Top Ten Tuesday: Books Written Before I Was Born

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.

PREVIOUS TOP TEN TUESDAY TOPICS:

Many thanks to Davida Chazan @ The Chocolate Lady’s Book Review Blog for submitting this topic, but it is a little intimidating: the range of books spreading into the past is vast! I have read a fair number of them on my degree course and over the years from Chaucer to Dickens, Sophocles to Joyce, Shakespeare to Rushdie.

And by the time I began this blog, I was – and have tended to remain – generally focussed on contemporary novels, often trying to read books published in that year.

So, to limit the options, let’s limit ourselves to books published on the year I was born. I mean, being a September baby most of these were published before September surely! Can you remember those distant shores of 1973? A world pre-covid, pre-kindle, pre-bookish blogs, pre-internet… How did we make it through those dark days? These are the ten books published in 1973 that have sparked nostalgic memories of distant readings, or piqued my interest.

The Princess Bride, William Goldman

Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.

A HOT FAIRY TALE.

I only know this book from the absurdly wonderful film made of it in 1987. Robin Wright, Mandy Patinkin and Andre the Giant having what appears to be an absolute blast.

Vizzini: INCONCEIVABLE!

Inigo Montoya: You keep using that word, I don’t think you know what it means.

The Rachel Papers, Martin Amis

This was a book that I stole from my parents as an impressionable young fellow looking for something to read and not given much guidance. And have fond memories of it as one of my first adult books – and by that I mean a book that was adult rather than adult.

I fear it may feel rather dated – and a lot tamer – if I were to return to it!

The Dark is Rising, Susan Cooper

One of the pleasures of perusing these lists is remembering some of those childhood favourites – another will be coming up shortly – and The Dark Is Rising series formed part of that formative childhood.

I can recall the winteriness of it, the chill emanating from the page, the birds in it, the mystery of being seventh son of a seventh son.

And I remember being disappointed by the lacklustre efforts of the film of 2007. Although, I fear I could not re-read this one without hearing the narration in Ian McShane’s voice now!

“The Walker is abroad,” he said again. “And this night will be bad, and tomorrow will be beyond imagining.”

Child of God, Cormac McCarthy

This is a Cormac McCarthy that passed me by but I was blown away by The Road – loved and enjoyed are not quite the right word for how that book affects its readers!

And having looked at the synopses this book, I fear it would require a robust constitution: isolation, serial murder, dehumanisation and necrophilia seem to be hard topics to embark on!

Equus, Peter Shaeffer

I remember reading this whilst at University whilst searching for a topic for my dissertation and when I suggested it to my supervisor I was met with an unimpressed “But are you sure there is enough in it?”

I fear his judgement may have been a valid one: I can remember almost nothing about it now – but we are 25 years on, to be fair to my failing memory. Whatever memories I do have might have been replaced by the publicity of Daniel Radcliffe’s nudity on stage in 2007!

The Chronicles of the Deryni, Katherine Kurtz

Remember I said that there would be another childhood favourite? Well this is it!

I’m going to be honest though – I have no idea whether I have read this book, but I do remember the Deryni series and specifically Camber of Culdi – and I remember loving what felt like a very fresh merging of the mystical and religious into magic. And being devoid of elves and orcs it felt like a departure from Tolkien which had been my gateway into fantasy!

These books had lived with me well enough that I did (perhaps a little half heartedly and certainly unsuccessfully) have a look at trying to find a copy to re-read not that long ago. Maybe I shall try again.

If it stood the test of time, there seem to be about 14 books in the series!

The Honorary Consul, Graeme Greene

I’ve not read much Greene, but I have quite enjoyed him when I have read him – Brighton Rock and The End of the Affair are the two I have previously read. And this one was apparently the author’s favourite books of his own novels.

Sex, drink, brothels, catholicism in Argentina sounds like a heady mix and it is probably worth a read just to find out how this line in the wikipedia entry for the novel plays out:

he finds himself obsessed by Clara and seduces her with a pair of highly decorative sunglasses.

Zen in the Art of Writing, Ray Bradbury

I’ve tried to find original cover images of these books but my Google-fu has let me down with this one. I think just slipping in some quotations might reveal how inspiring this book might be:

And what, you ask, does writing teach us? First and foremost, it reminds us that we are alive and that it is a gift and a privilege, not a right

We have our Arts so we won’t die of Truth.

I have never listened to anyone who criticized my taste in space travel, sideshows or gorillas. When this occurs, I pack up my dinosaurs and leave the room.

I’ve not read the thing, to be fair but the quotes from the book on Goodreads are great!

The Black Prince, Iris Murdoch

Iris Murdoch is one of those authors I feel I should have read more of! What have I read of hers? I think just The Sea, The Sea and The Bell.

Scanning through Goodreads for quotes, they do seem unremittingly joyless I have to say – perhaps not surprising as the title seems to reference Hamlet! But look at them:

All chances of happiness are gone from me. Just being with myself is hell all the time anyway.

Oh my life is so awful, it’s just so awful to be me, you don’t know what it’s like waking every morning and finding the whole horror of being yourself still there.

Let me sleep at last. I’ve had misery enough in my life. You said there was nowhere to go to. There is death to go to. I’ve had misery enough in my life.

To sleep, perchance to dream… aye, there’s the rub, for in that sleep of death what dreams may come.

Crash, J. G. Ballard

I hesitated to include this one because I have no interest in reading it any more than I had interest in watching the Cronenberg film.

Car crashes and sexual fetishes.

Not for me.

I think the far-too-obvious phallic gear stick on the cover says enough. I have no qualms about books exploring the darker sides of our psyches – in fact I love them – but I don’t think this is for me!


And in making this list, I discovered that a number of writers I loved died in the year I was born, so I shall finish on that sombre note and let us remember:

  • Noel Coward
  • Nancy Mitford
  • J. R. R. Tolkien
  • Pablo Neruda
  • W. H. Auden

But also let us celebrate that my birth year was shared by


FORTHCOMING TOP TEN TUESDAY TOPICS:

  • February 9: Valentine’s Day/Love Freebie
  • February 16: Purple, Yellow, and/or Green Book Covers (in honor of Mardis Gras, which is today!)
  • February 23: Books That Made Me Laugh Out Loud (Claire @ Book Lovers Pizza)
  • March 2: Characters Whose Job I Wish I Had (maybe not even because the job sounds fun, but maybe the co-workers are cool or the boss is hot?)
  • March 9: Spring Cleaning Freebie (for example, books you’re planning to get rid of for whatever reason, book’s you’d like to clean off your TBR by either reading them or deciding you’re not interested, books that feel fresh and clean to you after winter is over, etc.)
  • March 16: Books On My Spring 2021 TBR
  • March 23: Funny Book Titles
  • March 30: Places In Books I’d Love to Live

27 comments

  1. Lovely photos of the authors. The list of names and the photos do not follow the same order — was that to challenge us? 😏 Or maybe I am just to OCD… 😝

    Like

  2. I have read none of these and recognize almost none of them, which is my favorite kind of list to see (although many of those adult titles…yikes! I think I am still not old enough for some of that content). I do love your description of the childhood memories associated with those fantasy books. As evidenced by my list this week (and regularly on TTT), I think there’s something very special about the place early reads hold in our histories.

    Because I was curious, I flipped through my Goodreads account to see my favorite ’73 books, and came up with:

    Frosty: A Raccoon to Remember – Harriet Weaver
    Snow Bound – Harry Mazer
    Summer Pony – Jean Slaughter Doty
    All Things Bright and Beautiful – James Herriot
    –RS

    Liked by 1 person

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