My 10 Favourite Attempted Reads of 2017

I bought some incredible books in 2017. Well I say 2017, but most or all of these books I bought before 2017 and certainly none of them were written in 2017, but whatever the case, the important thing to note is that in 2017 I didn’t read any of them.

Books are like old friends. They come alive and live and breathe, they follow you around and are part of your life for a special slot of time.

Most of my books came alive for me in the form of coasters for drinks or bedside table filler. Special indeed.

Others I carried around in my work bag for months and a few I still look at as they sit on the bookshelf by the TV.

Yes, books to me are everything.

Henry Ward Beecher once wrote “Where is human nature so weak as in the bookstore?”

Agreed mate, but it’s the reading part that’s the problem. It’s alright for you, there was no internet in the 19th century. Let’s see how all those Poindexters of yesteryear would fair with YouTube at their fingertips and Twitter on their phones.

Anyway here’s my top ten attempted reads of 2017.

1. How Music Works by David Byrne

This book blew me away. It’s got a squidgy cover. No really! It’s about music and I know this because of the title. It’s by Talking Heads and wicked but lazy music guru David Byrne. What amazed me the most was the soft, faux-leather cushioning surrounding it. Did I mention that? It does make putting drinks and a lamp on it less secure than say, an old hardback encyclopaedia, but the title and design makes you look clever when guests come round to visit. Pages read: Nil.

2. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

I read 1984 last year and loved it. Of course I did, it’s a classic. I was hardly taking big risks with my literary adventures. Anyway some dork told me that if dystopian alternative realities was my thing, then this book would be great. And they were right. It was in my work bag for about five months but is light and small really didn’t get in the way. So a great recommendation. It also has a 3D cover (it actually does and I’ve heard on the grapevine this is a good way to judge a book). Pages read: 40.

3. The Pale King by David Foster Wallace

I read Infinite Jest. Yes really, that big bastard book. The great American novel. It took me nearly a year. But I read it. Now I never have to read another book again, I get a badge and I’m able to boast about it to other people at middle class house parties.

The Pale King was Wallace’s last, unfinished masterpiece. It’s lengthy and only available in hardback. This meant it worked well on my bedside table though reading it on the tube was annoyingly cumbersome. But I like telling people I have another DFW book in the house that I’m thinking of starting. Two years in the starting, that is. Pages read: 19.

4. So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson

I like this bloke and I like this topic. I got well into this book until I got distracted by a squirrel or Twitter. I dunno. It was all good when it was about people getting shamed, then it got a tad boring when it started talking about history or whatever.

This was a classic I-read-25-Pages-in-Waterstones-one-afternoon-to-kill-time-so-it-felt-like-I-should-buy-it jobbie. I know I should stick with it but don’t blame me, blame the 21st century eroding my attention span. Pages Read: 100

5. Catch 22 by Joseph Heller

I started reading this about 3 years ago. I loved it. Ploughed through it like a fat man eating pork scratchings. But just like pork scratchings, I suddenly felt sick and couldn’t go back. It all got too rich. I plan to go back – just like you plan to text that mate you haven’t spoken to in 2 years – but let’s face it, it’s not looking that likely is it? Pages read: 214

6. Stoner by John Williams

I discovered this book last Christmas when I was staying in an Air B’n’B near Paddington in London. I met up with some friends from Australia who I hadn’t seen for a while. We did a podcast (yes I’m afraid) and then went on a pub crawl and ended up in this tiny, tropical cocktail bar in a basement and drank weird drinks for a couple of hours. The area was really nice and the houses were big and the arcitecture was YEAH OK I ONLY READ SOME OF IT. Fucking hell, leave it already. Pages Read: 101

7. A Whole Life by Robert Seethaler

Weirdly this book is often compared to Stoner. It even says it on the cover. I say weirdly as I didn’t manage to read this novel either. One night in a burst of determination I read about a quarter of it. I recommend it because of its beautiful cover and its lightweight nature. Great for carrying in a large coat pocket or putting on a shelf or toilet cistern to look pretty. It’s bleak but so is War and Peace and I can’t see myself reading that either. Pages Read: 40

8. Angry White People by Hsiang-Hung Pai

This was another reading-it-in-a-bookshop guilt buy. I thought it might go well as a reading companion when I went to Spain. Turns out mucking around in the pool is much more interesting.

Some side notes to this book. The first is that with that title you feel weird carrying it around. The Nazi skinhead on the cover doesn’t help. The second is that from the seventy-odd pages I read, it came across as a little skewed. It relentlessly mocked Luton residents whilst genuinely gushing about the “gentle family man” that’s Anjem Choudary – The hate preacher currently in prison under the British Terrorism Act. Hmm.

I bought this book looking for a great insight into the unbelly of the far right but it wasn’t delivering. But really that’s a lofty excuse and I actually stopped reading it because someone bought an inflatable crocodile to the pool and I had to play on it. Pages read: 77

9. The Book (On the taboo of knowing who you are) by Alan Watts

Yes, you know, that YouTube guy with the crystal clear posh voice. He was a philosopher preaching the ways of the East at universities way back in the sixties and seventies. He died in 1973 but people took the vast recordings of his lectures and put them on the internet.

I bought this book after some bloke on Amazon said it changed his life. It’s probably full of amazing revelations and universal truths but I have to get it from the bottom of a pile of stuff so I can’t be arsed. That’s a universal truth in itself I suppose. Pages read: 2

10. The Chimp Paradox by Steve Peters (Audio book)

Yes, 2017 was such a big year for me and literature that I even failed to finish an audiobook.

I downloaded the Chimp Paradox as I’d heard good things and it promised some understanding of my mind and anxieties. Also I needed something to listen to on the drive to and from work.

It’s ok I guess. Not that revealing. Peters has got a wicked northern accent and I like his theory about your mind being compromised of two entities: You and an overactive chimp.

But the book uses a solar system analogy to explain different parts of your brain and in the latter parts of the book when it’s talking about other planets and mood moons and whatever, it all got a bit convoluted. I just wanted to start listening to someone else with an accent talk about real space. Brain Cox or Prof Hawking would have done. Chapters Heard: 14

So that’s it. I got three more books for Christmas (Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari, Hack Attack by Nick Davies and Recovery by Russell Brand) and hopefully they will be on my end of year list 2018. They certainly have nice covers.

Good luck in your own reading for the next year, I hope you enjoy (buying) books just as much as I do.

Peace.

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Jamie Jackson

Jamie Jackson

Between two skies and towards the night. // Email me: jamiejacksonati [at] gmail.com