So this year I’m joining in a challenge posed by Simon over at Stuck in a Book to read one book from as many years as possible within the century 1919 – 2018. This could be fun (and I’d better go back and check when the Tove Jannson stories were published).
Category Archives: Not about an actual book
So, in 2017 I’m going to have a go at filling in the blanks and reading some of the (many) classic novels that have passed me by so far.
With any project there must be rules. These are the rules:
- I’m not reading Ulysses.
- Or D.H. Lawrence
- Er, that’s it.
But how to choose which books to read? There are lots of resources available on the interwebs and my first port of call was the Guardian 2015 list of the Top 100 Novels Written in the English Language. I’ve crossed out and made blue the ones I’ve already read.
The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan (1678) Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe (1719) Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift (1726)
- Clarissa by Samuel Richardson (1748)
- Tom Jones by Henry Fielding (1749)
- The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman by Laurence Sterne (1759)
Emma by Jane Austen (1816)
- Frankenstein by Mary Shelley (1818)
- Nightmare Abbey by Thomas Love Peacock (1818)
- The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket by Edgar Allan Poe (1838)
- Sybil by Benjamin Disraeli (1845)
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë (1847)
- Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë (1847)
Vanity Fair by William Thackeray (1848) David Copperfield by Charles Dickens (1850)
- The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne (1850)
Moby-Dick by Herman Melville (1851) Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll (1865) The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins (1868) Little Women by Louisa May Alcott (1868-9) Middlemarch by George Eliot (1871-2) The Way We Live Now by Anthony Trollope (1875) The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain (1884/5) Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson (1886) Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K Jerome (1889) The Sign of Four by Arthur Conan Doyle (1890) The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde (1891)
- New Grub Street by George Gissing (1891)
- Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy (1895)
- The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane (1895)
- Dracula by Bram Stoker (1897)
Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad (1899)
- Sister Carrie by Theodore Dreiser (1900)
Kim by Rudyard Kipling (1901)
- The Call of the Wild by Jack London (1903)
- The Golden Bowl by Henry James (1904)
- Hadrian the Seventh by Frederick Rolfe (1904)
The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame (1908) The History of Mr Polly by H. G. Wells (1910)
- Zuleika Dobson by Max Beerbohm (1911)
- The Good Soldier by Ford Madox Ford (1915)
The Thirty-Nine Steps by John Buchan (1915)
- The Rainbow by DH Lawrence (1915)
Of Human Bondage by W Somerset Maugham (1915) The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton (1920)
- Ulysses by James Joyce (1922)
- Babbitt by Sinclair Lewis (1922)
A Passage to India by EM Forster (1924)
- Gentlemen Prefer Blondes by Anita Loos (1925)
- Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf (1925)
The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald (1925)
- Lolly Willowes by Sylvia Townsend Warner (1926)
- The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway (1926)
- The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett (1929)
- As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner (1930)
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley (1932) Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons (1932)
- Nineteen Nineteen by John Dos Passos (1932)
- Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller (1934)
Scoop by Evelyn Waugh (1938)
- Murphy by Samuel Beckett (1938)
- The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler (1939)
- Party Going by Henry Green (1939)
- At Swim-Two-Birds by Flann O’Brien (1939)
- The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck (1939)
- Joy in the Morning by PG Wodehouse (1946)
- All the King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren (1946)
- Under the Volcano by Malcolm Lowry (1947)
- The Heat of the Day by Elizabeth Bowen (1948)
Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell (1949) The End of the Affair by Graham Greene (1951)
- The Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger (1951)
- The Adventures of Augie March by Saul Bellow (1953)
- Lord of the Flies by William Golding (1954)
- Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov (1955)
On the Road by Jack Kerouac (1957)
- Voss by Patrick White (1957)
- To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (1960)
The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark (1960)
- Catch-22 by Joseph Heller (1961)
The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing (1962)
- A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess (1962)
- A Single Man by Christopher Isherwood (1964)
- In Cold Blood by Truman Capote (1966)
- The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath (1966)
- Portnoy’s Complaint by Philip Roth (1969)
- Mrs Palfrey at the Claremont by Elizabeth Taylor (1971)
- Rabbit Redux by John Updike (1971)
- Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison (1977)
- A Bend in the River by VS Naipaul (1979)
Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie (1981)
- Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson (1981)
Money: A Suicide Note by Martin Amis (1984)
- An Artist of the Floating World by Kazuo Ishiguro (1986)
- The Beginning of Spring by Penelope Fitzgerald (1988)
- Breathing Lessons by Anne Tyler (1988)
- Amongst Women by John McGahern (1990)
- Underworld by Don DeLillo (1997)
- Disgrace by JM Coetzee (1999)
- True History of the Kelly Gang by Peter Carey (2000)
I think it’s fair to say that I have a few issues with this list. It’s not actually a list of the 100 best novels, because it seems to be operating a “one novel per author” rule. So only one Austen, one Dickens, one Eliot and no Gaskell. And I can’t really respect any such list which omits Tolkien. However, it has thrown up some interesting suggestions for my reading.
|Next up, and in the interests of journalistic balance, the Telegraph’s list of 100 Novels Everyone Should Read, also from 2015. This one includes translated works.|
|This was a bit more like it, though they also operate the one book per author rule, leading to the frankly outrageous exclusion of War and Peace. Sure, we can have a debate about which of Tolstoy’s two great novels is the greatest, but to set up any list like this which can’t include both just isn’t honest.
No matter. I’ve now got lots of reading ideas for next year and will try and select at least 10 from the unread books listed above.
Happy New Year.
Not a vintage year in many ways. I’m writing this on the day that Debbie Reynolds died, the day after her daughter Carrie Fisher died, the day after Rick Parfitt died, the day after George Michael died etc. etc. Not to mention Brexit, Trump, Syria and too many other deeply troubling things.
O come, O come, Emmanuel, And ransom captive Israel, That mourns in lonely exile here Until the Son of God appears. Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.
The above is pretty much the only words I can find that help me make sense of it all.
But what about the books? I’ve been phenomenally busy in my real life this year, so only managed 30 in total.
The Caine Mutiny by Herman Wouk
The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick (TV series on Amazon also worth a look)
The Circle by Dave Eggars
Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather
The Odd Women by George Gissing
And only 31 books!
Hmm, quantitavely speaking this was very much a could-do-better year. However, I did read some cracking books. My top five were (in no particular order and ignoring re-reads):
- Freedom and Necessity by Steven Brust and Emma Bull
- Dr. Faustus by Thomas Mann
- Cross Stitch by Diana Gabaldon
- Bring up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel
- The World we Have Lost by Peter Laslett
I’ll have a bit more leisure to read these next few weeks, so it’s time to up the pace. I also want to explore my own fiction bookshelves; the ones pictured up top. There are quite a few in there that I have never read, so my plan is to read one book from each shelf, 23 in total. Alcott, Brust, Buchan, Pears, Sayers, Spyri and Waugh already cover 5, the way the books are arranged(alphabetically by author as it happens) – 18 to go.
Time to get back into the reading/blogging habit. The rules for this year are:
- I am aiming to average one book each week, but I’m not going to stress about it.
- Re-reads and multiple books by the same author are allowed in moderation.
- No novels during Lent
So I managed 43 books from a goal of 52. It all started to slide in September when my working life went a bit mental and never really recovered after that. But I don’t mind, because I read some fabulous books last year. And setting myself a few basic rules (no re-reads, only one book per author, mix up the genres) enabled me to broaden my reading horizons a little.
I found that I like keeping a list of books read and writing a little about them, but I don’t like (can’t be bothered? don’t know how?) to write full blown reviews.
I can’t possibly choose one favorite book out of the 43, but here are my top five; Gilead by Marilynne Robinson, An Instance of the Fingerpost by Iain Pears, Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel, Free Country by George Mahood and A Year of Biblical Womanhood by Rachel Held Evans.
I’m not setting a target for 2014 as I have decided to make this the year of very long books with Les Miserables, Freedom and Necessity, Boswell’s Life of Johnson and Bringing up the Bodies all in my sights among others. I’m also looking forward to getting back to some re-reads.
Oh, and I’m still working my way through Augustine’s confessions.