Best Books Read in 2012

Before the New Year opens, allow me to list here the best from among all the books I read this year (in chronological order from the most recent). This year, there’s been a more conscious attempt at “shooting the arrow at the target,” as Mao would have phrased it (that is, making my readings fit my political work). But still, this list shows that this attempt has largely been a failure with my whimsical literary tastes trumping the practical.

  • Anatomy of a WarThree Corner World by Natsume Sōseki, a reflective treatise on art and the artist’s place in the world; a criticism of Western art and culture from traditional Japanese perspective. I read Aurora Batnag’s Filipino translation.
  • The Gate of Heavenly Peace: The Chinese and Their Revolution by Jonathan Spence, a panoramic overview of the Chinese revolution from the vantage point of its intellectuals and writers rather than the main revolutionary leaders and villains.
  • Anatomy of a War: Vietnam, the United States, and the Modern Historical Experience by Gabriel Kolko, a 600-page comprehensive account of how the Vietnamese defeated the US imperialists and their local running dogs! A must-read.
  • Feast of the GoatLeft-Wing Communism, an Infantile Disorder: A Popular Essay in Marxian Strategy and Tactics by V.I. Lenin, a powerful critique of left opportunism and anarchism and introduction to the basic strategies and tactics of the Marxist party.
  • The Feast of the Goat by Mario Vargas Llosa, a very powerful account of the last days of the Trujillo dictatorship and the now visible next invisible hand of US imperialism. A pageturning feast.
  • I Is for Infidel: From Holy War to Holy Terror: 18 Years Inside Afghanistan by Kathy Gannon, a history of the protracted American intervention in war-torn Afghanistan: “I is for Infidel. J is for Jihad. K is for Kalashnikov.”
  • The Communist HorizonThe Communist Horizon by Jodi Dean, a compelling discussion on communism as the horizon shaping politics in these times of unparalleled crisis of capitalism, the need for collective action, and the concept of the party as revolutionary vanguard.
  • For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway, about the good American rambo who instead of massacring hapless Indian tribes or innocent Vietnamese in My Lai helps the guerrilla struggle against the fascists during the Spanish Civil War.
  • Che Guevara and the Cuban Revolution: Writings and Speeches of Ernesto Che Guevara, Che’s writings and speeches on the Cuban revolutionary war, socialist construction in Cuba, and international gatherings.
  • Papa and FidelThe New York Trilogy by Paul Auster, offers distinct but interconnected versions of the same traumatic experience transposed through playful postmodernist tropes in the three novels City of Glass, Ghosts, and The Locked Room.
  • Upside Down: A Primer for the Looking-Glass World by Eduardo Hughes Galeano, a poetic, witty, and passionate primer on the sorry state of a world dominated by capitalist exploitation and oppression.
  • The Origin of the Family, Private Property, and the State by Friedrich Engels, about, well, what it says on the title.
  • Papa And Fidel by by Karl Alexander, on the fictional friendship between Hemingway and Fidel Castro amidst the Cuban Revolution. Inspired me to finally read For Whom the Bell Tolls! Hasta la victoria ciempre!
  • My Name is RedMy Name is Red by Orhan Pamuk, a mystery, love story, historical novel, and treatise on art all in one book. This is a feast for the imagination. Highly recommended.
  • What is to Be Done? Burning Questions of Our Movement by V.I. Lenin, the classic argument for the establishment of a vanguard revolutionary party and against relying solely on spontaneity. Organize, organize, organize!
  • Sa Tungki ng Ilong ng Kaaway: Talambuhay ni Tatang by Cesar Lacara, the autobiography of a veteran of both the old communist party during the Huk armed struggle and the national democratic revolution led by the reestablished party. Inspiring.
  • Foundations of LeninismThe Foundations of Leninism by Joseph Stalin, a clear and concise exposition of – what else! – the foundations of Leninism by the man of steel.
  • Socialism, Utopian and Scientific by Friedrich Engels, a brilliant recap on basic Marxist concepts from the crisis of the capitalist system, the state as an instrument of class rule, and, of course, socialism.
  • My Father’s Notebook: A Novel of Iran by Kader Abdolah, a moving novel of about surviving a dictatorship, a revolution, and Islamist mullahs in 20th Century Iran through the story of the narrator’s deaf-mute father.
  • Pomeroy’s Portrait: Revisionist Renegade by Amado Guerrero, scathing critique of six books by Lavaite propagandist William Pomeroy.

Check out last year’s list here. Happy New Year!

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7 thoughts on “Best Books Read in 2012

  1. Wow, your list is very different from the lists that I viewed in the past couple of weeks (because I don’t recognize most of the titles). It’s nice to see My Name Is Red there. I would also like to check out The Feast of the Goat (I have it) and The New York Trilogy (hunting).

  2. Pingback: Lennon Hindi Lenin « Kapirasong Kritika

  3. Interesting list! I have been trying to read more stuff these days but majority of them either end up in the back burner or I give up on them entirely. 8( I hope to get a hold of some of these.

    “Three Corner World” and “My Name is Red” seem interesting; I’ll be putting them on my list (hopefully reading those two will motivate me to post a review on my blog—that is nearing its extinction BTW. Haha).

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