Books! Books! And additional books! (2013 edition)

2013 recommended booksIt must be the end of the year, because here’s one of those navel-gazing, end-of-year-list blog posts.

These are the books I completed during 2013, broken down into three categories (fiction, non-fiction other than theology, and theology), and listed within each category in approximate order of completion. I’ve also identified the two books from each category that I would particularly recommend. Each book title links to my comments (if any) on the book as posted on my Tumblr.


Recommendations: Anna Karenina, The Handmaid’s Tale.

Currently reading: Tell Me How Long The Train’s Been Gone, by James Baldwin.

Comments: Given that I tend to read more non-fiction that fiction, this has been a pretty good year by my standards. In particular I finally got round to reading three novels that I’ve been wanting to read (and that my wife has been recommending to me) for ages: Anna Karenina, The Handmaid’s Tale and Possession. None of them disappointed. A Canticle for Leibowitz is less “literary”, but will stay with me a long time.


Recommendations: Cultural Amnesia, My Traitor’s Heart.

Currently reading: God’s Philosophers, by James Hannam.

Comments: Some really good stuff in there. Vanished Kingdoms, The Fatal Shore, Iron Curtain and The Tragedy of Liberation could also have made it into my recommendations. But the standout book of the year for me – the one that has done most to change how I think, I suspect (and hope) permanently – was Clive James’s love letter to humanism, Cultural Amnesia.


Recommendations: The Cloister Walk, Unapologetic.

Currently reading: Evangelii Gaudium, by Pope Francis; The Birth of the Messiah, by Raymond E. Brown.

Comments: A bit of a mixed bag, this. I should probably resolve to be a little more focused and disciplined next year (“Good luck with that…”). The first half dozen books reflect the Lutheran/Benedictine crossover that is probably the most accurate location for where my spiritual tent is currently pitched.

Overall, the really big hole this year across all categories is the absence of any poetry. It’s not that I didn’t read any, but that I didn’t “finish” any poetry books. Still, something to rectify next year, perhaps.


13 thoughts on “Books! Books! And additional books! (2013 edition)”

  1. I’ve never thought of poetry books as something that you “finish”. I regularly dip into a variety of poetry books, include the Oxford Book of Verse and Palgrave’s “Golden Treasury”, neither of which I can imagine reading from cover to cover! I did read “A Shropshire Lad” all the way through – so there is always an exception.
    Thanks to you I am slowly making my way through “Unaplogetics” and “Cultural Amnesia”. The latter throws up so many scents to follow that it takes several months to get through a single chapter. And, of course, “The Cloister Walk”.
    I would add “The Rule of St Benedict” to a reading list. I’ve followed the daily readings and found them very ponderable.

    1. Hi, thanks for the comment. Yes, that’s why I put “finish” in quotation marks. But I would probably still do well to read more poetry in 2014 (as I have in previous years; 2013 a bit of an aberration).

      I devoured Cultural Amnesia without much pause, but have been following up ever since and will no doubt continue to do so: eg Stefan Zweig, Frank Dikötter’s books on Mao.

      Good reminder re the Rule, too.

    1. Oh, I’m terrible for that. As for keeping note of what I read: I found that Tumblr worked well for me (having had several abortive attempts with stuff like Goodreads and, er, notebooks). I tag each post with “reading” so that I can easily find them later.

      Unlike Goodreads, Tumblr doesn’t sit there, every time I log on, silently judging me with all the books I’ve started but haven’t finished.

      1. I bought myself a Hobbit-themed Moleskine and have been wondering what to do with it; logging my books-read for 2014 sounds a splendid idea.

  2. I love that you acknowledge you have a theological tent, and that it is not always in the same location. My tent is pitched on sand, and slides a few paces left, right, north and south, over and over again. Sometimes I feel guilty about this, but I just think too much to build a theological house. Is that bad?

    1. If it is, we’re both in the same boat. 🙂

      Anyway, I take some comfort from recalling Luther’s “Tower Experience” wasn’t the discovery that “the righteous shall live by their accurate and stable theological opinions”…

  3. John,

    I am writing a paper that is comparing the novels, The Handmaid’s Tale and A Canticle for Leiobowitz. I have already written the paper but would love for someone to review it. If there is any way I could email it to you for a review that would be great.


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