If you haven’t already read it, part one of this post is here.
The Fire From Within – Carlos Castaneda (10/10)
This is one of the books I enjoyed most in 2016, even though some of the content was repeated from Castaneda’s previous works. It follows some of the later parts of his shamanic training, in which he learns some complex ideas about heightened awareness and the state of being he is aiming towards. You can read my full review here.
Echo Volume 1: Approaching Shatter – Kent Wayne (6/10)
This is the first part of a dystopian science fiction novel written by fellow WordPress blogger Kent Wayne. It has a promising storyline and is engaging and well written. My only issue with it is that this part is too short to really form a clear opinion. I am aware that part two (and maybe three) is already available, so I will be sure to read more of this in 2017.
Hideous Gnosis – Nicola Masciandro et al. (2/10)
Hideous Gnosis is a collection of essays analysing the Black Metal music genre. I found it a very hard going, despite having both a strong background in philosophy and appreciation of the genre. There were some interesting ideas hidden in there, but on the whole it was unnecessarily dense and poorly written. My full review is here.
The Cat Inside – William Burroughs (5/10)
This is a very short read. It is a collection of brief pieces of prose about cats, and the author’s relationship with them throughout his life. It is heart-warming, and shows a different facet to Burroughs than we are used to seeing, but I consider it to be a curiosity rather than an engaging read.
The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath (9/10)
I had been meaning to read this for a long time and finally got round to it this year. It is a semi-autobiographical story from the perspective of a girl with major depressive disorder. It does an extremely good job of showing how it feels to be on the inside of a depression in its various phases, and how it can come about seemingly from nowhere. I found The Bell Jar to be well written, engaging and emotional.
Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte (10/10)
Another book I have been meaning to read for years, but I am of the opinion that we unconsciously save books for when we are best able to benefit from them! Although this is not the usual genre I like to read, I absolutely loved Wuthering Heights. Not only does it demonstrate the attitudes towards class, race, mental health and gender of the time, but it is also deeply symbolic, and unintentionally shows so much about Jung’s anima theory.
The Brain – David Eagleman (5/10)
This book is a companion to a BBC television series about recent developments in neuroscience. It is written for the layman, and in short sections on different topics. It was interesting, and a straight forward read, but it didn’t teach me a lot that I hadn’t heard about before. I would have preferred a more in-depth approach.
Fluence – Stephen Oram (9/10)
A near-future dystopian novel about social media taking over to the degree that personal influence points replace currency, the class system and government. I found this very enjoyable, thought provoking and inspiring. You can read my full review here.
Notes from Underground – Fyodor Dostoyevsky (9/10)
The last of the existential novels I read this year. This one is short and in two distinct but related parts. I got a lot out of it, and it made a couple of concepts really click in my mind. Firstly the concept of rational and irrational parts of man being equally necessary, and secondly the absurd nature of spite and its constant presence in humanity.
The Divided Self – RD Laing (9/10)
This is a very interesting book that covers a lot in such a short space. It challenges the prevalent methods of treating psychosis, putting forward a well reasoned case for individual based therapy to discover root causes of mental illness, over and above the treatment of symptoms with medicines alone. Laing explains very clearly the ways in which schizophrenia might come about, and how it would feel to experience symptoms that distance us from the reality lived by the majority.
Blink – Malcolm Gladwell (4/10)
From the blurb, I was expecting this book to discuss the differences between decisions made in an instant and well-considered rationalised thought, perhaps with some scientific explanation as to where such ‘hunches’ come from. Instead, Blink read as a collection of anecdotes about times when snap decisions have and have not been beneficial. It is entertaining enough, but didn’t satisfy my curiosities.
Toxic Nursery – Carlie Martece (10/10)
Toxic Nursery is a semi-autobiographical coming of age story from the perspective of a girl with dissociative personality disorder, previously known as multiple personality disorder. From the first few pages it is colourful, funny, shocking, emotionally wrenching and endearing all at once. It also gives an insight into the attitudes to mental health in the UK, and the short-comings of available psychiatric treatment. My full review can be found here.
Them: Adventures with Extremists – Jon Ronson (8/10)
This is a light-hearted, humanistic look at some extreme attitudes held by various groups across the world. Journalist Jon Ronson spends quality time with members of the Ku Klux Klan and Aryan nations, along with conspiracy theorists, Christian fundamentalists and Islamic extremists. He takes a close look at the Bilderberg Group who supposedly rule the world from a secret room somewhere, and uncovers a truth of sorts. I reviewed this in full here.
I have also re-read a couple of favourites this year, which i haven’t listed because it felt like cheating! And I read half of Ulysses by James Joyce, but found it a struggle and have abandoned it for now. At the moment, I am reading the author’s preferred version of American Gods by Neil Gaiman, which I am really enjoying so far. I am also in the midst of C G Jung’s Red Book, finally. I have had the full folio version for years but found it physically difficult to read properly due to its size, and I now I have a copy of the reader’s edition. It is taking a little while because I am savouring it and allowing its contents to be absorbed wholly: it is so profoundly relevant to me, as I knew it would be.
My reading list is as long as ever with new things being added all the time, so who knows what 2017 will bring. My favourite contemporary author Steve Erickson has a new book out in February called ‘Shadowbahn’ which I am looking forward to, and Stephen Oram is soon to release a collection of short stories. But I plan to start with a few things I got on a recent trip to the occult bookstores of London, and with gifts received from family over the festive season. Here’s a peek: