The Years of My Life

04241FD6-393A-4ED1-A603-FCCF60EA9B7DAt some point over the last month or so I have read about a blogger who is deliberately reading books published in each of the years of her/his life. Unfortunately, I didn’t make a note of who that was, so if it is you or if you know who it might be, please let me know, because I think it is a great idea and if you don’t mind I am going to join you.  One of the things I prize most about reading is the insight it gives into the time in which a book was written.  Even if it is an historical novel or a piece of science fiction it still reflects to some extent the values of the society out of which it has developed. Selecting a certain number of books from each year, and working through those years chronologically, should, in theory, offer a developing insight into the world in which I have grown up and the literature that it has given rise to.

But how to select?  When you think of all the books which are published every year where do you begin? Plus, there have been rather a lot of years of my life. I have a certain amount of catching up to do. My initial thoughts are that I shall pick just one novel from each of the genres that I have been most concerned with, namely, contemporary fiction, crime fiction and children’s literature and fit them into my reading over two or three months, depending on length and what else has to be read over that same period.  As far as possible I shall choose books that I haven’t read before, although with the children’s fiction for the early years that may not be so easy as far less was being published and I was a voracious reader from an early age.  I also think that I am going to stick just to British publications.  If I try and spread my net too wide then the whole thing will become just completely impractical and besides it is the reflection of the society I grew up in that I am interested in and that is British society.

So, where do we start?  The year is 1949.  (Don’t bother to add up on your fingers – at some point this year a sixty-eighth birthday has been or will be celebrated.)  You see what I mean about the catching up?  A quick look at Wikipedia’s 1949 in Literature page offers me all sorts of possibilities.  Just picking out those that meet my criteria in adult fiction and which also take my fancy there are:

  • Agatha Christie ~ Crooked House
  • Graham Greene ~ The Third Man
  • Marghanita Laski ~ Little Boy Lost
  • Nancy Mitford ~ Love in a Cold Climate

I feel thoroughly ashamed at having to admit that I haven’t read the Greene and as I have a sneaking suspicion that I do know the Christie but have just forgotten all about it, I’m going to push the boundaries a bit and class The Third Man as crime.  I am also remiss on the Mitford front but would have to read The Pursuit of Love presumably in order for the second volume to make sense.  I shall ponder that for a few days longer before making a final decision.

In children’s books, Enid Blyton seems to have started three different series that year. (She must have known I was about to appear on the scene and would be needing copious amounts of reading material.)  Noddy Goes to Toyland and The Secret Seven were both published as was The Rockingdown Mystery which is the first of six books about the same group of children and a small monkey.  It was also the year that we first met the Moomins but they don’t meet the British criteria.  Neither, unfortunately, does Ruth Park, whose name I was amazed to see on the list.  In my mind, this New Zealand born but Australian author belongs much later in my career when she was publishing such superb books as Playing Beatie Bow. I had no idea she was writing so much earlier.  I thought I might try Geoffrey Trease’s No Boats on Bannermere but I can’t find a copy that I can afford, so it is going to have to be a re-read, I’m afraid.  A quick look round the book selling sites has unearthed a volume with the first three of the stories in the Rockingdown series and I shall quite enjoy going back to spending time with Barney and Co. I always liked them better than the Secret Seven or Famous Five.

When I’ve made a final choice for contemporary fiction I’ll try and fit these into November and December.  Fortunately my book groups go quiet as we get closer to Christmas and so I should manage all three.  Then we’ll hit the fifties and who knows what there will be to be found there.

 

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34 thoughts on “The Years of My Life

  1. I like this idea and will think about maybe doing it myself. I loved The Rockingdown Mystery – liked that series more than the Secret Seven and the Famous Five. Little Boy Lost is a beautiful book. I’ve read the Christie and think I’ve read the Greene and Mitford books – but I could be wrong 🙂

    Good luck – it all sounds most enjoyable.

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    • Yes, I loved the Rockingdown mysteries too. I must have found them at the library because there was never very much money for buying books when I was a child. Mind you, that was a good thing in one sense because it got me into the habit of going to the library two or three times a week and it’s one I’ve never lost. When I was looking for my first house one of the questions I always asked was where is the nearest library.

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      • I always asked for books for Christmas and my birthday and as I had lots of aunties and uncles I received quite a few each year – but most of the books I read were library books. We went once or twice a week – to two different libraries – and I still do the same now. I was disappointed today as the mobile library was supposed to come this afternoon but it was cancelled. I’ll be at the branch library on Friday though.

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  2. It’s an interesting idea – if I wasn’t trying to avoid challenges I might be tempted by something like this. I think it could have been Grant at 1stReading that was doing books from his year of birth – if my rubbish memory serves me correctly! 1streading.wordpress.com

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  3. I love the idea, but I have too many projects at it is, and the books I’ve never found many books calling me from the decade or so after I was born. You have planted another idea though, that I might work back from the year my birth to my mother’s, and then maybe to my grandmother’s ….

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  4. Yes, I can see where this project can lead you down a rabbit hole. I would probably spend too much time researching books and then not be able to narrow down the choices. But it would definitely be interesting to see which books you select and how you like them. And if you’d be able to see a common theme within each year’s choices and how it might change from year to year.

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    • Yes, it has all sorts of possibilities doesn’t it. I think that’s what appeals to me, the fact that it can have so many different ways of connecting texts. I love finding connections. I have been thinking about adding play scripts to the mix because the theatre has been a massive part of my life since I was two, but some of those would be quite difficult and expensive to source. I may add one in every now and again as treat.

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  5. Sounds like fun, though I think you should fit in a re-read of Crooked House too – one of my fave Christies. 😉 I adored the Barney books as a child but would be frightened to revisit them now for fear that my adult self would be too critical. I’ll be interested to hear what you think of it.

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  6. This is a great idea – I won’t be joining in because I find I always fail at challenges, but will be watching your progress with interest. I’ve read all four of the fiction list – excellent books all of them. Little Boy Lost is particularly brilliant. You will have fun!

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  7. What a fabulous idea. Wish I’d heard of it back in the summer when I turned 60 then I could have added it to my 60goals project and had more time in which to do the reading. I could probably squeeze in 1 book from my birth year before end of 2017 but can’t see me doing more than that sadly since I am determined to finish my Booker project….

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    • I think one project at a time is definitely enough if you are going to do it justice, but you are very close to the end of your Booker project, aren’t you? Maybe when you’ve read the last few and are only committed to one a year you might be able to start up on something new.

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      • I still have my classics club project to finish though if i’m clever I might be able to find books that covered both projects. If it was one book for each year of my life that would be 60 which is pretty much how many I read in a year so wouldn’t give me much flexibility for other reading. I could do it over two years I know but of course I can’t keep things to a simple level can I – I have to overcomplicate it because choosing just one book for a whole year would be really tough. So I thought well maybe one fiction and one non fiction but of course that doubles the number! How I wish you were not tempting me 🙂

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      • I’m intending to do it over a much longer period than that and determined not to allow myself to get bogged down by it. If I only get through three or four years in a twelve month that will be good enough for me.

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  8. This sounds like a fun idea! It would feel a bit overwhelming, though, to choose the books, wouldn’t it? I’ll be interested to see what you choose and hear about what you learn (if anything!). And I think I’ll keep it in mind for myself – it might not be too overwhelming if I narrow down my choices to Canadian books only, since that seems to be what I read most of the time now anyway. 🙂
    Have you discovered the source of the idea yet?

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    • No, unfortunately I haven’t. A suggestion was made but it turned out to be a blogger I had never visited and so couldn’t have come from there. I know what you mean about the problems of choosing but I found with 1949 that when I limited myself to novels first published in the UK and one’s that I hadn’t already read it cut down the scope tremendously. I suspect that won’t always be the case though, especially as I come closer to the present day. There is so much contemporary fiction that I have never tried.

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  9. I love this idea! Perhaps I will do a few years of my life. (I’m better at decades than individual years. BTW, youdon’t have to read Mitford’s The Pursuit of Love before Love in a Climate, though they have the same narrator, who also narrates Don’t Ask Alfred.

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  10. Sounds like a good reading conceit. I’ll enjoy seeing you go through British literature. Although I studied the literature of your country in the 18th century, on my own I’ve reverted to reading more of the contemporary fiction from my own country.

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    • It is a lot of books and I only managed one last month. I am very conscious though that almost all of my reading is of contemporary fiction and one of the reasons I set out on this project was that I wanted to encourage myself to read further back in time.

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  11. I might regret this at some point but I’ve decided to join you although I’m going to take a more conservative approach with two books from each year of my life – one fiction and one non fiction. I picked up my first fiction read today – Muriel Spark’s first published novel The Comforters, published in 1957. For non fiction it will be a toss up between Ian Watt’s Rise of the Novel and Primo Levi’s If This Is a Man. I’m leaning towards Levi at the moment. Now if this all goes pear shaped you know it will be the Bears that will bear the brunt of my wrath 🙂

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    • I hope you won’t regret it too much, Karen, The Bears are pretty good at hiding when the wrath is flying around which means it will probably come my way instead. I pretty certain Spark will find her way into my list at some point, if only because I have read far too few of her novels. I am going to finish with 1949 this coming month and will then have the pleasure of picking my books for 1950. The picking is at least half the fun!

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      • I enjoy choosing but have decided not to plan too far ahead because from experience if I make any kind of list i lose interest in the books once the list is made. I’m going for the serendipitous approach..

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