Books Before the Blog #2


A selection of pre-Book Jotter reads

This is my second post in the very occasional Books Before the Blog series, where I highlight a small selection of titles read and enjoyed at some point before publishing Book Jotter. Included are a mishmash of oddities: fiction and non-fiction, light and heavy, old and new, in effect, whatever I happen to espy on my shelves when I start writing.

THE MODERN LIBRARYThe Modern Library by Carmen Callil and Colm Tรณibรญn (Published 1999)
Because this book was published in 1999, some of the authors’ biographies are rather dated (several writers shown as living have since died), but I believe a more updated version is available. Nevertheless, I thoroughly enjoyed dipping into this eclectic guide to 200 of the ‘best’ novels written in English from 1950 to about 1998. While I have read many of the more famous or classic titles – or in some instances, I have intended to read them for some considerable time – my appetite was whetted for a selection of lesser known works suggested by the authors.

THE GREEK GODSGreek Gods: The Iconoclastโ€™s Guide by Maureen O’Sullivan (Published 1985)
I purchased my softback copy of The Greek Gods from a dingy little shop in the winding back-streets of Batsi on the island of Andros, and thoroughly enjoyed reading it while relaxing on a sandy Cycladean beach. I found it a light and amusing read, which also provided some background to the Gods of Olympus. Great fun!

SHOP TALKShop Talk: A Writer and His Colleagues and Their Work by Philip Roth (Published 2001)
Philip Roth talks literature with an assortment of international, predominantly male writers, and explores the importance of politics, homeland, religion and history to their work. My personal favourites are Primo Levi discussing Auschwitz and Edna O’Brien on Ireland, but there are many fascinating insights into the places and people behind a variety of written narratives.

BIRDS IN A CAGEBirds in a Cage by Derek Niemann (Published 2012)
To fully appreciate this book, you should ideally have an interest in ornithology (which I do), because the men in this moving story of surviving internment as PoWs during the second world war are obsessive birders. They spend their every waking hour compiling lists and recording the behaviour of each and every species that flits over the barbed wire or lands in the camp. This is how a select few prisoners survived hardship, hunger and boredom over five long years. It makes fascinating reading for anyone with an interest in wildlife or human endurance.

TURN OF THE SCREWThe Turn of the Screw by Henry James (Published 1898)
Finally, a thoroughly spine-tingling gothic novella from Henry James, which leaves more questions than answers in the reader’s disquieted mind. Ideal bedtime reading in the run up to Hallowe’en!




Please do let me know if you enjoyed this short feature so we can perhaps do it again!

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40 replies

  1. For what it’s worth, I rather like this idea. What book blogger doesn’t have a pile (or several) that they read before blogging was a thing?

  2. I also enjoyed this feature! It seems like a useful way to collect your thoughts about the books you read in your pre-blogging days, and it could introduce others to books that are new to them.

  3. I really enjoyed this! I only started blogging 7 months ago, so my “books before” list is *insanely* long. And as others have said above, it’s a great way to talk to people about books you enjoyed before but maybe don’t get the chance to highlight. xx

  4. Itโ€™s been ages since I saw the word dingy!

  5. Gosh, I’ve read hundreds of books that could fall into this category. And what a lovely idea to talk about books from our past, that left an impression. I might steal this one and do a retro-posting day! ๐Ÿ˜€

  6. I absolutely love this idea! And Birds in a Cage sounds excellent, will be checking that one out.

  7. That Philip Roth sounds interesting. Good choices!

  8. I also enjoyed this post. I really liked The Turn of the Screw when I read it eons ago; yes, very disquieting! I love books about books so the Modern Library appeals to me as does Birds in a Cage.

  9. Yep, mini reviews, what the Guardian Review used to do very well. And I’m reading the James novella now in time for the end of October…

    • It’s ages since I last read an actual copy of the Guardian. I always used to buy it on a Saturday for the Review. Have they stopped doing mini reviews? That would be sad.

      • The mini reviews, if they’re still doing them, are no longer in the Saturday edition ever since they revamped it after going tabloid; they may be elsewhere though. I also enjoyed Nicholas Lezard’s pieces but he ‘retired’ a few months ago. (Do writers ever retire? Hard to believe, I assume they died in the saddle or whatever writers sit in.)

      • A swivel chair, surely?

  10. The Modern Library sounds interesting – I may have to indulge myself with that one, because it’s not possible to have too many book lists, is it? ๐Ÿ˜‰

  11. I also liked this notion. Not sure I could do it – too hard keeping up with current reading for the blog. I have that copy of The Modern Library, and dip into it frequently. Both authors are sound judges of literary quality. Didn’t know that Roth title – must look it up.

  12. I think this is a lovely idea and whetted my appetite to find out more. The Modern Library is very tempting.

    • Thank you, Anne. I love dipping into The Modern Library, even though my copy is somewhat out of date (happily, the comments regarding the novels are still relevant). Looking on The Book Depository I see there is a 2012 version, which is at least a little more current.

  13. I would welcome your doing this kind of entry again.

  14. This is a good test of whether a book really resonated with you since if you can remember it enough to write about it long after you read it, then it had an impression.

  15. So agree about turn of the screw!

  16. I’d like to read The Modern Library. Often I find these lists very male-heavy, but hopefully Carmen Callil’s involvement means its a more balanced approach!


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