Thursday, December 22, 2016

A year in books

Sooooo much to consider and read and do in this midsummer's light. Fire in stove, bright white reading light, mate in a mug.

All stories are really fragments of one story.
— Rebecca Solnit, The Faraway Nearby

We often ignore the importance of language: it’s ability to uplift us, or to shape the way we see and therefore act in the world.
— Alan Moore, Do Design

The closing weeks of a year are often filled with review pieces. Despite myself, I am always drawn to the literary reviews, partly in the hope of discovering something new, partly out of curiosity. What are other people reading? What has attracted them? What have they taken away from the experience?

Reading other people’s recommendations prompts my own reflections. What have I read this year? Why did I read it? Was it because of a steer from a friend, something that I had long anticipated or a serendipitous discovery? Did I delve into the footnotes or bibliography of another book before tracking down this new work? Did I heed the prompt of a newspaper journalist or a blogger or someone I follow on Twitter?

Of course, Austin Kleon is right to sound the alarm about publishing year-in-review lists before the calendar year is even out. After all, there are still a lot of reading days left to discover new pleasures, or to dedicate time to those tomes that have been sitting too long on the to-read pile. Nevertheless, we can be a little fluid about the twelve-month period under consideration.

The following are a few of the books that moved me, delighted me or inspired me in one way or another since the start of the year. I have confined myself to books published either in 2016 or, in several cases, during 2015 but that took time to worm their way into my consciousness. Excluded from consideration are any books I have worked on myself either as author or editor.





The second collection of images are of books awaiting my attention or currently being read. These I fully expect to enthral to the same degree as those already mentioned. It always feels good to have something to look forward to, to be surrounded by potential and anticipation. What Umberto Eco referred to as an anti-library; what Marcelo Gleiser might identify as fish to be caught from the waters that surround the island of knowledge.




What have been your own reading pleasures and discoveries this year?

All writers are puzzle makers. As models of our experience, stories and novels aim not to reduce that experience, or to simplify it, but to reflect its pleasures and sorrows, and to bring its mysteries into sharp focus.
— Peter Turchi, A Muse and A Maze

Writers and storytellers had been nesting their narratives for centuries, of course, in an effort to approximate the networks of story that ramify and complicate our experience of everyday life.
— Michael Chabon, Maps and Legends


Pulling together the above material led me to reflect further on what I have read this year. Some of if was related to the writing of The Neo-Generalist, especially until mid-March. Some of it was early research for a ghostwriting project on Scandinavian leadership. Some of it reading in support of my work as editorial adviser and mentor to other authors. Much of it, however, was simply for pleasure or prompted by curiosity. One way or another, the effects of all this reading find their way into my own writing, whether in articles, blog posts or longer-form books. Reading is how I learn to write.

Paul Auster, ‘City of Glass’ in The New York Trilogy (Faber & Faber, 1988)
Carlos Castaneda, The Teachings of Don Juan (Penguin, 2004)
Robin Chase, Peers Inc (Headline, 2015)
David Hutchens, Circle of the 9 Muses (Wiley, 2015)
Herminia Ibarra, Act Like a Leader, Think Like a Leader (Harvard Business Review Press, 2015)
Herminia Ibarra, Working Identity (Harvard Business School Press, 2004)
Robert M. Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (Vintage, 2004)
Peter Turchi, A Muse and A Maze (Trinity University Press, 2014)

Marci Alboher, One Person/Multiple Careers (HeyMarci, 2012)
Charles Baudelaire, The Painter in Modern Life (Penguin, 2010)
Adam Grant, Originals (W. H. Allen, 2016)
John Hagel III, John Seely Brown & Lang Davison, The Power of Pull (Basic Books, 2010)
César Hidalgo, Why Information Grows (Allen Lane, 2015)
Jamie Holmes, Nonsense (Crown, 2015)
Nassim Nicholas Taleb, The Black Swan (Penguin, 2010, rev. ed.)
James Watts, Business for Punks (Portfolio Penguin, 2015)
Vivienne Westwood & Ian Kelly, Vivienne Westwood (Picador, 2014)
David Whyte, The Three Marriages (Riverhead Books, 2010)

Jean Gimpel, The Cathedral Builders (Evergreen Books, 1961)
Claudia Hammond, Time Warped (Canongate, 2013)
Sarah Kay, No Matter the Wreckage (Write Bloody, 2014)
Milan Kundera, Slowness (Faber & Faber, 1996)
Sue Roe, In Montmartre (Penguin, 2014)

Ellis Bacon & Lionel Birnie (eds.), The Cycling Anthology, Volume 6 (Peloton Publishing, 2015)
Paul Halpern, Einstein’s Dice and Schrödinger’s Cat (Basic Books, 2015)
Alan Lightman, Einstein’s Dream (Corsair, 2012)
George Monbiot, Feral (Penguin, 2014)
Marianne Moore, Observations (Farrar, Strauss & Giroux, 2016)
Claudia Rankine, Citizen (Penguin, 2015)
Douglas Rushkoff, Throwing Rocks at the Google Bus (Portfolio Penguin, 2016)

Sarah Bakewell, At the Existentialist Café (Chatto & Windus, 2016)
Seamus Heaney, Human Chain (Faber & Faber, 2012)
Milan Kundera, The Festival of Insignificance (Faber & Faber, 2016)
David Mitchell, The Bone Clocks (Sceptre, 2015)
Alan Moore, Do Design (Do Book Company, 2016)
Max Porter, Grief is the Thing with Feathers (Faber & Faber, 2015)
James Rebanks, A Shepherd’s Life (Penguin, 2016)
James Sallis, Night’s Pardons (Five Oaks Press, 2016)

Jan Carlzon, Moments of Truth (Ballinger Publishing, 1987)
Don DeLillo, Zero K (Picador, 2016)
Patrick Kingsley, How to be Danish (Short Books, 2013)
Ian Leslie, Born Liars (Quercus, 2012)
Henrik Norbrandt, When We Leave Each Other (Open Letter, 2013)
Philip Parker, The Northmen’s Fury (Vintage, 2015)
Robert Penn, The Man Who Made Things Out of Trees (Particular Books, 2015)
James Sallis, Willnot (No Exit Press, 2016)
E. F. Schumacher, Small is Beautiful (Vintage, 2011)
Steve Strid & Claes Andréasson, The Viking Manifesto (Marshall Cavendish, 2007)

Anonymous, The Poetic Edda (Oxford University Press, 2014)
Julian Barnes, Keeping an Eye Open (Jonathan Cape, 2015)
Jessica Helfand, Design (Yale University Press, 2016)
Idra Novey, Ways to Disappear (Daunt Books, 2016)
Michael Puett & Christine Gross-Loh, The Path (Viking, 2016)
Helen Russell, A Year of Living Danishly (Icon, 2016)
Matthew Syed, Black Box Thinking (John Murray, 2015)

Michael Booth, The Almost Nearly Perfect People (Vintage, 2015)
Patrick DeWitt, The Sisters Brothers (Granta, 2011)
Kyna Leski, The Storm of Creativity (MIT Press, 2015)
Charly Wegelius & Tom Southam, Domestique (Ebury Press, 2014)

Marcelo Gleiser, The Simple Beauty of the Unexpected (ForeEdge, 2016)
Ian Goldin & Chris Kutarna, Age of Discovery (Bloomsbury, 2016)
Dave Gray, Liminal Thinking (Two Waves Books, 2016)
Michel Houellebecq, The Map and the Territory (Vintage, 2012)
David Mitchell, Slade House (Sceptre, 2016)
Richard Sennett, The Craftsman (Penguin, 2009)

Manuel Castells, Networks of Outrage and Hope (Polity, 2015, 2nd ed.)
Harold Jarche, Working in Perpetual Beta (Tantramar Interactive, 2016)
Ian McEwan, Nutshell (Jonathan Cape, 2016)
David Millar, The Racer (Yellow Jersey Press, 2015)

Sean Bonney, Letters Against the Firmament (Enitharmon Press, 2015)
Lauren Elkin, Flâneuse (Chatto & Windus, 2016)
Ernest Hemingway, The First Forty-Nine Stories (Arrow Books, 2004)
Jennifer Kronovet, The Wug Test (Ecco Press, 2016)
Ian McEwan, The Children Act (Vintage, 2015)
Sharon Olds, Odes (Jonathan Cape, 2016)
Sharon Olds, Stag’s Leap (Jonathan Cape, 2012)
Alice Oswald, Dart (Faber & Faber, 2010)
Grayson Perry, The Descent of Man (Allen Lane, 2016)
Rebecca Solnit, The Faraway Nearby (Granta, 2014)
Rebecca Solnit, Hope in the Dark (Haymarket Books, 2015, 3rd ed.)
Ali Smith, How to be Both (Penguin, 2015)
Kate Tempest, Brand New Ancients (Picador, 2013)
Kate Tempest, Hold Your Own (Picador, 2014)
Kate Tempest, Let Them Eat Chaos (Picador, 2016)
William Carlos Williams, Selected Poems (Penguin, 2000)
Hanif Willis-Abdurraqib, The Crown Ain’t Worth Much (Button Poetry/Exploding Pinecone Press, 2016)

Margaret Atwood, Hag-Seed (Hogarth, 2016)
Paul Beatty, The Sellout (Oneworld, 2016)
Jane Clarke, The River (Bloodaxe Books, 2015)
James Gleick, Time Travel (Pantheon Books, 2016)
Deborah Levy, Hot Milk (Hamish Hamilton, 2016)
Emma Sedlak, What Slight Gaps Remain (Blue Hour Press, 2016)
Nathan Ward, The Lost Detective (Bloomsbury, 2015)
Arnold Weinstein, Northern Arts (Princeton University Press, 2011)

Intermittent dips throughout the year
Jorge Luis Borges, Collected Fictions (Penguin, 1998)
T. S. Eliot, The Poems of T. S. Eliot, Volumes I & II (Faber & Faber, 2015)
Ted Hughes, Collected Poems (Faber & Faber, 2003)
W. S. Merwin, Migration (Copper Canyon Press, 2005)

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