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10 books to read this Spring (maybe)

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday hosted by The Broke and the Bookish requires me to list 10 novels on my to read list this Spring. An impossible task I fear for one who finds planning and reading do not make for happy bedfellows. I’ve tried – really I have (quit  rolling those eyes would you please) over the last five years. I have pledged my allegiance to various challenges short and long and dutifully listed what I would read as my entry ticket to such events. The list making is the fun part. After that it all goes down hill rapidly. The minute a book title goes on a list, I seem to lose all interest in reading it and instead much prefer something lurking in the darker recesses of the bookcase. So I’ve given up essentially and just read what takes my fancy at the time. 

My list of 10 is therefore offered with full disclosure that I might read all of these. I might read some of them. It’s conceivable, being as fickle as I am, that I will read none of them.  I reserve the right to completely change my mind in the next few weeks (scratch that, I mean next few hours). The most likely one I will read is the book I drew in the Classic Club SpinDiary of a Nobody by George and Weedon Grossmith.


My one and only commitment is that whatever I do read, it will be from the collection of books I already own – this is in support of my 2017 goals. 

10-to-read - 2017

Hell’s Gate by the French author Lauren Gaude is due for publication by Gallic Books in April.I have a NetGalley copy for review. Gallic describes it as “A thrilling story of love, loss, revenge and redemption in Naples and beyond.”

GhostBird by Carol Lovekin: Another title by the independent Welsh publisher Honno Press that I picked up as part of my plan to read more fiction from my fellow countrymen and women. This was Waterstones Wales and Welsh Independent Bookshops
Book of the Month in April 2016.

Good Behaviour by Molly Keane: One of the titles I have in mind for Reading Ireland 2017 – I’ve read only one novel by Keane (Devoted Ladies – under her other name of M.J Farrell) so I’m keen to see if this one resonates more with me.

When the Doves Disappeared by Sofi Oksanen, translated from Finnish by  Lola Rogers. It’s described by The Independent newspaper as a tense family drama. I was more interested in their assessment that “When The Doves Disappeared is indeed a thrilling page-turner but it is equally a shattering family drama and an unsparing deconstruction of history.” I bought this as part of my quest to broaden my reading horizons with authors from many parts of the world.

Twilight in Djakarta by Mochtar Lubis, I picked up a second hand copy of this about four years ago. Its one of only two books I own by an author from Indonesia. The cover has a rather dark, retro feel which apparently matches the mood of the book. It was published about 50 years ago, having been smuggled out of Indonesia where the author was held under house arrest, and depicts social and political events in the capital during the run up to a national election.

His Bloody Project  by Graeme Macrae Burnet. A historical thriller that was longlisted for the Booker Prize in 2016. I meant to read it before shortlist was announced and got a bargain electronic copy but it wasnt the right format – I wanted to be able to flick back to previous chapters etc which is never easy on an e reader. But now my sister donated her print copy to me, I have no more excuses.

We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson (note that I erroneously had this attributed to Dodi Smith until an astute reader spotted the error). I know, I know, you are astounded I have never read this classic. So am I. And so I will. At some point

The Finkler Question  by Howard Jacobson. One of the remaining titles on my Booker project list. It has its fans and its detractors. I’ve read the opening chapter and enjoyed it.

Sacred Hunger  by Barry Unsworth. Another Booker prize winner that has been highly recommended by many of you who follow this blog.

How many of these will I actually read? I dare you to make a forecast…..


Revealed – results of Classics Club Spin #4:


Graham Greene

The roulette wheel for the Classics Club spin-along finished with the ball landing on number 10.Which means I will be reading The Power and the Glory by Grahame  Greene. Phew! I said yesterday that I was hoping to avoid Robinson Crusoe so I’m pleased I avoided that – I will read it at some point but I’m not in the mood for it right now.

The Power and the Glory will actually be a re-read but it’s some thirty years now since I read it and I can’t remember much about it beyond the fact it was about a moral crisis suffered by a priest who is trying to avoid capture by the Mexican authorities. Grahame  Greene was one of the authors on the final year syllabus at university, a time when all our energies were going into revision for finals and had little time for scrutinising texts in much detail.

I’ve always felt since that I didn’t do justice to Mr Greene. Fortunately Simon of Savidge Reads gave me the impetus to put that right with the  ’Greene for Gran’ readalong he organised this summer as a tribute to his book-loving gran. I ended up re-reading The Heart of the Matter, one of his ‘Catholic novels’ which proved a superb experience.

The Power and the Glory is on the Time list of the best 100 novels published in English since 1923, in which it is described as a novel of “intricate moral landscapes, where corrupt characters might still be capable of goodness and virtuous ones indulge their virtues murderously.”

Sounds good doesn’t it?? Some leading figures in the Catholic church didn’t think so – the Cardinal of Westminster summoned Greene to a meeting so that he could read him a letter from the Holy Church condemning the novel and insisting he re-write it. Greene refused.

The rules of the spin-along give me until January 1, 2014 to read this which means I have a wonderful end-of -the-year reading treat in store.

Read more: Best Books of ALL TIME | All-TIME 100 Novels |

Classics Club Spinalong Choice

Here we go again – the second Classics Club is imminent. This is where we have to pick a list of 20 books from our Classics Club reading list, and give each a number.

Then with a spin of the virtual roulette wheel, the team at Classics Club will reveal a winning number – all we have to read is to read the matching book from our list by end of July. The rules are open to challenge – so I did think about just putting the same book in twenty times but in the end thought that would be cheating. Tempting though……..

Here’s my list. Many are from the list I did for Spinalong #1 back in March. I’ve tried to include some I’m not that keen on but think its good for my soul as it were

  1. Pamela (ugh)
  2. Canterbury Tales
  3. Wives and Daughters
  4. Dr Thorne
  5. Mansfield Park
  6. Anna Karenina
  7. Daisy Miller/Washington Square (oh no, not James please!)
  8. Things Fall Apart (please, please pick me!)
  9. Love in the Time of Cholera
  10. Half a Yellow Sun
  11. Age of Innocence
  12. L’Assommoir
  13. Grapes of Wrath (if I must)
  14. The Pursuit Of Love
  15. Mrs Dalloway
  16. Silent Spring (need a bit of non fiction)
  17. Mrs Palfrey at the Claremont
  18. The Infinite Plan
  19. A Parisian Affair and other stories
  20. Old Gariot

Farewell to Arms: Review

farewellWhen a book comes from the pen of a Nobel prize-winning author and it’s his first best-seller, my expectation is that I’ll be offered something special. But the only sensation brought on by reading Ernest Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms was one of mystification about why this novel is rated so highly.

The story is a romance set in Italy during World War 1 between an American serving with the Italian forces and a British nurse. It’s based on Hemingway’s own experiences while serving as an ambulance driver on the Austrian-Italian front. The driver and the nurse meet, have a passionate affair, flee the country and spend months billing and cooing in a snowy idyll somewhere in Switzerland.  Which doesn’t sound too bad a plot. The problem for me was that the story is related with all the passion of someone reading the back of a cornflakes box.

I understand that Hemingway was striving for an ultra lean writing style; one that avoided complicated syntax and eliminated what he considered unnecessary punctuation. Where many authors used the comma to connect phrases, Hemingway preferred to use ‘and’ as his connector. The result is so pared down it felt drained of all colour and vitality. Conversations between the two love birds were rendered in such a simple way that it was very hard to get inside their heads and to experience the intensity of the emotion they felt for each other. In short I found the whole thing under-whelming.

Classics Club is in a spin

Classics Club is taking its members for a spin. Not the kind of spin which involves dressing in jazzy lycra and sporting super-toned calf muscles. Classics Club’s kind of spin is one you’ll know if you’re a Las Vegas type of person and like a spot at the roulette table. It’s all a question of numbers.

What we’re challenged to do is pick a list of 20 books from our Classics Club reading list, and number them. On Monday, with a spin of their virtual roulette wheel, the team at Classics Club will reveal a winning number and we all have to read the matching book from our list by end of March. Since we’re supposed to include on our lists at least five books that we know we really should read, but have been putting off for a while, this is not a challenge for the faint hearted.

So here goes with my list:

  1. Canterbury Tales
  2. Pamela (ugh)
  3. Wives and Daughters
  4. Dr Thorne
  5. Anna Karenina
  6. Daisy Miller/Washington Square (oh no, not James please!)
  7. Things Fall Apart (please, please pick me!)
  8. Love in the Time of Cholera
  9. Age of Innocence
  10. Robinson Crusoe (Mr BookerTalk had better be right about this one)
  11. Grapes of Wrath (if I must)
  12. The Pursuit Of Love
  13. Mrs Dalloway
  14. Farewell to Arms
  15. Silent Spring (need a bit of non fiction)
  16. Castle of Otranto
  17. Mrs Palfrey at the Claremont
  18. The Infinite Plan
  19. A Parisian Affair and other stories
  20. Old Gariot

So now the die is cast – bring it on!

Sunday Salon: not browsing but searching

sundaysalonI’ve been blogging for almost a year now. I’ve explored new authors thanks to recommendations by other book bloggers and through my self-imposed challenge of reading through the entire list of Booker prize winners or the 50 books on my Classics Club list. I’ve bought more books this year than I can ever remember and I’ve read more than I have in previous years.  Not every book I’ve read in consequence has turned out to be a worthwhile experience but my horizons have definitely been broadened as I’ve deviated from my tried and tested list of authors.

And yet…. For the last few months I’ve had this niggling sensation that something is missing from this experience. It wasn’t until I read a post today at Sophisticated Dorkiness that I realised the nature of that missing element.

For decades I bought books or borrowed them from libraries after browsing through the shelves. Browsing was how in my mid teens I began to be a more serious reader, ditching my normal diet of Dennis Wheatley and Jean Plaidy in favour of rather more testing fare in the shape of Tolstoy, Herman Hesse, and even Jean Paul Sartre. I knew little of them but I discovered them simply by randomly picking books off the shelves. Our local library was a rather small affair but the librarians made the best use possible of their limited shelf space and I will be eternally grateful to those who decided residents in our town needed more than Agatha Christie to sustain them.

As the years advanced and I no longer had to rely on pocket money, I progressed to buying books. My browsing habits adapted.  No longer able to just return free of charge, books I didn’t like, I had to be more discerning. So I skimmed a few pages first – but I was still browsing. It’s how I encountered Wilkie Collins (reading every one of his books in a few years); George Eliot and then, in more recent years, Sharon Penman (and fell in love with her trilogy of the Welsh princes); and even more recently Thomas Keneally and Emile Zola.

But now, when I go to a bookshop or a library, as Kim says in her post, I go with a list. Yesterday was fairly typical – I went looking for Dissolution (C J Sansom) because it’s our book club read for January. Within ten minutes I was back outside, new book in hand.  In other words I’ve swapped browsing for searching.  The only times I actually seem to browse now are when I’m hanging around an airport waiting for a flight – since I don’t tend to have my wishlist with me, I might pick up something I’ve not heard of before but sounds intriguing.

I want my earlier experience back. But I also enjoy the recommendations from others and ideas gathered from monitoring multiple blogs. Can I have both?  Actually yes I think I can if I just decide once every couple of months to go to the library, leaving the wish list at home, and just  randomly walk along the shelves, picking whatever takes my fancy. I might have to be disciplined not to cheat and take something that I know I’ve been wanting to read for months!. It might be hard to resist that temptation but I’m going to give it a go.

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