Monday 28 December 2015

The year's reading in review

While I read much less than I once did - I am delighted to have made some significant 'discoveries' both in fiction and non-fiction through 2015.

1. In fiction the main discovery was Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke (2004) which was certainly one of the best novels I have ever read - and within my favourite adult fantasy genre. I was put onto this by a BBC TV adaptation which was significantly flawed, but whose first two episodes conveyed enough of the novel's virtues to get me to read it.

2. The other discovery was another fantasy-genre writer Brandon Sanderson. This is very recent - I read the teen-fantasy The Rithmatist a few months ago

And just a few days ago finished a very long and extremely enjoyable audiobook version of the first version of a projected ten-volume adult fantasy called The Way of Kings.

Sanderson strikes me as an exceptionally deep and knowledgeable writer - he is also highly prolific and only about forty years old, which is particularly pleasing.

3. After many years of trying and failing to get onto his wavelength, the writing of Owen Barfield was unlocked for me by The Fellowship, a new group biography og The Inklings

Since then I have had great benefit from reading some of Barfield's philosophical books and individual essays.

4. Barfield was an Anthroposophist which again pointed me at Rudolf Steiner, which led to the discovery of Jeremy Naydler - a modern English writer on spiritual and philosophical themes who has particular expertise on Ancient Egypt. Convergently listening to an audiobook of teen-fantasy writer Rick Riordan's Ancient Egyptian Gods series The Kane Chronicles with the family (as in-car entertainment) led me to want to read more about Egypt.

5. I have also continued to read slowly, and reflect considerably upon, the writings of William Arkle - but strictly speaking, that was a 2014 discovery...



Thursday said...

The best starter introduction to Egyptian mythology and religion is Gary J. Shaw's new The Egyptian Myths. Retells most of the myths in a very readable way and explains the geography of the Egyptian afterlife, making things like The Book of the Dead comprehensible. Joyce Tyldesley's Penguin Book of Myths and Legends of Ancient Egypt is rather dull compared to Shaw, but becomes easier to read after reading him and does fill in a few details that he elides over.

I found this to be a useful list. Richard H. Wilkinson also has some other excellent illustrated books.

Luqman said...

I am enjoying the Stormlight Archive books (Way of Kings being the first one), it has always been a pleasure for me to immerse myself in detailed fantasy worlds, and an additional pleasure to find such treasures hidden amongst piles in second hand book shops. These books remind me of those times not just for the fact that it is fantasy fiction but that there does not appear to be any overt social/moral preaching - an agenda - involved. Sanderson is competent, imaginative and seems to know exactly what he is doing. Words of Radiance was quite satisfying and I am sure you will enjoy it.

Audiobooks however, I dont understand. Blasphemy!

Bruce Charlton said...

@Luqman - Literature is primarily oral - and reading aloud can be seen as a test of quality. I love audiobooks - so long as they are well done. But I also finish each day, just before sleep, by reading aloud to my wife from a novel or some humorous non-fiction (like Three Men in a Boat) - this being the proper and best mode of performance.