I was thinking it might be nice to have a record of the books that I have read over the year. It could help me to make sure that I am at least reading something. I do plenty of reading online but those are usually shorter pieces and not complete novels and such. It also might be of interest to friends and family or for anyone wondering what to read. I will try to keep this list updated as the year progresses.
On Liberty (1859) by John Stuart Mill
I don’t really have too much to say about this one. As any reader of my blog should know, I am very much in favour of free speech. Quotes from John Stuart Mill often crossed my path when reading about the topic and, eventually, I decided I just had to read his work. I was not disappointed.
It’s written with the overly long and complicated sentences that are characteristic of older writing but they don’t hinder comprehension. Other than that, the arguments he raises and the thoughts that his work inspires are still very relevant. He makes a strong case for individual liberty and free speech, against which I have not heard any particularly convincing arguments – for example those by Osita Nwemvu.
On Liberty is fairly short and well worth reading You don’t even have to buy the book to read it, it is available for free through Project Gutenberg!
Leonardo (2004, updated 2011) by Martin Kemp
Leonardo Da Vinci is well-known as one of the greatest geniuses of all time and I didn’t know too much about him. This was supposed to be my chance to learn about his life and what he really did from a leading Da Vinci expert. However, the book was not quite what I expected…
It is about Leonardo Da Vinci and I did learn some things from it but what I had really been hoping for was a biography that would follow Leonardo’s life; showing where he went, what he did and when it all happened. This book chooses instead to look at Leonardo through a set of themes that united his works. It’s not a bad approach but it’s not what I wanted and didn’t really satisfy me.
The book also focusses a lot on his art, which is understandable, but I was more interested the entirety of Leonardo. Plus, I have an inherent distrust of art criticism that tries to look for symbols in works. I’m not denying that certain motifs are used for symbolic reasons but I think that unless the artist has disclosed his use of symbols then there is a large risk of reading too much into it. That’s fine at times, it’s probably one of the things that lets paintings mean different things to different people, but I do not like it when presented as fact.
Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (1886) by Robert Louis Stevenson
This one probably needs no introduction. It is a classic story that everyone has no doubt heard of even if they do not know the original. I, too, was only aware of the concept behind it rather than the actual story. In fact, I had the story wrong!
The only complete story of Jekyll and Hyde that I was aware of actually came from listening to the soundtrack of the musical by Frank Wildhorn. The musical is amazing and I would love to see it live, although I believe a lot of the concept album got cut, including the beautiful song Girls of the Night.
As it turns out, the musical took more than a few liberties with the story but I think it improved it. They have expanded the motivations of Doctor Jekyll and added a lot more character (and characters) to everything. I’m still glad to have read the original but I imagine it used to have a lot more impact before the big reveal was common knowledge. That is probably why it was necessary to take liberties with the story for the musical adaptation, apart from making it a bit longer.
You can also read it for free on the Project Gutenberg website or enjoy this incredible performance from the musical’s concept album.
Currently reading: The 120 Days of Sodom (1785 (first published 1904), this edition + translation 2016) by The Marquis de Sade
A highly-controversial book which has been banned at various times – it’s still, I hear, illegal to display Sade’s works in shop windows in France. Even if the name of the book isn’t familiar, the name of the author should be. The Marquis de Sade is the man from whose name we get the term sadism. He was a French Nobleman, a libertine who flowed his passions without concern for others. This led him through a number of scandals over his sexual behaviour and eventually saw him imprisoned.
While in prison, he wrote The 120 Days of Sodom, whose manuscript was only re-discovered and published decades later. The story details four libertines who, with a cast of boys, girls, young men and old ladies, seclude themselves in a Swiss castle to indulge in their most base urges. In the narration it is described as “the most impure tale ever written.”
Honourable Mention: Murky Number Seven (2012 – 2016) by Fuzzy
This one is is a fan fiction which expands on the world of Fallout Equestria, written by Kkat. Fallout Equestria itself is a fan work which combines My Little Pony Friendship is Magic with the Fallout series of video games. It is set ~200 years after a magical war (In an alternate timeline after season 2 of the show) devastates the world and leaves it as a barren wasteland. The original Fallout Equestria inspired many other stories, a printed book for fans (I have ordered a copy), audio books, a radio play adaptation and countless pieces of fan art and videos. See the video below for examples of some artwork inspired by Fallout Equestria and the expansions done by others.
Murky Number Seven is the story of Murky Number Seven, usually shorted to Murky or Murk, who was born as a slave in the wastelands and eventually sold to a massive slave city run by one of the primary antagonists of the original Fallout equestria. There, Murky has to band together with friends, find a way to survive in a city where everything is set against him and hopefully win his freedom.
It is long but well-written with a very tangible world, complex characters, deep morals and many emotional scenes. The majority of the story is, unsurprisingly, dark and depressing. It also starts off slow but once it begins to pick up pace then it becomes utterly compelling reading. And, despite all the heartache that happens, there is one moment in the story which makes all the suffering you share with the characters (Don’t expect to get through this without crying at least once) worth it.
It can be read from this page.