My Year in Books by Michael Jensen

Editors’ note: 

This is a maddening and extraordinary book—the kind that your atheist uncle who knows everything will have read.

The last couple of years, since I got into Audible, my book consumption has increased, which is very enjoyable. Some of the following I listened to, not read.

1. Making Sense by David Crystal

A great read about the structure of our language. Shakespeare once said ‘you and I’ when he shouldn’t have. That gives me hope!

2. Hillbilly Elegy by JD Vance

A beautiful memoir about the power of family origins and how to break free of them when they appear to condemn you to a life of grinding poverty. The love of one grandparent keeps Vance out of harm’s way, when all is falling apart. Amazing social commentary.

3. Believe Me by Eddie Izzard

Izzard is wonderful, but my goodness he’s God-haunted. It was kind of reassuring to hear him try to explain his atheism – since it isn’t very convincing. He is really protesting against God taking his mother from him when he was a boy.

4. Ghost Empire by Richard Filder

A terrific account of the Byzantine Empire from a non-expert.

5. The Silk Roads by Peter Frankopan

A totally different history of the world, tracing the different effects of prized goods on world history – silk, oil, gold and more.

6. Day Without End by Sebastian Barry

A beautiful Irish-American story of two Irish soldiers in the US Civil War and on the frontier. Unforgettable for its language, humour, and pain.

7. Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders

Booker Prize winner—and it is a deeply moving story about death and loss. Highly original.

8. Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari

This is a maddening and extraordinary book—the kind that your atheist uncle who knows everything will have read. But his description of our human need for stories to make a civilisation is spot on, and the way he convinces you that Peugot doesn’t actually exist is brilliant.

9. The Remembrance of Things Past by Marcel Proust

OK, so I am only two and a bit volumes in. But it is extraordinary how interesting details can be. The antithesis of War and Peace. Proust can make eating a biscuit into an epic.

10. On Beauty and Being Just by Elaine Scarry

A searing meditation on beauty which stops just short of a theological conclusion. But beauty is not for nothing…recommended to me by a non-Christian designer.

11. On Human Nature by Roger Scruton

Scruton is one of the finest minds writing today. A philosophical account of why human nature exists, and matters.

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