A 2017 Book Report

Every year I like to take a look back on what I’ve read and size up my literary diet for the past twelve months. Normally I do this on Twitter, but I’m going to start doing it here instead so it’s more permanent. Self-indulgent? Yes, but I don’t care. I’m the absolute monarch of my web log.

According to LibraryThing I’ve read forty books this year, but that’s not quite accurate because it doesn’t include Frankenstein, which I got via Project Gutenberg, nor does it count any of Plato’s dialogues. Few of those are book-length anyway, though, so I’ll set them aside. There were also Edgar Allan Poe’s poems, which may not quite add up to a book anyway, and the Book of Documents, which was too old for LT to have. So, we’ll say forty-two books for 2017.

Of these, five were novels, with Tim O’Brien’s The Things they Carried being the best, though it’s also one I’ve read previously.

Another five were collections of poetry, by Sappho, Pindar, Hesiod, Catullus, and the anonymous authors of the Book of Odes. Hesiod was my favourite, and probably best, as well.

Twenty-two were non-fiction of one sort or another. Five were history, albeit somewhat broadly defined, including Xenophon’s Anabasis, Yuri Pines’s The Everlasting Empire, Pat Buchanan’s Nixon’s White House WarsThe Book of Documents, and Rodney Stark’s God’s Battalions. All are very good, but Xenophon was my favourite new (to me) author of the year, so I’ll give him the prize. If we count that more as a memoir, which admittedly may be more reasonable, anyway, then give the prize to Mr. Stark.

Of the non-fiction odds and ends, they can’t really be compared together, but Arika Okrent’s In the Land of Invented Languages was the year’s surprise hit and the most enjoyable.

I read six graphic novels, all of them simply volumes in continuing series: Suetsugu Yuki’s Chihayafuru, Koume Keito’s adaptation of Spice & Wolf, and Kio Shimoku’s Genshiken: Second Season. Though all three are decent enough that I’ve continued to follow them, I’d only recommend the first unless you’re a fan of the other two franchises.

That leaves two art books, The Art of the Wind Rises and Groundwork of Evangelion 2.0, of which I’d recommend the first, and the second only to the type of person who’d buy it regardless of recommendations (though it’s not bad). That leaves one book of divination and commentary in the Book of Changes, which I admit I’ll have to revisit later, and the neat novelty purchase The Nintendo 64 Anthology.

Finally, since I do have a Letterboxd account and can thus easily keep track of these things, I also watched twenty-seven films this year, including a few rewatches. Yeah, not all that many, but that’s why this is primarily a book blog that only covers movies on a whim. Anyway, award for the best new (to me) movie goes to… let’s go with The Hobbit, mostly because I’m going to give this award to an animated film 90% of the time, with honourable mentions for The Kingdom of Dreams and MadnessThe Last Unicorn, and Throne of Blood for having the most metal title.

So, there you have it. I reviewed most but not all of what I read this year, but you can find a round-up of the year’s reviews in my previous post. There’s also, of course, the Highlights and Reviews Index, or if you’re just looking for something to read yourself and want to stick with the best of the best, try out the Recommended Reading page.


  1. Gregorius Wilhelm

    First off. Your web log is great.
    Here’s what I read in 2017.
    – Colleen McCulloughMasters of Rome Series. It is incredibly well researched and brings the fall of the Roman Republic to life in vivid detail and living characters.
    – Some awful Phillippa Gregory book about Jane, Catherine and Mary Grey. The depiction of Elizabeth was laughable.

    Poetry –
    Goethe’s Faust – An absolute Masterpiece. I think an excerpt is appropriate.

    “In the beginning was the Word.” I read.
    But here I stick! Who helps me to proceed?
    The Word—so high I cannot—dare not, rate it,
    I must, then, otherwise translate it,
    If by the spirit I am rightly taught.
    It reads: “In the beginning was the thought.”
    But study well this first line’s lesson,
    Nor let thy pen to error overhasten!
    Is it the thought does all from time’s first hour?
    “In the beginning,” read then, “was the power.”
    Yet even while I write it down, my finger
    Is checked, a voice forbids me there to linger.
    The spirit helps! At once I dare to read
    And write: “In the beginning was the deed.”

    -Hiedeggar’s What is Metaphysics?
    -Schopenhaur’s Complete Essays – I would highly recommend this whether one has read his other works or not. This one contains his notorious essay “On Women”.
    -The first four volumes of Hume’s History of England from the Time of Julius Caesar to The Reign of William and Mary- Excellent. I’ve read Hume’s philosophy before but I had no idea he was such a wonderful historian. It is very readable. Hume shows great wit and penetration throughout. Even better, he doesn’t regurgitate the Whig lies about the English Civil War and afterward. I have about 600 pages left.

    I must admit, I’m a bit ashamed that I’ve never read Xenophon. I’ll have to fix that this year.

    • Richard Carroll

      Thanks for your comment, and that’s a good list. If you haven’t read it already, you should look up Christopher Marlowe’s Dr. Faustus. It’s also very good, and it’s interesting to compare his version of the story to Goethe’s, especially the ending.

  2. Gregorius Wilhelm

    I’ve read Marlowe’s when I was younger. I should go back and read it again. I love Goethe’s version, likely because I read it more as a strange philosophical text than a play. I don’t think anyone has ever encapsulated the Modern World into the written word the way Goethe did in Faust.

    I forgot to list my re-reads of Nietzsche. That was Genealogy of Morals and Beyond Good and Evil. I also read most of a book on the Philosophy of Alfred North Whitehead. Some of the science and math were beyond me. It was still interesting though.

    I watched Throne of Blood this year too. Great movie. I also watched Yojimbo. One of my favorites. I watched Admiral. A Russian film about Admiral Kolchak and the Russian Civil. Pretty cool to see a Russian film that is pro-Whites.

    Spice and Wolf is great.
    I don’t think I read any graphic novels or manga this year.

    Have you read Vagabond (about Miyamoto Musashi) and Blade of the Immortal?
    These are my two favorite manga. Especially Blade, with the beautiful hand drawn art. I cried at the ending too.


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