A Book for Every Year…

I got the idea for this post primarily from the brilliant Christa over at A Voluptuous Mind who posed a list earlier in the year of her favourite movies from every year she has been alive.

I got to thinking what my favourite books would be and inspired by the 1951 Club, I thought I would list my choice for the best books of 1971 to 2015! The reason I’m stopping at 2015 is because I didn’t read any notable new releases in 2016 or so far this year given my on-going book ban. Some years were easier than others – 1971 was pretty tough, but I had to debate between several books for 1993! Some were read at the time (although obviously I wasn’t reading John Berger on my first birthday!) and some only recently, but they represent a selection of some of my favourite books!

So, let’s kick off and see if any of your favourites are here too!

1971 – 1980

1971: The Dead Zone by Stephen King

1972: Ways of Seeing by John Berger

1973: Deenie by Judy Blume

1974: Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M Pirsig

1975: American Buffalo by David Mamet

1976: Will you Please be Quiet, Please by Raymond Carver

1977: Dispatches by Michael Herr

1978: Tales of the City by Armistead Maupin

1979: The Executioners Song by Norman Mailer

1980: A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole

1981 – 1990

1981: Good Behaviour by Molly Keane

1982: The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 ¾ by Sue Townsend

1983: Fool for Love by Sam Sheperd

1984: Money by Martin Amis

1985: Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

1986: Perfume by Patrick Suskind

1987: The New York Trilogy by Paul Auster

1988: Libra by Don DeLillo

1989: A Prayer for Owen Meaney by John Irving

1990: Blonde by Joyce Carol Oates

1991 – 2000

1991: Seeing Things by Seamus Heaney

1992: The Secret History by Donna Tartt

1993: Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha! By Roddy Doyle

1994: The Skriker by Caryl Churchill

1995: Behind the Scenes at the Museum by Kate Atkinson

1996: Reading in the Dark by Seamus Deane

1997: The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy

1998: Birds of America by Lorrie Moore

1999: Plainsong by Kent Haruf

2000: The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood

2001 – 2010

2001: Bel Canto by Ann Patchett

2002: Fingersmith by Sarah Waters

2003: We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver

2004: Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell

2005: The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion

2006: The Arrival by Shaun Tan

2007: Remainder by Tom McCarthy

2008: A Fraction of the Whole by Steve Toltz

2009: A Scattering Christopher Reid

2010: A Visit from the Goon Squad – Jennifer Egan

2011 – 2015

2011: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

2012: Wild by Cheryl Strayed

2013: Tenth of December by George Saunders

2014: A Girl is a Half Formed Thing by Eimear McBride

2015: Tender by Belinda McKeon

Any of these take you back to a specific year? Or is anyone else tempted to make a list of their own? I’d quite like to do the same for music and movies, if I can find the time!

No 732 A Scattering by Christopher Reid

3/10 of March Madness

scatteringChristopher Reid won the Costa Book Award in 2009 for this collection of poetry documenting the death of his wife, the actress Lucinda Gane. I bought it shortly after and was never able to read it due to the fact that my mother died in 2009 and my father a mere 14 months later in 2010.


When I came to it this week, I thought I would read a poem here, a poem there, carve out the emotional reaction into shorter bursts, but I read it in one, admittedly tearful sitting. This is a beautiful collection. No breast beating self-pity here, rather, Reid presents us a lucid, unsentimental landscape of grief, loss and its’ aftermath  from the first diagnosis of illness to a grudging acceptance of life without his ‘dashing heroine’.

The book opens with “The Flowers of Crete” written during a last holiday together, as he grapples with the fear of what lies ahead and asks his wife to

Please pardon the crimes

of your husband poet,

as he mazes the pages

of his notebook

in pursuit of some safe way out

But there is no safe way out. ‘The Unfinished’ describes with an unflinching simplicity and detachment, the pain of the deathbed vigil.

Sparse breaths, then none-

and it was done.

listening and hugging hard,

between mouthings of sweet next to nothings

into her ear –

pillow talk cum prayer-

I never heard

the precise cadence

into silence

that argued the end.

yet I knew it happened.

Christopher Reid and Lucinda Gane on their wedding day in 1976

Where death, grief and loss have a tendency to ratchet up the emotion of writing, Reid takes a quiet approach. The lack of sentimentality does not serve to obfuscate his love, instead that love and his loss of it is illuminated. A series of vignette’s called A Widower’s Dozen dramatise the day to day pain of continuing to live after the loved one is gone – talking to her, imagining he feels her come to bed, sorting through her papers.


Late home one night, I found

she was not yet home herself.

So I got into bed and waited

under my blanket mound,

until I heard her come in

and hurry upstairs.

My back was to the door.

Without turning round,

I greeted her, but my voice

made only a hollow, parched-throated

k-, k-, k- sound,

which I could not convert into words

and which, anyway, lacked

the force to carry.

Nonplussed, but not distraught,

I listened to her undress,

then sidle along the far side

of our bed and lift the covers.

Of course, I’d forgotten she’d died.

Adjusting my arm for the usual

cuddle and caress,

I felt mattress and bedboards

welcome her weight

as she rolled and settled towards me,

but, before I caught her,

it was already too late

and she’d wisped clean away

What Christopher Reid does with this collection, is not so much to explore grief in general, but to explore his own grief in the context of his own loss, and by doing so creates something universal.

He asks his dead wife ‘Can’t you somehow contrive/ to be both dead and alive’

Yet in some ways he is doing just that.  Reid conjures his wife brilliantly for the reader – Lucinda Gane comes across as a wonderful, strong, funny, radiant and intelligent woman, interested in everything, fighting to the painful end. It is as an act of devotion and gratitude that A Scattering really succeeds, beginning and ending as it does with the words ‘blessed’ and ‘blessing’.

Read On: Book

Number Read: 15

Number Read March Madness: 3/10

Number Remaining: 731

March Madness Starter Post


“Have I gone mad?
I’m afraid so, but let me tell you something, the best people usually are.”

Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

 So, clearly, because I haven’t set myself a ridiculous enough challenge with my blog as a whole, I have been persuaded to take part in March Madness by the lovely Juliana at Cedar Station! As part of the month-long readathon beginning this Saturday, I have set myself the goal of reading a minimum of 10 books during March. As I am averaging 4 -5 a month at the moment, 10 will be hard work to get through, but the temptation to get the 746 down into the 720s in a matter of weeks is too good to resist!

So here are the books I hope to read, in no particular order:

Tampa by Alissa Nutting

The Seven Days of Peter Crumb by Johnny Glynn

Race by David Mamet

Posh by Laura Wade

The Scattering by Christopher Reid

Run by Ann Patchett

This is Water by David Foster Wallace

The Ice Princess by Camilla Lackberg

Point Omega by Don DeLillo

Hotel Iris by Yoko Ogawa

If you look closely you’ll see that there are two plays, a volume of poetry and well, a speech in there, so I have been selective in the length of books I’ve chosen. Yet they are all in the 746 and would have to be read at some point, so I’m going to give myself a break! I’ve also made the effort to support the Read Women 2014 initiative so 50% of these books are written by women.

My posts during the month will obviously be much shorter – can’t take up too much precious reading time – but they will be more frequent so it all balances out.

If you are taking part in March Madness, please do link up to your own starter post below, I like to see what other people are reading and I’m going to need all the support I can get!

I really am mad, but let’s do this….