Pondering: The Return of 40 By 40 (I Need Your Book Recommendations)

You may remember way back in the distant past, well back in 2013, I discussed the idea of reading 40 books before I was 40 and even making a list of the titles. A lot has happened since then, mainly Gran getting very ill, and so that project sort of when by the wayside. However I was reminded of this when the new (stunning) edition of Patricia Highsmith’s The Talented Mr Ripley arrived through the letterbox – a book I have been meaning to read, by an author I have always meant to read.

Going back and looking at the list of books that I had chosen I realised I had read three so that was quite good. I also realised that I wasn’t sure I had created quite the right list. The forty books I had chosen were all books where I hadn’t read the author before and, if I am being super duper honest, some of them feel quite ‘worthy’.

So I am pondering doing it again starting from scratch. Yet this time I want to rethink about the sort of books I want to read, and of course I want your suggestions. Yes, I would still like to read some of the books by authors I have missed and really shouldn’t have, yet I also need to think about books by authors I like who I haven’t read in ages. When was the last time I read Margaret Atwood, Kazuo Ishiguro, (both Alias Grace and The Remains of the Day I have been intent on reading for ages) or even Daphne Du Maurier? Shocking.

So here is the start of my new list…

  1. The Talented Mr Ripley – Patricia Highsmith
  2. Alias Grace – Margaret Atwood
  3. The Remains of the Day – Kazuo Ishiguro

…But which books next? I am going to go through my shelves over the next few days/weeks and see which books I already have I have been meaning to read, whether I have read the author or not. I would also love to have recommendations from you. These could be your top 5 books (and I can see if I have read them before), books you have spotted I haven’t read and should and also the books that you have always meant to read and haven’t (maybe you could join in or it will give you a nudge to give them a whirl). So over to you for your suggestions in the comments below! Next up for me to reignite is the Persephone Project, I seemed to get stuck on book eight, 2013 wasn’t a good year for me starting projects but then it was a bugger of a year!

25 Comments

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25 responses to “Pondering: The Return of 40 By 40 (I Need Your Book Recommendations)

  1. Great idea! Do they have to be fiction? If not, I’d highly recommend People Who Eat Darkness, by Richard Lloyd Parry. Looking at Lucie Blackman’s murder, it’s a stunning read – I think it may be the only non-fiction book I’ve ever read to make me cry.

  2. Susan Halligan

    Some suggestions, Simon: The Road (McCarthy), The Reluctant Fundamentalist (Hamid) and Hard Times (astonishingly relevant.) All very dark🙂

  3. I would suggest some Shirley Jackson. There’s a new, previously unpublished edition of short stories out in August (in the US). I forget the title. I think you will enjoy the Ripley novels; I found them intoxicating.

  4. Barbara B.

    My favorites from recent years:
    1. in Cold Blood by Truman Capote (all time fave)
    2. Judgement in Stone by Ruth Rendell
    3. Tortilla Curtain by T.C.Boyle
    4. Let Me Go by Helga Schneider
    5. Charm School by Nelson DeMille
    6. Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith

    • I second In Cold Blood (but I think you’ve read that one, Simon?) and the Tortilla Curtain, which is a brilliant and absorbing novel about the haves and have nots in the US.

  5. My favorite so far this year, literary fiction translated from the Sewdish: The Ravens, by Tomas Bannerhed: http://wordsandpeace.com/2015/05/01/iffp-2015-review-the-ravens/

  6. I am sorry, I meant Swedish

  7. My suggestions, Simon:
    “The Garden of Evening Mists” by Tan Twan Eng
    “Winter in Madrid” by CJ Sansom
    Good luck!

  8. Dee

    My top two, guaranteed to move you. A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry and A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving

  9. Selah

    Simon, you have to restart the Persephone Project as I am following in your footsteps but would have given up on Number 5 if it weren’t for your blog. The beginning is so full of navel gazing, I find it almost unreadable. Of course, I feel v. guilty about this as I am aware of what a tragic story this is going to turn into.

    My recommendation for 40 by 40 is Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell.

  10. Sarah Cubitt

    A thousand splendid suns (housseini), a fine balance (mistry), the time traveler’s wife, cold mountain (Frazier), the particular sadness of lemon cake (bender), birdsong (faulks), cutting for stone (verghese). X

  11. Here’s five for you….Maybe you missed one or two of them, if you did – shame on you! Here’s your chance to put it right……..
    The Crimson Petal & The White – Michel Faber
    The Book Of Human Skin – Michelle Lovric
    The Swimming Pool Library – Alan Hollinghurst
    The Book Thief- Markus Zusak
    The Wanderers -Richard Price
    I also need to sneak in The Spinning Heart by Donal Ryan there. I’m going to stop now before my list gets out of control. Happy reading!

  12. snoakes

    Well, I don’t know what you’ve read, but I’m going to suggest some of my favourites:
    – Brave New World
    – A Clockwork Orange
    – Jude the Obscure
    – The Blind Assassin
    – Darkness at Noon (I keep meaning to re-read that one).

    Any there you haven’t read?

  13. Nordie

    Something by Lawrence Block perhaps e.g. When the Sacred Ginmill Closes, A Walk amongst the tombstones or Burglars Can’t Be Choosers

    Longbourn by Jo Baker
    The Panoptican by Jenni Fagan.

    All different styles so hopefully will give you something to work with

  14. The Fan Man by William Kotzwinkle
    The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins
    The Disenchantments of Love by Maria de Zayas y Sotomayor
    Victory by Joseph Conrad
    Post Office by Charles Bukowski

  15. That is a gorgeous edition of The Talented Mr. Ripley and I’m definitely interested in your thoughts on it. I think I read too much homosexuality into it.

    I would definitely recommend 1Q84 by Murakami, it was a tome but I STILL love it years later.

  16. A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry has got to be in my top ten of all time at the moment. Moving, exciting. Epic.

  17. I just read Far From the Madding Crowd and it was absolutely wonderful.

  18. MaconLeary

    I’d recommend The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, by Michael Chabon

  19. Linda

    These books are worthy of a good reading:
    The Waves – Virigina Woolf
    Therese Raquin -Emile Zola
    Frankenstein- Mary Shelley
    Their Eyes Are Watching God-Zora Neal Hurston
    Life and Fate-Vasily Grossman (Well worth the almost 900 pages)

  20. That’s a gorgeous edition of The Talented Mr Ripley. I really loved that story when I read it a few years ago, but I do like dark disturbing novels, I know some people have a problem with the morality, or lack there of, in this book. I’d suggest the following: Jude the Obscure, The Butcher Boy, The Journalist and the Murderer (non fiction), The Crimson Petal and the White, and Kent Haruf’s Holt trilogy. I’ll stop now…

  21. janebarden

    I recommend Geek Love by Katherine Dunn and A Confederacy of Dunces by John F Kennedy Toole. Both of these are weirdly brilliant!

  22. Pingback: When You Fancy An Author Binge… | Savidge Reads

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