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!

20 Books of Summer 2016 – how did you do?

Well, that’s it – 20 Books of Summer is officially over!

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Did I do it? Just about. I’m two thirds of the way through book 20, so I’m calling this one a win!

It’s been a hectic summer and it has flown by and if the reviews weren’t so plentiful at least the reading was great. I picked 20 really fantastic books this year and that made my challenge much, much easier. I didn’t really read any that I didn’t enjoy and while I had some issues with My Lover’s Lover, Sister and Blue Nights, I’m still glad I read them.

On the plus side, I really loved quite a few of my summer books. Stand outs were MJ Hyland’s mesmerizing This Is How and the heartwarming charm of The Republic of Love by Carol Shields. A quick search has told me that I have a couple more of her novels in the 746, so I can’t wait to read those. Honourable mentions should also go to A Crime in the Neighbourhood, The Keep and The Age of Innocence, all of which were great and I’m glad I made one swap, as Belinda McKeon’s Solace was a quiet gem.

So how did you all do? I know a few people finished all 20 a few weeks ago, which is fantastic, but as long as we all had fun, that’s the main thing.

I’d really like to thank you all – all 82 you! – for taking part and making it a great summer challenge. I was overwhelmed by how many of you got involved. A particular shout out must go to our Australian friends, for taking part in 20 Books of Summer during the midst of their winter – although often their temperatures were better than mine in Northern Ireland!

Every year I say I’m never going to do this challenge again, and then summer rolls around and I go for it. We’ll see how it goes next year, but if I do it again, I will have to do some serious planning!

So, what’s up next for the 746? Well, I have A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf lined up next for Heaven Ali’s Woolfalong and I also hope to take part in Jacqui Wine’s Reading Rhys – a week devoted to the work of Jean Rhys starting next Monday and I have Wide Sargasso Sea lined up for that.

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I also have a bit of a back log of recent Irish books to review which will keep me pretty busy, but there are some gems in this little pile that I’m really looking forward to!

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I’m also tantalizingly close to getting the TBR into the 500s – only 10 to go, so I hope to do that by the end of the year.

But the main thing I hope to do over the coming months is catch up with reading and commenting on all your fabulous blogs. I’ve been so very slack and I am looking forward to reconnecting with you all.

Thanks again for all the support and I hope you all had a great summer.

x

More Mini Summer Reviews!

 

The summer is slipping away from me and although I’m reading LOADS, my reviewing has stalled. I have been very busy in work trying to get everything in place for leaving my current job, and this has left me incapable of doing much in the evenings bar drinking some wine and watching some telly.

 

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So, here I am again with a few mini-reviews to get be up to date with my 20 Books of Summer challenge.

No 620 – My Lover’s Lover by Maggie O’ Farrell

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I wanted so much to love My Lover’s Lover as I’ve been so impressed with O’Farrell’s other books. Unfortunately, this one didn’t really work for me. It starts well enough – Lily (a strangely vacant character) moves into a flat with the charismatic Marcus and the moody Aidan and begins a relationship with Marcus with almost ridiculous haste. Very soon, she is haunted by the ‘ghost’ of Marcus’ ex Sinead, whose room she has taken and whom Marcus refers to as ‘no longer with us. References to Hitchcock would suggest this is a tale of the dead taking retribution on the one who has taken their place, and the first half of the book is creepy and interesting. Things fall apart though as Lily, and the reader, discover that Sinead is in fact alive and well but devastated by the break-up of her relationship with Marcus. The novel then shifts focus to explore what happened between Sinead and Marcus before seemingly running out of steam by the end. My main problem with My Lover’s Lover is that the characters were so insubstantial. Lily doesn’t register much of anything, and Aidan remains on the periphery throughout. For a man that two obviously smart young women fall for without hesitation – Marcus is actually a bit of a shit, if you’ll pardon my language. Unpleasant, unpredictable and unfaithful, it’s amazing that he manages to hang on to one girl let alone too. Add to that, the supernatural aspects of the book, which I found most intriguing, are presented and then never explained. As an exploration of how our past relationships can affect our current emotions, the ghost is a potent symbol, but it is jettisoned halfway through this rather disappointing book.

Read on: Book
20 Books of Summer: 9/20
Number Read: 127
Number Remaining: 619

No 619 – The Keep by Jennifer Egan

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Given that I expected so much from My Lover’s Lover and felt disappointed, it was great to follow it with a book about which I expected little, but enjoyed a great deal. The Keep is a clever, well-structured tale within a tale that confounds expectation at every turn. It opens with Danny, a feckless Wi-Fi addicted 30-something New Yorker, arriving at a European castle to work for his cousin Howie. Howie plans to turn the castle into a boutique hotel where people come to turn off their devices and turn on their imaginations. The castle contains a mythical keep, inhabited by an old woman who claims ownership and refuses to leave it. With incredible stylistic skill, Egan also introduces Ray to the story. Ray is in jail, attending a creative writing course and writing the story of Danny, Howie, the castle and its keep, to try and impress Holly, his teacher. Either one of these stories would have been interesting enough, but that Egan manages to interweave the two and have them mirror, blend and bounce off one another, is quite a skill. The reader is at all times reminded of the authorial voice, but is never jolted out of either story. This is a stunning piece of metafiction and through the imagery of trap doors, reflections, pools and caves, Egan reminds us that we can only come to know ourselves and heal ourselves through the power of our imagination. The Keep is clever and stylised and also immersive and moving. One of my favourites of the summer.

Read on: iBooks
20 Books of Summer: 10/20
Number Read: 128
Number Remaining: 618

No 618 – Apple Tree Yard by Louise Doughty

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Apple Tree Yard is another case of me hearing the hype about the latest exciting thriller, feeling the need to buy it immediately and then never getting around to reading it. By the time you find out that a book is getting a BBC adaptation, you know you are coming a little too late to the party. Apple Tree Yard is an interesting courtroom drama, well-structured and well- paced, but something about it left me a little cold. Dr Yvonne Carmichael is a successful 52 year old woman, with a good career as a geneticist, a loving husband and two grown up children. One day, while giving evidence to a select committee in the Houses of Parliament, she meets a man, chats to him briefly and ends up having sex with him in a public place without knowing his name. We then find out that Yvonne and her mystery man are in the dock in the Old Bailey, accused of murder and Doughty examines, as you would a court case, the decisions and acts that brought a seemingly normal woman to this point. Yvonne narrates her story as a letter to her lover, looking back over their relationship, her relationship with her husband and the chain of events that led them to more destruction than they could have imagined. Apple Tree Yard is a novel about stories – the stories we tell ourselves to justify our behaviour, the stories we invent to make ourselves appear more successful or attractive and then ultimately, the story that is told to a jury – all open to interpretation. It is also about manipulation and the far reaching consequences that can have. As a courtroom drama, it’s very successful and it was refreshing to read a book about the sex life of a middle aged woman that was clear eyed and unpatronising. However, as with My Lover’s Lover, I couldn’t quite understand Yvonne’s attraction to her lover, who came across as shifty and dangerous from the start. However, this is a chilling novel that explores the lies we can tell ourselves to justify what we have done.

Read on: Kindle
20 Books of Summer: 11/20
Number Read: 129
Number Remaining: 617

Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl by Carrie Brownstein

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This last year has felt like a bit of a golden age for the female rock autobiography. From Patti Smith’s M Train to Kim Gordon’s Girl in a Band, there is no shortage of musical memoirs at the moment, with Viv Albertine, Chrissie Hynde and Brix Smith Start all releasing books. Carrie Brownstein in the founder member of Sleater-Kinney one of the break out Riot Grrrl bands to come out of that 1990s scene. Now a respected actor and screenwriter (Portlandia, Transparent), Brownstein documents her life growing up in the suburbs of Seattle through the early days of Sleater-Kinney to the ultimate breakup of the band while on tour in Europe. Brownstein had a troubled childhood, her mother had anorexia and left, while her father came out as gay while she was in her teens. Hunger Makes Me A Modern Girl captures perfectly how performance came to be both an escape and an identity for a young woman trying to make sense of a confusing world a create an identity of her own. Brownstein writes in a clean, downbeat manner, always willing to share her own embarrassments as much as her successes. She explores her relationship with band mate Corin Tucker with insight and clarity and her feminist voice demands to be heard. Fans of her later work in television may be disappointed but Brownstein is clever to end the book when the band ends, self-imploding just as things were going well. This could have been a frothy, girls on the road melodrama of a book, but by avoiding the high drama, Brownstein insightfully explores a life lived the only way it could be.

Read On: Book borrowed from my very accommodating husband
20 Books of Summer: 12/20

So, I’m back on track – 8 books to go in 6 more weeks, which I really hope I can manage. I may do a swap as I have now tried to start Moon Tiger on several occasions and it is not grabbing me at all, but I may give it one more go.

How is everyone else getting along? Can you believe there are only 6 weeks of summer left?

 

20 Books of Summer is back! Who’s in?

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Oh I’m a glutton for punishment….

The temperature is rising (slightly), the kids will be getting out of school soon and I’ve done my Great Wardrobe Changeover (I’m not the only one who does that, am I?) so it must be nearly summer time, which means another attempt at completing my 20 Books of Summer Challenge.

I have to admit, I don’t have the greatest track record with this one.

2014 – 16.5 books

2015 – 18 books

Improvement? Yes. Completion? No.

This has to be my year. I am DETERMINED to complete this one. The 746 hasn’t been decreasing as much as I’d like – probably due to the fact that I can’t stay away from Netgalley and at the start of the year one of my goals was to get into the 500s –  so this challenge is the push I need.

From 1 June to 5 September, I’m going to attempt to read my 20 Books of Summer. That’s 7 books a month, which is pretty daunting, but I think I can do it. This year I’ve decided to go for 20 books by women and I must admit, I had great fun putting this list together, but I’m going to need your help completing it. I’ve tried to go for a broad range of genres, eras and styles so that there is always something I’m going to want to read! You can click on the titles to get through to their description on Goodreads.

 

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  1. The Lottery And Other Stories by Shirley Jackson

I have adored The Haunting of Hill House and We Have Always Lived at the Castle so I’m looking forward to this highly regarded collection

2 . Small Island by Andrea Levy

I’m trying to keep up with my #ReadDiverse goal this year too, so I’m looking forward to reading this, a mere 12 years after it won the Orange Prize for Fiction

3. Bogeywoman by Jaimy Gordon

This one came to my attention thanks to Melanie’s great review at Grab the Lapels so I was delighted to find it lurking in the 746. Melanie’s subsequent attempts to have it win last month’s reading Roulette meant I couldn’t not include it in the summer list!

4. A Spell of Winter by Helen Dunmore

I love Dunmore’s writing and it’s been a few years since I’ve read any of her novels. A Spell of Winter sounds fantastic, although not very summery!

5. Geek Love by Katherine Dunn

Geek Love was on my 20 Books of Summer list in 2014 and was one of the books I didn’t get round to. I’ve been meaning to read it for so long, and given Dunn’s recent death, I felt it was time to finally read it.

6. My Lover’s Lover by Maggie O’Farrell

One of the major problems with taking on a book-buying ban is the inability to immediately purchase new books by my favourite authors. As I can’t read This Must Be The Place I decided to put this earlier work in my list.

7. The Diving Pool by Yoko Ogawa

This is another book for my Diverse Reads goal and I am a big fan of Ogawa’s quiet, powerful style. Plus it’s three short novellas. Which helps. Believe me.

8. Apple Tree Yard by Louise Doughty

I always seem to miss the buzz books when the buzz is actually happening! This book was causing a stir when I started blogging a few years back and I’m a sucker for a good psychological thriller

9. Blue Nights by Joan Didion

This could be a tough read, emotionally as Didion explores the death of her daughter Quintana, but I loved The Year of Magical Thinking and think this will be equally moving.

10. The Keep by Jennifer Egan

I don’t know too much about this one, but enjoyed Look At Me and A Visit From the Goon Squad and the promise of a novel within a novel is always tempting for me!

11.  I Am No One You Know by Joyce Carol Oates

Anyone who reads my blog regularly will be aware of my love for JCO. Rather than go for one of her big novels, I’ve gone for a collection of short stories at which I think she excels.

12.  A Crime in the Neighborhood by Suzanne Berne

This is another Orange Prize shortlisted novel that I missed at the time but the 1970s setting and coming-of-age theme really appeals.

13. The Bottle Factory Outing by Beryl Bainbridge

When I heard about the Beryl Bainbridge Reading Week hosted by Annabel, Ali and Simon in June, I was keen to take part. This is the only Bainbridge I have in the 746 and will be my first experience with her work

14. The Republic of Love by Carol Shields

About 15 years ago I read, and loved, The Stone Diaries and bought quite a few of Shields books because of it. Did I get round to reading them? Of course not. But I will now!

15. The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton

Why did I let Edith languish on my shelves for so long? I hadn’t read any of her work until a few years ago, but have caught up with Ethan Frome and The House of Mirth. I’m really looking forward to reading this one, Edith hasn’t let me down yet!

16. Hunger Makes Me A Modern Girl by Carrie Brownstein

This is a bit of a cheat. Eagle eyes will spot that this was only published last year. No, I didn’t break my book-buying ban on the sly, I bought it for my husband. And now I’m going to borrow it! It’s not officially one of the 746, I just really want to read it and continue the trend for reading a rock memoir every summer!

17. Sister by Rosamund Lupton

This is another thriller I don’t really remember buying but have seen a lot of praise for. Comparisons to Patricia Highsmith and Ruth Rendell? Can’t really go wrong there!

18. Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl

I adored the skill and verve of Marisha Pessl’s second novel Night Film and Special Topics is billed as a mix of The Secret History and The Virgin Suicides which sounds just weird enough for me!

Now this is where I need your help. I’ve struggled to pick my final 20, and have four other possibilities I can’t decide on. They are:

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1. Moon Tiger by Penelope Lively

I had an English teacher once who told us that anyone who loved literature needed to read this book. I was 18. I went out and bought it and…..never got round to reading it!

2. Mr Fox by Helen Oyeyemi

I have read so many amazing reviews of Boy, Snow, Bird that I’m thinking this one could be a great read too.

3. This is How by MJ Hyland

This one is a bit of a mystery to me as I don’t remember buying it at all. It sounds pretty intriguing though. Can anyone enlighten me?

4. The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver

A quick poll on Twitter over the weekend would suggest that this is amazing. But it’s big. So very big.

 

Are there any of these four you think I should absolutely put in the summer pile? Any I should avoid? I’ll make my final choices on 1 June, but you guys always seem to guide me towards some excellent reads, so any advice would be greatly appreciated!

I’m going to keep a Master post at the start of the blog so you can follow my progress as books get crossed off the list and if anyone feels their reading needs a bit of oomph then why not join me?

Just take the Books of Summer image, pick your own 10, 15 or 20 books you’d like to read and link back to my Master post so I know you’re taking part.  I’d love your support and as anyone who has taken part before will know, I am wonderfully slack with my rules!

 

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I’ll be tweeting my way through the challenge as well using the hashtag #20booksofsummer.

So, any thoughts on my choices? Have you read any of my 20? Any I should start with straight away, or save for later? Any I’m going to regret putting on the list? I’d love to hear what you think.