My Top 10 non-fiction reads of 2016-2017 (in no particular order) / by Peter Taylor

Introduction and massive ramble

In order to maintain a semblance of sanity through this period of political unease, cultural decay and wanton destruction of the principles of both reason and kindness I have found refuge in the worlds of history, science and philosophy. I have abandoned fiction almost entirely, save a brief jaunt with Mikhail Bulgakov and Will Self. I thought I’d share with you a number of books which have kept me engaged with the world and inspired to keep going – even in the pits of depression. I will not provide an in-depth review of each title as many have been completed by better minds than mine. However, I urge you to check out at least one of these titles.

Rivelli’s masterful ‘Seven Brief Lessons on Physics’ should be on every high school reading list, and I am truly excited for the day I can share this with my daughter. ‘The Lagoon’ is so well written it had me placed in Aristotle's Mediterranean whilst managing to seamlessly take the temporal leap to a ferry journey to contemporary Lesbos; which has now implanted itself to memory as a vivid simulacrum. ‘Iran: Empire of the Mind’ was a whirlwind through history and ended far too abruptly for my liking, yet many books have studied post-revolutionary Iran so I will have to complete my journey elsewhere. The descriptions of ancient Iran were made manifest when I visited The British Museum with my daughter and shared in the horror and delight of a rich and exciting culture.

Stuff Matters’ blew me away in its sheer joyousness and love of materials making even concrete exciting. ‘The Peregrine’, a book I will admit I’m still reading in between other studies, is breathtakingly beautiful and captures the magic of man’s interaction with nature. It's a journey I like to indulge in in small parts - like savouring a box of chocolates. ‘Ghosts of My Life’ resonates more with the recent passing of Mark Fisher, whom unbeknownst to me on first reading the book, had taken his own life. It’s a wonderful book which explores his unique filter on the world around him and those who inspire and disenfranchise him. ‘Dry Storeroom No. 1’ makes me want to work at the Natural History room back in the days where one could smoke indoors and witness shifts in thought, culture and the turning points of modern science and curation.

Pieces of Light’ made my brain sizzle and gave a wonderful insight into memory and a very personal journey which iss as immersive as the subject matter. 'Iron Curtain' made me quiver with fear and probably tipped me the wrong way, especially in regards to my opening statement, yet this book is so rich with facts and anecdotes that I felt more enthralled than anything else. Finally ‘The Invention of Nature: The Adventures of Alexander Von Humboldt The Lost Hero of Science. What can I say. I have fallen in love with a long dead Prussian. This book is an adventure from start to finish and offers an intimate portrayal of a figure that needs to be more widely recognised in modern western Europe (and the rest of the world). The prose are a delight and the tales of Darwin, Bolivar and Jefferson make for a wonderful  supporting cast to one of the most important human beings to have existed. God I need to get my finger out and leave my mark on the world – but alas, it seems like I shall remain an ephemeral skid mark on the curved porcelain of my existence.  

The list

1.    The Lagoon: How Aristotle Invented Science - Armand Marie Leroi

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2.    The Invention of Nature – Andrea Wulf

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3.    Seven Brief Lessons on Physics – Carlo Rivelli

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4.    Dry Storeroom No. 1 – Richard Fortey

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5.    Iran Empire of the Mind – Michael Axworthy

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6.    Iron Curtain – Anne Applebaum

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7.    Stuff Matters – Mark Miodownik

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8.    Pieces of Light -  Charles Fernyhough

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9.    The Peregrine – J A Baker

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10.    Ghosts of My Life – Mark Fisher

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