It’s not December yet, so it’s probably a little early to do a retrospective on my 2015 reading list. But I doubt I’ll be getting through anything else chunky before January, so now seems like a good time.
I set my self a reading list I wanted to try and get through by the end of the year. It was all non-fiction, the chunkier pieces I might not have gotten to otherwise. I haven’t read everything on the list, but I’ve read a few pieces that I’d planned to put on next year, so on balance I’m pretty happy. I’ll start off with the ones on the list, and then the others I made it to that weren’t on the list.
Testing theories of American Politics
Testing theories of American Politics is a journal article, not a book. But it’s a fascinating one, with implications that should make any one who cares about civic democracy concerned. Worth a read.
Story by Robert McKee is one of my favourite books of the year. I didn’t do Literature at university, and perhaps if I had this might all be old news; but it was an amazing read, and well worth it if you find stories or plot fascinating. One of my highlights.
The Rhetoric of Fiction
I was quite excited for The Rhetoric of Fiction initially, but found it slightly underwhelming. Booth set out to write a grand piece, and apparently it did have quite an influence on literary criticism; but most of the book is bogged down with his critique of a particular style (naturalism), and the post-script provides a much more convenient summary of the central ideas in his argument.
Why we read fiction
Why we read fiction was another one of the literary theory books on my list for this year. It’s actually one of the better ones I’ve read. It’s somewhat niche, in focussing largely on theory-of-mind and literature, but it’s a strong articulation of the link between the two, I think. Worth reading if you’re looking for a new take on stories, in particularly as to how psychological theories can add something.
The Ego Tunnel
The Ego Tunnel is an interesting read; a pop version of a denser piece on how consciousness fits together. One of the recommendations I remember reading for the book is that it’s one of the few full theories of consciousness. If you find psychology and the study of consciousness interesting, this could be worth a read.
The Expanding Circle
The Expanding Circle was my final attempt at liking Peter Singer’s writing, and it didn’t work. I think there are other, better writers out there.
Gough Whitlam: A moment in history and Gough Whitlam: His time
I thought Jenny Hocking’s two-volume biography of Whitlam was excellent. The biography was incredibly well researched, and very readably written. Hocking’s an excellent researcher, and her work on some of the intrigue surrounding the dismissal means she’s not only chronicling, but also bringing to light key documents. Well worth a read if you’re interested in that period of Australian history.
This one wasn’t on my list for this year, but I’d been planning to do it in 2016, so it’s nice to have knocked it off early.
Man’s search for meaning
I finished off Victor Frankl’s Man’s search for meaning while I was sick on the couch. Given the amazing things I’d heard about it, I was little underwhelmed; but I know others who’ve said it’s had a profound impact on their lives.
On the origin of stories
Brian Boyd sets out to achieve a lot with his account of how evolutionary theory explains stories. I don’t think he achieved much at all. If you’re looking for interesting work on literary criticism, I’d suggest starting with Why we read fiction.