It feels as if I haven't read anything in a few years. As a new-year's resolution, I subscribed to the Economist this January but never finished an edition before the next one hit my mailbox. On my desktop, scientific papers pile up, even though I don't enjoy institutional subscriptions anymore and can only read what's open access or published in the two journals a colleague and I subscribe to. And books, don't even talk about books.
Wait, the astute reader might exclaim, this is not true. There are entries in the Books I finished reading box on the right. Not only this, two were added just a few days ago. Indeed – and this is the reason for this post. Thanks to the inflight entertainment provided by Oman Air, which was copious and varied but didn't excite me in the least, I managed to read two books on the way to India and back.
One of them, Our moon has blood clots, was in my conference pack in India. The organizers had given one of fifty books on India to every participant. A great idea, though the exclusion of Midnight's Children, a neat 70 years after India's formation, is inexcusable. The other, Soumission, had been on my list ever since it was published, but I only managed to pick it up as a paperback a few months back – in a bookshop in Zurich main station by the way.
These two books will be part of the 2017 book list, which will continue a tradition started in 2009 and upheld until 2014. I didn't summarize my reading in 2015 and 2016. In 2016, the reason was lack of activity. A purgatory of half-finished books kept growing on my shelves when I didn't finish a single one. In 2015, I was too lazy to write but kept my notes. Here's getting back on track, belatedly:
- Das Blutbuchenfest by Martin Mosebach – Detailing the lives of a loosely connected group in Frankfurt during the Balkan war, this book was much hyped in Germany but didn't live up to my expectations.
- Swiss Watching by Diccon Bewes – This was a parting gift from a contributor to the fastest paper I've ever published (less than a year from idea to print). The book reveals Switzerland in tedious jokes that become oddly appropriate as the chapters pass.
- Sechseläuten by Michael Theurillat – This Swiss number-one bestseller is lively crime story set against a backdrop (of indentured child labor and Yenish travelers) so stark that my first reaction was to take it all as fiction. Turns out there's yet another dark chapter to Swiss history.
- Homo faber by Max Frisch – The most famous work of Switzerland's most famous novelist is a rational engineer's journey across the globe driven by emotions, memories, desires and misunderstandings. It's a good read, too.
- Die Physiker by Franz Dürrenmatt – The most famous play by Switzerland's (Do you see a theme emerging?) most celebrated playwright was performed by some of my classmates in high school. More than 20 years later, it still strikes me as superficial and inconsequential.