I read a combination of fiction and non-fiction, classics and little known works. Frequently they have quotes or ideas that I would love to reflect on or share.
In the more than 400 years since he wrote his first play, Shakespeare has been re-worked, adapted, and performed in a wide variety of settings. His plays have become a source of inspiration and a marker of culture. They’ve even made it into the Star Wars universe.
I’ve known about William Shakespeare’s Star Wars for a while, but it wasn’t till last year that I finally picked up the
first fourth one, Verily, A New Hope. I expected it just to be a joke, but quickly realised it was a serious work. Yes, it made me laugh, but it also made me think - and I find that’s usually a good combination.
“Elementary, my dear Watson!”
I was on a train in the Bernese Oberland, a German speaking part of Switzerland, and the words were English, and yet they didn’t feel out of place. Because I too was on a pilgrimage in search of Sherlock Holmes.
At the start of January I had a list of books that made an impression on me in 2020. However, I didn’t quite get to writing it up (just like last year!). It seemed right to finish it by the 2021 halfway point (where does the time go?). Maybe I’ll be more timely with 2021 books in 2022.
Leaf by Niggle is probably the J.R.R. Tolkien short story that I have read or listened to the most. My view of it has changed over the years, most significantly shortly after deconverting when I realised my vision was fundamentally different from Tolkien’s. But I continue to love it and it continues to influence me.
A few years back, after Harry Potter 20th anniversary celebrations, I wrote about how fiction can be life changing. This is true in general, but there are particular stories that I strongly remember affecting my view of the world, sometimes in ways that I doubt the author intended.
At the end of 2019 I had a list of books that made an impression on me that year, but never got round to writing them up. Since 2020 is now half over, it’s time to fix that.
I guarantee this list was completed December last year, and doesn’t contain any clever additions like Pandemic Preparedness for Dummies or The Traveller’s Guide to Cancelling Everything and Staying at Home.
Here are some books that made an impression on me in 2018.
Here are some books that made an impression on me in 2017.
Last weekend, I attended a Harry Potter Day at Federation Square, organised as part of the Melbourne Writers Festival. It celebrated 20 years since the initial publication of the Philosopher’s Stone, and considered how much the series had changed the world. Many of those there were not even born when the books were first published, and yet current evidence suggests they are now ardent fans. There were costumes galore, wands, and a general buzz of excitement.
Fiction changes lives.
In this post I’d like to reflect on what it means to have a child-like faith, and what we as dignified, grown-up, rational adults can learn from it.
In my last post, I talked of things that I had seen hiking, and of the confidence shown by children who had written letters to Winnie-the-Pooh or to the fairies. This post is a little more serious, since I’ve been sidetracked onto an important theme: the importance and power of fiction in real life. With the power of the Internet and social media there are fan clubs everywhere, and sometimes it is hard to draw the boundary between the fictional groups and “real life”. I’ve stuck to a couple of examples following the “letters” theme and a personal example, but it’s really just scratching the surface.
I listen to a lot of audiobooks. Sometimes people ask me “Have you read this book?”, and my overly literal mind wants to reply “No, but I’ve listened to it.”
Books have always been an important part of how I understand and connect with the world. Here are some books that made an impression on me in 2016.