brilliance. Sadly, her sister committed suicide in 2013 and Ally has never posted anything to her blog since.

    5) Let’s Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson. Another blogger (TheBloggess.com), who wrote a book based on some of her blog posts but with tons of new material and photos. Similar to Ally Brosh, Jenny pulls no punches in honestly describing her emotional and mental disorders. But the tone is quite different. No illustrations, but LOTS of vulgarity and every now and then, a post that is so sweet and honest that you know she isn’t afraid to show her vulnerability beneath all the humor and swear words.

    6) The Tao of Physics by Fritjof Capra: Published in 1975, this first known study of the ever-growing similarities between ancient Eastern concepts and modern/quantum physics is a bit dated, by virtue of the fact that modern science marches on and on and 1975 was over 4 decades ago. But there’s enough insight in this book to stir interest in any metaphysics-minded reader and it kind of serves as an introductory stepping stone to the ongoing books on the subject of science catching up to ancient Eastern wisdom (The Self-Aware Universe by Amit Goswami is even better and more thought-provoking). How could people living in ancient China, India and Tibet have possibly known that their religiously-inspired metaphysics would one day turn out to be exactly what modern scientists would view in their laboratories? Indisputable proof that the Buddhist and Taoist notions of emptiness, impermanence, delusion, illusion, all existing in the one and vice versa were far more than flights of fancy. It was pure science….several millennia ahead of their time.

    7) God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater by Kurt Vonnegut. I re-read this book recently, as I had read all of Kurt’s books in my teens and early 20s. Though Breakfast of Champions will always be my favorite, I had forgotten the simple yet profound message of this one. The titular character of Elliot Rosewater is the anti-Trump. A man who was born into privilege and was expected to follow in his tycoon father’s footsteps, he instead took his sizable chunk of inherited family fortune to fund The Rosewater Foundation, a one-man 24/7 altruism foundation that enabled him to give monetary and emotional help to the downtrodden citizens of his area. This had him keeping company with homeless people, bums, drunks, junkies, prostitutes, grieving widows, runaway children and of course, adopting their habits of speech and dress so as not to make them uncomfortable. It also affected his behavior as he began drinking copiously and despite his fortune, lived in a studio apartment and dressed in rags, much to his father’s shame and embarrassment. A lovely little fable about the power of love and compassion over the power of greed and selfishness.

    There are a few books on your 2016 list that caught my interest and I look forward to reading them. Hope maybe one or two of mine caught your interest, too.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for taking the time to write this, it does seem that we have a very similar taste in reading! I have added three of these to my read list – Born in Tibet, Hyperbole and a Half, and The Tao of Physics. I am already a big fan of Alan Watts. Can I ask which of mine caught your interest?

      Liked by 1 person

  2. A few of them, I have already read (and greatly enjoyed). But the ones I immediately jotted down based on your descriptions are: Quantum Confessions, Divided Self, Toxic Nursery, Adventures with Extremism and Secret Book of the Golden Flower (I wasn’t aware that Wilhelm and Jung had collaborated on such a book!)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. As an aside, I can’t get onto your blog anymore. I have just read your last two posts via the email notifications but I get an error message if I try to click on to them to like or comment. It’s the same if I follow the link on this comment. Any idea why that is?

      Like

      1. Hmm. I’m not sure about that. My wayward collaborator who has a grand total of 1 post so far is the one who set up this site. Sometimes the “follow” button appears in the bottom right hand corner, other times, it doesn’t. But you’re already following, so that shouldn’t apply to you. I’ll try to fix it. Typically, I’m pretty humble about my pathetic little posts, but I must admit, I even amused myself with the one that contrasted A.A. and Scientology. Incidentally, your posts are always interesting and often thought-provoking.

        Like

      2. Well I like what I have read so far, and yes the Scientology/A.A. parallels are amusing! It says that your blog has been deleted, yet I received an email about that post. Strange happenings. Thank you for the kind words about my blog.

        Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s