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!

Round Up Reviews – No 624 – 622

I said I wouldn’t do this, but I am going to have to.

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Circumstances have dictated that I’m going to have to do a few round up reviews, just to clear the back log! Life has been very busy these last few weeks and I have started to feel stressed about falling behind on my blogging and the fact that I am not keeping up with all your posts. I really wanted to do full review for all 20 books this summer, but I have to remind myself that I blog for FUN and my posts should be a release rather than a worry, so I’m cutting myself a bit of slack and doing a few mini-reviews just to get things up to date.

I do plan to do full reviews of a couple of recent books – This is How and Apple Tree Yard – both of which I think deserve full reviews for very different reasons, but in the meantime, here are some of the books I’ve managed to get through in these past few weeks.

No 624 A Spell of Winter by Helen Dunmore

spell of winter - Copy

I am a big fan of Helen Dunmore’s writing and A Spell of Winter doesn’t disappoint. Catherine and her brother Rob live with their grandfather in an isolated crumbling mansion in the years before World War 1. Their mother has abandoned them and their father has gone mad, so the siblings find comfort in the memories and half-truths of their home, and eventually their relationship turns incestuous. Reminiscent of a Brontë novel, it is to Dunmore’s credit that this tale does not veer into the ludicrous featuring as it does incest, abortion, madness, war and eventually murder. This is down to the beautiful prose and the sensitive characterisation – she evokes sympathy for her characters even when they are doing terrible things and as the novel ends, a glimmer of hope enters to thaw the snow.

Read On: Book

20 Books of Summer: 5/20

Number Read: 123

Number Remaining: 623

 

No 623 Blue Nights by Joan Didion

blue nights - Copy

Didion’s iconic The Year of Magical Thinking, written about the sudden death of her husband John Dunne was a searing and moving meditation on loss and grief and was also a moving portrait of a man and a marriage. Blue Nights is a tragic companion piece to that book, dealing as it does with the death of Didion’s daughter Quintana only a year later. Like the twilight of its title, Blue Nights is a vague and somewhat insubstantial book. Quintana remains an elusive figure within the pages, which feature Didion musing on motherhood, parenting and old age. She fixates on other people she knows who have died young (including family friend Natasha Richardson) and worries about how she brought up her daughter. It is a fragile and tremulous piece of writing, repeating phrases like incantations that will ward off painful truths. Where The Year of Magical Thinking felt universal, Blue Nights feels almost too specific to have that same emotional depth and charge. However, when Didion writes about her own personal frailty and her fear of losing her cognitive abilities, then we see the strength and the courage that she possesses in even writing this admirable book. 

Read On: iBook

20 Books of Summer: 6/20

Number Read: 124

Number Remaining: 622

 

No 622 Sister by Rosamund Lupton

sister

Rosamund Lupton’s charged and well-paced thriller focuses on the bond between two different, but close sisters. New York based designer Beatrice gets a call to say her younger sister, artist Tess, has gone missing, so she returns to London to discover what has happened to her beloved sister. What follows is a novel framed as a letter from Beatrice to Tess, which drip-feeds the details of Tess’s disappearance and subsequent death to the reader with precise plotting and a strong sense of pace. Details emerge of Tess’s pregnancy and a medical trial she was participating in before her death and these are mingled confidently with insights into the grief and guilt that arises from the violent death of a family member. While I enjoyed Sister and was buoyed along by the strong plot, I had a few issues with the characterisations of Beatrice and Tess, never really feeling I was getting a sense of who they were as people, rather than types. I also found the epistolary nature of the novel to be clunky at times and the ‘twist’ (there always has to be a twist!) at the end of the novel felt really unnecessary. I think I will be in the minority with this view, but I felt the book could have been just as successful, if not more so, without it.

Read on: iBooks

20 Books of Summer: 7/20

Number Read: 125

Number Remaining: 621

 

So, have you read any of these? What did you think?

 

 

 

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:

PicMonkey Collage

 

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.

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Top Ten Tuesday – Books that are hard to read

top ten tuesday
This week’s Top Ten from The Broke and the Bookish is books that are hard to read. At first I tried to think of books I was unable to finish, but then I realised that some books I really, really love are hard to read, so this list is a mix of the two!

1. 2666 by Roberto Bolano
So, you’ve just given birth to twins. You’re looking for something to read between the endless feeds and nappy changes. What better than 2666, a 900 page monster of a novel about the rape and murder of women in Mexico, involving multiple plot digressions, stories within stories, and multiple characters? Was it hard because the book was hard to read? Or was it hard because I was a sleep-deprived, hormone-filled mess while reading it? Who knows? But I’m proud I got through it!

2. Tampa by Alissa Nutting
Anyone who remembers my review of Tampa will know that I am most certainly not a fan of this cold, badly written sensationalist story of a female paedophile. The click bait of books, it was all hype and no substance with sex scenes that were horrible to read. Plus, that cover……

3. The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion
Anyone that can get through this elegant meditation on love, grief and survival without having to take a cry break (that’s an official term) every few pages is a stronger reader than me.

4. Happy Like Murderers by Gordon Burn
Gordon Burn is a great journalist/ author and I had loved some of his other work. I am still amazed that I managed to get through this incredibly detailed account of the lives of Fred & Rosemary West and there are some things I read in this book that I wish I could forget. It is not for the faint hearted, but is a true and necessary work for the victims and for an understanding of how monsters are made.

5. Rabbit Run by John Updike
Oh how I had been looking forward to reading John Updike and his classic Rabbit books. I imagined myself reading and loving the whole series, but after ploughing my way through this dull and meandering tale of ‘Rabbit’ Angstrom and his self-obsessed, juvenile inability to commit to his wife and daughter, I’d had enough. A book that I finished but wish I hadn’t.

6. House of Leaves by Mark Z Danielewski
First there is the form of this brilliant and frightening book – multiple typefaces, footnotes, collage, the insertion of photographs, sketches, a page of Braille, an index, hell at one point you need a mirror to read parts of the text. Then there is the story – essentially a haunted house story but unlike anything you have ever imagined. Reading this book takes serious effort, but it is worth it. And oh my, is it scary.

7. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
I got a lot of things out of my degree in English Literature, but a love for Middle English was not one of them. This was a set text in first year and almost made me question my choice of degree. Maybe I should try the translation by Simon Armitage to see if I can salvage something from this dull, incomprehensible poem.

8. Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace
I haven’t read it yet. That’s how hard it is. I’ve started it countless times. I’ve read those first 50 pages over and over, each time thinking, ‘yes, this time I’ll make it through’. But no. Infinite Jest is an elusive epic. I’ll have to try again as it is in the 746, so if anyone out there has made it through and can give me some pointers I will be eternally grateful.

9. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig
I read this when I was 24. I really don’t think there is any other time to read Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. Essentially the tale of a summer motorcycle trip undertaken by a father and his son, the book turns in to a philosophical odyssey into fundamental questions of how to be. I read about half of it in complete bafflement, then finally it all clicked and fell in to place for me. I can’t remember what clicked, or what fell in to place, but I loved it at the time.

10. It by Stephen King
I was 11. My Mum, Dad and I were going to Dublin for the weekend and staying in a B&B. I had insisted I was old enough for my own room. I brought ‘It’ to read. I ended up sleeping between my parents in their room due to the sheer terror that damn clown induced. I never did finish it and my parents never let me live that down!

So there we have it, my Top Ten books that were hard to read for one reason or another.

Have you read any of these? Loved or hated them more than me?