This fun tag has been doing the rounds lately – it started on Book Tube, but Dr Laura Tisdall and Bookish Beck have recently taken part and I’ve finally given in to have a go myself. (Actually it means I can put off writing a review – I’ve got reviewer’s block at the moment – so a fun post will fill the void I hope). Goodreads lists the 200 most popular books of any given year. Skim through and see how many you’ve read from the list and discuss whichever ones you like.
1. Choose a year and say why.
I chose 1979. This was my first/second year at uni – Imperial College in London to study Materials Science. And, with no disrespect intended, this was where I fell in with a group of lovely geeky types in the Wargames Society. Although I’d been devouring science fiction for several years, playing Dungeons & Dragons got me onto a huge fantasy kick. 1979 was shortly after Forbidden Planet opened it’s first London shop – then in Denmark Street, (now much bigger in Shaftesbury Ave) and you couldn’t keep me and my boyfriend out of there, (or the original Games Workshop shop in Ravenscourt Park near Hammersmith). With access to US editions, I read little other than SF&F that year, so I was keen to see how many books featured in the Goodreads list.
2. Which books published in that year have you read [or if none, heard of]?
My list isn’t that long – but I’ll split it into books I read then – that year or while still at uni, and books I’ve read since.
- The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams – the first part of the trilogy in 5 parts. It was ground-breaking and Slartiblartfast ruled.
- The Fountains of Paradise by Arthur C Clarke in which he proposed an elevator from Earth into orbit.
- The Source of Magic (Xanth 2) by Piers Anthony – I cringe now, but back then I adored everything Piers Anthony wrote, and this fantasy series which began with A Spell for Chameleon in 1977 is still going and into 40+ volumes! It was pun-laden fantasy that got cheesier and cheesier with every volume, but the first half dozen or so where less in thrall to the puns and had a half decent plot as well as being entertaining. I took to Anthony’s world of Xanth in a way that I never managed with Pratchett’s Ankh Morpork.
- Castle Roogna (Xanth 3) by Piers Anthony – two in one year!Lord Valentine’s Castle by Robert Silverberg – Silverberg is one of those prolific yet reliable authors, and this, the first of his novels set on the world of Majipoor blended SF& F really well. I remember loving most of what I read of him.
- Thieves World edited by Robert Lynn Asprin – This was the first in a series of short story anthologies all set in the same world. Contributors included Marian Zimmer Bradley, Poul Anderson, John Brunner. It, and the sequels were great fun.
- and two non SF&F titles: Tales of the Unexpected by Roald Dahl – I probably read these after the TV series, but it was around then. Wonderful.
- The Wilt Alternative by Tom Sharpe. One of the few non-SF&F books I read then. Can’t remember how I found Tom Sharpe, but I loved everything by him. This was the sequel to Wilt, which introduced us to Henry Wilt, mild-mannered and henpecked college lecturer. Hilarious if I remember.
- Gödel, Escher, Bach by Douglas Hofstadter. I loved this but have forgotten most of it, apart from remembering that somewhere it includes a translation of Jabberwocky into French and German. The latter went, ” Es brillig war. Die schlichte Toven Wirrten und wimmelten in Waben; …”
- The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter. Wonderful and subversive versions of old fairy tales.
- The Right Stuff by Tom Wolff – Sheer perfection in Wolff’s story of the beginnings of the Space Race.
- Smiley’s People by John Le Carré – What George Smiley did next. Subtle and wonderful.
3. Are there any books published in that year that sound interesting, and would you read them now?
Of course there are! Here are a few…
- Flowers in the Attic by V C Andrews – I never read this when everyone else did – should I bother now?
- Kindred by Octavia Butler. I’ve only read one Butler, but should read more.
- The Executioner’s Song by Norman Mailer.
- So Long, See you Tomorrow by William Maxwell – on the shelves.
- Offshore by Penelope Fitzgerald – also on the shelves.
- The Dog of the South by Charles Portis – he of True Grit.
There were two more questions, (Most obscure-sounding book, and strangest book cover), but I shall leave those.