Reading the the 20th Century: time to get organised …

Looking back at the first year of my 20th Century Reading Project, I’m happy with the books I read, but there aren’t quite as many as I hoped. I have forty-one books on my list, but I’d aimed to have sixty to give me a little more time to deal with the ‘difficult years’ in year two.

And so I decided that I needed to be a little more organised. That I should have a list of books to read for the missing years, and they should all be on my shelves or in library stock …

Lovely though browsing is, I want to spend more time reading and less time looking next year!

It’s not a rigid list and I’m sure I’ll change it before I’m done but I think it’s going to help to have it in place.

There are more books than I realised that I want to read and that will work well. And every book on the list is one I genuinely want to read, though there are a few I’m not so sure will suit my reading mood, and I’m open to suggestions of other titles for those years.

Actually, I’m open to suggestions for any year because there is a lot of potential for rearranging things with a wonderful array of authors  left sitting on the substitutes’ bench:

Margery Allingham
Barbara Comyns
Storm Jameson
Margaret Kennedy
J B Priestley
Dorothy L Sayers
Hugh Walpole
Sylvia Townsend Warner
Rebecca West

And here’s the list:


1900 – Sister Carrie by Theodore Dreiser
1901 – My Brilliant Career by Miles Franklin (re-read)
1903 – The Book of Months by E F Benson
1904 – Ghost Stories of an Antiquary by M R James
1905 – The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton (re-read)
1906 – A Pixy in Petticoats by John Trevena
1907 – The Shuttle by Frances Hodgson-Burnett
1908 – The Fly on the Wheel by Katherine Cecil Thurston
1909 – Ann Veronica by H G Wells

I knew this was going to be a tricky decade, so I am really pleased to have a book lined up for each year. And I rather like that Katherine Cecil Thurston was married to E Temple Thurston, who has the 1910 slot.


1912 – Alexander’s Bridge by Willa Cather (re-read)
1913 – Virginia by Ellen Glasgow
1914 – Three Against the World by Sheila Kaye-Smith
1915 – Fidelity by Susan Glaspell
1916 – Non-Combatants and others by Rose Macaulay
1917 – Regiment of Women by Clemence Dane

1919 – William: an Englishman by Cecily Hamilton

I’m planning on re-reading all of Willa Cather’s novels and I have a good few more books by Sheila Kaye-Smith, so this is a decade that I can completely reshuffle if you have any particular recommendations.


1921 – Mr Pim Passes by by A A Milne
1923 – Anderby Wold by Winifred Holtby
1927 – Dusty Answer by Rosamond Lehmann
1928 – Cullum by E Arnot Robertson

I’m very happy with these. I really was spoiled for choice with books from the 1920s.


1932 – Christmas Pudding by Nancy Mitford
1933 – High Rising by Angela Thirkell
1937 – Lady Rose and Mrs Memmary by Ruby Ferguson (re-read)
1938 – Manja by Anja Grymer

I really like the look of these four, and if things go according to plan I’ll be finishing the century with ‘Christmas Pudding’ next December.


1940 – The Bird in the Tree by Elizabeth Goudge
1941 – Two Days in Aragon by Molly Keane
1942 – House-bound by Winifred Peck
1943 – They Were Sisters by Dorothy Whipple
1944 – A House in the Country by Jocelyn Playfair
1945 – London Belongs to Me by Norman Collins
1947 – One Fine Day by Mollie Panter-Downes
1948 – And Then You Came by Ann Bridge
1949 – The Far Cry by Emma Smith

I’m surprised I haven’t read more from the 1940s in year one, but I had no problem at all finding books to fill in the missing years.


1950 – Some Tame Gazelle by Barbara Pym
1951 – My Cousin Rachel by Daphne Du Maurier (re-read)
1954 – So Sweet a Changeling by Ruth Adam
1956 – The King of a Rainy Country by Brigid Brophy

‘Some Tame Gazelle’ is already off the shelf, ready for a readalong with the LibraryThing Virago Modern Classics Group next month.


1965 – A Little Love, A Little Learning by Nina Bawden
1966 – This January Tale by Bryher
1967 – Starlight by Stella Gibbons
1968 – Love Among the Daughters by Elspeth Huxley

‘This January Tale’ has just arrived at the library, ready to read at exactly the right time!


1970 – The Young Ardizzone by Edward Ardizzone
1971 – Penmarric by Susan Howatch (re-read)
1972 – To Serve Them All My Days by R F Delderfield (re-read)
1973 – The Dressmaker by Beryl Bainbridge
1974 – Long Distance by Penelope Mortimer
1975 – Lord of the Far Island by Victoria Holt
1977 – The Siren Years by Charles Ritchie
1978 – The Bookshop by Penelope Fitzgerald
1979 – Sleepless Nights by Elizabeth Hardwick

I have really struggled with the 1970s and this seems a rather strange mix of book, but it’s come from a mix of nostalgia for the books that were around when I joined the adult library and my fondness for books about the past.


1980 – A Month in the Country by J L Carr
1982 – Wish her Safe at Home by Stephen Benatar
1985 – The Suspect by L R Wright
1988 – Grace Had an English Heart by Jessica Mitford

I thought I’d struggle with the 1980s, but I’m more that half-way through the decade without really trying and the four books I have lined up I really want to read. Especially Jessica Mitford on Grace Darling!


1991 – The Tea Lords by Hella S Haase
1992 – The Republic of Love by Carol Shields (re-read)
1995 – Behind The Scenes at the Museum by Kate Atkinson (re-read)
1997 – Out of Love by Victoria Clayton (re-read)
1998 – The Shell House by Jane Thynne

By the 1990s my tastes were pretty well formed, hence all the re-reads. I can still remember where I first picked up those three books!

8 responses

  1. How smart you are to plan ahead, Jane! I found my progress went much faster after I’d pulled together a list with multiple options for all the years. That way, I never felt lost trying to figure out what to read next and was able to continue reading at a steady pace. And, of course, making the list was great fun! You have so many wonderful books planned (including Charles Ritchie!!!) and I’ll look forward to reading your reviews as you work through them.

  2. I’m still amazed that you did it in a year Claire. It was interesting just taking books as they came, but I spent so much time following links through the library catalogue. I found some great books but I neglected my own shelves. Thank you for inspiring me to order the Ritchie, and you’ll see a few more in there for the Canadian Reading Challenge.

  3. I’m impressed with your organization! There are quite a few authors & titles here I don’t recognize, so I’ll look forward to your posts – and adding to my TBR lists!

  4. I loved A Month In The Country (it made my notable books of 2012 list this year) and The Dressmaker was really interesting stylistically. I’ve crossed 28 titles off my century but have doubled up on several years because I wasn’t using the publication date as a criteria for reading a book. Really should draw up a list of likely titles though!

  5. Fleur – I’ve absolutely loved reading your reviews in this challenge as you’ve read many writers that I love. I’m looking forward to your reviews next year.

  6. So many excellent choices! Too many riches to comment on all of them, but I’m planning on reading Cullum in 2013 too. And some Barbara Comyns, because it’s been a year or two since I did.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: