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!

Reading Roulette for May!

 

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So, it’s been a full 6 months since I last did a Reading Roulette, which means it’s time once again to put my literary fate in your capable hands and ask you to pick one of my May reads from the 746!

You’ve picked me some great winners in the past – Life After Life by Kate Atkinson, The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt and Eventide by Kent Haruf. Who will join them this time round? I’ve got six possibilities for you to choose from so have a look at the options and cast your vote.

Maybe you’ll choose a book because you loved it? Or because you still have to read it too? Or even because you hated it?!

I don’t really mind. I’m in your hands! Let’s see if you can pick me my new favourite book….

Reading Roulette April

The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton

I only came to Wharton a few years ago and she hasn’t let me down yet. I doubt she will.

Behind the Scenes at the Museum by Kate Atkinson

She may not have been shortlisted for the Bailey’s Prize, but can she be the big winner in Reading Roulette?

Bogeywoman by Jaimy Gordon

I don’t remember buying this. I don’t know what it’s about. I read something positive about it recently. Vague, I know but it could be a hidden gem…

Empire Falls by Richard Russo

The New York Times calls him ‘one of the best novelists around’ and he’s won the Pulitzer Prize. Not bad. Plus there’s a movie adaptation. With Aidan Quinn. AIDAN QUINN. Why did I not know this before??*

The Diving Pool by Yoko Ogawa

I’ve enjoyed everything else I’ve read by Ogawa, so I think this collection of three novellas will have that same quiet power that I love in her work.

White Noise by Don DeLillo

I call myself a DeLillo fan and I haven’t read White Noise? Shame on me.

*

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You’re very welcome.

I’ve linked the titles to their Goodreads page just in case you want some more details on the books and I’ll keep the voting open until April 20th.

I’m not quite sure why these books have lingered on the TBR as I’d be quite happy for any of them to win. As a consolation prize, the losers might just find themselves on my 20 Books of Summer pile (once I double check the word count!).

So, have you read any of these? Which do you think will win? I have no idea! Get voting

The Bloggers We Read

I was recently interviewed by the lovely Bree at The Things We Read for her new feature – The Bloggers We Read – where she asks questions to get to know the person behind some of her favourite blogs! Here are my answers, please do check out Bree’s blog, which covers books and so much more.

Bloggers

Introducing….Cathy @ 746 Books

Today I welcome Cathy to the interview hotseat. She is relatively new to the blogging community having only been blogging a year but you would never know it based on her fan base and popularity already. I “met” Cathy during March Madness last year when we both topped our reading goals. She writes in-depth reviews on the books she is reading from her bookshelves. Stop by her blog to check out her book quest.

Why did you start blogging?
I had started a blog a few times before but never found the impetus to keep going. The blogs were vaguely about books, but didn’t feel focused enough to be effective. In an attempt to curb some spending I thought I would try not to buy anymore books until I’d read what I had, then I thought I would count what I had and when it came to 746, I realised I needed more drastic action and 746 Books was born! I hoped that the blog would keep me focused on my goal of reading more without buying more and I’m happy to say that it has!

Do people in your personal life know about your blog or is it your private spot?
A bit of both really. I have kept my blog quite quiet, although my family and a few friends know about it. I don’t think I’m confident enough yet with my writing to come out of my blogging closet and reveal that I don’t look a thing like Lauren Bacall! I have been posting more personal things lately though and I may well continue to do so this year, but I like having a separate FB page and Twitter profile so then I can concentrate solely on books! (Bree: I’m the same way. I like the separate life, like a secret identity. lol)

Definitely NOT Lauren Bacall!

Definitely NOT Lauren Bacall!

Do you have other blogs? If so, what are they?
746 Books keeps me busy enough as it is, so I just have the one. I do own a book that I inherited from my grandmother called ‘301 Things A Bright Girl Can Do’ and I would love to create a blog where I talk about doing each one of those things! Maybe if I get through the 746 quicker than anticipated I’ll start on that project! (Bree: Oh yes, please do. That idea sounds intriguing.)

What are some blogs (bookish or not) people should check out that you enjoy?
One of my favourite blogs is the fantastic Flavorwire which covers all things cultural. I’m also a regular reader of Go Fug Yourself and Tom and Lorenzo although these three sites are now so popular the term ‘blog’ doesn’t quite suffice. Other favourites include The Fluff is Raging, my co-host for Read Ireland Month and No More Workhorse, which focuses on arts and culture news from Dublin.

What do you do for a living? Anything book related that the rest of us can be jealous about?
My job is not directly book related but I run an Arts Centre in Northern Ireland where I organise a programme of theatre, music, visual arts and yes, the odd literary reading! I am very lucky in that I love my job and get to be surrounded by all things cultural all day!

Anything you would like to share about yourself, family, etc?
I have four year old twins called Harrison and Stella and we have a slightly unconventional set up as my husband stays at home to look after the kids. You would be surprised at how often, even nowadays, that this raises eyebrows, but we always knew we wanted one parent to be at home for them and this works for us. My husband is such a fantastic Dad, I am very blessed. (Bree: Yay for stay-at-home dads! There aren’t enough of them.)

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What are your childhood reading memories?
My main memory is that there was a lot of it! I was an only child until I was 13 so I spent a lot of time reading. My father was a great reader and I owe my love of books to him. He had a built in wardrobe in his study that he had converted into a little mini library with bookshelves on three sides and as a child I would bring cushions, my favourite toys and my own book and go in, close the door, turn on the light and sit and read. It was my favourite spot in the whole house and I still remember the smell and feel of that little space.(Bree: sounds amazing)

What do you think of forcing students to read certain books especially the classics? Yes or No? Harmful or helpful to their reading life?
I don’t think forcing anyone to read anything is helpful, although I do think the classics should be taught. Classics are classics for a reason and can be misunderstood. Students wouldn’t just learn about modern art, or only recent advances in science, so I think literature should be viewed the same way.

What suggestions or advice do you have for new book bloggers?
I’m not sure I should be giving advice as I have only been blogging for a year but the one thing I would advise is to connect with other bloggers. Read blogs, comment on them and engage with other people. It is the most rewarding part of blogging and the surest way to grow your own audience.

What is your guilty secret pleasure?
Books wise, I don’t have any. I’ll read anything and everything. In fact, I rarely feel guilty, or keep a secret about anything I like, but I do blush a bit when I say I was a MASSIVE fan of the TV show Rock of Love with Brett Michaels. Trashy does not even begin to cover what this show was ☺ (Bree: everyone has something. lol)


Favorites Section:

Author: One? You want me to pick one?? Joyce Carol Oates. Or maybe Don DeLillo.
All time best book: One? You want me to pick one?? For purely sentimental reasons I choose Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Ask me again tomorrow and I will have changed my mind! (Bree: too funny!)
Blogging event/challenge: I’m gearing up to host Read Ireland Month in March this year, but my favourite challenge from last year was Cedar Station’s March Madness which made me read more that I thought was possible in one month! (me too! 🙂 )
Food: Medium rare steak, which is unusual given I was a vegetarian for 25 years.
Drink: Milk. When I was pregnant with the twins I had such a craving that I drank 4 litres a day.
Tea or Coffee Drinker: Coffee. Strong, black, no sugar. At regular intervals.
Dream vacation spot: The south coast of Crete. It is my favourite place in the world. Failing that? It’s hard to beat Donegal.
TV show: For drama? The Sopranos. For comedy? Party Down
Brad Pitt or Channing Tatum: Neither I’m afraid. I’m not a fan of a pretty boy (and I’m old enough to remember Pitt when he was just a pretty boy) (Bree: me too). I do have a soft spot for John Cusack though….
Summer or Winter: Winter, without a doubt. I am a pale Irish girl. Tights are my friend.

Photograph: Karen Robinson

Many thanks to Bree for asking me to participate in her great new feature! Please do check out her blog.

Throwback Thursday or A Long Long Time Ago in the days before Goodreads…

Apologies for the handwriting!

Apologies for the handwriting!

Last week I was having a bit of a clear out and came across a diary from 2007. Goodreads was just a twinkle in some web gurus’ eye in 2007, so I kept track of what I read the old fashioned way. By writing a list in the back of my Moleskine diary.

It’s fun to have a look back at what I was reading seven years ago.

What struck me the most is how many of these books I have no recollection of whatsoever! Seriously.

The Weight of Numbers? Not a clue.

Electricity? Can’t even picture the cover. *

The same goes for JPod (by a once favourite author Douglas Coupland), The Hiding Place (I think there were some sisters involved) and D Is For Deadbeat, which I remember as being a generic crime thriller I got from the library and not much else. It gets worse though.

I bought a copy of The Observations by Jane Harris just last year and it’s sitting on my bedside table, counted among the 746. Yet it appears that I read it seven years ago and can’t remember it at all. Is this normal? Maybe the nature of literary fiction and the amount of it that I read means that I can’t retain memories of all these stories. Does this say more about the books in question or more about me?!

As I am taking part in Non Fiction November, it was also interesting to see that I read quite a few biographies and non-fiction books, including Bill Buford’s Heat, The Divine Matrix (I recall an attempt to get my head around quantum physics!) and Goddess – a biography of Marilyn Monroe, tellingly read straight after Joyce Carol Oates’ majestic Blonde. I read Judith Levine’s Not Buying It in an attempt to curb some of my superfluous spending, but clearly that didn’t work – book-wise at least!

The list also reminded me of my beautiful holiday in Crete that year – I read Battle Royale, Ghostwritten, An American Tragedy, Invisible Monsters and That’s Me in The Corner (borrowed from the hubbie when I ran out of books!). It was so hot that the pages of Battle Royale fell away from the book but it’s nice to remember a time when it was possible to lounge around on the beach all day reading. Holidays with children don’t afford the same luxury!

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There are some duds in here too, I started watching Dexter in 2007 and read the book for comparison. As I recall, the book was awful. Piers Morgan’s autobiography may have been full of smarmy self-aggrandizing, but it was also chock full of hilarious celebrity anecdotes to more than make up for Piers and his self-love. I’m also surprised that I read two Harlan Coben books in a row. I was slightly disappointed with Haunted by Chuck Palahniuk as I’d heard that people had been fainting at his readings from one particular story, but although grossed out a little, I stayed fully conscious the whole time. Sushi For Beginners was my one and only attempt to read chick-lit, figuring that no one does it better than Marian Keyes and while the book was diverting fun, it didn’t convince me to read more of the genre!

Another thing that strikes me when looking at this list, is the amount of books here that have been, or are being adapted for film or television – 14 in total, some more successfully than others.

Overall though, 2007 seems to have been a good reading year. The Line of Beauty, Libra, The Remains of the Day, The Year of Magical Thinking, Black Swan Green, An American Tragedy and The Road. All fabulous, fabulous books. Plus I ended the year with How To Be Free by Tom Hodgkinson, the book that inspired me to go part-time, start a card-making business and have more fun with life and a book I return to again and again when I need to remember what it important.

The 'How To Be Free' Manifesto for Life

The ‘How To Be Free’ Manifesto for Life

So, how did you all track your reading in the days before Goodreads? Do you still keep lists? Can you enlighten me as to the plot of The Weight of Numbers?!

*A quick Google search has just told me that Electricity has been made into a movie that is out this year. I read the plot synopsis. Still nothing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

No 719 Point Omega by Don DeLillo

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It takes close attention to see what is happening in front of you. It takes work, pious effort, to see what you are looking at. He was mesmerized by this, the depths that were possible in the slowing of motion, the things to see, the depths of things so easy to miss in the shallow habit of seeing

This line, from Point Omega concerns a man watching Psycho slowed to a 24 hour running time, but could also be an accurate description of how it feels to read the novel itself. Point Omega, a slim novella of only 117 pages is very much about seeing and depth, detail and disappearance.

The main story of the novel is bookended by the description of Artist Douglas Gordon’s 24-hour video installation of Psycho, which an unnamed man is watching obsessively in a New York gallery. He is riveted by its cool, crawling terror, slowed-down to the point where the turn of a head takes on as much sinister significance as the stab of a knife. Intrigued, our narrator watches Janet Leigh, who is ‘in the detailed process of not knowing what is about to happen to her’.

 

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24 Hour Psycho, an exhibition by Douglas Gordon

The rest of the novella takes place in the California desert, where a film-maker, Jim Finlay is visiting the retreat of an ageing neo-conservative intellectual, Richard Elster. Finlay  wants to film Elster, Fog of War style, talking about his experiences in the Pentagon, where he provided the esoteric argument for the invasion of Iraq. Elster is stalling, he is happy to stay in the desert, His mind is on extinction. He is looking for the omega point, the point where the conscious mind inverts itself and becomes like the stone in the field. The beautifully evoked descriptions of the desert landscape are where he feels he can best achieve this Zen-like state.

He wants to feel the deep heat beating into his body, feel the body itself, reclaim the body from what he called the nausea of News and Traffic.

The image of the slowed down Psycho throws its light across the whole novel. It echoes and reverberates as the characters explore the minutiae in order to see the bigger picture.

The true life is not reducible to words spoken or written, not by anyone, ever. The true life takes place when we’re alone, thinking, feeling, lost in memory, dreaming self aware, the sub microscopic moments.

The narrative evolves in a glacial, detailed way written in sparse, almost Beckettian prose. It requires close reading. The smallest things become important. How many curtain rings are pulled off when Janet Leigh is killed in the famous shower scene?  Finlay tries to talk to Elster about the Iraq War, Elster responds with lengthy discussions about the hang nail on his thumb and the many linguistic variations of the word rendition. Time moves differently for the characters in the desert, with days punctuated only by mealtimes. Finlay, who tries to keep track of the number of days his visit has lasted, notes that ‘I never know if a minute has passed or an hour. I don’t get old here.’

Into the inertia comes Elster’s daughter Jessie, sent from New York by her mother, who is concerned her daughter is in danger from a man she has recently started seeing. All three characters are in a state of limbo, away from home, unsure why and waiting for something to come along and define them. Jessie is oddly detached and unknowable but Finlay finds himself drawn to her.

Her look had an abridged quality, it wasn’t reaching the wall or window, I found it disturbing to watch her, knowing that she didn’t feel watched.

Like Janet Leigh in Psycho, Jessie is in the detailed process of not knowing what is about to happen to her and the novel briefly turns into a thriller of sorts when Jessie disappears into the desert. There is a sinister caretaker, a knife with no blood, a potential stalker and search helicopters, but the mystery is left as such. In the disappearance of Jessie, as in the 24 Hour Psycho, build-up, event and aftermath vanish into a series of equally important stray moments, all happening in our collective blind spot. The loss of his beloved daughter brings Elster to an unsettling emotional reality, the reality that was missing in his contextualisation of war and by doing so it hollows him out. His thoughts on impending annihilation are moot, his musings on ‘true life’ interrupted by life itself. His daughter has become the omega point.

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Photo by Eamonn McCabe for The Guardian

DeLillo has long been the master of the grand narrative, in books such as Underworld, White Noise and Libra. His last three novellas, The Body Artist, Cosmopolis and Falling Man, have, like Point Omega, touched on large themes, but felt for me, like exercises in writing. They have been hard to love. Point Omega, on the other hand, manages to marry concept, structure and theme perfectly and DeLillo creates a novel that asks us to slow down, to explore the fact that where we place our attention creates our reality, so maybe we should place our attention elsewhere. In an interview with the New York Times, DeLillo said of Point Omega;

The idea of time and motion and the question of what we see, what we miss when we look at things in a conventional manner — all that seemed very inviting to me to think about.

They are also very inviting to read about and this brittle and strange tale is a worthy addition to DeLillo’s body of work. It may be short, but, like Finlay, the reader will realise that ‘the less there is to see, the harder he looked, the more he saw’.

 

Read On: Book

Number Read: 28

Number Remaining: 718

March Madness Starter Post

marchmadness

“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….