My TBR by the decades – The 1950s

If this cover wasn’t fabulous enough, look at Ilka’s other novel: In Bed We Cry


I shouldn’t be surprised that my TBR is full of authors that I love, but it’s starting to feel a bit samey. Crompton, Dickens, Stevenson, Thirkell…I get it. Based on their ubiquity alone I think this is the decade I am going to force myself away from them. Of course this is how I feel at this moment just looking at the list. Who knows what order I will read everything. I might be in need of the old chestnuts. But for now, I am going to choose outside the box.

…I just finished annotating the list and realize that my cozy favorites start to fade out mid-decade and give way to grittier stuff–and more men.

[For those who don’t know, I am participating in A Century of Books this year which requires me to read one book from each year from 1919 through 2018.]


Frost at Morning – Richmal Crompton
The Feast – Margaret Kennedy
The Sure Thing – Merle Miller
Shadow of a Man – May Sarton
Music in the Hills – D.E. Stevenson
Summer in the Country – Edith Templeton
Brat Farrar – Josephine Tey
County Chronicle – Angela Thirkell
The Lost Traveller – Antonia White

She might be familiar to many of you but Josephine Tey is an unknown quantity to me so she might get the nod. I’m not much of a mystery fan so we will she if does anything for me. I have a fair amount of Sarton on my TBR but much of that comes in the form of her journals in the 1970s and 1980s so an earlyish novel by her might be just the thing.


The Loved and Envied – Enid Bagnold
New  York 22 – Ilka Chase
Lucy Carmichael – Margaret Kennedy
Merry Hall – Beverly Nichols
Shoulder the Sky – D.E. Stevenson

I have a few Margaret Kennedys (including another one in 1950) but have never read any of her books. I think the Virago crowd really like her so she may be my choice. I bought New York 22 because it has a fabulous cover. I’m not sure it is any good so I am tempted to read this one so I can move it along to a new home and get it off of my shelves. As much as I like the cover, I am not going to keep it as an object.


The Village – Marghanita Laski
Martha Quest – Doris Lessing
The Gentlewoman – Laura Talbot
Happy Return – Angela Thirkell
Men at Arms – Evelyn Waugh
The Sugar House – Antonia White

The Lessing is the first of her so-called “Children of Violence” series. The fact that it is the first makes me think I should give it a whirl. Although I don’t think I own any of the other five.


No More Meadows – Monica Dickens
Reflections on a Marine Venus – Lawrence Durrell
The Little Ark – Jan de Hartog
Troy Chimneys – Margaret Kennedy
Five – Doris Lessing
Laughter on the Stairs – Beverly Nichols
Ernesto – Umberto Saba
The Easter Party – Vita Sackville-West
The Gipsy in the Parlour – Margery Sharp
Five Windows – D.E. Stevenson
Jutland Cottage – Angela Thirkell
The Kraken Wakes – John Wyndham

If I want a fun read that will take me about two seconds to finish, I would head straight for The Kraken Wakes. I’m also very tempted by Ernesto by Umberto Saba. It’s a gay novel written (and unfinished) in 1953 that wasn’t published until 1975, many years after his death in 1957. The Little Ark is a book I feel like I have had forever. It was purchased because the cover was nice but I have no idea if I will love or hate it. So it’s one of those books that needs to shit or get off the pot. (I need to come up with a better way of describing that kind of book.)


Rowan Farm – Margot Benary-Isbert
Who Was Changed and Who Was Dead – Barbara Comyns
The Cobweb – William Gibson
A Charmed Life – Mary McCarthy
The Wicked Pavilion – Dawn Powell
I Knew a Phoenix – May Sarton
Slide Rule – Nevil Shute
Sweet Thursday – John Steinbeck
What  Did it Mean? – Angela Thirkell
The  Flint Anchor – Sylvia Townsend Warner
Beyond the Glass – Antonia White

No need to go through this list. I’ve already read Slide Rule by Nevil Shute this year. It is an autobiography of his time as an aeronautical engineer but it might as well have been one of his novels.


Memories of Arlington, VT – Dorothy Canfield
The Story of a Shipwrecked Sailor – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
The Doves of Venus – Olivia Manning
Faithful are the Wounds – May Sarton
Red Lights – Georges Simenon
Enter Sir Robert – Angela Thirkell

I think is either going to be a Sarton or Garcia Marquez year. Although that Simenon does have a forward by Anita Brookner…


A Legacy – Sybille Bedford
Friends at Court – Henry Cecil
Every Eye – Isobel English
The Hunters – James Salter
Never Too Late – Angela Thirkell

I’m not sure what really prompted me to buy the James Salter novel late last year. I think it is a Korean War story. That seems very decade appropriate and a break from everything else on my list.


On Leave – Daniel Anselme
Fire, burn! – John Dickson Carr
The Edge of Darkness – Mary Ellen Chase
Bitter Lemons – Lawrence Durrell
Esprit de Corps – Lawrence Durrell
The Day the Money Stopped – Brendan Gill

Is this the same Brendan Gill who wrote for The New Yorker? If only there was a way to find out. I love the title Bitter Lemons.


Things Fall Apart – Chinua Achebe
The Northern Light – A.J. Cronin
The Ten Thousand Things – Maura Dermout
Man Overboard – Monica Dickens
Stiff Upper Lip – Lawrence Durrell
The Sundial – Shirley Jackson
A Ripple from the Storm – Doris Lessing
The Road to Wigan Pier – George Orwell
The Well – Sinclair Ross
Alfred and Guinevere – James Schuyler
Robinson – Muriel Spark
Engaged in Writing – Stephen Spender

Boy, 1958 is a tough one for me. I’m very attracted to the Achebe, Jackson, Orwell, and Ross. (That would make a great name for a law firm. I’m tempted to write a novel just so I can have the protagonist work at Achebe, Jackson, Orwell, and Ross. Although they could also be charted accounts who help him float the shares of his aviation manufacturing firm ala Slide Rule.)  Also, I lied earlier. I do have more of Lessing’s Children of Violence series, but A Ripple From the Storm is number 3 and I don’t have number 2. 


All in a Lifetime – Walter Allen
Passage of Arms – Eric Ambler
Sorrow Laughs – Harry Bloom
Life and Fate – Vasily Grossman
The Letter from Spain – Frances Parkinson Keyes
Walkabout – James Vance Marshall
The Outward Urge – John Wyndham

Do’h, I’ve already read Passage of Arms this year. So I don’t need to comment on the rest, which is a good thing because I don’t really know much of anything about them.

The whole TBR list:

TBR Chron

12 thoughts on “My TBR by the decades – The 1950s

  1. Jess Goldstein January 17, 2018 / 1:34 pm

    Have you ever read Raintree County by Ross Lockridge? It was a huge 1950s bestseller and, I believe, the author’s only successful novel.

    Not sure if it would be considered too “commercial ” for your tastes.

    It was on our bookshelves when I was a kid and I’ve always been curious to read it. Never seen the film either which apparently was a big disappointment.


    • Thomas January 23, 2018 / 3:11 pm

      I do not know that book at all. For me, too commercial only really applies to contemporary books. Age grants a lot to books.


  2. Karen January 17, 2018 / 5:00 pm

    I am having fun compiling my own century list. I also have Martha Quest for 1952. I am enjoying your posts and picking up a few new authors, as well as getting to my own TBRs. (As an aside, I think you are the first person other than very close family members (who shall remain nameless) that I have ever ‘heard’ using the expression ‘shit or get off the pot’! (usually in response to someone’s dithering).


    • Thomas January 23, 2018 / 3:12 pm

      I almost didn’t use “shit or get off the pot” so I am particularly happy that you mention it.


  3. Karen K. January 18, 2018 / 2:52 am

    I loved The Village, one of my top Persephones. Also The Story of a Shipwrecked Sailor is very good, probably quite different from many of your other reads. I am always fascinated by survival stories.


    • Thomas January 23, 2018 / 3:13 pm

      Yes! The Story of a Shipwrecked Sailor is very different than many of my other books on the list. A perfect reason to read it for that year.


  4. Liz Dexter January 18, 2018 / 10:11 am

    I loved The Village, too. I hope you haven’t told me way back to stop sharing my darn decades because here’s my failure of a 1950s decade and I’m going to be poking around in here again later for some ideas!


    1951 Robertson Davies – Tempest Tost

    1952 Gwen Raverat – Period Piece

    1953 Iris Murdoch – Sartre



    1956 Patricia K. Caldwell – Prefects at Vivians

    1957 Paul Gallico – Mrs ‘Arris goes to Paris


    1959 E. R. Braithwaite – To Sir, With Love


    • Thomas January 23, 2018 / 3:14 pm

      I own a really lovely edition of Gwen Raverat’s Period Piece, but I don’t have it on this list because I mainly stuck to fiction.

      Have you never read Mrs ‘Arris Goes to Paris? I really enjoyed that book.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Liz Dexter January 29, 2018 / 5:24 am

        Yes, sorry, this, apart from 2 books, is the books I’ve done for my everlasting ACOB project which has been going since 2014 and is still only at 70 …


  5. Simon T January 19, 2018 / 5:03 am

    Merry Hall Merry Hall Merry Halllllllll


    • Thomas January 23, 2018 / 3:16 pm

      I think I WILL like Beverly Nichols at some point, but the only book of his that I have read I found quite tedious. Being about an opera diva I thought I would love it. But I didn’t.


  6. Susan in TX February 21, 2018 / 1:56 pm

    Oh, lots of goodness here! Definitely Brat Farrar by Josephine Tey. I enjoyed Tey because none of her plots follow a set formula (and while prolific, she died too young to have a huge canon – she wrote more plays than novels, I think). And, a strong second for Merry Hall! Seeing your note above, I’m not sure which Nichols title that was that you read, but I thoroughly enjoyed both of his gardening/house trilogies. Merry Hall is the first of one of them and Down the Garden Path starts the other trilogy. I also think John might enjoy them – for the gardening aspect. Down the Garden Path is where I started because I found it first, but between his village gossip, his classical music references and the house and garden details, I can’t imagine you not liking it. (And forget you ever read this if that overblows it to the point there’s no way you could enjoy it. I’ve found lately that the more over-hyped a book is, the less likely I am to enjoy it.) These Thirkell titles come later than the ones I’ve read, but so far, I’ve loved the Thirkell that I have read.


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