Friday, January 3, 2014

Bookeywookey's bookish plans for 2014

After the look back at the past year (here and here) it is time to look ahead at some of the reading to come in 2014 (theoretically).

Nate Silver's 2012 The Signal and the Noise is a look at the application of statistics to everyday prediction making and how data is converted into knowledge.

Chrystia Freeland, a finance journalist, writes about the increasing gap between the rich and the poor. in the U.S., the consolidation of power into the hands of fewer and fewer persons across the globe, even as we continue to holler the word 'democracy' and try to sell it to the highest bidder. 

A companion piece to the above, Mark Mizruchi's book, argues that the influence of America's CEO's has changed since World War II from a consolidated force driven by civic responsibility to a fragmented group uninterested in using their power to tackle the "big issues." 

I'm really looking forward to Robert Page's synthesis of the work uncovering the genetic and physiological mechanisms which underlie bees' collective societies and how their social behavior evolved.

British social historian Theodore Zeldin wrote in 1994 about the forces that shape humanity in what is meant to be a ranging, unsentimental, and learned volume.

The thesis of Ian Buruma's latest, Year Zero, is that 1945 was the founding year of our modern era.  His narrative has a dual focus on world events and on the biography of his father, who was imprisoned by the Nazis, spending much of World War II in Berlin.

This book was a gift from a friend and colleague in celebration of the completion of my PhD.  I love it when a friend is willing to pick a book to give as a gift instead of giving a bookstore gift card.  Described as a  seductive love story, a satirical epic about the middle class, a comedy about the interior world of a cuckold,  like Joyce, Baron Munchhausen, and the Marx Brothers, this work, published in 1968, is now considered a classic.  I can't wait!

Alberto Moravia's Contempt was the basis of a Jean-Luc Goddard film.  It is rumored to be a "caustic dispatch from one man's self-made hell." While this isn't likely to be a laugh-riot, it is meant to be psychologically astute and an unflinching look at a failing marriage.

I was introduced to the writing of James Purdy when his collected stories came out in 2013.  I haven't actually decided which of his novels to read first, but this one about the dual forces of creativity and self-destructiveness in a mother and daughter is drawing me.  His prose is astonishingly plain and clear - Jo Ann Beard and Joan Didion both came to mind as I dipped into it, which is promising.

I have really enjoyed some of Kathryn Davis's strange, other-worldly novels, so I am hopeful about Duplex which apears to be part social examination of suburbia, part time-travel.  Hmmmm.

The winner of the 2013 Man Booker Prize, The Luminaries, by New Zealander Eleanor Catton may be up next.  I am chomping at the bit to start this 800-page saga - part mystery, part 19th century nautical novel, part adventure, part ghost story. 

Ah, so many books, so many plans.  I wish you all a 2014 full of curiosity and wonder, fueled by good reading.


Thomas Hogglestock said...

Odd for me, but I think I am more interested in your non-fiction list.

Ted said...

Hi Thomas - Happy New Year. I had meant to also include a new biography of Mussorgsky I saw at 3 Lives bookstore. It looked really interesting but I didn't find it on line anywhere.

Danielle said...

You have a very intriguing pile of books to start off the new year with. Lots of very thought provoking material! I'm curious about Plutocrats--it looks good as well as Year Zero. Alberto Moravia is someone I have heard many good things about and mean to read him, though I will admit I am maybe more drawn to Elsa Morante (whose book, History, sits half read on my bedside pile!). I have a biography of her as well. Best wishes for 2014 and happy reading!

Ted said...

Yes, I want to read your review of the Morante when you're done. I'm dreading the Moravia a little, but it's supposed to be our next book club read. Hope your 2014 is the best.

Elizabeth said...

I'm here via Criticlasm, and I love your list. I'm impressed at your non-fiction list -- I can only manage two or three big non-fiction books a year, not counting memoir. I have read the Kathryn Davis and highly recommend it -- so weird and wacky and unlike anything I've ever read before. There are whole passages that I can conjure in wonder!

Ted said...

Hi Elizabeth - Welcome! I'm glad to hear enthusiasm for the Davis - her stuff is wacky - isn't it? I'm looking forward to it and yet I keep putting off starting it. Hope you will return.