The I Spy challenge is very simple:
Find a book that contains (either on the cover or in the title) an example for each category. You must have a separate book for all 20, get as creative as you want and do it within five minutes!
Five minutes is tough, so I ignored that, but did try not to overthink it – going mostly with the first book that came to mind for each category as I scanned my library. I managed to come up with the basic mix of books I’ve read, plus one from my TBR reasonably quickly. Click on the titles in each case to go to my reviews.
- Food: John Saturnall’s Feast by Lawrence Norfolk – Fabulous historical novel about a kitchen boy at a manor house who rises to become the cook. Starting in 1625, food, love, and the English Civil War, entwined with a hint of mythology, a mad Puritan clergyman and the central biblical allegory of Eden, mixed together make the recipe for a rich narrative feast.
- Transport: The Reader on the 6.27 by Jean-Paul Didierlaurent – a charming French fable about a man who rescues pages of books from being shredded and reads them aloud on the train.
- Weapon: Any Old Iron by Anthony Burgess – about Excalibur (in the TBR)
- Animal: The Giraffe’s Neck by Judith Schalansky – Frau Inge Lohmark is a teacher of biology to teenagers. She is defiantly old school, teaching from the front, chalk and talk – a bit of a dinosaur in the world of education some might say – at risk of dying out. A Darwin devotee, Frau Lohmark does have a real passion for her subject, but not so much her pupils…
- Number: 4 3 2 1 by Paul Auster. I make no secret of the fact that I’m a huge Auster fan, and this brick of a book was marvellous.
- Something You Read: Diary of a Provincial Lady by EM Delafield. Which reminds me – I must read the others in this series, for this book was such a delight.
- Body of Water: Bodies of Water by VH Leslie – a dual timeline suspense novel (contemporary and Victorian) and the Thames runs through it.
- Product of Fire: A Lovely Way to Burn by Louise Welsh. The first volume of her dystopian Plague Times trilogy. A thriller set in a deadly pandemic, loved it – and the two other volumes! Highly recommended.
- Royalty: The Black Prince by Iris Murdoch. This book has been growing on me since I wrote my recent review – can’t put my finger on why, but it has.
- Architecture: The Cleaner of Chartres by Salley Vickers. This is a quiet novel, but one with emotional depth, set around the great cathedral.
- Clothing: City of Veils by Zoe Ferraris. A crime novel set in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, with a heroine forensic technician who is determined to get around the restrictive rules for women workers. We read this in our book group – we all enjoyed it and it generated some great discussion.
- Family Member: Auntie Poldi and the Sicilian Lions – Written by a German and set in Sicily, this is the first crime adventure novel featuring the irrepressible Poldi who has retired to Sicily to die, but finds that she’s not ready yet. Hilarious and good fun.
- Time of Day: Waiting for Sunrise by William Boyd. Another book group choice. Vienna in the year before WWI, Freud and all that. What’s not to love.
- Music : 33 Revolutions by Canek Sánchez Guevara. In this novella by Che’s grandson, life is like a cracked record. Very evocative.
- Paranormal Being: Horrorstor by Grady Hendrix. This horror novel with nasty undeed things under the showroom is a triumph of style over substance, but the novel as IKEA catalogue just begs to be read.
- Occupation: Shopgirl by Steve Martin. The comedian is an even better writer!
- Season: Winter Games by Rachel Johnson. British toffs at finishing school in 1930s Munich. Great fun, but not serious enough.
- Colour: Tangerine by Christine Mangan. Patricia Highsmith meets Gone Girl in 1950s Tangier. In thrall to Highsmith, but still good fun.
- Celestial Body: Star of the North by DB John – One of this year’s best thrillers yet – partly set in North Korea.
- Something that grows: Revenge of the Lawn by Richard Brautigan. We read this earlier this year as our ‘green’ book at book group. Brautigan’s collection of short fiction was rather beguiling I thought. Quirky too and often beautiful.
So, there are my choices. Feel free to do your own ‘I Spy’ lists.