Monday 31 December 2012

A Century of Books: Complete!

As I mentioned yesterday, I have finished A Century of Books - and, even better, I think there was only one other person who was trying to get all 100 books read during 2012 (a few others were joining in with longer-term aspirations) and she managed it too.  Well done Claire!  If I could reach to Canada, I'd give you a pat on the back.

So, that means I have my list of 100 books - it's really fun to see an overview of the 20th century, especially since it's such a subjective overview.  It's a Stuck-in-a-Book overview.  There are definitely many entries which wouldn't make a canonical list - there are plenty which I wouldn't recommend myself - but it's still (to me) a really interesting list to have.

If you click on the link up there, you'll get to Claire's post about her experiences with A Century of Books.  I agree with her - it's been great fun, with plenty of surprises along the way.  I wasn't surprised by how quickly I filled in the interwar years - with the curious exception of 1920, which proved quite elusive.  But I hadn't realised how tricky the 1900s and 1910s would be - I'd prepared myself to run out of ideas for the 1970s onwards, but they turned out to be rather easier.

I'll be doing more stats on my whole year's reading, but I couldn't resist giving one or two statistics for my 100 books in particular:

-- Only 6 re-reads

-- 46 fiction by women
-- 25 fiction by men
-- 21 non-fiction by women
-- 8 non-fiction by men

-- Of those from the second-half of the century, 24 related to the first-half of the century or earlier - i.e. biographies, adaptations etc.  Simon, you CHEAT!  I perhaps haven't explored the post-1950 world quite as I might have done...

And let me imitate Claire, and give you some advice, should you wish to try it yourself (and I encourage you to do so!)

Spread it out...
Don't read all your comfort zone years before the end of March!  If you get to winter and have to read 1900-1915 (or whatever it might be) straight through, you might tire of it all.

Short books are your friend
I love short books all the time, as you might possibly know - but even moreso for this project.  So sometimes I could get through half a dozen years in a week - but then an enormous book would come along and throw things a bit off kilter.  I haven't told you about Iris Murdoch's The Sea, The Sea yet, and how much that almost ruined my schedule...

Friends are also your friend
As Claire says, it's much more fun when someone else (at least) is doing the same project - so that you can encourage one another.  I don't know if anybody is trying A Century of Books within a year for 2013, but there are plenty of people continuing a longer-term project - and if you wait for 2014, Claire and I will probably be doing it all again.

The agony and the ecstasy!
As everyone who's done (or is doing) A Century of Books is in agreement about one thing - the pain when the books you want to read consistently fall into years which have already been covered!  EVERYTHING was published in 1953: FACT.  (Maybe not a fact.)

Reviews are harder than reading
In normal practice, I often decide not to blog about certain books, or simply forget about them.  That wouldn't work with A Century of Books, if you wanted a page which linked to all the reviews.  And so I started doing round-up posts with three or four short reviews - that seemed to work a treat.

But don't meet trouble halfway
It's not really difficult, though!  A few commenters seemed to think it would be too restrictive.  Well, I can only say that I didn't find it so - especially for the first ten months or so of the year.  It really is the anti-challenge challenge (so long as you're used to reading more than a hundred books a year) and embraces every genre, form, author, nationality etc.  What did surprise me was how perfectly the timing ended up - 25 qualifying books finished after three months, 50 after six months, 75 after nine months and, of course, 100 after 12 months.

I loved doing it, and I'll be doing the project again - but not until 2014.  Like Claire, I'm missing 19th-century books - and 21st-century books too.  Right now I'm onto Vanity Fair...

Here is the whole list:

1900 - Three Men on the Bummel by Jerome K. Jerome
1901 - The Spinster Book by Myrtle Reed
1902 - The Westminster Alice by Saki
1903 - Man and Superman by George Bernard Shaw
1904 - Canon in Residence by V.L. Whitechurch
1905 - Lovers in London by A.A. Milne
1906 - The Railway Children by E. Nesbit
1907 - The Enchanted Castle by E. Nesbit
1908 - The World I Live In by Helen Keller
1909 - The Tale of the Flopsy Bunnies by Beatrix Potter
1910 - Reginald in Russia by Saki
1911 - In A German Pension by Katherine Mansfield
1912 - Daddy Long-legs by Jean Webster
1913 - When William Came by Saki
1914 - What It Means To Marry by Mary Scharlieb
1915 - Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka
1916 - Love At Second Sight by Ada Leverson
1917 - Zella Sees Herself by E.M. Delafield
1918 - Married Love by Marie Stopes
1919 - Not That It Matters by A.A. Milne
1920 - The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie
1921 - The Witch-Cult in Western Europe by Margaret Murray
1922 - Spinster of this Parish by W.B. Maxwell
1923 - Uncanny Stories by May Sinclair
1924 - The Rector's Daughter by F.M. Mayor
1925 - Gentlemen Prefer Blondes by Anita Loos
1926 - Blindness by Henry Green
1927 - Dusty Answer by Rosamond Lehmann
1928 - Time Importuned by Sylvia Townsend Warner
1929 - A Room of One's Own by Virginia Woolf
1930 - His Monkey Wife by John Collier
1931 - Opus 7 by Sylvia Townsend Warner
1932 - Green Thoughts by John Collier
1933 - More Women Then Men by Ivy Compton-Burnett
1934 - Right Ho, Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse
1935 - The House in Paris by Elizabeth Bowen
1936 - Summer Will Show by Sylvia Townsend Warner
1937 - The Outward Room by Millen Brand
1938 - Dear Octopus by Dodie Smith
1939 - Three Marriages by E.M. Delafield
1940 - One, Two, Buckle My Shoe by Agatha Christie
1941 - Country Moods and Tenses by Edith Olivier
1942 - The Outsider by Albert Camus
1943 - Talking of Jane Austen by Sheila Kaye-Smith and G.B. Stern
1944 - Elders and Betters by Ivy Compton-Burnett
1945 - At Mrs. Lippincote's by Elizabeth Taylor
1946 - Mr. Allenby Loses The Way by Frank Baker
1947 - One Fine Day by Mollie Panter-Downes
1948 - The Corner That Held Them by Sylvia Townsend Warner
1949 - Ashcombe: The Story of a Fifteen-Year Lease by Cecil Beaton
1950 - Jane Austen by Margaret Kennedy
1951 - I. Compton-Burnett by Pamela Hansford Johnson
1952 - Miss Hargreaves: the play by Frank Baker
1953 - Guard Your Daughters by Diana Tutton
1954 - M for Mother by Marjorie Riddell
1955 - The Winds of Heaven by Monica Dickens
1956 - All The Books of My Life by Sheila Kaye-Smith
1957 - Raising Demons by Shirley Jackson
1958 - Mrs. Harris Goes To Paris by Paul Gallico
1959 - Miss Plum and Miss Penny by Dorothy Evelyn Smith
1960 - The Ballad of Peckham Rye by Muriel Spark
1961 - A Grief Observed by C.S. Lewis
1962 - Coronation by Paul Gallico
1963 - A Favourite of the Gods by Sybille Bedford
1964 - The Garrick Year by Margaret Drabble
1965 - Moominpappa at Sea by Tove Jansson
1966 - In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
1967 - The Joke by Milan Kundera
1968 - A Cab at the Door by V.S. Pritchett
1969 - Sunlight on Cold Water by Francoise Sagan
1970 - Frederick the Great by Nancy Mitford
1971 - Ivy & Stevie by Kay Dick
1972 - Ivy Compton-Burnett: a memoir by Cecily Greig
1973 - V. Sackville-West by Michael Stevens
1974 - Look Back With Love by Dodie Smith
1975 - Sweet William by Beryl Bainbridge
1976 - The Takeover by Muriel Spark
1977 - Injury Time by Beryl Bainbridge
1978 - Art in Nature by Tove Jansson
1979 - On The Other Side by Mathilde Wolff-Mönckeberg
1980 - The Shooting Party by Isabel Colegate
1981 - Gossip From Thrush Green by Miss Read
1982 - At Freddie's by Penelope Fitzgerald
1983 - Blue Remembered Hills by Rosemary Sutcliff
1984 - The Only Problem by Muriel Spark
1985 - For Sylvia: An Honest Account by Valentine Ackland
1986 - On Acting by Laurence Olivier
1987 - The Other Garden by Francis Wyndham
1988 - Nervous Conditions by Tsitsi Dangarembga
1989 - Maestro by Peter Goldsworthy
1990 - The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan
1991 - Wise Children by Angela Carter
1992 - Curriculum Vitae by Muriel Spark
1993 - Something Happened Yesterday by Beryl Bainbridge
1994 - Deadline Poet by Calvin Trillin
1995 - The Simmons Papers by Philipp Blom
1996 - Reality and Dreams by Muriel Spark
1997 - The Island of the Colourblind by Oliver Sacks
1998 - The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
1999 - La Grande Thérèse by Hilary Spurling

Happy New Year!


  1. This is such a cool idea; I'm so impressed with everyone who has done it! I would like to try it myself.

    1. You absolutely should, Elizabeth! It's great fun.

  2. Well done Si! Quite an achievement. Glad that it wasn't too hard going at the end.

    (By the by(e?), the name of the book for 1959, Miss Plum and Miss Penny, has reminded me of and set me off on a nostalgic Google about some books by Rumer Godden which I used to LOVE as a child, about a doll called Miss Plum, which I had completely forgotten about! Not your intended effect, perhaps, but thought you'd like to know you've brought back some happy childhood reading memories!)

    1. Thanks Rachel! I don't know those Rumer Godden books, but very pleased that you've gone off on a nostalgia trail :)

  3. Once more, well done! And thank you so much for having thought of this project in the first place!

    Your advice is spot on, especially those first two points about spreading out your comfort zone books and choosing short books. I saved up a Georgette Heyer and Dear Octopus to read towards the end and I am so glad I did! And I only caught on to the short books about halfway through the year but will know better for 2014. A.A. Milne's plays were a godsend that way.

    1. I'm so glad we both managed it! It would have been rather awkward if only one of us had. What a year it has been!

  4. Congratulations!!!! That sure is an impressive accomplishment!

  5. Kudos to you - both for coming up with this one and for pulling it off! You and Claire have been amazing inspiration through the year. I loved your comment about short books. I also loved that you threw in some Beatrix Potter. :) Must say that I gave my little man Jerome's Three Men on a Bummel for his bday before Christmas and he giggled all the way through it -- loved it better than Three Men in a Boat (would never have predicted that!) Enjoy Vanity Fair - it was a pleasant surprise for me last year.
    I also appreciated and was amazed at how you hit your "quarterly benchmarks" -- may have to apply that to some of this year's reading myself...
    Happy New Year!

    1. I'm so pleased to hear how well Three Men on the Bummel went down with your son! He obviously has great taste.

      And I'll let you all know how much I've enjoyed Vanity Fair, later in 2013 :)

  6. What an accomplishment! Metamorphosis: one of my favorites!

    1. Thanks! I did enjoy Metamorphosis - much more accessible than I was assuming.

  7. Congratulations Simon! I will be finishing this challenge in 2 years, i.e. by 2013 but still I agree with all your comments in this regard. It's a great way to get to know various types of literature I would otherwise not have stumbled upon!

    1. Thanks Patty! Good luck with the second half of your challenge!

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  9. Congratulations! It's been great following your progress over the past year, and I've also enjoyed reading along, albeit at my own snail's pace(13 books in chronological order from 1900 through to 1912. I've signed in using my Goodreads' account where you can see my Century of Books folder if interested. (I wish I wasn't so useless with HTML!)
    I'm really looking forward to seeing what the next 2-4 years will bring as I move up the century. Thank you for a wonderful idea!

    1. I had a little hunt and couldn't find the folder, because I don't really understand Goodreads, but soon I will come back and have a proper look. Best of luck for the rest of your project!

  10. Congratulations Simon. Although I didn't seriously join in, I do keep records and I managed 23 years out of the 100, with only 1 book before 1930, and the '70s onwards getting 5 or 6 per decade. Each year I say I will aim to read more books written before I was born, but fail - maybe 2013 eh?

    1. Thanks Annabel! Isn't it funny how we have different blind spots in the century?

  11. I only read 14 this year towards the challenge but would like to wrap it up for 1913. I searched My Library Thing of my books the other day by year and I pretty much have every year on my shelves. I am going to commit to more books I own of TBR for 2013 so hope to get this, the Penguins, and the Classic Club all overlapping. Need to get through currently owned books. Well done on this and I'm sure you feel great. cheers and happy New Year for 2013.

    1. Hope the project continues to go well! It's a lovely feeling to finish.

  12. I now realise how this project can be broken down into blocks of time with accessible writers, but it's still a major challenge and I congratulate you on achieving the century.

    I love Vanity Fair and will be interested in your views.


    1. Thanks Sue - it's definitely great to have a few favourite authors in the bank.

      Vanity Fair is great fun so far!

  13. Well done Simon, that's really impressive! Looking forward to seeing what you are planning for next year (aren't you??)

    1. Reading Presently for 2013! Fifty books that were gifts.

  14. Congratulations Simon! What a brilliant accomplishment. Have a wonderful 2013 and good luck with all your future reading projects.

  15. Congrats Simon--it's so cool that you did this and you and Claire have inspired me to start it in 2013. As I am sure it will take me two years to complete--I'll be joining you in 2014 (now there is a long range goal!). I'll have to keep 1953 in mind--it will be fun choosing I can see--though I'll just read as normal to start and let the books fall where they may. Have a really lovely New Year and best wishes in 2013!

    1. So pleased you'll be doing the project, Danielle! Enjoy it! You have quite eclectic taste anyway, so I think you'll be ok.

  16. Wow, what a great idea! How did you select the books? I might give this a try, but I doubt I'd get 100 read in year since I'd have to sneak in some stuff that didn't quite qualify. Congrats!

    1. I selected them mostly by seeing what came along next! Towards the end of the year I had to think about it a little more, but for the most part I just read as normal, and the years filled up!

  17. Well done! Terrific job, and great deadline keeping. Happiest of new year wishes to you!

  18. Brilliant Simon - well done! A real achievement and some really interesting sounding books in there for the interested booklover (e.g. me!) to explore.

    Happy new year!

  19. Well done! I've read 19 of them but could never manage this even in a few years!

    1. 19 of them is an impressive percentage, especially considering how obscure some of these are!

  20. Congrats on completion! And thanks for the wonderful list that will spark my own future reading... such a great project. I think I'll start mulling it over now, and join you both in 2014 in this challenge.

    1. Oo, lovely! Maybe this challenge can keep rolling on around the blogosphere... FOREVER. ;)

  21. Hehehe, after reading your comment about 1953 I see you 1953 and raise you 1926 and 1927. I have about 10 books for those two years alone on my shelves but 1909 seems like it's going to be trickier... Ah, lovely tricky book choices to be made. Bliss. ;)

    1. Oh yes! I did find nearly all the 1920s came back time and again, but that's mostly because I was writing about the period for my thesis.

  22. Well done, what an achievement! You have enthused me and I'm going to have a go myself. The general plan for the year is to finish the current 14 library books, then begin on the horrendous backlog of 'your library- still to read!' (trying to work equally through Virago /Persephone/ other stuff I REALLY want to read/ stuff I don't). And have a go at a few Nobel prize winners...

    Many thanks for your blogs which have alerted me to some interesting reads I wouldn't have otherwise heard of; 'Appius & Virginia' is my first planned read after the library books!

    All the best for a wonderful 2013,

    1. Good luck finding Appius and Virginia - it's scarce - but if you do/have, then enjoy it! It's quite an unusual book.

  23. wonderful achievement simon ,and such a wide selection ,all the best stu

  24. I saw Claire's wrap-up post earlier and like when I read hers, I am a little jealous that I didn't think to join you! This sounds like SUCH a fun project. Someday, maybe?

    I'm in awe at both of you finishing it so quickly, congratulations!

  25. I am extremely impressed that you completed this challenge. I have never been able to get anywhere near 100 books in a year. There are lots of books in there that I have not even heard of.

    1. There are definitely a lot of quite obscure titles there!

  26. Well done Simon, that is some good reading. I hope you enjoy next year's challenge.

  27. What a wonderful list. Very impressive and encouraging. As you know, I am "working" on mine. :-D

  28. Hello Simon *waves from across Oxford*, I'm peeking out of the domain of the benevolent lurkers to wish you happy reading in 2013 and to check in for A Century of Books - nicked your logo and everything! I came across your hilarious Bake Off reviews earlier this year and have stayed for the books :)

    1. Thanks Anna! (A friend of Meg's, I'm guessing?)
      Hope your Century of Books goes swimmingly :)

  29. I just finished. Just 8 months after you. We have many overlapping authors, but only one overlapping book. The Garrick Year.


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