Posts Tagged ‘A Century of books’


Predictably, I have been buying books again – although there are extenuating circumstances (ok there aren’t). Part of my problem is my absolute obsession with my A Century of Books. Originally, I had said I would be doing it over two years, but I now would rather like to finish it in a year. It will be tight – but I might be able to do it!

I have hit a major milestone – halfway and it isn’t even the end of June yet. 50 books down and 50 to go. You can see everything I have read so far hereI have actually read 60 books so far in 2018, so there have been some duplicates, and I know I will be reading more duplicate years.

So, having examined my tbr spreadsheet – invaluable when doing ACOB – I realised I had quite a few gaps. It’s funny how out of more than 260 books one can have six titles for 1950 but absolutely none for 2010. So, I valiantly went online book shopping and filled in all the gaps I had. Some books were bought second hand – others I bought for my kindle – I often buy more modern titles and certain non-fiction on kindle as they are often the books I am less likely to keep.

I bought:

The Seventh Cross by Anna Seghers – 1942 – originally published during the war this novel has recently been re-issued by Virago – and I am hearing great things about it.

Excellent Intentions – Richard Hull – 1938 a BLCC title that I have already seen very good reports about, and a new author to me.

Basil Street Blues – Michael Holroyd – 1999 A biography of a biographer – described on the back as being part detective story, part family saga, and a voyage of self-discovery.

The Queen of the Tambourine – Jane Gardam – 1991 I really haven’t read enough Gardam, and this sounds deeply charming.

The Complete stories of Muriel Spark – not for ACOB but needed for#ReadingMuriel2018 – and I’ve ordered some essays which haven’t yet arrived.

And for my kindle:

The Welsh Girl – Peter Ho Davies 2007 – A novel I have seen some great reports of, had had meant to read back when it first came out.

The Human Factor – Graham Greene 1978 I have meant to read more Greene for ages.

Educating Alice – Alice Steinbach 2004 – a book about learning and travelling, chronicling the author’s European journey of self-discovery.

How the Girl Guides won the War – Jane Hampton 2010 – is pretty much about what it says on the tin (cover) and it sounds fascinating.


If that mighty haul wasn’t enough – I succumbed to the book people’s offer on a set of A A Milne books. I have been meaning to read his adult books for years, and this was the perfect opportunity. At the weekend I gobbled up the first of them, Four Days’ Wonder – such joyful, bright, breezy fun.

So yes, I have gone a bit mad. I am going to try and not buy any more books till the end of the summer, otherwise I will be finishing the year on the same number of books as I started with, which really wasn’t the idea.

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I am finding that I rather enjoy having a tbr spreadsheet, it doesn’t stop me buying/acquiring books and adding to it, but it has until now stopped me going mad. Don’t let the moderately modest book pile in the picture fool you – it is only a part of the story.

So, in January when I began doing A Century of Books which I am happily obsessed by – I had 280 books on my spreadsheet once I had added in all those pesky kindle books. I am currently reading book 51 of the year – which is ok for me at this point in the year – however … as of a few minutes ago when I updated it – the spreadsheet stands at 261 (there are several books I am eyeing up to cull – random kindle buys particularly but they still stand for now). Oopsy, so I have been clearly buying books. Now you can all see what a hopeless book buyer I am, and there was me blithely thinking I had done better this year.

As for A Century of Books –I do love this challenge and can imagine doing it again too. I had said I was trying to do it in two years – though completing it in a year would be amazing and I am now wondering if I can manage it. However, I think I am reading too many duplicates (with several more lined up that I have to get to) that I suspect I will get to December and find myself frustratingly close but just out of reach. Currently I have got 43 years ticked off, as long as I don’t duplicate too many years I could just do it – but I think it will be tight.


So, the books above are some of my recent acquisitions – four Persephone books are ordered and winging their way to me, I assume they will arrive Tuesday because of the bank holiday. Did I need four more Persephone books right now? No, to be frank I didn’t, I already have five tbr, but what has need ever had to do with it? There is a  Mini Persephone readathon coming up next weekend, hosted by Jessie, but I may well extend that to most of next week, and several of my Persephone tbr – are annoying duplicate years in my ACOB (I know, I did say I was obsessed!).

My new lovelies are:

Heartburn by Nora Ephron – which I am looking forward to – I have heard very good reports of it. These VMC40 editions are so pretty.

The Collected stories by Grace Paley (huge admission, I arrived home with this to discover I already had a copy. I hadn’t realised because the other book had been missed off my spreadsheet and was physically so different it didn’t ring a bell).

The Takeover by Muriel Spark, the Spark I will be reading in June for Phase three of #ReadingMuriel2018.

The book underneath that is the latest arrival from the Asymptote book club, book six for me. It looks brilliant, but not everyone who subscribes will have received it yet – so I can’t reveal it. Some of you may remember I expressed doubts about book five when it arrived. Well I finished it a few days ago, and really enjoyed it – so sometimes first impressions are entirely wrong.

The book at the bottom of the pile was what I spent a left-over book voucher on, The Last of the Greenwoods by Clare Morrall. A Birmingham set book by a Birmingham author, I haven’t actually read that many books by Clare Morrall, and not all her books are set in Birmingham. Having loved Astonishing Splashes of Colour, I was so disappointed by The Man Who Disappeared that it put me off her other novels, until I read When the Floods Came, which I thought was fantastic.

The four Persephone books I have ordered are: Consequences by E M Delafield (1919) The Carlyles at Home by Thea Holme (1965), The Despised and Rejected by Rose Allatini (1918) and Tory Heaven by Marghanita Laski (1948). Those are added to my Persephone page (you knew I had a Persephone page, didn’t you?) – where I keep track of what I own, and I now have over 100. I shall probably try and read two back to back this next week – I have nine to choose from. This pleases me.

So, the numbers may not be moving by much, but I am having fun! Is anyone else joining in the mini Persephone readathon?

minipersephone readalong



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Having decided to take part in ACOB I determinedly ignored any temptation to do anything crazy like sweep all my tbr books to the floor and work my way through them looking for the first published date. Who, after all would ever need a spreadsheet of their tbr? Did I really need to know how many tbr books I actually had?

Then I saw other ACOB-ers posting pictures of  books – books spread across the floor, stacked in piles, I felt the stirrings of inspiration. The following day I found myself surrounded by a few tottering piles of books, my laptop on, as I set about doing the very same thing. It took the best part of five hours (with a break to cook dinner) and I don’t have *that* many books – as I discovered.

Collage 2018-01-12 18_49_22

So, let’s talk numbers. Before I began there was a stack of about 15 books on the floor – this worried me – I don’t allow a stack on the floor. However, after sifting through I discovered about 14 books for culling, and 2 pairs of duplicates – so when I had finished there were, pleasingly, no books to be piled on the floor. My tbr is housed on two deep, wide shelves, the books are doubled rowed with others stacked on top – meaning I only access about half of it at a time. Not the best way to arrange my tbr I grant you – but I insist on only have two shelves tbr. There were two re-counts – I discovered an uncounted book down the side of the chair (they get everywhere) and remembered two books ordered before New Year, that had yet to arrive – (they have now). So, the final, final numbers; I have 208 books on my tbr. I was absurdly pleased with that, I had thought it would be higher.

IMG_20180112_202233.jpgOh, that doesn’t include my kindle books. My kindle tbr stands at 72, but I don’t currently feel compelled to add them to the spreadsheet. They don’t quite feel like real books in the same way. Still, mathematical genius that I am, I know that 208 and 72 comes to something like 280 books. Should I add them to the spreadsheet? Ooh now I’m thinking I should!

I was fascinated by the books I found, that I had forgotten all about, some I have had years. (Some of those kindle books have been there since I had my first kindle). I was surprised how many books by Beryl Bainbridge I had 5 – I choose to read one straight away. There are quite a lot of Golden Age crime, including 3 Margery Allingham who I haven’t read enough of, but now I’m not sure whether they are at the front or the back. Lots of Virago greens, including four Molly Keane’s and four Mrs Oliphants (she falls outside the dates of ACOB though). Edith Wharton, Olivia Manning, Margaret Laurence, E H Young, so many wonderful writers. Lots of things I am now looking forward to reading. I already have my first 2018 book on the pile, Three things About Elsie by Joanna Cannon arrived yesterday, I pre-ordered it a few months ago. I have three or four books for many of the years in ACOB but frustratingly there are a lot of missing years, which could lead to more book buying later in the year. If I added those kindle books to the spreadsheet then I might find I have some them.

*drums fingers* perhaps I better get on with it, though it’s probably a job for another day.



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December is such a busy time, with Christmas to prepare for and evenings out to enjoy – culminating however in some time off work for Christmas. Still I managed some good reading time in the midst of all of that.

Librarything finished the year reading the work of Sylvia Townsend Warner, with which I happily joined in and of course I always like to find some Christmas themed books to read.

I started the month reading Love’s Shadow by Ada Leverson, who in my review I said I hadn’t read before – later I discovered I had read The Limit – and hadn’t loved it. It is hard to keep track!

My very small book group had chosen to read- Lolly Willowes by Sylvia Townsend Warner giving me the perfect excuse to re-read it. It is just as good the second time.

Another Little Christmas Mystery by Lorna Nicholl Morgan, was a very enjoyable little winter mystery but it’s not really set at Christmas. The novel has been retitled to appeal to readers like me, it’s worth reading. Plenty of snow but not a sprig of mistletoe or strand of tinsel in sight.

The selected stories of Sylvia Townsend Warner is a fantastic collection – spanning forty years of her writing life, it shows perfectly, what a consummate short story writer she was.

Alive, Alive Oh! By Diana Athill is another of her wonderful collections of memoirs, I love her spirit and attitude to life and ageing. I happened to read this just a few days before the author’s 100th birthday.

A Christmas Memory by Truman Capote was a slim little book I bought last Christmas and didn’t get around to. It contains three little stories for the festive season.

Portrait of a Murderer by Anne Meredith was recently re-issued by the British Library Crime Classics as their fiftieth title. It is a clever, intelligent mystery, which was marred a little by the anti-Semitic treatment of one character.

Winter by Ali Smith – also set at Christmas – was the perfect read for the Christmas weekend, I flew through it, finishing it on Christmas Eve. It made my twelve books of the year list at the last moment.

Long Live Great Bardfield the autobiography of Tirzah Garwood is a brilliant account of the lives of artists Tirzah and her husband Eric Ravilious along with the many people they knew. It is one of three books I still have to review.

The Lime Tree by César Aira was my first book to arrive from the Asymptote book group, a novella from a prolific Argentinian writer whom I have to confess to not having heard of.

Chedsy Place by Richmal Crompton really was my last book of the month and the year – I finished it late on New Year’s Eve – it’s always nice to finish the year tidily.

So, in looking ahead to January, I must begin by looking ahead to my reading challenges this year. I want to try and read a bit more fiction in translation, but that will be only one book a month at the very most.


Of course, #ReadingMuriel2018 starts today – and I am very excited about that – so many people joining in or planning to join in. I began in earnest, started to read The Comforters in bed this morning. For those who want to keep track of the schedule or share thoughts, links etc I have created a dedicated page for the read-along which you can find here.

a-century-of-booksIf all that wasn’t enough – I have also decided to do A Century of Books. Simon from Stuckinabook and Clare from the Captive Reader are doing it too as I think are several others. This is my first time of ACOB – and I have chosen 1919-2018 as my century. I’m not working to any prescribed list – the idea is I fill in each year as I read a book first published in that year. I understand it gets harder as years get checked off. If you want to follow my progress – and I have said it will probably take me two years – I have created another page here, where you can. Not very much to see yet. I am hoping I can do the majority of the reading from my existing tbr – and I am not going to use any re-reads.

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