Following last year´s experience (link here), which I enjoyed very much, in this post I list the books I read along 2018 with a comment or two about them.
Unfortunately, this year I did not manage to read as many books as in 2017, with 11 compared to 14 in 2017, but still the figure is better than two years ago, and almost a book per month.
Here I go with the list:
· Elon Musk (Jan). I started the year borrowing the book from sister Beatriz and I very much enjoyed it. I had written about Elon before (here) and I am a confessed admirer of what he has achieved and the purpose behind his enterprises. The book by Ashlee Vance provides good insight in his life and struggles, and how his companies work, not sparing interesting technical details on the developments of the famed Tesla electric cars and SpaceX rockets. I recommend it both for entrepreneurs and people working for large corporations and organizations. Still, after reading it (and somehow in line with my post about it) my conclusion would be: I would not work for him, but this world definitely needs more Elon Musks.
· Brave New World (Jan). The classic by Aldous Huxley, this book is, along with Orwell´s Nineteen-Eighty-Four, one of the most important dystopias ever written. With a more positive tone than the somber Orwell´s release, it is incredible how, being written in 1931, it could foreseen the advent of mechanistic and consumption societies, the propaganda, and the tensions between freedom and order. Entertaining to read and eye-opener.
· Last Expedition (Feb-Mar). The diary of Captain Scott in his quest for the South Pole between 1911 and 1912. Clearly not a master writer, and quite tedious in large passages, it is strange that this book was one of my highlights of the year. Apart from the controversy on whether Amundsen or Shackelton deserved more credit as explorers, the account day by day of the two years he spent in Antarctica builds up the tension to the final weeks until the death of his last crew and himself. I am still amazed how this person found words and moments to write as their friends were dying around him, keeping the discipline in such an extreme environment, until his very death. I really felt sadness reading those passages. A fantastic final account.
· Foundation Trilogy (Mar). I read the spanish version. Just fantastic. After the sad and mostly monotonous Last Expedition, I relaxed with one of the absolute classics of science fiction, written by Isaac Asimov between 1951 and 1953. The narration of the centuries of humanity evolving as “prescribed” by Hari Seldon´s Psicohistory is a chant to unrestrained fantasy. Fantastic plots and tension across ages, wit, imagination with great characters including the evil The Mule. A thrilling plot and better ending, written in 1953! I finally understood why the series were so famous. Hours and hours of child-like fun and, on the other hand, the principles of psicohistory so describing of the evolution of mankind, which I would sort of confirm with a later reading…
· Capital and the common Good. (April) My yearly study of the work of Georgia Levenson-Keoane, second after Social Entrepreneurship. Almost text book quality with study cases on environment, health, financial inclusion and disaster relief. Important concepts such as risk pooling and sharing, alignment of incentives that can be applied to many aspects in life. The link to my review is at the beginning of this paragraph. I will keep studying and researching in this field.
· The Better Angels of our Nature (May-Sept). By Steven Pinker. Guided by Bill Gate´s literary recommendations, I embarked in the reading of its more than 600 pages. I admit it took longer than expected. Some passages with tons of data made for an arid reading at times. But Bill´s conclusions, in my opinion, were right: monumental work of research to evidence the decline of violence of mankind, written with a clever structure. Mr.Pinker provides the data to support the theories behind the evolution and revolutions in three time scales: millenia, centuries and decades. Now a reference book for me to discuss on social and human evolution, I may read his other book “Enlightment Now”. Also guided by Mr. Gates comments about it…
· Foundation´s Edge (Sept-Oct). Asimov´s continuation of his Foundation trilogy. I read again the spanish translation during my holiday trip to China. Entertaining and very easy to read, I finished it before even getting to the half of the tour. The development of the psyschohistory continues. However, to me, the surprise effect compared to that of the trilogy is not as strong and the array of characters not as complete. I will continue reading the Foundation series but will give some time before resuming with it.
· The Picture of Dorian Grey (Oct-Nov). By Oscar Wilde. Maybe the most famous of the works of the irish writer. A thought provoking reflection on the limits of morality, with a narration in the edge of science fiction. I found it easy to read, enjoying the brilliant dialogues of the british victorian high society. Apart from the clever trick of the portrait ageing instead of young Mr Grey, I found much more interesting the character of Lord Henry. I discovered a challenger of the status quo, and the match that really fires this journey beyond political correctness.
· Fahrenheit 451 (Nov-Dec). By Ray Bradbury. Written in 1951 Fahrenheit completes, along with Huxley´s Brave New World and Orwell´s 1984 and Animal Farm, the set of most famous dystopias of the mid 20th century. It accompanies the inner troubles of fireman Guy Montag, who is part of a book-burning squad. In my view a bit too symbolic in the first third of the book, the narration soon evolves into a clever discussion of the value of literature and writing as a means to preserve knowledge and a critic eye on our hedonistic “fast-forward” societies. Full of clever dialogues and quotes, it shares with 1984 an imaginary world war in the background, allowing the final third of the book to adopt also an anti-belicist tone. I enjoyed more Brave New World as reader, but found more interesting teachings in this one. And this passage…
· Night (Dec). By Elie Wiesel. Last reading of the year, the mere 117 pages narration of Mr Wiesel´s passage in Auschwitz-Birkenau, Buna, and Buchenwald concentration camps, following deportation from Hungary in the end of World War II. With the stated purpose by the author to preserve the memory of what evil can do, I confronted this book with some fear of what I would read. After reading it I have mixed views. What I expected about the evil, in part a depiction of nazi tormenters, remains mostly absent in the narration. There are very few passages of torture or graphic violence, even if the monstrous Dr Mengele is mentioned in some chapters. The evil takes rather the form of the struggles of Mr Wiesel and the inner battle when compromising his most dear values (in regard with religion and compassion with others) for the sake of survival. Myself preferring visual works, I can think of Schindler´s List movie as a good example of a document with the same purpose of providing a vivid memory of that horror. However, one thing is unsurpassed: that text is autobiographic. The pain on those pages is just inimaginable. Never forget.
And again, for a 2019 with as many readings.
Credit to Jessica Ruscello on unsplash.com for the closing picture.
The opening one, taken by myself in the Trinity College Library during my visit for the Dublin Marathon (similar pictures of Trinity College Library can also be found on unsplash)