Choose the Year Book Tag: 1979

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.

Then:

  • 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.

Since:

  • 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.

If you were alive in 1979, were any of these on your reading lists?     Which  would  you  read  now?

18 thoughts on “Choose the Year Book Tag: 1979

  1. Café Society says:

    The only ones I’ve read are ‘Smiley‘s People’ and ‘Offshore’. I would definitely recommend getting round to reading the latter sooner rather than later. For me it is Fitzgerald’s masterpiece.

  2. Laura says:

    This was an interesting one! I wasn’t yet born in 1979 and seem to read very few books published in this period, but to my surprise I’d still read 12 of the books on this list – most of them children’s. It’s so notable that YA wasn’t really a thing yet and so there’s very little YA on this list compared to later years (though I have read Lois Duncan’s Daughters of Eve).

    I love your description of your geeky past. I’ve always wanted to have a go at D&D but nobody I know is keen! I reviewed this interesting book about RPGs a while back: https://drlauratisdall.wordpress.com/2015/06/19/game-narrative-or-performance/

    • AnnaBookBel says:

      That shows the longevity of classic children’s books perhaps.

      I still have a few of my painted figures from when I played D&D. Nowadays the boys at our school all do Warhammer – which is a more classic wargame – with incredibly expensive accessories – some of the figures they laboriously paint cost over £100! It’s a rip-off.

  3. BookerTalk says:

    This was a revelation – I never knew you had such a thing for wargaming!. I was just finishing uni that year and had a friend who was into dungeons and dragons in a big way. She would disappear for the entire weekend just playing….. I read Flowers in the Attic in that year as light relief from all those English literature big names – enjoyed it then though I doubt I would now.

    • AnnaBookBel says:

      I think I’ll leave Flowers in the Attic (it’s probably tame by today’s standards?). I recognise your friend’s activities. D&D would carry on through the night sometimes. Most of the time, I was the only girl too. (Imperial had 1:12 ratio!)

  4. Rebecca Foster says:

    I wasn’t around in ’79, but I’ve read six of the books! Along with Hitchhiker’s and The Bloody Chamber, I’ve read Didion, Fitzgerald, Hardwick and Oke. And then I have Butler, Calvino, Styron and a few others on the TBR. I would also skim the Pagels (on the Gnostic gospels).

  5. kimbofo says:

    The Executioner’s Song is one of my favourite books of all time. I read Flowers in the Attic when I was 15. I doubt it would hold up well if I read it again as an adult.

    • AnnaBookBel says:

      Hard in bits perhaps – but much discussion of patterns in music and literature as I remember (which is very hazy) I remember I did love it.

  6. Calmgrove says:

    Interesting Goodreads list, though I confess I only scrolled down to number 180. Like you I had a thing about SFF in the 1970s so The Fountains of Paradise and Lord Valentine’s Castle were both titles I read around then, and in fact I’ve read most if not all of the Majipoor novels since then. The Bloody Chamber is a later acquaintance, and I’ve only recently got into John le Carré (a review of A Murder of Quality is scheduled soon) so ‘Smiley’ would have meant little or nothing to me then. But I did so enjoy this delve into your past literary interests!

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