12 of what I’ve read this year:
The Genesis of Neo-Kantianism, 1796-1880. Frederick Beiser. Beiser is an essential read and this is a great and readable book about an important sub-field of continental philosophy. It includes, for the Beckett fans amongst us, a chapter on Windelband, one of whose books Beckett read and from which he made copious notes.
After Hegel : German Philosophy, 1840-1900 Frederick Beiser. This is a tight little philosophy book about what went on after Hegel in Germany – sometimes the way people talk you’d think there was little of interest between Hegel and the twentieth century – well, this is a great little read and has some surprising women in the mix too that I’d never heard of. As always, a quick-witted and enormously erudite book by one of the best philosophers of this sub-field. Read anything you can get hold of by him. Incredibly good.
Chernobyl Prayer : A Chronicle of the Future. Svetlana Alexievich. Perhaps the most moving read I’ve had since Nadezhda Mandelstam’s Hope Against Hope many years ago. If there was just one book that I’d urge others to read it would be this. It’s a necessary book. There aren’t many of those.
Second-Hand Time. Svetlana Alexievich. A detonating insight into what former citizens of the Soviets are thinking. Unsettles glib judgments about reading itself, among other things, and gives a deeper backcloth for assessing Putin’s Russia.
One : Being an Investigation into the Unity of Reality and of its Parts, Including the Singular Object Which is Nothingness. Grahame Priest. I read this early on in the year. Priest is our leading paraconsistent logician and dialetheist(he thinks contradictions exist) and this is a fascinating book about where this view leaves us.
Constructing the World . David Chalmers. Only just making my way through this. This is an incredible book really, an attempt to do philosophy in the grand style, constructing a huge system of everything via Carnap’s initial attempt at analytical empiricism.
Nietzsche on Morality. Brian Leiter. A classic of Nietzsche studies and updated this year, it’s a model of how continental philosophy should be done. Leiter reads Nietzsche carefully and argues with clarity, precision and a nimble enjoyment of Nietzsche’s wickedness.
The Combinations. Louis Armand. A gargantuan book, set in Prague, one of those plenum giants that continue to intrigue well after the reading has stopped.
I hate the Internet. Jarett Kobak. Kobak’s dirty little bomb of a book, detonating a herd of sacred cows.
Blindspots. Roy Sorensen. Sorensen is one of my favourite philosophers, effortlessly turning thoughts to paradox and epistemological limits through imaginative philosophy of language. I reread this recently and it seemed as fresh and productive as it was when I first came across it. Philosophical twists at the highest level.
Blue Octavo Notebooks. Franz Kafka. I read these near the end of the year and it was like reading the complete works in miniature. Terrifying and alarmingly affecting.
Dostoevsky : The Years of Ordeal, 1850-1859. Joseph Frank. I heard Frank on the radio in about 1975 talking about Dostoevsky and his attempt to write the good man into literature. His Dostoevsky biography is a towering achievement, as the cliche has it. I read this volume this year and as always was amazed. Read with the Alexievich it remains immensely important and prescient as Putin’s brand of old-style Russian Nationalism begins to erupt.
The Collected Poems of Samuel Beckett. edited by Sean Lawloe and John Pilling. Beckett’s poems get a mixed reaction from readers but his translations of Eluard are wonderful. This is a great volume with superb footnotes to help navigation through the turmoils.
First posted: Friday, December 23rd, 2016.