Top Ten Tuesday: The First 10 Books I Randomly Grabbed from My Shelf

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

How can it be May already? It only seems a blink of an eye that we were looking forward to what 2023 can offer… And now the clocks have sprung forward, we had glorious sun for the May Day bank holiday, daffodils crowd the garden and the apple tree is putting out buds… This year seems to be flying!

And for all that it has taken me by surprise somehow, the progress of time – in our limited understanding and expression of it – is very regular. The march of seasons, the ticking of the clock and for some of us of a certain age the sound of Marvell’s “Time’s winged chariot”. Even if philosophers and physicists cannot really explain what time is truly – and we all know that time flies for some activities and crawls for other, the subjective experience is often differing from the objective measurement of time – we as human being seem to love order and impose it on everything including time. We balk at the random and chaotic – so much so that when Apple launched the iPod Shuffle which genuinely played in a random order, people complained. They didn’t want random which might – will at some point – play the same song back-to-back so Apple, I believe, created a complex algorithm to mimic randomness whilst ensuring spacing between replays. Which is, apparently, much easier than making a computer pick truly random orders – computers cannot do random, and have to be connected somehow to physical random events such as the movement of a lava lamp… at least, that is according to what I learned on BBCRadio 4’s Infinite Monkey Cage one week.

But, whether random or not, I am going to rely on the computer to select the ten books for this list, taking out all the physical and human limitations on randomness – the fact that I would be least likely to pick books from low shelves because my knees ache…. I did show my class the other week my Calibre library of ebooks and they estimated how many I had. “Twenty, sir?” “Thirty-five sir?” They seemed flabbergasted – as if they could not believe so many books could exist – when I scrolled to the bottom to show the 3,006th book! Not all read, obviously. A lot of classics. A vast and overwhelming TBR in digital form! Let’s see what I thought of this random selection, and whether I remember why I bought it…

And why is this strangely nerve wracking?

Last Bus to Woodstock, Colin Dexter

‘Do you think I’m wasting your time, Lewis?’
Lewis was nobody’s fool and was a man of some honesty and integrity.
‘Yes, sir.’
An engaging smile crept across Morse’s mouth. He thought they could get on well together . . .

The death of Sylvia Kaye figured dramatically in Thursday afternoon’s edition of the Oxford Mail. By Friday evening Inspector Morse had informed the nation that the police were looking for a dangerous man – facing charges of wilful murder, sexual assault and rape.

But as the obvious leads fade into twilight and darkness, Morse becomes more and more convinced that passion holds the key . . .

A good start: a book I have read and the first in a series! Back in my university days I devoured the Inspector Morse series, and the television series had been a staple part of my family’s TV viewing habits. I remember re-reading some of them and finding them perhaps a little dated now, and did Dexter not have the habit of using little literary quotations at the start of each chapter which is something I find a little… pretentious?

Also, I thought I’d corrupted the image of the book cover because of the broken lines under the name… it took me embarrassingly long to recognise it as morse code!!

Changeling, The Oddmire Book 1, William Ritter

Magic is fading from the Wild Wood. To renew it, goblins must perform an ancient ritual involving the rarest of their kind – a newborn changeling. But when the fateful night arrives to trade a human baby for a goblin one, something goes terribly wrong. After laying the changeling in a human infant’s crib, the goblin Kull is briefly distracted from his task. By the time he turns back, the changeling has already perfectly mimicked the human child. Too perfectly: Kull cannot tell them apart. Not knowing which to bring back, he leaves both babies behind. Tinn and Cole are raised as human twins, neither knowing what secrets may be buried deep inside one of them. Then when they are twelve years old, a mysterious message arrives, calling the brothers to be heroes and protectors of magic. The boys must leave behind their sleepy town of Endsborough and risk their lives in the Wild Wood, crossing the perilous Oddmire swamp and journeying through the Deep Dark to reach the goblin horde and discover who they truly are. 

I picked this one up for my daughter – although I haven’t read it with her yet. It feels a little like a warm up for getting her into the delights of Frances Hardinge’s fantastical and fairy tale worlds!

The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires, Grady Hendrix

Patricia Campbell’s life has never felt smaller. Her husband is a workaholic, her teenage kids have their own lives, her senile mother-in-law needs constant care, and she’s always a step behind on her endless to-do list. The only thing keeping her sane is her book club, a close-knit group of Charleston women united by their love of true crime. At these meetings they’re as likely to talk about the Manson family as they are about their own families.

One evening after book club, Patricia is viciously attacked by an elderly neighbour, bringing the neighbour’s handsome nephew, James Harris, into her life. James is well travelled and well read, and he makes Patricia feel things she hasn’t felt in years. But when children on the other side of town go missing, their deaths written off by local police, Patricia has reason to believe James Harris is more of a Bundy than a Brad Pitt. The real problem? James is a monster of a different kind―and Patricia has already invited him in.

Little by little, James will insinuate himself into Patricia’s life and try to take everything she took for granted―including the book club―but she won’t surrender without a fight in this blood-soaked tale of neighbourly kindness gone wrong.

The first of these random books that I have blogged about and reviewed! It is… really what it says in the title: a vampire comes across a group of middle aged women who have formed a reading club dedicated mainly to true crime. Formidable mothers and wives. The vampire didn’t stand a chance. Great read, dripping in more gore than my usual reading matter.

Patron Saints of Nothing, Randy Ribay

When Jay Reguero hears of his cousin Jun’s death, everything changes. Although years have passed since they were last in contact, the stories about Jun just don’t fit with the boy Jay knew. Hoping to uncover the truth, Jay travels to Jun’s home in the Philippines – but the shocking realities of life there lead to even more questions. Can Jay find the answers he seeks?

This novel I picked up because of its inclusion in the Carnegie Medal shortlist a couple of years ago. Confession – I never read it. It felt a little like it might be re-treading a familiar path that has been done so often before. An important path no doubt – race, bigotry, class – but it didn’t grab my attention at the time. That was the shortlist that also included The Black Flamingo by Dean Atta which in my opinion should have won…

Northern Lights, Phillip Pullman

“Without this child, we shall all die.”

Lyra Belacqua and her animal daemon live half-wild and carefree among scholars of Jordan College, Oxford.

The destiny that awaits her will take her to the frozen lands of the Arctic, where witch-clans reign and ice-bears fight.

Her extraordinary journey will have immeasurable consequences far beyond her own world…

A classic. No doubt. Lyra and Pan breaking out of her safe but restrictive Oxford home, the introduction to Mrs Coulter, one of the best antagonists in YA literature, the echoes of William Blake and John Milton… This was the first of the trilogy, but I had read them out of order: I remember long train journeys back when I was a barrister and unable to drive, and I picked up one of the trilogy in a train station. When I found that I had left it behind at home a few days later I picked up another and I think some time after repeated the process, so that I read the trilogy almost simultaneously. It was not a reading process I’d recommend!

Hamlet, William Shakespeare

In the Kingdom of Denmark, on a cold winter night, appears the ghost of the deceased King..
What happens when Hamlet, the Prince of Denmark, encounters his father’s ghost which reveals to him the secrets of his father’s murder, laying upon him the duty of revenge?
Unconvinced and indecisive, Hamlet—the Prince of Demark, re-enacts the murder to find the truth. Will he be able to unmask and avenge the brutal and cold-blooded murder of his father? Will his inner struggle between taking a revenge and his propensity to delay thwart his desires to act?

And speaking of classics. My third favourite Shakespeare play – after King Lear and Much Ado About Nothing. “Remember me… something is rotten in the state of Denmark… that one may smile and smile and be a villain…” I remember reading it for the first time and recognising half the text as things I’ve heard people say all my life and never knew the source! Eminently quotable in almost any context.

The Lamplighters, Emma Stonex

Cornwall, 1972. Three keepers vanish from a remote lighthouse, miles from the shore. The entrance door is locked from the inside. The clocks have stopped. The Principal Keeper’s weather log describes a mighty storm, but the skies have been clear all week.

What happened to those three men, out on the tower? The heavy sea whispers their names. The tide shifts beneath the swell, drowning ghosts. Can their secrets ever be recovered from the waves?

Twenty years later, the women they left behind are still struggling to move on. Helen, Jenny and Michelle should have been united by the tragedy, but instead it drove them apart. And then a writer approaches them. He wants to give them a chance to tell their side of the story. But only in confronting their darkest fears can the truth begin to surface . . .

I love the cover of this one, and I love lighthouses and the sea and mysteries. All the reasons are there for me loving this book and yet I did not read it. I think – I may be wrong – that as I was about to begin Natasha Pulley’s The Kingdoms came out which scratched my lighthouse sea-faring narrative itch with additional layers of time travel and mm romance.

The Code of the Woosters, P. G. Wodehouse

‘There are moments, Jeeves, when one asks oneself, “Do trousers matter?”‘

‘The mood will pass, sir.’

Aunt Dahlia has tasked Bertie with purloining an antique cow creamer from Totleigh Towers. In order to do so, Jeeves hatches a scheme whereby Bertie must charm the droopy and altogether unappealing Madeline and face the wrath of would-be dictator Roderick Spode. Though the prospect fills him with dread, when duty calls, Bertie will answer, for Aunt Dahlia will not be denied.

In a plot that swiftly becomes rife with mishaps, it is Jeeves who must extract his master from trouble. Again.

Mana for the soul, the Jeeves and Wooster series are gentle, harmless and fun escapism. The absurdities, the charm, the wit are all in full display here, even where it acknowledges the darker things of the real world such as the rise of fascism and horrors of World War Two in the obnoxious figure of Spode. Stephen Fry’s reading of the series – see last week’s list of favourite audiobook narrators! – was the soundtrack to covid for me.

The Devil’s Dictionary, Steven Kotler

Hard to say exactly when the human species fractured. Harder to say when this new talent arrived. But Lion Zorn is the first of his kind–an empathy tracker, an emotional forecaster, with a felt sense for how culture evolves and the future arrives.

It’s also a useful skill in today’s competitive business market.

In The Devil’s Dictionary, when a routine em-tracking job goes sideways and em-trackers themselves start disappearing, Lion finds himself not knowing who to trust in a life and death race to uncover the truth. And when the trail leads to the world’s first mega-linkage, a continent-wide national park advertised as the best way to stave off environmental collapse, and exotic animals unlike any on Earth start showing up–Lion’s quest for truth becomes a fight for the survival of the species. 

I think the draw for me here was twofold: I love books that cite books, so the word dictionary in the title drew me in and also, the wolf looks cool on the cover. And to be fair the blurb sounded appealing, an empathy tracker sounded cool. Other books have pushed it quite a way down my TBR, though.

The Girl Who Lived Twice, David Lagercrantz


As Salander follows the scorched trail of her twin sister to Moscow, Blomkvist fears for her safety.

He should, perhaps, be more concerned for himself. The murder of a homeless man on the streets of Stockholm has drawn him into a conspiracy that scales the heights of Everest and plunges to the depths of Russia’s criminal underworld.

And now Lisbeth will face her nemesis. For the girl with the dragon tattoo, the personal is always political – and ultimately deadly.

Again, I have heard great things about Lagercrantz’ continuation of the Millenium series – which I did love and devoured the final two books back to back. But somehow I have never picked up any of that continuation. Perhaps this is the reminder that I should…

So there we have it, a random selection of 10 books from the 3,006 on my Calibre library. It has been rather pleasant recalling old pleasures from before I began the blog, books that I might not have thought about or mentioned in years; and also a pleasure to be prompted to return to one or two that have languished too long on my TBR.

Statistically, I’ve read 6 out of these 10 random selections… Does that mean I have read 1,803 of the books in my Calibre library?

Upcoming Top Ten Tuesday Themes

May 9: Books I Recommend to Others the Most
May 16: Things Getting in the Way of Reading (what’s taking up your time right now?) (lovingly stolen from A Cocoon of Books during freebie week)
May 23: Things That Make Me Instantly Want to Read a Book (these can be auto-buy authors, tropes you love, if an author you love blurbed it, settings, genres, etc.)
May 30: Things That Make Me Instantly NOT Want to Read a Book (what are your immediate turn-offs or dealbreakers when it comes to books?)

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