A Century of Books

Simon made the button too. (At least I am assuming he did.)

When Simon first posted about the A Century of Books challenge it appealed to my listy ways, but since it requires reading 100 books in one year, I thought better of it. I have in the past read more than 100 books in one year, but that was when I was only working three days a week (aka the salad days). The basis of the challenge is to read one book from every year of the 20th century.  As I said, I wasn’t going to participate, but then I thought I could tie it into my TBR Double Dare and see how many years I could knock out. But still, I did not take up the challenge.

Then a few weeks ago when John was out of town, I stayed up until about 3:00 am. One of the things I felt the need to do instead of sleep was to make a spreadsheet listing each year of the century and then filling in the blanks with the 60 or so books that are in my TBR Double Dare pile. But I still wasn’t sure if I was going to participate. But then Simon’s recent post about the Modern Library’s book of the 200 best books since 1950 really got me interested. So I’m in.

And by the by, the results of my list making with my TBR Double Dare stash are kind of interesting. I was able to fill in about 37 years. Of course for some years I have more than one title in that TBR pile. With four books, 1946 had the most overlap, 1934 and 1940 have three titles each, and 1908, 1929, and 1990 each had two.  And the teens are most under represented with a big goose egg.

As you will see from the list below the 1940s is the most complete decade based on my TBR Double Dare pile.  But keep in mind I have about another 200 unread books in my library that I will be able to add to the list once April 1st rolls around. It will be kind of cool to see if I can fill all 100 years without resorting to outside books.

I have no idea if I will come anywhere close to finishing, but we all love a list so here it is.

I have already completed the one’s that are crossed out. When there was more than one title for any given year in my TBR Double Dare, I only listed the one I am most likely to read. And those marked “ML100” are on the Modern Library’s list of the top 100 novels of the 20th century, which I have been working my way through since 1997.

[UPDATE: I have been updating this list as I finish books so the text above may no longer be entirely accurate.]

1900 – Lord Jim by Joseph Conrad (ML100)
1901 – Kim by Rudyard Kipling or Buddenbrooks by Thomas Mann
1902 – The Immoralist by Andre Gide or The Wings of the Dove by Henry James
1903 – The Riddle of the Sands by Erskine Childers
1904 – The Golden Bowl by Henry James (ML100)
1905 – Professor Unrat by Heinrich Mann
1906 – Young Torless by Robert Musil
1907 – The Secret Agent by Joseph Conrad (ML100)
1908 – Love’s Shadow by Ada Leverson
1909 – Strait is the Gate by Andre Gide or Martin Eden by Jack London
1910 – Impressions of Africa by Raymond Rousse
1911 –
1912 – The Charwoman’s Daughter by James Stephens
1913 – T. Tembarom by Frances Hodgson Burnett
1914 – Dubliners by James Joyce or maybe Penrod by Booth Tarkington
1915 – The Underdogs by Mariano Azuela
1916 – Under Fire by Henri Barbusse
1917 – Gone to Earth by Mary Webb or Parnassus on Wheels by Christopher Morley
1919 – Consequences by E.M. Delafield
1920 – Women in Love by D.H. Lawrence (ML100)
1921 –
1922 – The Judge by Rebecca West or Jacob’s Room by Virginia Woolf
1923 – The Ladies of Lyndon by Margaret Kennedy
1924 – Some Do Not by Ford Madox Ford (ML100)
1925 – No More Parades by Ford Madox Ford (ML100)
1926 – A Man Could Stand Up by Ford Madox Ford (ML100)
1927 – Rhapsody by Dorothy Edwards
1928 – Last Post by Ford Madox Ford (ML100)
1929 – The Last September by Elizabeth Bowen
1930 – Angel Pavement by J.B. Priestly or The Deepening Stream by Dorothy Canfield
1931 – Saraband by Eliot Bliss or Poor Caroline by Winifred Hoitby
1932 – Young Lonigan by James T. Farrell (ML100)
1933 – Frost in May by Antonia White or Ordinary Familes by E. Arnot Robertson
1934 – The Young Manhood of Studs Lonigan by James T. Farrell (ML100)
1935 – Judgment Day by James T. Farrell (ML100)
1936 – Summer Will Show by Sylvia Townsend Warner or Eyeless in Gaza by Huxley
1937 – Lady Rose and Mrs. Memmary by Ruby Ferguson
1938 – Princes in the Land by Joanna Cannan
1939 – Pale Horse, Pale Rider by Katherine Anne Porter
1940 – Sapphira and the Slave Girl by Willa Cather
1941 – The Living and the Dead by Patrick White or Hangover Square by Patrick Hamilton
1942 – Clark Clifford’s Body by Kenneth Fearing
1943 – Gideon Planish by Sinclair Lewis
1944 – Cluny Brown by Margery Sharp
1945 – The Pursuit of Love by Nancy Mitford
1946 – Every Good Deed by Dorothy Whipple
1947 – Under the Volcano by Malcolm Lowry (ML100) or Not Now, but Now by MFK Fisher
1948 – The Loved One by Evelyn Waugh
1949 – Love in a Cold Climate by Nancy Mitford
1950 – Our Spoons Came From Woolworths by Barbara Comyns
1951 – A Game of Hide and Seek by Elizabeth Taylor
1952 – The Village by Marghanita Laski
1953 – Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis
1954 – Tortoise and the Hare by Elizabeth Jenkins
1955 – The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith
1956 – The Flight From the Enchanter by Iris Murdoch
1957 – The Midwich Cuckoos by John Wyndham or Pnin by Vladimir Nabokov
1958 – A Glass of Blessings by Barbara Pym
1959 – The Flame Trees of Thika by Elspeth Huxley
1960 – The Bachelors by Muriel Spark
1961 – Stephen Morris by Nevil Shute or Catch-22 by Joseph Heller (ML100)
1962 – Pale Fire by Vladimir Nabokov (ML100) or A Clockwork Orange by A. Burgess (ML 100)
1963 – The Old Man and Me by Elaine Dundy or An Unsuitable Attachment by Barbara Pym
1964 – A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway or Arrow of God by Chinua Achebe
1965 – August is a Wicked Month by Edna O’Brien or Everything that Rises Must Converge by Flannery O’Connor
1966 – A Generous Man by Reynolds Price or The House on the Cliff by DE Stevenson
1967 – My Friend Says It’s Bullet-Proof by Penelope Mortimer
1968 – Sarah’s Cottage by D.E. Stevenson
1969 – The Waterfall by Margaret Drabble
1970 – Troubles by JG Farrell
1971 – A Meaningful Life by L.J. Davis or My Own Cape Cod by Gladys Taber
1972 – Augustus by John Williams
1973 – After Claude by Iris Owens
1974 – The Diviners by Margaret Laurence
1975 – Crucial Conversations by May Sarton
1976 – The Takeover by Muriel Spark
1977 – Golden Child by Penelope Fitzgerald
1978 – The Sweet Dove Died by Barbara Pym
1979 – The Safety Net by Heinrich Boll
1980 – Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie (ML100)
1981 – July’s People by Nadine Gordimer or Summer in Baden-Baden by Leonid Tsypkin
1982 – Wish Her Safe at Home by Stephen Benatar or A Pale View of Hills by Kazuo Ishiguro
1983 – Look at Me by Anita Brookner
1984 – Hotel du Lac by Anita Brookner
1985 – Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson or Cider House Rules by John Irving
1986 – Anagrams by Lorrie Moore or Marya: A Life by Joyce Carol Oates
1987 – One Way of Love by Gamel Woolsey or Songlines by Bruce Chatwin
1988 – English, August by Upamanyu Chatterjee or What Am I Doing Here by Bruce Chatwin
1989 – London Fields by Martin Amis or A Natural Curiosity by Margaret Drabble
1990 – Then She Found Me by Elinor Lipman
1991 – The Translator by Ward Just
1992 – The Republic of Love by Carol Shields or Arcadia by Jim Crace
1993 – While England Sleeps by David Leavitt
1994 – The Longings of Women by Marge Piercy
1995 – The Blue Flower by Penelope Fitzgerald
1996 – Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood or Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace
1997 – Grace Notes by Bernard MacLaverty
1998 – The Book of Lies by Felice Picano
1999 – Timbuktu by Paul Auster or Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson

10 thoughts on “A Century of Books

  1. harriet February 9, 2012 / 6:42 am

    Good for you Thomas. I'm also trying to do it but am not at all organised so have no idea what books I already own — thus it is all being very ad hoc at the moment. I've no idea if I will do it in a year but if I don't I shall carry on till I have, Will be watching your progress with interest.


  2. StuckInABook February 9, 2012 / 8:31 am

    Hurrah! So glad you're on board – like others, I'm hoping to do it in a year, but otherwise will carry on afterwards until it's finished. But, much as I adore making lists, I decided not to create a reading list – I wanted to keep it a bit spontaneous.

    Thank you for reminding me that Penelope Fitzgerald is waiting in the wings to help out with the second half of the century!


  3. GeraniumCat February 9, 2012 / 1:26 pm

    I keep adding Under the Volcano to lists and then finding excuses not to read it, so I'll be interested to hear what you make of it. The teens are difficult, aren't they? I've got Enid Bagnold (nearly finished) and Hugh Walpole on my list – will probably mean raiding Project Gutenberg for more, but I would like to add some “real” books from that period.


  4. FleurFisher February 9, 2012 / 5:28 pm

    It's lovely to find another 20th century reader to look to for inspiration. I won't make it in a year, because there are older and newer books calling me too, but I'll get there one day.

    My own spreadsheet is overpopulated in some years in the middle of the century, but thin in places.


  5. Susan in TX February 9, 2012 / 5:33 pm

    I decided with this one to just track the publishing dates of what I read this year and see how I do. I doubt I will complete the century in a year. I read too much “old” stuff to manage it. I haven't gotten the energy required to catalog the pub. dates of the TBR yet…maybe spring break. :) It would be a nice thing to know.


  6. StuckInABook February 10, 2012 / 7:35 pm

    Oh, and you're assuming correctly – I did make the button :)


  7. Karen K. February 11, 2012 / 10:43 am

    You and Simon are DANGEROUS people — I just had to stop everything and make a new list of my TBR pile by year. Then I had to try and fill in all the missing years with additional books from my TBR shelves. . . .there's no way I'll ever finish all these books in a year! Le sigh.

    Plus I have a bunch of 19th century books to read, and some from the 21st. Excellent goal though! And I highly recommend the Mitford books, they're delightful. Also a great BBC adaptation.


  8. Tamara February 11, 2012 / 10:32 pm

    Wow – what a challenge. Good luck with it! I could not do this – I only read about 20 books a year, I cant recall their details enought to put them in a list like this, and I'm just so random. But Im attracted to a well organised list like this one. I hope to see how you progress with the challenge. Bon Chance!


  9. Thomas at My Porch February 14, 2012 / 8:39 am

    Harriet: Yeah, I don't think I will do it in a year.

    Simon: Knowing that I probably won't finish in a year, I should see how fast I can finish it. 13 months, 14 months…

    GeraniumCat: Someone else in the blogosphere recently wrote about how surprisingly good she found Under the Volcano.

    FleurFisher: I might stray to older and newer once or twice.

    Susan: I was originally going to approach it that way too, but then I got list mania at 2:00 AM.

    Karen: Did you manage to fill up your whole list?

    Tamara: Thanks for stopping by. With your 20 books a year, you could read one from each decade.


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