I wanted to do a round-up of all the books I read during 2016, because I haven’t reviewed them all. I try to review as many as I can, but I have to admit that it only feels worthwhile if I have something useful to say without giving spoilers. On the whole I have read some fantastic books lately, both fiction and non-fiction, with many of my list scoring 8 or above.
Quantum Confessions – Stephen Oram (8/10)
A well-written debut novel about a future in which objective reality, including both science and religion, is outlawed by a libertarian government with disastrous consequences. This book made quite an impact on me, and has since inspired some of my own work. See my full review here.
Raja Yoga – Swami Vivekananda (9/10)
I have been actively experimenting with Raja Yoga over the last couple of years. It is a method of observing and controlling the body and mind with the aim of tuning our own spiritual experience. It requires a lot of discipline and focus. This book is just 48 pages, but outlines very clearly the method and purpose of the practice. I’m sure I will read it again and again.
The Outsider – Albert Camus (6/10)
This is the first of four existential novels I read this year, and my least favorite though it is generally well loved. It is a short and straight forward read, and it poses some philosophical questions about the way man behaves and how he places his values. But it just didn’t make a huge impact on me. I have seen criticism of the particular translation I read, so I wonder whether that had anything to do with my experience with the book, as I had expected something greater.
The Secret Book of the Golden Flower – Richard Wilhelm/C G Jung (10/10)
This is an old text about esoteric physiology, Taoism and methods for unlocking inner spirituality through yoga and meditation. It is a treasure trove of hints, made even more poignant by the inclusion of C G Jung’s interpretation from a psychological perspective. It showed me where eastern and western philosophies meet, and gave deep insights into the Raja Yoga work I have been doing. Another book I will return to without a doubt.
Wisdom of Eosphoros: The Luciferian Philosophy – Michael W Ford (5/10)
I was intrigued by the Luciferian philosophy. It claims to be a spiritual path for the individual supporting both theistic and atheistic views, centred around the development of our own unique inner light. I was disappointed with this book because it read primarily as a criticism of mainstream religion, in particular of Christianity, without offering anything new to me in terms of philosophical concept. I also found it to be contradictory and inconsistent in parts. I still give this a 5 however, because it does serve as an introduction to the idea of a personal spirituality that not all readers might be familiar with.
The Queens Conjurer: The Science and magic of Dr John Dee – Benjamin Woolley (7/10)
John Dee was an English mathematician and advisor to Queen Elizabeth I. He had a broad range of knowledge, including astronomy and the occult. This is an interesting and well written biography, with insights into the nature of his relationship with Edward Kelley, who was either a talented medium or a fraud who helped Dee construct his famous Enochian system of magic.
Going Sane – Adam Philips (3/10)
The nature of sanity is a topic of great interest to me, and I had high hopes for this book. It let me down, purely because I found the writing style to be rambling and tedious. There are nevertheless some very thought provoking ideas here, and that has made me reconsider the slightly lower score I gave it in my full review here.
The Immoralist – Andre Gide (9/10)
The second of the existential novels I read this year, and I was much more fond of this one. It follows Michel, the protagonist, as he comes to terms with illness, morality and uniqueness outside of societal expectations. See the full review here.
Metaphysics: A Very Short Introduction (8/10)
This very much does what it says in the title: gives a concise introduction to the nature of metaphysical philosophy and its different branches. I found it very clear and accessible, and it gave me a good foundation for some other research on the topic I have done since.
The Elixir and the Stone – Michael Baigent (7/10)
This is a book about the history of Hermeticism in Europe, and how it was supplanted by modern religion and science. It is a straightforward and informative read, slanted in the favor of lost wisdom. There are also some essays on the effects of music on the soul, and the ways that hermetic magic continues to exist in our lives without us being conscious of it, which are interesting opinion pieces. You can read my full review here.
Rebels and Devils: The Psychology of Liberation – Christopher Hyatt et al. (8/10)
Rebels and Devils is a collection of essays, interviews, poems and short stories on the theme of mind expansion. There are some big names included such as Aleister Crowley, Timothy Leary, Robert Anton Wilson and Israel Regardie. Although I didn’t enjoy every segment, it is well worth a read for anyone wanting to break free from the consensus reality tunnel and have some fun in the process. I reviewed this book in full here.
The Bricks that Built the Houses – Kate Tempest (6/10)
This is the first novel written by the award winning poet and spoken word artist Kate Tempest. I am a fan of her work, and in places this book had the wonderful prose I was expecting. The characters are real and she makes some good cultural observations, but unfortunately the plot wasn’t quite developed enough for my liking. My full review is here.
Nausea – Jean Paul Satre (10/10)
This is easily my favorite of the four existential novels I read this year. It shows so perfectly the nature of the philosophy, and the problems of meaning faced by man without a higher spiritual authority than himself. It highlights the absurdity of everyday life, and the place of love, art and morality. The full review is here.
The Twenty-Four Hour Mind – Rosalind Cartwright (9/10)
This is an insightful book about the role of sleep in our lives. It explains for the layman the scientific theory and experimentation methods used, and goes into detail on a few case studies where sleep patterns have caused serious problems in health and law. The author also talks about her own thoughts on the way dreams affect our emotional recovery and processing. I have reviewed this book in full here.
Please continue reading my 2016 book list in Part Two…