Well, another year come and gone. This year I read 65 books, watched 23 movies, and watched 41 documentaries. Good to know that I’m doing something with my life.
About half of the books I read were fiction, although reading related to my thesis really took over the latter half of the year. I find that regrettable for two reasons. First, I regret this because I think the Indigenous studies books I have been reading are the most important (non-fiction) books I’m reading and I actually think a number of them (Separate Beds, Dying from Improvement, and An Act of Genocide) should be required reading for all Canadians. I’m planning on following up on these histories with others in order to continue to fill out the picture being painted of settler colonialism as it operates in these territories — Enough to Keep Them Alive and Race, Space, and the Law are already in the mail, and I plan on picking up Suffer the Little Children once it finally drops. I really do think Canadians need to dwell on these histories (which are really all elements painting a comprehensive history of Canada itself) at length and in detail (and so, to the ones I’ve already mentioned here, I should also flag Clearing the Plains, Stolen From Our Embrace, and A National Crime, which I read in prior years, as these also fill out the picture in critical ways).
The second reason why I find it regrettable that my thesis has so dominated my reading since I picked it up again is because the science-type stuff I have been reading is probably the most awe-inspiring and exciting (in a fun way) stuff that I’ve come across in a long time. Quantum physics, epigenetics, holobionts, trees, and radical embodied cognitive science, are so fun to think with! Yet the books I managed to complete in that category are so few. I still haven’t even finished The Hidden Life of Trees or Organism and Environment and I’ve got a few others on my shelf that I haven’t even opened yet, although I’m dying to get into them. Sadly, I see my thesis continuing to dominate the first half of 2017 and, as I go more heavily into writing mode, I expect the amount of reading I can do to seriously diminish.
That said, I have enjoyed picking up my thesis even if I do sometimes get a wee bit tired of listening to what people are saying about some of the subject matter with which I am dealing. I really do think I am working on a text that is a significant contribution to my field of study and am somewhat relieved to discover that I think it remains as relevant today as when I first started on it (if I do say so myself).
One of the things that surprised me is how little philosophy and social theory I read last year. That is usually something fun for me but between the thesis and the science stuff, I found it hard to fit in. I did get halfway through Badiou’s Being and Event which I have picked up again and hope to complete in January. One highlight in this category was reading a book by my brother, Judah, about Trauma-Informed Youth Justice in Canada. Hopefully, I’ll be able to get around to completing an interview with him in the near future. I’m also working on interviews with Sarah Schulman regarding Conflict is Not Abuse and one with Larry Welborn, but that one ties back into my thesis-related studies. I always enjoy doing interviews with authors and with other folks of interest to me. I hope to do increasingly more interviews in 2017.
As for fiction, which I probably see as the second most important category of reading after Indigenous studies (it’s a close second… and reading fiction is really the foundation from which I’ve learned to read anything at all), I’m very happy with a number of discoveries this year. Robert Musil was a ton of fun and I’m looking forward to getting into Volume 2 of The Man Without Qualities in 2017. Elena Ferrante is amazing and I’ll be wrapping her Neapolitan series pretty soon (I’m also looking forward to wrapping up the sixth and final volume of Karl Ove Knausgaard’s struggle in 2017, although I kind of feel like Ferrante might be the antidote to Knausgaard at this point). I’ll definitely read more of James Baldwin and Maggie Nelson. I’d love, love, love to read more Warsan Shire but her other stuff is hard to find. I’ll be looking for Godless But Loyal to Heaven by Richard van Camp and also plan to continue to chip at David Foster Wallace’s writings by knocking off The Broom of the System. I’ve also got Satantango by László Krasnahorkai lined up and I’m very keen to complete it because I think his style of writing is having a major impact upon me. Most of all, however, I’m keen to start working my way systematically through the writings of W. G. Sebald. I read Austerlitz and The Rings of Saturn last year (and also watched a documentary called Patience, which is about him… and I pretty much never watch documentaries about writers… or read bios about writers… so this was a bit of a random encounter that I ended up being very glad I had) and, wow, I have fallen in love with his voice. Sebald to me in 2016 is like Cormac McCarthy was to me 2010.
So, that’s the good. The fiction authors I read and found most disappointing in 2016 were Coetzee, Guibert, Kosinski, and Tsiolkas.
In terms of movies, I don’t have too much to say beyond what I’ve already said in my reviews. Roy Andersson’s trilogy was definitely the film event I most appreciated last year (I think it has moved to the top of my personal all-time favourite movies list). Completely brilliant and frequently hilarious (although sometimes also utterly devastating). I also enjoyed chipping deeper into Bergman and Kurosawa. I was disappointed with Haneke and Kusturica. Malick felt kind of derivative of himself. I’m looking forward to watching more Tarkovsky, Kunuk, and Vinterberg (I’m curious to see how much of Melancholia was a rip-off of Festen).
As for documentaries, well, I won’t say too much (this post is already too long). I did find it interesting to catalogue what I watched this year. It is my first time doing so, but it has helped me to begin tracking directors like I track authors. That has been quite helpful for me in getting a sense of what I might want to watch. I’m also getting a better sense of where to look for films that interest me so I’m happy about that. Making a Murderer was a definite highlight and the biggest surprise (for me as well as for many others) was how outstanding the six hour O.J. documentary was. Really fantastic. The Mask You Live In was equally fantastic. Night and Fog and The House is Black also continue to pop up in my thoughts, although I wouldn’t use the word “fantastic” to describe them. Sadly, they may be more relevant now than ever before (ditto for Shoah which I started but have yet to complete… I’m not sure I can complete it, to be honest and now, instead, I’m watching Triumph of the Will and The Birth of a Nation [the 1915 film, not the Nat Turner one] in order to prepare for Trump’s inauguration).
And so, there we go. Another year. I’d love the hear what others were reading and watching and what stood out to you all.
Attached below is the complete list of books, movies and documentaries I reviewed (in my reviews that aren’t really reviews) in 2016.
Fiction (32 books)
Blair, Maury. Child of Woe.
Baldwin, James. Giovanni’s Room.
Brosh, Allie. Hyperbole and a Half: unfortunate situations, flawed coping mechanisms, mayhem, and other things that happened.
Conrad, Joseph. Nostromo.
Coetzee, J. M. Waiting for the Barbarians.
Downie, Gord and Jeff Lemire. Secret Path.
Eberhard, Wolfram (ed.), Folktales of China.
Ferrante, Elena. My Brilliant Friend (Neapolitan Series Vol. 1).
_______. The Story of a New Name (Neapolitan Series Vol. 2).
Forney, Ellen. Marbles: Mania, Depression, Michelangelo & Me. A Graphic Memoir.
Gaiman, Neil. American Gods: A Novel.
Giovanni, Nikki. The Collected Poetry of Nikki Giovanni: 1968-1998.
Guibert, Hervé. Mausoleum of Lovers.
Hamsun, Knut. Hunger.
James, Marlon. A Brief History of Seven Killings.
Knausgaard, Karl Ove. My Struggle: Volume Five.
Kosinski, Jerzy. The Painted Bird.
Krasnahorkai, László. Seibo There Below.
Laxness, Halldór. Independent People.
Llosa, Mario Vargas. The War of the End of the World.
Musil, Robert. The Man Without Qualities: Volume One.
Nelson, Maggie. The Argonauts.
Okri, Ben. Dangerous Love.
Percy, Walker. The Moviegoer.
Rankine, Claudia. Citizen: An American Lyric.
Shire, Warsan. teaching my mother how to give birth.
Skuggi. Sorcerer’s Screed: The Icelandic Book of Magic Spells.
Sebald, W. G. Austerlitz.
________. The Rings of Saturn.
Tsiolkas, Christos. The Slap.
Van Camp, Richard. Angel Wing Splash Pattern.
Wallace, David Foster. Consider the Lobster and other essays.
Science (3 books)
Chemero, Anthony. Radical Embodied Cognitive Science.
Humphrey Marc, Paul V. Pancella and Mora Berrah. Idiot’s Guides: Quantum Physics.
Jablonka, Eva and Marion J. Lamb. Evolution in Four Dimensions: Genetic, Epigenetic, Behavioral, and Symbolic Variation in the History of Life.
Indigenous Studies (7 books)
Barrett, S. M. (ed.). Geronimo: His Own Story.
Lee, Annette S., William Wilson, Jeffrey Tibbetts and Carl Gawboy. Ojibwe Giizhig Anang Masinaa’igan. Ojibwe Sky Star Map Constellation Guide: An Introduction to Ojibwe Star Knowledge.
Lux, Maureen K. Separate Beds: A History of Indian Hospitals in Canada, 1920s-1980s.
Maracle, Lee. I Am Woman.
Nitsch, Twyla and Jamie Sams. Other Council Fires Were Here Before Ours.
Razack, Sherene H. Dying From Improvement: Inquests and Inquiries into Indigenous Deaths in Custody.
Stote, Karen. An Act of Genocide: Colonization and the Sterilization of Indigenous Women.
Philosophy, History, Social Theory (7 books)
Conrad, Peter. The Medicalization of Society: On the Transformation of Human Conditions into Treatable Disorders.
Engler Yves and Anthony Fenton. Canada in Haiti: Waging War on the Poor Majority.
hooks, bell. The Will to Change: Men, Masculinity, and Love.
Kohn, Eduardo. How Forests Think: Toward an Anthropology Beyond the Human.
Oudshoorn, Judah. Trauma-Informed Youth Justice in Canada: A New Framework toward a Kinder Future.
Painter, Nell Irvin. The History of White People.
Schulman, Sarah. Conflict is Not Abuse: Overstating Harm, Community Responsibility, and the Duty of Repair.
Thesis Stuff (16 books)
Agamben, Giorgio. The Time That Remains: A Commentary on the Letter to the Romans.
Ando, Clifford. Imperial Ideology and the Provinical Loyalty in the Roman Empire.
Engberg-Pedersen, Troels. Paul and the Stoics.
Finley, Moses I. The Ancient Economy.
Garnsey, Peter and Richard Saller. The Roman Empire: Economy, Society and Culture.
Horrell, David G. Solidarity and Difference: A Contemporary Reading of Paul’s Ethics.
Howard-Brook, Wes. “Come Out, My People!” God’s Call out of Empire in the Bible and Beyond.
________. Empire Baptized: How the Church Embraced what Jesus Rejected, 2nd-5th Centuries.
Hurtado, Larry W. Destroyer of the Gods: Early Christian Distinctiveness in the Roman World.
Maier, Harry O. Picturing Paul in Empire: Imperial Image, Text and Persuasion in Colossians, Ephesians and the Pastoral Epistles.
Peppard, Michael. The Son of God in the Roman World: Divine Sonship in its Social and Political Context.
Saller, Richard P. Personal patronage under the early Empire.
Sanders, E. P. Paul: The Apostle’s Life, Letters and Thought.
Welborn, L. L. Paul’s Summons to Messianic Life: a political theology of the coming awakening.
________. Paul, the Fool of Christ: A Study of 1 Corinthians 1-4 in the Comic-Philosophic Tradition.
Winter, Bruce W. Divine Honours to the Caesars: The First Christians’ Response.
Movies (Alphabetical by Director)
Amirpour, Ana Lilly. A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night (2014).
Andersson, Roy. The Living Trilogy (2000, 2007, 2014).
Arnby, Jonas Alexander. When Animals Dream (2014).
Bergman, Ingmar. Hour of the Wolf (1968).
Del Toro, Guillermo. Crimson Peak (2015).
Eisenstein, Sergei. The Battleship Potemkin (1925).
Haneke, Michael. The Piano Teacher (2002).
Kurosawa, Akira. Ikiru (1952).
Kusturica, Emir. Underground (1995).
Kunuk, Zacharias. Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner (2002).
Malick, Terrence. Knight of Cups (2015).
Perkins, Oz. I Am the Pretty Thing that Lives in the House (2016).
________. February (2015).
Ponsoldt, James. The End of the Tour (2015).
Reilly, Fergal and Clay Kaytis. The Angry Birds Movie (2016).
Tarantino, Quentin. Inglourious Basterds (2009).
Tarkovsky, Andrei. Andrei Rublev (1966).
Trachtenberg, Dan. 10 Cloverfield Lane (2016).
Van Warmerdam, Alex. Borgman (2013).
Vinterberg, Thomas. The Hunt (2012).
Żuławski, Andrzej. On the Silver Globe (1988).
Documentaries (Alphabetical by Director)
Ascher, Rodney. The Nightmare (2015).
Akerman, Chantelle. D’Est (1993).
Berg, Amy J. Prophet’s Prey (2015).
________. An Open Secret (2014).
Berlinger, Joe. Tony Robbins: I Am Not Your Guru (2016).
Bishop, Josh. Dwarvenaut (2016).
Bunuel, Luis. Land Without Bread (1933).
Cabral, Lyric R. and David Felix Sutcliffe. (T)ERROR (2015).
Curry, Marshall. Point and Shoot (2014).
Demos, Moira and Laura Ricciardi. Making a Murder (2016).
DuVernay, Ava. 13TH (2016).
Edelman, Ezra. O.J.: Made in America (2016).
Farrier, David and Dylan Reeve. Tickled (2016).
Farrokhzad, Forough. The House is Black (1962).
Feuerzeig, Jeff. Author: The JT LeRoy Story (2016).
Garbus, Liz. There’s Something Wrong with Aunt Diane (2011).
Gee, Grant. Patience: After Sebald (2012).
Gordon, Seth. King of Kong (2007).
Hutchison, Peter D., Kelly Nyks and Jared P. Scott. Requiem for the American Dream (2015).
Kopple, Barbara. Running From Crazy (2012).
Kriegman, Josh and Elyse Steinberg. Weiner (2016).
Longinotto, Kim. Dreamcatcher (2015).
Love, Theo. Little hope was Arson (2013).
Lyne, Charlie. Fear Itself (2015).
Marsh, James. Man on Wire (2008).
Maysles Brothers. Salesman (1968).
Moselle, Crystal. The Wolfpack (2015).
Morris, Errol. The Thin Blue Line (1988).
Nelson Jr., Stanley. The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution (2015).
Newsom, Jennifer Siebel. The Mask You Live In (2015).
________. Miss Representation (2011).
Obomsawin, Alanis. People of the Kattawapiskat River (2012).
PBS Frontline. Rape on the Nightshift (2015).
________. Rape in the Fields (2013).
Resnais, Alain. Night and Fog (1955).
Rodriguez, Dominic. Fursonas (2016).
Rothwell, Jerry and Reuben Atlas. Sour Grapes (2016).
Solomon, James. The Witness (2015).
Wiseman, Frederick. High School (1968).
Yu, Jessica. In the Realms of the Unreal: The Mystery of Henry Darger (2004).
Zwigoff, Terry. Crumb (1994).