Wednesday, December 26, 2012

2012 in Books


Physics and Philosophy by Sir James Jeans.

In a physics-heavy year I found this a bit stale, a time capsule on the eve of the implications of quantum theory.

The Notebooks of Leonardo Da Vinci.

Fascinating, as it has been proven to so many. Writings and illustrations both proved to be intensely captivating, and rarely dry or unappealing.

The Infinity of Lists by Umberto Eco.

A work on the role and purpose of lists in the Western world. Eco provides examples and distinguishes types in this curatorial companion piece.

The I Ching.

I'm not sure what I got out of this ancient divination text. I mean, I'm glad I read it, but what came of this I can't precisely say.

French Provincial Cooking by Elizabeth David.

Interesting anecdotal account of French cooking, and cooking culture. Far better than the average recipe-based cookbook.

Understanding Physics by Isaac Asimov.

A three-volume work, presented historically and topically, begun the year before. Asimov finished this in the early sixties, so it's a bit dated, especially the third volume, when they're competing with the Soviet Union to fill in the table of elements...

Six Easy Pieces by Richard Feynman.

A very different, non-historical, approach to understanding physics up through the uncertainty principle.

Species of Spaces by Georges Perec.

I don't really know what this was. I mean, I understood the purpose of the work, and maybe I'm just a jaded bastard, but this was pretty vapid.

Beyond Outrage by Robert Reich.

My first e-book. I'm a big fan of Reich's economic analysis, but found this work lacking, especially in conclusion.

Selected Political Speeches by Cicero.

I read his Philippics, both great, and wanted more. So I got this slim 300 page volume from Penguin. It was something of a mixed bag - but I'd say 3/4 was either entertaining or so well-crafted that I admired it.

On the Natural Faculties by Galen.

Galen's view of medicine informed a thousand years, but I'd only recommend to those with serious interest.


The Immoralist by Andre Gide.

Blegch. I see why this work of ethical ennui and destruction was heralded as a classic. But for its innovation it doesn't hold up against, you know, every single other work that has been on just that topic since.

Six Characters in Search of an Author by Luigi Pirandello.

This is another I read, like Gide, because it was Nobel-worthy. Again, I see the innovation and can put in in historical context of the development of drama - but I don't remember any lines, hardly any specific scenes, or details about the characters.

The Accidental Death of an Anarchist by Dario Fo.

This is slightly better than I expected, given the criticism of Fo that seems so universal. It was a decent enough play.

Main Street by Sinclair Lewis.

Hit closer to home than expected. Yet the back third left me reading only for plot to be done with and to see what happens.

A Passage to India by E.M. Forster.

A few months after reading this I watched 'Picnic at Hanging Rock' which was oddly similar in feel. All the stuff about the racial tensions and views, for me, detracted from the central moment - the best crafted part of the work.

Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather.

An excellent and over-looked classic, I feel as though this should be required high school reading. For a jaded reader (see above) the prose kept me engaged.

Catch-22 by Joseph Heller.

Many people find this funny. I didn't get into it until I was 200 pages in.

Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh.

I had warily high expectations going into this, having loved the BBC mini-series with Jeremy Irons and Anthony Andrews. All the same I found the work most excellent.

Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis.

Wasn't sure what to expect beyond comedy, which I found rather lacking. There are some really delightful vignettes, but this feels like a more brooding take on Wodehouse, that loses much of the humor as a result.

House of Mirth by Edith Wharton.

Blergh. This was not a good introduction to Wharton. I wasn't invested in the poor rich girl. An only slightly updated take on themes stale as Dickens.

Naked Lunch by William Burroughs.

The language, certainly, is provocative - but remarkably repetitive about 2/3 in. I got something out of it initially, but the follow-through was lacking. Not for the faint of heart.

Rameau's Nephew by Denis Diderot.

I hadn't read Diderot. Now I have. This is, technically, a satire.

Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte. 

This was unfortunate. I'm going to swear of the Bronte sisters for the foreseeable future. Sorry Anne.

Graphic Novels/Comic Books

Une Semaine de Bonte by Max Ernst.

A pleasant surprise, I'd been expecting something less coherent. The surrealist collage ended up telling a series of fascinating stories.

Alice in Sunderland by Bryan Talbot.

A remarkable work of meta-something and hermeneutics engaging a fiercely difficult subject, Alice in Wonderland, one of the most analyzed works of its era.

Black Hole by Charles Burns.

Had been long on my list, and proved to be a compelling read. Light enough to be graceful in its basic message, but with sufficient depth so it's not just parable.

Scott Pilgrim by Bryan Lee O'Malley.

I'm glad to now know the cultural references. Now to see the movie...

Transmetropolitan by Warren Ellis and Darick Robertson.

This I loved. Burroughs-influenced, surely, this work was one of the most original graphic novels I've yet encountered - not stylistically per se, but for the work put into character and setting.

Y: The Last Man by Brian K. Vaughn and Pia Guerra.

A very enjoyable work, well-thought out but somewhat doomed to being topical. Interesting popular formatting of pertinent current gender issues.

Top Five

Death Comes for the Archbishop
Brideshead Revisited
Understanding Physics
The Notebooks of Leonardo Da Vinci

1 comment:

John Wiswell said...

What played so strongly about Brideshead for you, Chaz?