Will it take me a century to finish A Century of Books?

Here I am 19 months into Simon’s 12-month challenge to read one book for each year of the 20th century, and I still have 12 books to go.  In January I had 38 left to read. If I had any kind of discipline I would be done by now. After all I have read 61 books already this year. But I found that that kind of discipline is nothing but an invitation to reader’s block for me. Back in 2012 I limited myself to the ACOB list and it really cut back on my desire to read. This year mixing the list up with whatever catches my fancy has been a much better recipe for progress.

Here are the 12 books I have left to read:

1934 – Burmese Days by George Orwell
1936 – The Thinking Reed by Rebecca West
1939 – And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie
1942 – Clark Clifford’s Body by Kenneth Fearing
1947 – Not Now, but Now by M.F.K. Fisher
1963 – The Old Man and Me by Elaine Dundy
1965 – Of the Farm by John Updike
1971 – Patience and Sarah by Isabel Miller
1972 – Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator by Roald Dahl 
1973 – After Claude by Iris Owens
1977 – Golden Child by Penelope Fitzgerald
1979 – The Executioner’s Song by Norman Mailer

Would I be foolish to say that I am going to try and finish these by the end of August? Probably, but maybe I will say it anyway. I am, after all, unemployed at the moment. Should be a breeze right? Since about January I have been reading the list in chronological order. I wonder if I Should I stick to that? It is kind of fun to see how style and content evolve or how some books are either ahead of or behind their times. But forcing myself to read them in order does sometimes slow me down as well.

Here is the whole list. It is amazing how much the books have changed since I posted the very first iteration. When I finish the whole century I plan on doing a bit of a comparison to show how the list evolved as I jettisoned some titles in favor of others that were more readable.

[Updated 09/02/13]

1900 – Claudine at School by Collette
1901 – Claudine in Paris by Collette
1902 – The Immoralist by Andre Gide
1903 – The Riddle of the Sands by Erskine Childers
1904 – Peter Camenzind by Hermann Hesse
1905 – The Duel by Aleksandr Kuprin
1906 – Young Torless by Robert Musil
1907 – The Secret Agent by Joseph Conrad (ML100)
1908 – Love’s Shadow by Ada Leverson
1909 – Martin Eden by Jack London
1910 – Clayhanger by Arnold Bennett
1911 – Zuleika Dobson by Max Beerbohm (ML100)
1912 – The Charwoman’s Daughter by James Stephens
1913 – T. Tembarom by Frances Hodgson Burnett
1914 – Penrod by Booth Tarkington
1915 – The Underdogs by Mariano Azuela
1916 – Under Fire by Henri Barbusse
1917 – Gone to Earth by Mary Webb
1918 – Patricia Brent-Spinster by Herbert George Jenkins
1919 – Consequences by E.M. Delafield
1920 – Queen Lucia by E.F. Benson
1921 – Dangerous Ages by Rose Macauley
1922 – The Judge by Rebecca West
1923 – The Ladies of Lyndon by Margaret Kennedy
1924 – Some Do Not by Ford Madox Ford (ML100)
1925 – The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
1926 – Winnie-the-Pooh by A.A. Milne
1927 – Rhapsody by Dorothy Edwards
1928 – Quartet by Jean Rhys
1929 – Passing by Nella Larsen
1930 – Angel Pavement by J.B. Priestly
1931 – The Square Circle by Denis Mackail
1932 – Year Before Last by Kay Boyle
1933 – Ordinary Families by E. Arnot Robertson
1934 – Burmese Days by George Orwell
1935 – A House and Its Head by Ivy Compton-Burnett
1936 – The Thinking Reed by Rebecca West
1937 – Lady Rose and Mrs Memmary by Ruby Ferguson
1938 – Princes in the Land by Joanna Cannan
1939 – And Then There Were None  by Agatha Christie
1940 – Sapphira and the Slave Girl by Willa Cather
1941 – The Castle on the Hill by Elizabeth Goudge
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 – Not Now, but Now by M.F.K. 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 Far Country by Nevil Shute
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 – Angel by Elizabeth Taylor
1958 – A Glass of Blessings by Barbara Pym
1959 – The Flame Trees of Thika by Elspeth Huxley
1960 – The Bachelors by Muriel Spark
1961 – Catch-22 by Joseph Heller (ML100)
1962 – A Clockwork Orange by A. Burgess (ML100)
1963 – The Old Man and Me by Elaine Dundy
1964 – The Garrick Year by Margaret Drabble
1965 – Of the Farm by John Updike
1966 – The House on the Cliff by D.E. 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 – 84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff
1971 – Patience and Sarah by Isabel Miller
1972 – Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator by Roald Dahl 
1973 – After Claude by Iris Owens
1974 – House of Stairs by William Sleator
1975 – Heat and Dust by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala and 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 Executioner’s Song by Norman Mailer
1980 – The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco
1981 – Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie (ML100)
1982 – Wish Her Safe at Home by Stephen Benatar
1983 – Look at Me by Anita Brookner
1984 – Hotel du Lac by Anita Brookner
1985 – Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson
1986 – Anagrams by Lorrie Moore
1987 – Postcards from the Edge by Carrie Fisher
1988 – The Temple by Stephen Spender
1989 – Passing On by Penelope Lively and Summer People by Marge Piercy
1990 – Then She Found Me by Elinor Lipman
1991 – The Translator by Ward Just
1992 – Little Altars Everywhere by Rebecca Wells
1993 – While England Sleeps by David Leavitt
1994 – The Longings of Women by Marge Piercy
1995 – Behind the Scenes at the Museum by Kate Atkinson
1996 – Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood
1997 – Grace Notes by Bernard MacLaverty
1998 – The Book of Lies by Felice Picano
1999 – Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson

9 thoughts on “Will it take me a century to finish A Century of Books?

  1. Frances July 24, 2013 / 7:50 pm

    Of course it would be foolish. That's why you should do it. Like one August we read a ridiculous pile of novellas. Ridiculous is fun! And everybody needs more fun. Go ahead. I'll be rooting for you!


  2. Susan in TX July 25, 2013 / 10:42 am

    If my TBR lists are anything, they are always ridiculous! I haven't been getting to the computer much the past couple of weeks due to a level of busyness beyond my control (I'm opting to read books vs. screens when I can lest I go insane – I don't do “busy” well). I'm due to start school back up Monday week with the kids and I'm getting frantic about all that I want to have read before then. That is the truly ridiculous thing for me – it's not like I won't continue to read. Don't know why I set such lofty reading goals for myself…like you, I tend to instantly start warring against them. That said, I will be with Frances cheering you on.


  3. StuckInABook July 25, 2013 / 6:26 pm

    You'll be finished in time for me to start my second century! I'm hoping to do it again in 2014. And if you find Summer Will Show anywhere near as dull as I did, then set aside quite a while for it… although, in turn, it wasn't as dull as The Corner That Held Them. I love Lolly Willowes, and I love STW's letters, but I'm going to stop there with her.


  4. Marianne July 26, 2013 / 2:56 pm

    Don't worry, you are way ahead of me, there are still so many empty spaces on my list.

    But I wish you good luck with your reading.

    Marianne from Let's Read


  5. Ruthiella July 26, 2013 / 6:06 pm

    I think you are being too hard on yourself. 26 out of 38 books is in 7 months is nothing to sneeze at! I made a modified TBR dare at the beginning of the year to read at least 10 books from my shelves by April 1 and only managed 5. It’s true, reading challenges can make other books look oh so attractive.


  6. Kim July 27, 2013 / 12:06 am

    Thomas: I know you have already written a book (bravo to you!) but I think you should consider writing a book about your adventures in reading. Realizing, of course, that you have written quite a bit on your blog already, but having all that compiled into one pretty book would be quite the treat.



  7. travellinpenguin July 27, 2013 / 8:23 am

    My list is going slowly but it is going. I have only posted up the years and then find the books to slot into them. If I were to list the actual books for each year I'd go off them before I read them. I prefer the continual surprise of finding a book and thinking, “Hey this will fit into 19..whatever”. More spontaneous. At least you're ahead of my list. Enjoy.


  8. Melwyk July 28, 2013 / 1:13 pm

    You are doing so well with this! Keep on, you do have until the end of the year… I'm thinking of starting this project in 2014 — at first thought to do it all in one year, but I like the 2 year idea better, simply because I agree that room is needed for all the other books I'll want to read. And to allow for the 'going off' books in a list effect, of course…


  9. Thomas at My Porch July 28, 2013 / 7:55 pm

    Frances: It does at least feel less daunting than the AOTN madness.

    Susan: I think list making is something we like to do that is bookish without actually having to read something.

    Simon: I have read enough plodding books as part of ACOB that you have now officially scared me off of Summer Will Show. I chose The Thinking Reed by Rebecca West instead. So far, so good.

    Marianne: Good luck with your list. Don't let it box you in.

    Ruthiella: I guess the grass is always greener.

    Kim: If only I had the drive.

    Pam: I definitely get the point of not choosing a list ahead of time, but I wanted to maximize reading from books I already owned and that took a fair amount of prep. Plus there are some years that have so many good books I didn't want to do too much overlapping.

    Mel: I would definitely like to finish it well before the end of the year.


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