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Archive for January, 2008

Reading for 2007

It was a slow year for reading in 2007, perhaps the slowest in more than a decade. However, I did manage to read a number of interesting books and plan ahead for a more intensive reading schedule for 2008.

  1. Kevin Bazzana (2005) – Wondrous Strange: The Life and Art of Glenn Gould
  2. Kim Stanley Robinson (2004) – Forty Signs of Rain
  3. Kim Stanley Robinson (2005) – Fifty Degrees Below
  4. Kim Stanley Robinson (2007) – Sixty Days and Counting
  5. Lawrence Osborne (2005) – The Accidental Connoisseur: An Irreverent Journey Through the Wine World
  6. Dennis McNally (2002) – A Long Strange Trip: An Inside History of the Grateful Dead
  7. Barney Hoskyns (1993) – Across the Great Divide: The Band and America
  8. Henry David Thoreau (1854) – Walden
  9. Henry David Thoreau (1849) – Civil Disobedience
  10. Ted Schredd (1996) – The Cycling Adventures of Coconut Head: A North American Odyssey
  11. Lester Bangs (2003) – Main Lines, Blood Feasts, and Bad Taste: A Lester Bangs Reader
  12. Lorenzo Valla (1517) – The Falsely-Believed and Forged Donation of Constantine
  13. Lorenzo Valla (1440) – The Profession of the Religious
  14. Charles Wilkins (2004) – Walk to New York
  15. George Plimpton (2005) – Ernest Shackelton
  16. Jon Ronson (2002) – Them: Adventures with Extremists
  17. Robert Hunter and Robert Keziere (2004) – The Greenpeace To Amchitka: An Environmental Odyssey
  18. Daniel Poliquin (2007) – A Secret Between Us
  19. Kembrew McLeod (2005) – Freedom of Expression: Overzealous Copyright Bozos and Other Enemies of Creativity
  20. Shirley Teasdale (2000) – Hiking Ontario’s Heartland
  21. Eric Enno Tamm (2004) – Beyond the Outer Shores
  22. Ian Carr (1999) – Miles Davis: The Definitive Biography
  23. Philip Freeman (2005) – Running the Voodoo Down: The Electric Music of Miles Davis
  24. Bill Bryson (1998) – A Walk in the Woods
  25. Harold Bloom (1995) – The Western Canon: The Books and School of the Ages
  26. Michael Ondaatje (2007) – Divisadero
  27. Michel Finkielkraut (1995) – The Defeat of the Mind
  28. Homer (c. 700 BC) – The Iliad
  29. Homer (c. 700 BC) – The Odyssey
  30. William Marsden (2007) – Stupid to the Last Drop: How Alberta Is Bringing Environmental Armageddon to Canada (And Doesn’t Seem to Care)
  31. Jimmy McDonough (2003) – Shakey

My favorite read for 2007 was Beyond The Outer Shores, Eric Enno Tamm’s insightful and illuminating biography of ecological pioneer and polymath Ed Ricketts. The book’s tagline mentioned Ricketts as an inspiration for John Steinbeck and Joseph Campbell, and this is what initially caught my attention (being a fan of Campbell). Tamm demonstrates how Rickett’s personal philosophy and humanist outlook inspired them both. In particular, the “Doc” character of Cannery Row was directly modeled on Ricketts.

A biologist with the outlook of a philosopher and the heart of a poet, Ricketts lived a fascinating yet shortened life, never receiving his due recognition as a scientist and thinker until well after his death. His environmental philosophy permeated the works of Steinbeck in the late 1930s. In this way, The Grapes of Wrath can be read as a warning against anthropogenic environmental degradation, and Cannery Row read as a human reflection of the diversity of tidepools. Likewise, his revolutionary work on the western American and Canadian shores remains influential to this day. Tamm’s book is a fantastic read that brings to light the life and spirit of a true Renaissance Man.

A close runner-up for my favourite book in 2007 was Divisadero. Another sublime read by Ondaatje that, as the title implies, examines the divisions (intentional, unintentional, emotional, physical, and geographical, among others) within the interweaving lives of seemingly disparate characters. Ondaatje’s elegant prose is the highlight, providing just enough illumination while leaving room for open-ended interpretations.

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