Sunday, 12 January 2014

Sam Sunday #40: Books I Need a Push to Read in 2014


One thing I love about the Classics Club is that having a list of classics to read and having a deadline really gives me that push I need to actually take the books from my shelf and read them!  There's no way I would have read Les Miserables last year if it wasn't for the Classics Club, and there's definitely no way I would be averaging a classic a month without it.  I was thinking about that this morning as I was selecting the classic I want to try in January, and I started thinking how great it would be if I had a push to read other books on my shelves too.  Particularly, books I have owned for a long time and literary fiction books that I've been putting off starting, for whatever reason.

With that in mind, I started rooting through my fiction shelves and taking out books that I've had for a long time (we're talking five years plus on average), books that I know are supposed to be excellent, but that I still haven't read.  As I've owned them for so long, they keep getting overlooked for newer and shinier books, so I thought it would be a good idea to challenge myself to read one of these older books a month, one book that I was very excited to try when I bought it, but simply never got around to.

Here are the twelve books I selected (links go to goodreads):


1. The Memory of Love by Aminatta Forna - This is one of the 'newer' books on my list, I've had it since 2011, when it was short-listed for the Orange Prize.  Which means I will definitely love it, as so many of my favourite books have come from the Orange Prize.  It's set in Sierra Leone during the civil war and is about ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances.  This is also one of the shorter novels on my list.

2. Birds Without Wings by Louis de Bernieres - I read and adored Captain Corelli's Mandolin whilst at university, so went straight out to buy Birds Without Wings, and then of course never read it (I also have another unread de Bernieres on my shelf, but we'll ignore that one for now!).   This is set in a small village in Anatolia as the Ottoman Empire is declining and Turkey is being created.  Muslims and Christians there have always traditionally got on well, but the conflict creates new tensions.  

3. The Children's Book by A.S. Byatt - I find this book and A.S. Byatt in general a bit intimidating, which is why I've never picked it up.  It sounds like a really good family saga set in Victorian times, and I love that part of it is set in the Victoria and Albert museum, but it still feels long and a bit scary.  Hence why I need to push to get to it.


4. The Glass Palace by Amitav Ghosh - I picked this one up years ago purely because it is set in Burma, and I've never read a book set there.  It follows three families in three countries; Burma, Malaya and India from the 1880s to the 1990s.  Ghosh is also a writer I would like to try.

5. The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett - OK, OK, I know I will love this, and I know I can't call myself a fan of historical fiction without reading it, but it's just so long, and Medieval England isn't really my thing.  Hopefully it's a panoramic novel that's about more than just the cathedral.

6. The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon - I actually have no excuse for not reading this, especially seeing as I've owned it since it first came out in paperback in the UK.  This is one that I'm sure I will love.


7. A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry - I went through a phase of being really into Indian literature, and of course I bought more books than I actually read.  I think what has put me off this one is the 'if Dickens wrote about India' tag, as Charles Dickens isn't one of my favourite classic authors.  If I can get over that and actually start it, perhaps I will enjoy it.

8. Sophie's Choice by William Styron - I bought this because it's an important book.  Sophie lives in the south of America but escaped from Auschwitz earlier in her life, where she had to make a terrible choice.  It's not going to be a happy read, but I'm hoping it will be powerful.

9. The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy - More Indian lit, this time the winner of the Booker Prize in 1997.   I don't know much about this book, apart from it is about twins looking back on their childhood.


10. The Sea, The Sea by Iris Murdoch - I studied Murdoch's The Bell for my A-Level English Literature, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.  Of course I went out to buy more books by Murdoch, and this was one of them.  I must have started this book about three times, and I actually made it half-way through once, but I've never completed it.  It's about an ageing Thespian who retires to an isolated home by the sea to reflect on his life.  I'm hoping I was just too young for it when I read it as a teenager, and that I'll have more luck this time.

11. The Famished Road by Ben Okri - This is the one on my list that I am dreading reading the most.  Like The Sea, The Sea, I have a history with it; having started and abandoned it at least three times.  It's magical realism, and it's about an African spirit child who longs for death.  I'm going to give it one last try - if I still don't like it, I'll have to admit it's just not for me.

12. The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell - I bought this because Cloud Atlas is one of my favourite books, and because it has a gorgeous cover.  I'm pretty sure I will like this tale of a Dutch clerk in Japan.


So there we go - the twelve books I've owned for a long time, that I really need to read in 2014.  I would love to know if you've read any of them, and what you thought of them if you have.

Have you got any books sitting on your shelves that have been there for simply too long?  Any books you really should get around to reading in 2014? 

50 comments:

  1. Thank you so much, Sam for including "Sophie's Choice" by William Styron. First of all, I had no idea it was a book, I only had heard about the movie, and secondly, I had no idea either it was about a German girl transplanted to the Southern USA. Now I can't wait to read it even though I usually stay away from WWII stories because they break my heart in a million pieces.

    I have a few books as well. One of them is "Gone with the Wind" which both scares me and excites me.

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    1. I've not seen the film, I will probably want to after reading the book though!

      Gone with the Wind is one of my favourite books ever - you don't feel the length when you read it as it's action packed and Scarlett is such a fascinating character.

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  2. There are so many of those books on my must-read list as well. I even moved them to my reading nook bookshelf, so that I will see them more often and read them soon. Maybe we should readalong some. I have The Pillars of the Earth and A Fine Balance at my shelf, and Memory of Love, Cloud Atlas and Shadow of the Wind on my virtual must-read list.

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    1. I would love to readalong some of the titles. I've just tweeted you :)

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    2. If you guys do a readalong for A Fine Balance, I'm in.

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  3. I have some of these same titles on my shelves. I actually have The Sea, The Sea on my Classics Club list! :) Good luck!

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    1. That's a good idea, I should have put it on my classics club list - missed a trick there!

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  4. Wow, this is really inspirational! :)
    There are so many books that I have meant to read since forever, but somehow never got round to.

    I started reading The Pillars of the Earth last summer but I just could not finish...it's really lengthy. My sister loved it though, so I don't mean to discourage you :)

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    1. You should join me and make your own list, go on, you know you want to!
      And I hope I agree with your sister when it comes to Pillars of the Earth.

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  5. Good idea to pick some from your TBR pile! You maybe could join a challenge. Some of them look chunky too. My daughter told me I should read The God of Small Things. I may pick it up this year.

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    1. I think their chunkiness is one of the reasons I haven't read them yet...

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  6. This is a great idea - good luck with it! I love The Pillars of the Earth, though it seems to be a book that really divides opinion. It's definitely about a lot more than just the cathedral! I really enjoyed The Children's Book too.

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    1. Thanks for the luck Helen, I think I will need it! Glad you enjoyed The Children's Book, it's one I'm a bit hesitant to read, but the fact you enjoyed it makes me more keen.

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  7. The memory of love is a beautiful book, it was one of my favorites in 2012. I hope you will like it as much as I did. I also spot some other great books on your pile, so have fun with it!

    Kind regards,

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    1. The fact that you loved it so much is very encouraging :)

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  8. I've got Birds Without Wings waiting for me on my shelf too. I bought it after an old colleague recommended it but never actually got around to reading it. Hopefully this year! The Shadow of the Wind is brill and I enjoyed The God of Small Things. Looks like you have some brilliant books to read in 2014! I actually think it's good to look back over your shelves and dig things out - can imagine digging up some absolute forgotten treasures.

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    1. I just know I will love Shadow of the Wind, I'm really excited to pick it up.
      Sometimes they feel like forgotten treasures and sometimes like burdens that I just need to get over with!

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  9. What an excellent idea! I really should do this for myself, but I think I would have a hard time choosing just 1 per month, even though reading more than that would not be realistic for me. It would be an excellent start though.

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    1. Go on, you know you want to! On my first hunt through my shelves I could have pulled out 30+ books, but I narrowed it down by looking for the books I've owned the longest and the books I have put off reading the most.

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  10. Great list and a wonderful goal. I've got a lot of books waiting to be read also, but without the right motivation or without being in the right mood, I'll opt for something new or something easier. The blogging challenges, like the classics challenge, help give me that push sometimes so I make sure to keep signing up!

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    1. That's what I usually do too, opt for something new or easier. But no longer!

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  11. The God of Small Things is great. I have also had The Sea, The Sea, The Famished Road and The Shadow of the Wind on my shelves for ages... I may thief your idea a little if that's ok! So many books I've had sat there for so long, great idea!

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    1. Go ahead, I'd love it if other people made lists too :)
      And I'm glad you enjoyed God of Small Things, it makes me exited to pick it up.

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  12. I'd like to read Birds Without Wings too. As for The Pillars of the Earth…. I've had the book on my shelf for 2 years and still not motivated to pick it up.

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    1. Motivation is hard to find sometimes, isn't it?

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  13. I had trouble with Children's Book and ended up abandoning it. I loved Shadow of the Wind, though, and Pillars of the Earth. I have Thousand Autumns and Cloud Atlas on my TBR; I hope they're good!

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    1. Cloud Atlas is awesome! It has an unusual narrative structure, but once you get used to it, it's absolutely amazing. It's one of the few books I have actually reread.

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  14. I really, really recommend The Shadow of the Wind. It's a lot of fun -- not at all intimidating, I promise. It's fun the way The Scarlet Pimpernel is fun, or The Three Musketeers.

    The Children's Book is long. It is quite long. I liked it in parts, but not totally that much in the end. However! I admit that AS Byatt is not exactly my cup of tea, and she never has been; so I am not necessarily a reliable source.

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    1. Sadly I've not read Scarlet Pimpernel or Three Musketeers either :(
      I will take your word for it that Shadow in the Wind is fun, and I'm really excited to start it.
      Opinions on The Children's Book seem to be mixed, hopefully I will come down on the side that love it.

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  15. I have a few of these on my TBR Pile Challenge 2014 list - The Pillars of the Earth (I'm intimidated by it and had the same thought - hopefully it's not just a thousand pages about a cathedral :p) and The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet. I had to read The God of Small Things in uni for some course, and so far in my life it's been the best example of how a book can disappoint you if you are too young for it. (I mean mental age, not necessarily biological.) I remember reading a bunch of Iris Murdoch books at some point, and enjoying them immsensely, so it's good reminder here that I might want to read some more from her :)

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    1. We should read Pillars of the Earth together, I definitely need motivation to actually pick it up!
      I think my mental age was too young for The Sea, The Sea when I last tried it, so hopefully I will appreciate it more this time around.

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    2. I think it's a good idea to buddyread a book that big. It always struck me as a potential spring read (no idea why), did you have any plans on when to start with The Pillars?

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  16. Good idea Sam good luck with it. I have quite a few books I need to get round to this year too.

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  17. This is a great idea to make a dent in to books that are just collecting dust. I'm actually working my way through my unread books currently - if I read 10 books, I can reward myself with new editions. The pile will just continue growing. Haha!
    Carlos Ruis Zafon is a wonderful writer.
    :-)
    Bits & Bobs

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    1. I like your 10:1 book buying idea, but there's no way I could ever stick to that! I'm trying not to buy books in January and it's been hard so far!

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  18. Such interesting books on your list and so many of them that also linger in my TBR. Also loved Captain Corelli's Mandolin and have Birds Without Winds waiting on the shelf for about 3 years :(

    Have read Pillars, but the sequel is also waiting in line, as well as his first book of the Century series.

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    1. Linger is the perfect word for what they have been doing on my bookshelves...
      I got the first book in the Century series out of the library once, but it was only available on a short loan (one week), so I didn't even attempt to read it in that time.

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  19. SO MANY people have told me to read Pillars of the Earth. I read about 1/3 of it once, and didn't quit because I didn't like it, I just got pulled away and never managed to get back. So, even though I haven't read it, I'm going to recommend it to you!

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    1. I'm glad that you enjoyed the part of it you read, hopefully I will manage to make it all the way through!

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  20. The Pillars of Earth is TOTALLY about the characters and not so much about the cathedral. Even though it's huge, I flew through it within 3 or 4 days, and whenever I wasn't reading it, I was thinking about it. It's one of THOSE kind of books.

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  21. The only one I've read from your list is The Children's Book and I adored it. I consider it one of my favorite books and hope to reread it sometime soon. It is very dense, but just crammed with delight - don't be intimidated as it is very easy to read once you get hooked.
    The book I'd most like to clear off my shelves is Dr. Zhivago.

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  22. I should totally make a similar list, because some of my books have been on my shelves for ages...
    I've read The Pillars of the Earth and The Shadow of the Wind (and the Angel's Game) and they are among my all-time favourite books, The Pillars of the Earth is just epic historical fiction that for all its size took me no time at all to read! The Shadow of the Wind is just a beautiful, beautiful book that I think every booklover should read :)
    Enjoy!

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  23. You have some big chunky awesome books! I have read a couple of these and have several others on my own TBR. I really want to read Pillars (my fiance is listening to it now). I also plan to read A Fine Balance this year. And we haven't announced it yet, but Estella Society will be hosting a Murdoch in March event. Woot!

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  24. I love this. Such an amazing list! At least half of these are making it to my TBR list. I hope you enjoy them!

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  25. I loved Pillars of the Earth! As someone else mentioned, it's much more about the characters than the cathedral. I also read A Fine Balance quite a while ago and don't remember anything about the story, but I do remember that I liked it a lot. I'm participating in the TBR Pile Challenge and am similarly going to read some books that I haven't gotten around to for too long - I'm most excited to finally read David Copperfield (I do love Dickens!) and The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins.

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  26. I have read "The Pillars of the Earth" (it reads like a pulp novel in some places, definitely not just the church-building!), "A Fine Palance" (I loved it, but it can be incredibly depressing, the heroes never getting a break or a breather amid their misfortunes), "The God of Small Things" (also very depressing, but I loved it when I read it, as there were some ways of telling the story that I could relate to and that were revelations for me) and "The Famished Road" (quite liked the beginning, but could not finish, if I remember right)

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  27. I couldn't read Pillars of the Earth. I was interested in the story but the writing was too bad and I kept getting distracted by it.

    I read Birds Without Wings this past year in my year of Turkish reading and it was good. Shadow of the Wind is such a classic for people who love books, I just know you will love it! The Mitchell is fascinating and I learned a lot but it is certainly different from his other books! I also learned a lot from the Byatt. You have some great reading in store!

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  28. Ken Follett's on my list as well, and has been since my mother read it not long after it came out! :)

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  29. I really loved Pillars of the Earth and The Shadow of the Wind--they were both books I read voraciously. Sophie's Choice is on my list to read this year, too. I never saw the movie, but last year read my first Styron, A Tidewater Morning, and enjoyed his style.

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