Every year I record each and every book that I read. Whether non-fiction, a novel, a memoir, a collection of stories, various anthologies or books of poetry. I record them so I can easily recommend a gem as well as to simply remind myself where I found something interesting or wonderful. There’s a slight competitive edge to it as well, trying to score a high number, with my personal best being 55 books in 2009. Usually it ends up somewhere in the 30s, and an average page count of 300 or so. 2015 surprised me in my reaching only 28 books, the third straight year my count had dropped, but more so, there were hardly any novels read – at least ones that make my Top Picks of in terms of their impact on me, as shown below. The handful of fiction I did read was enjoyable, though none were truly impactful so I’ve left them out of my list because there was little more to say than that I had fun reading them. It would be like going out of my way to say how lovely a meal was without any surrounding details.
The Element, Ken Robinson (272 pages)
Ken Robinson is a renowned PhD holder and lecturer. I believe he is a tenured professor at Cambridge, but I could be wrong on the specific university. He is widely known as a critic of current education systems and you simply have to google his Ted talk from 2009 or even “Top Ted Talks” as it is in the top 10 of all time for certain. He is humorous as well as insightful and this book is incredibly exciting to read. It will give hope to those who feel in any way unsure or unsatisfied with their ability to think in different situations or those who are raising children and want to know how best to guide them to be the best they can be.
The Shock Doctrine, Naomi Klein (466 pages)
Quoting this book will most likely make people think you are a conspiracy theorist or a depressing and virulent cynic. This book very clearly and loudly attacks capitalism, so it can turn people away, however, she offers no counter solutions. Thus, the reality of the 450+ page treatise is more akin to a medical diagnosis replete with historical precedents and congruous with clear consequences of reckless habits. Rather than shy away from any discussion about economics and history because the regular narrative is that there is Capitalism and there is Communism, and that is all. This book examines how Capitalism has been taken advantage of and it has already spun out of control throughout the years, simply not noticeably in the west. There is a lot of history and it clearly took her close to a decade to compile the various interviews and reports based on mountains of data to paint a clear picture of various nuances of the rise of a style of economic aggression which has little regard for the people and which blatantly lies.
Thinking Fast and Slow, Daniel Kahneman (418 pages)
This book is a little more easy going for those interested in psychology and/or anthropology. The core of the treatise is on how human brains will have a conscious and an unconscious brain, yet stubbornly give credit for their decisions or behaviour to their conscious brain, when in fact, we do many things on instinct, so to speak – our brains seek to find the easiest possible solution to exercise the least effort. Dry in parts, but very worth reading.
Sex, Drugs and Rock ’n’ Roll, Zoe Cormier (278 pages)
I can’t begin to do this book justice. Zoe Cormier is part of a group of new-wave anthropologists and scientist who concoct creative experiments to see how our bodies work. This is (as lame as it may sound) fun and young science. Frequently doing experiments and interactive stalls at music festivals, Cormier and ‘Guerilla Science’ are rapidly building a reputation for pushing boundaries and rather than be prudish and sterile about how our world works, this book states the obvious fact that these 3 things are very important to humans (it doesn’t have to be rock’n’roll, but Sex, Drugs & Music lacks the iconic ring). If you want to know if there’s a reason, then this book gives you a hearty serving of factual reasons why they matter, and how they interact with each other, and possibly, ways which could move our global society forward. I read this book very fast indeed, and I wasn’t on speed, I swear.
The Flash of Lightning Behind The Mountain, Charles Bukowski, (397 pages)
Having already read every one of Bukowski’s novels in the previous years, I dove into his poetry and short story collections in 2015. This one stood out and while it is hard to define his poetry, or even to assign it to categories or periods, identified by stylistic peaks and troughs, he is resilient in grabbing your mind. Many poems will flow almost pointlessly through narratives toward another drunken party gone awry or a vilification of a more horrendous human than he the poet who hates poets. Yet, unsuspecting as you are in the very readable prose, you’ll be hit by a masterful insight or delicious composition of words. Bukowski is too many things to try to describe, just like life I suppose.
A History of the Cuban Revolution, Aviva Chomsky (197 pages)
Yes, she is the daughter of Noam motherfucking Chomsky. Therefore the book is unsympathetic to the history of US foreign policy as you’d expect, but moreover, Aviva has a doctorate in History, having taught in numerous universities including Harvard, with her specialty being Caribbean and Latin American History and economics. I think you can safely say she got street cred. After my 2 week holiday around Cuba, it was perfect to read this for context based on what I learned through tour guides, locals, and observations whilst there. There is a timeline that exposes how much propaganda has been fed into the common narrative of the revolution and state of Cuban economics and policies. It’s the best introduction to Cuba I have found so far because of her detailed breakdown throughout the decades, with reference to the international repercussions and beginnings of incidents such as the missile crisis and refugees throughout the years.