Books not to be read in 2012

Norman Geras has a published a wonderful blog post detailing a number of books that he will not be reading in 2012. If Norm cannot read certain books, I have thought that perhaps I can’t either. Compiling a list of books that I am determined not to read is not as easy as it sounds. One cannot simply not read any old book, one has to not read a book that is worthwhile not reading.  My top ten books not to read this year are detailed below. What are yours?

  1. Arthur J. Dommen, The Indochinese Experience of the French and the Americans: Nationalism and Communism in Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam.  I own this book and I have used it as a reference on a number of occasions. It is the result of some four decades of research and two decades of writing. It extends to 1,172 pages and is clearly a masterpiece. It deserves to be read. I know someone who has done so and I am in awe that he managed it. But it is not going to be completely read by me, certainly not this year. This is a shame but an honest assessment.
  2. James Joyce, Ulysses. Commenting on this book in 1955, John Greenway stated: “To read it with ease, one should have a Ph.D. in comparative languages and literature; to read it with difficulty, one should know the Odyssey, The Golden Bough, Joyce’s life and other works, E. K. Chambers’ William Shakespeare, and much about the history of English literature, the Celtic Renaissance, Irish politics, and Roman Catholic liturgy.” Greenway added that via demonstrating “a vocabulary of nearly 25,000 words, Joyce transcends the bounds of Webster’s International.” I think I shall pass.
  3. Noam Chomsky and Edward S. Herman, Political Economy of Human Rights,  Volume 1: The Washington Connection and Third World Fascism. This book has been a long standing book that I have been intending not to read. I expect that if I comprise a similar list next year, this book will also make a strong showing. It is a perennial favourite book not to read.
  4. Tony Cliff’s four volumes on Lenin. You would have to be a diehard automaton from the SWP to bother with such rubbish. If anyone is interested in a decent biography of Lenin, they would do much better to read the biography by Dmitri Volkogonov.
  5. J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series. Despite the fact that there have been issues of these books with “adult” book covers, they were originally written for children. I am not providing any further explanation as to why the series will not be read by me in 2012.
  6. Stephen Mulhull, Routledge Philosophy Guidebook to  Heidegger and Being in Time. This book has been in my collection for some time and has not yet been read. Any guilt as to why I have not read it is assuaged by the argument of Emmanuel Faye whereby Heidegger’s books should be removed from the philosophy section of libraries and placed in the section dealing with Nazis.
  7. Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy. I have not read any books in this trilogy and nor do I have much desire to.  Anybody who I know who insists that I “must” read these books risks me defriending them on Facebook.
  8. Richard Seymour, The Meaning of David Cameron. Given I cannot be bothered to read the pages and pages of waffle that Seymour vomits onto his weblog, I am hardly likely to read one of his books.
  9. Gilad Atzmon, The Wandering Who. I went to the book launch. Gilad Atzmon signed and personally dedicated to me a copy of this book which I had purchased, but that does not mean to say that I am going to read it. The book is not worthwhile reading: it is so bad, it is an insult to many of the books on this list included here.
  10. Jens Malter Fischer’s biography of Gustav Mahler.  This book was recently provided to me as a present by someone who is aware that I very much appreciate the music of Mahler. Indeed, Mahler’s Symphony No. 2 (Resurrection) is one of my favourite pieces of music. While I very much thank the donor for the present, at 764 pages my interest in the composer simply does not stretch to donate the time to read this book.  If I do get the time to read about Mahler, I would far rather read the far more palatable 385 pages by Norman Lebrecht, Why Mahler? I have been fortunate enough to hear Lebrecht lecture and if the quality of his lecture is indicative of the quality of his book, then it would certainly not be a waste of time.

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