Three For Thirty… and a Possible Few For Forty

Thank you all so much for your comments and recommendations on my post about three books I should read before I am thirty and forty books before I am forty. It is exactly three weeks today that my thirties will start and so I have made a decision on the three books I will be reading in the final three weeks of my twenties. It was a tricky choice…

Well actually the first decision was a pretty easy one. I wanted one to be a non fiction novel regardless, and I have always liked letters and diaries and so ‘The Diary of a Young Girl’ by Anne Frank fitted the bill and is a book I have always meant to read. What has stopped me? In all honesty I have always been worried it might not affect me and what that would say about me. Is that bad?

Anyway that was my first choice. I decided I wanted one of the books to be rather chunky, and ‘The French Lieutenant’s Woman’ by John Fowles ticks lots of boxes. Its set in my favourite period in history, the Victorian era, has a fallen woman at its heart and John Fowles is an author I have wanted to return to. Oh, and it has a gorgeous new cover which popped through the door the other day. Oh, and… the lovely Karen has chosen it for her Cornflower Book Group in April, so maybe a few of you could join in.

Last but not least (and I might not read them in this order anyway) thanks to Annabel of Gaskella who mentioned Beryl Bainbridge, yet another author I have ‘always meant to read’. Well on World Book Day I wanted to buy a book and not something new. ‘The Bottle Factory Outing’ is one I have heard great things about and sounds like a good way in so that is the third and final choice.

So what about the forty to read before I am forty. Well you mentioned some corkers (some I had read and loved but that means we are on a wavelength) and here is the list of the twenty four titles that have come in so far that could end up in the mix.

Maps for lost Lovers – Nadeem Aslam
Miss Hargreaves – Frank Baker
The Regeneration Trilogy – Pat Barker
2666 – Robert Bolano
The Big Sleep – Raymond Chandler
The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao – Junot Diaz
Famous Last Words – Timothy Findley
Through a Glass, Darkly – Jostein Gaarder
American Gods – Neil Gaiman
Cranford – Elizabeth Gaskell
The Major of Casterbridge – Thomas Hardy
Catch 22 – Joseph Heller
For Whom The Bell Tolls – Ernest Hemingway
The Poisonwood Bible – Barbara Kingsolver
Into Thin Air – Jon Krakauer
Independent People – Halldor Laxness
Three Horses – Erri de Luca
Night Train to Lisbon – Pascal Mercier
A Fine Balance – Rohinton Mistry
The Raj Quartet – Paul Scott
A Suitable Boy – Vikram Seth
The Map of Love – Adhaf Soueif
The Life and Loves of a She-Devil – Fay Weldon
In Great Waters – Kit Whitfield

Isn’t it a great and rather diverse list? Would you second any of these? Are there any that I might be missing and should consider (there is still space for sixteen more, and I might change some), if you think so do let me know. What do you think of my three before thirty? Let me know if you fancy reading any of them too.


Filed under Book Thoughts, Random Savidgeness

53 responses to “Three For Thirty… and a Possible Few For Forty

  1. I have yet to read The Diary of Anne Frank too. And I am Dutch. I am always rather ashamed that I haven’t read it yet. And so this year for Dutch Lit Month, it will definitely make the list.

    What a wonderful diverse list for the 40 for 40. So many on there that I haven’t read, but really want to read.

    • Well I won’t judge you on the Anne Frank non reading Iris. I would be a fine one to talk. Have you heard about this book ‘Hope: A Tragedy’ where a man moves into a house and finds Anne Frank is in the attic an old woman wanting to write a follow up novel… sounds interesting, I sort of want to read it.

      Its a great and diverse list isn’t it, and all thanks to you lovely commenting lot.

      • I had heard of the title “Hope: A Tragedy”, but I never realised that Anne Frank was involved in the plot. I’m very curious now.

      • I know, I want to read it just for that story arc. Apparently she is writing the sequel in the attic which she believes will sell more and isnt the lovely sweet old woman you would imagine, its causing quite a lot of controversy as you might imagine.

  2. I’ve only read one of your three for thirty (Anne Frank), but have read more of our forty for forty list and give my personal thumbs up to Miss Hargreaves, The Regeneration Trilogy, The Poisonwood Bible, A Fine Balance, and The Raj Quartet. You have some very fine reading ahead of you!

  3. Louise

    I have to admit Anne Frank’s diary, was a complete flop for me. I feel that, that period in time is so accessible in other books and in film that I just couldn’t connect. I have a much greater affinity with animals than humans, so reading memoirs is always a challenge for me.

    The Poisonwood Bible I really enjoyed reading. In Great Waters I haven’t read but I plan to get this from the library, it was mermaids and a touch of Atwood that grabbed my attention. I haven’t been to suggest any books for you, I’m just having a really hard time, narrowing down.. 🙂

    • You see my worry is that very thing with Anne Frank, what if I don’t care? I am sure I will… well I hope I will… oh dear!!

      I think The Poisonwood Bible is a given, and I have decided I want to read many more mermaids in fiction thanks to Lucy Woods wonderful, wonderful collection of short stories which I will be discussing, and forcing you all to read, tomorrow.

      • Louise

        Ooh is that Diving Belles? I really want to read it! I don’t usually like books that heavily feature the sea or boats, but weird things in the sea do interest me, such as mermaids.. I’ll be keeping a look out for your mermaid recommendations!

      • Yes it was Diving Belles, my review went up today. There is only one boat briefly mentioned in the collection, oh maybe two (I don’t like books set on boats or about boats, so fear not) its just magical for soooooo many reasons.

  4. gaskella

    I’m so glad you picked Beryl! The Bottle Factory Outing is one I’ve not yet read, but it is in my TBR, so I’d love to read it with you.

  5. A Fine Balance is my all time favourite book so I’d love to know your thoughts.

    I read Anne Frank as a teenager and loved it. I wonder if it should be one of the 20 before 20? From the comments above it may be one of those books that doesn’t work as you get older. I look forward to seeing what you make of it.

    • I know you loved A Fine Balance and your review made me pick up a second hand copy, and yet I still haven’t read it. I think its a case of being daunted by the size of the thing.

      I wonder if I would be more affected as a teenager, alas we will never know but I will be starting it tomorrow.

  6. I am curious how you will like the Anne Frank, I did not finish when I tried to read this as a teenager. Maybe if you like it, I’ll give it another go.

    From the long list, I have only read ‘Miss Hargreaves’, which I liked but didn’t love, and the ‘Regeneration Trilogy’ which really impressed me and I would love to revisit soon.

    • Well because of Simon T’s passion for it I do feel I should read Miss Hargreaves as he loves it so and it does sound like my kind of book. It might just be a book I read and not simply a forty for forty book, we will see.

      I have a funny relationship wth books set in the war and so Pat Barkers books really interest me. Though they technically count as three books.

  7. Sue N

    The Pat Barker is a must. I love Barbara Kingsolver – Poisonwood Bible is huge but so worth it.

  8. Lovely to be doing The French Lieutenant’s Woman together, Simon!
    I adored A Suitable Boy, and Jackie’s comment above reminds me that I haven’t yet read A Fine Balance which has been on my ‘must read’ list for ages.

    • I couldn’t believe the coincidence when I caught up with your blog Karen. The book literally arrived at the start of last week and it had been discussed after Essie Fox recommended modern neo-Victorian novels and then I saw you were reading it for the group – hoorah! Though I fear I might read it a little too in advance.

      Both of the novels A Suitable Boy and A Fine Balance look like major likely novels to make the cut.

  9. Good list.
    I loved all of Jostein Gaarder’s books. I especially liked The Orange Girl. He’s one of the authors whose books I buy as soon as they come out.

    • I feel slightly embarrassed now that I haven’t read any of Gaarders books before, I shall look into his works more after you comment of always buying him when he comes out.

  10. Orla

    I second The Poisonwood Bible! And The French Lieutenant’s Woman is a favourite of mine, I look forward to hearing (some time in the next ten years) of what you think of the ending….

    I’m not sure that For Whom The Bell Tolls (which I love) is the best way “into ” Hemingway, but I know everyone has their own thoughts on that!

    I’ve never read any Beryl Bainbridge either, perhaps 2012 is the year to start…

    A lot to enjoy in this list, no doubt. Happy Reading!

    • Orla

      Oh wait, I don’t have to wait that long for your thoughts on The French Lieutenant’s Woman, it’s one of the 3 before 30! Hurray!

    • What would you say is the way into Hemingway then Orla, I would be really interested to hear all the different views, so please let me know.

      I have read no Bainbridge and I really should, I meant to after her untimely death, and then with the Man Booker’s Best of Beryl.

  11. novelinsights

    Ooh, I purchased a copy of Anne Frank’s Diary when I was in Amsterdam because I was so affected by the exhibition. When you do read it let me know and I’ll read in tandem 😉

    • Well I do believe we are technically reading along with Anne Frank after our texting. Isn’t it odd that I have heard lots and lots of people who have said it was a set text in school and yet, being in the same year, we never read it? Hmmmm.

  12. A great list and I can’t believe I’ve only read one on it–Into Thin Air, the book that made me never want to climb Everest (but a great read).

    There are quite a few on your list that I want to read, especially The Regeneration Trilogy and Catch-22, which was one of the few books I put on my 2010 challenge list of should-reads but never got to.

    As for your three, Anne Frank is pretty standard grade school fare here, but I remember liking it (if that’s the right word) at the time.

    And, since I keep hoping you’ll put Austen on your long list, note that Persuasion features prominently in one of the first chapters of The French Lieutenant’s Woman, a book I picked up for a book salon discussion on 19th-century England during some ambitious multi-reading that stalled out before I could finish it.

    • I think that Into the Air will be an interesting choice if it makes the final cut as I have never been that interested in Everest or climbing or anything like that. I wonder if that will affect it.

      How did I miss Jane Austens Northanger Abbey of the list, oops. Thank you for reminding me as it was suggested.

  13. KateG

    I read Anne Frank as a teen and was very moved by it then and am not sure I would have the same reaction now. One of my sons read it for school and was touched by it, but he has read a lot of WW II literature; I don’t think there was as much around in the 1970s.

    For your 40 collection, I loved Into Thin Air, it was very mesmirizing reading about people trying to conquer Mt Everest and it goes quickly. I disliked the Hemingway (as an American, I think I am supposed to worship him), and have not had great luck reading his other books. I fyou haven’t read To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee, I highly recommend it. It is a very American novel, but still one of my favorite books ever and I can’t imagine making it to 40 without reading it.

    • I do wonder if Anne Frank is more appreciated by younger readers because of her being a younger writer? That is something I will look into when I start it tomorrow.

      I love To Kill A Mockingbird, its one of my all time favourite books. I was very glad that I didn’t have to study it at school as I might not feel the same towards it.

  14. David

    Quite a few on that list I haven’t read either, Simon! I’d definitely second ‘The Poisonwood Bible’, ‘A Suitable Boy’ and ‘A Fine Balance’ – all wonderful books that will stay with you for years (and don’t be daunted by the size of the Mistry – you’ll find you wish there was much more of it, not less). I’m glad to see Adhaf Soueif on your list, and whilst I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend ‘The Map of Love’ (it’s a very good book and was of course Booker shortlisted) for me it is completely eclipsed by her earlier novel ‘The Eye of the Sun’, one of my all-time favourite books.
    I really liked Pat Barker’s ‘Regeneration’, but I’m afraid I hated the second volume (‘The Eye in the Door’?) and never made it to ‘Ghost Road’.
    I’ve been meaning to read ‘The Raj Quartet’ for years but can’t see being able to put Art Malik and Tim Piggott-Smith out of my mind!
    Hardy: I haven’t read ‘The Mayor of Casterbridge’ but I’d recommend you read any of his books. My first Hardy was ‘Under the Greenwood Tree’ and for me I found it the perfect introduction though of course it is very hard to suggest where to begin with an author (often easier to say where NOT to begin – for instance to someone who’d never read Rushdie there are easily three or four books that would be fine places to start but if they began with ‘Fury’ they’d never touch him again!).
    A few I’d add if you haven’t already read them: JL Carr’s ‘A Month in the Country’, Philip Larkin’s ‘Jill’, Justin Cronin’s ‘Mary & O’Neil’, Steinbeck’s ‘Cannery Row’ & ‘Sweet Thursday’, Forster’s ‘A Passage to India’, JG Ballard’s ‘Empire of the Sun’, Kent Haruf’s ‘Plainsong’, Dodie Smith’s ‘I Capture the Castle’, Joyce Carol Oates’ ‘We Were the Mulvaneys’, David Adams Richards’ ‘Mercy Among the Children’, and Michael Frayn’s ‘Spies’.

    • Wow what a great comment. I will focus on the books that you have mentioned at the end. I have read ‘Spies’ which I thought was very good, I have meant to read more of his books and I haven’t. I should. I must read some Joyce Carol Oates, good call. Forster and Steinbeck would have to be AMAZING, I have tried them before and I just didn’t gel with them.

      • David

        I don’t know why ‘Spies’ affected me so much but it is one of only two books (ever) that I have gone back to the start of and read again as soon as I finished it. I’ve not read anything else by Frayn either, though I shall probably read his new one when it comes out in a month or two.

        I’ve read quite a few of Oates’ novels, though it is impossible to keep up with her output (!) so I have loads on my shelves unread. ‘We Were the Mulvaneys’ is the one that stands out for me as being almost perfect, though I find part of the pleasure of reading her is to see each book as part of her oeuvre and watch how she develops and explores her recurring themes (identity, mythologising, violence…).

        I love Steinbeck, though I well understand that not everyone does, and he isn’t a particularly fashionable author anymore. For me, much as I love and admire his ‘big’ novels like ‘East of Eden’ and ‘The Grapes of Wrath’ it is the smaller books like ‘Cannery Row’, ‘Sweet Thursday’ and ‘Tortilla Flat’ that really get to the heart of what Steinbeck was about. Plus they’re so very readable.

  15. Janet D

    A fine Balance is a fantastic book.I was given it as part of last years World Book Night and it is doing the rounds of my friends now.
    I have just bought Beryl Bainbridge’s book as I am fascinated as to why you picked it as one of your three before 30 books.
    i have failed three times to read Catch 22 all the way to the end.I keep thinking it maybe needs reading at a different age, but I have not found that age yet!
    Happy reading.

    • I passed on a copy of the World Book Night edition of A Fine Balance to my Gran when I happened upon one, she was in need of it for her book group. I think they were all blown away by it.

      Beryl Bainbridge is an often overlooked author I think and yet one of the most listed authors for the Man Booker. I think every book might have been listed, I could of course just have made that up.

  16. Beryl Bainbridge is new to me. Making a note of this on e.

  17. Great discussion. Sitting here and taking notes – shocked how many of the before 40s I haven’t read yet!
    I would add the Japanese writer Dazai Osamu to your list: ‘Setting Sun’ probably, or his short stories, as his last novel ‘No Longer Human’ is almost unbearably bleak. He is not as well known as Kawabata or Mishima, but absolutely compelling. Then again, I was in my early twenties when I read him, maybe I would feel differently about it now.

    • Well remember this list is subjective, but its nice to hear readers putting forward titles passionately. It has made me very exciting about the reader I might become in my 30’s.

      I have never heard of Dazai Osamu, but I love Japanese literature when I read it and must read more, I like the sound of another new to me author.

  18. American Gods and The Map of Love are both excellent, heartily backed up!

  19. Pingback: Bottling Things Up, or Bottling Out? « Gaskella

  20. Pingback: Bottling Things Up, or Bottling Out? – Annabookbel

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