Tag Archives: Djuna Barnes

40 Books Before I’m 40 (Redux)…

So today is my birthday and I have turned the ripe old age of thirty one, which means I officially can no longer pretend I am in my ‘very late’ twenties, rather like at New Year I use my birthday to put the last year into perspective and focus myself for what I want in the year ahead. As it was the big 3-0 last year I pondered looking a decade forward and choosing forty books to read before I was forty. I promptly then went off the idea and popped it on the back burner for another time.

Well that time has arrived. I have spent the last few days whittling over books that I feel it would be good to give myself, albeit rather loosely, a nudge in the direction of reading. Some of the books were ones, like ‘Middlemarch’ which will get a special mention shortly, which I have been simply meaning to read, other more modern books I have been intrigued about. I was also greatly helped with my new edition of ‘1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die’ (not that I am suggesting this will be on my 40th heaven forbid) which I have spent long periods mulling over.

1001 40

The rules, for there must always be some guidelines or things just get silly (see I even sound older), were simply that the books must be published by an author that I hadn’t tried before – thought I better throw that in there before I get some emails/comments telling me I have missed some absolute gems. Simple as that! And here is the list…

  1. Things Fall Apart – Chinua Achebe
  2. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings – Maya Angelou
  3. Before Night Falls – Reinaldo Arenas
  4. Nightwood – Djuna Barnes
  5. The Heat of the Day – Elizabeth Bowen
  6. Wild Swans – Jung Chang
  7. Claudine’s House – Colette
  8. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao – Junot Diaz
  9. Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoevsky
  10. Middlemarch – George Eliot
  11. Madame Bovary – Gustave Flaubert
  12. Lord of the Flies – William Golding
  13. The Well of Loneliness – Radclyffe Hall
  14. Catch-22 – Joseph Heller
  15. For Whom the Bell Tolls – Ernest Hemingway
  16. Smilla’s Sense of Snow – Peter Hoeg
  17. Brave New World – Aldous Huxley
  18. A Prayer for Owen Meany – John Irving
  19. Schindler’s Ark – Thomas Keneally
  20. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest – Ken Kesey
  21. Independent People – Halldor Laxness
  22. Lost Language of Cranes – David Leavitt
  23. The Golden Notebook – Doris Lessing
  24. Embers – Sandor Marai
  25. Fugitive Pieces – Anne Micheals
  26. A Fine Balance – Rohinton Mistry
  27. The Country Girls – Edna O’Brien
  28. Quartet in Autumn – Barbara Pym
  29. The Mysteries of Udolpho – Ann Radcliffe
  30. All Quiet on the Western Front – Erich Maria Remarque
  31. Pamela – Samuel Richardson
  32.  Shantaram – Gregory David Roberts
  33. A Suitable Boy – Vikram Seth
  34. Frankenstein – Mary Shelley
  35. Vanity Fair – William Makepeace Thackeray
  36. Restoration – Rose Tremain
  37. Myra Breckinridge – Gore Vidal
  38. The Colour Purple – Alice Walker
  39. Day of the Triffids – John Wyndham
  40. Therese Raquin – Emile Zola

So there they are! I have also made sure I miss some famous classics (‘The Leopard’, ‘The Iliad’, etc) and some lesser known ones (‘The Odd Women’, ‘A Crime in the Neighbourhood’) but those are on my periphery too plus I also need to have some for when I do my fifty before fifty don’t I?

Now you may have noticed that there is one book which breaks the trend slightly and that is ‘Middlemarch’. Which leads me to a little announcement, and I hope those of you joining in with Classically Challenged won’t be cross, as I have decided to postpone writing about it on the last Sunday of March and am moving it to the end of June. I know, I know, June is ages away. However after some thought, and having only got eight chapters in so far, I decided I don’t want to rush this read (and I am enjoying it so far) because of a deadline and with a fairly long trip to London next week, plus a literary festival to prepare and read for, oh and those solo podcasts too… you get the picture. I simply want to enjoy ‘Middlemarch’.

So what do you make of the list? Which have you read and which have you been meaning to? Let me know and I promise I will be back next week, well tomorrow, catching up on all the comments that I have been meaning to for ages. In the meantime there are things to unwrap, candles to blow out, cake to eat and some serious applying of anti-aging cream to be done!

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Bookshops I Love; Reid of Liverpool

So while I was in Liverpool earlier in the week how could I not try and hunt down a good independent bookshop? I mean you have to when you go away to a new city/suburb/street don’t you, it’s only right and proper, in fact it would be rude not to.

With only a limited amount of time I couldn’t visit all the three that I wanted to, I did manage to find my first destination of choice and that was a second hand book shop on a wonderfully Dickensian, actually make that Victorian as I don’t really know my Dickens as we know, street… Reid of Liverpool.

It just tempts you from the outside doesn’t it, and its promise is fulfilled when you walk through the doors and are greeted by endless books.

What is quite quirky, though what could drive a quick browser to distraction, is that really there is no order to the books at all. Fiction and nonfiction are mixed together so if you are after a specific book you could get frustrated but I love walking along the shelves and seeing what gems I might locate and in what order. So I was in heaven.

Of course I couldn’t leave empty handed, again it would have been rude not to, and I did find not one gem but two, which are now back at Savidge Reads HQ waiting to be read at some point.

‘The Girl from the Fiction Department’ was a book I had never heard of before but grabbed me from the title which called out to me from its spine on the shelf. I thought it was fiction but discovered it is actually ‘a portrait of Sonia Orwell’ George Orwell’s second wife. I know nothing of her at all, I have discovered from the blurb that ‘portrayed by many of her husband’s biographers as a manipulative gold-digger who would stop at nothing to keep control of his legacy. But the truth about Sonia Orwell – the model for Julia in nineteen eighty-four – was altogether different. Beautiful, intelligent and fiercely idealistic, she lived at the heart of London’s literary and artistic scene before her marriage to Orwell changed her life forever. Burdened with the almost impossible task of protecting Orwell’s estate, Sonia’s loyalty to her late husband brought her nothing but poverty and despair.’ Now doesn’t that sound like a brilliant book? I don’t think it’s in print anymore. I also love how the cover is designed to look like its battered when actually pristine.

The ‘Selected Works of Djuna Barnes’ is a book I have been seeking out for ages; well actually that is not 100% accurate. I have been searching for ‘Nightwood’ since I read about it in Kate Summerscale’s ‘The Queen of Whale Cay’. Now my searching has paid off and I have an omnibus of three of her works, let’s hope I like her.

Anyway I thought that Reid of Liverpool was quite a find. If you are ever in the city do pop in. You can find more details about it here.

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