The idle ramblings of a Jack of some trades, Master of none

Dec 4, 2012

Under 200

There are more than four hundred books on my To-Read list. It is a daunting number made especially so by attention deficit and a niggling feeling of restlessness. I have decided to put them aside for now. Maybe when I have that study I have been promised where I can reign like a potentate and reach out to grab a likely book from one of several floor-to-ceiling shelves - then, I'll get onto buying these books and reading them. Until then, to keep my mind ticking along its unexamined and un-introspected path, I have resolved to introduce an element of randomness to my reading.

Those four hundred books on my list range quite widely across genres of fiction and tropes of non-fiction. Most of them are on the list, however, because I read of them on some review or the other. As I do not browse bookstores anymore, there is no serendipity in my reading. So what better way to reintroduce an element of chance than by random grabs from the library's fiction shelves?

I don't want to spend hours on thick tomes that might prove enervatingly boring half-way through. I don't want to linger for hours on one paragraph and try to glean every manner of jewel from it. As I said - attention deficit. So here's what I am going to do: I'll go through the fiction shelves of my local library in alphabetical order and I'll pick up every book under 201 pages long. I will ignore the blurbs and I will get stuck into every book. I'll likely discover authors I had never heard of, never read, and - given any other trajectory in my life - would never attempt. 

The choice of 200 pages as the upper limit on size is quite arbitrary. After all, a book of 150 pages with small font is as chunky, word-wise, as another with 200 in big type. Still, it's an important psychological barrier. I can finish a two-hundred page book in a day (or at a sitting were it not for constant interruptions from sundry little imps and my own nervous energy). I needn't worry about wasting hours should the prose be impenetrable. And carrying the books from and to the library will not ruin my back. Good stuff.

So here I'll make (and keep updating) the list I'm ploughing over. I might blog about them. Or I might not.
  1. Wajdi Ahdal, A Land without Jasmine. [Yemen]
  2. Woody Allen (*), Mere Anarchy. [USA]
  3. Niccolò Ammaniti (*), Me And You. [Italy]
  4. Steven K. Amsterdam, Things We Didn't See Coming. [USA]
  5. Lin Anderson, Blood Red Roses. [Scotland]
  6. Margaret Atwood, The Tent. [Canada]
  7. Paul Auster, Timbuktu. [USA]
  8. Muriel Barbery, The Gourmet. [France]
  9. Lukas Bärfuss, One Hundred Days. [Switzerland]
  10. Djuna Barnes, Nightwood. [USA]
  11. Nicola Barker, Love Your Enemies. [England]
  12. H. E. Bates, The Darling Buds of May. [England]
  13. Georges Bataille, Story of the Eye. [France]
  14. M. C. Beaton, Deborah Goes to Dover. [Scotland]
  15. Alan Bennett (*), Smut: Two Unseemly Stories. [England]
  16. Louis de Bernières, Red Dog. [England]
  17. Alessandro Boffa, You're an Animal, Viskovitz. [Italy]
  18. Roberto Bolaño, Monsieur Pain. [Chile]
  19. Anne-Sophie Brasme, Breathe. [France]
  20. Theresa Breslin, Prisoner in Alcatraz. [Scotland]
  21. George Mackay Brown, Beside the Ocean of Time. [Scotland]
  22. Willa Cather, The Bohemian Girl. [USA]
  23. Truman Capote, Summer Crossing. [USA]
  24. Angela Carter, The Passion Of New Eve. [England]
  25. Robert Carter, The Gun-runners.
  26. Maxime Chattam (*), Carnage. [France]
  27. Janet Davey, First Aid. [England]
  28. Patricia Duncker, Hallucinating Foucault. [England]
  29. Marguerite Duras, Moderato Cantabile. [France]
  30. Ann Dee Ellis, This Is What I Did. [USA]
  31. Bret Easton Ellis, Less Than Zero. [USA]
  32. Jenny Erpenbeck, Visitation. [Germany]
  33. Janet Frame, The Lagoon: A Collection of Short Stories. [New Zealand]
  34. Alan Ford, Thin Ice. [England]
  35. Günther Freitag, Brendel's Fantasy: A Novel. [Austria]
  36. Jostein Gaardner, Through A Glass, Darkly [Norway]
  37. Damon Galgut, In a Strange Room. [South Africa]
  38. Jane Gardam, The Pangs Of Love. [England]
  39. Alan Garner, Thursbitch. [England]
  40. Pascal Garnier, The A26. [France]
  41. Hella Haasse, The Black Lake. [Netherlands]
  42. Hugo Hamilton, The Last Shot. [Ireland]
  43. Shirley Hazzard, Cliffs Of Fall. [Australia]
  44. Zoë Heller, Everything You Know, [England]
  45. Victoria Hislop, The Last Dance, and Other Stories. [England]
  46. Peter Hobbs, In the Orchard, the Swallows. [England]
  47. Alois Hotschnig, Maybe This Time. [Austria]
  48. Geoffrey Household, Face to the Sun. [England]
  49. Ted Hughes, Difficulties of a Bridegroom. [England]
  50. Helen Humphreys, The Lost Garden. [Canada]
  51. Rod Humphries, The Last Coal Trip to Tenby. [Wales]
  52. Samantha Hunt, The Seas. [USA]
  53. Jorge Ibargüengoitia, The Dead Girls. [Mexico]
  54. Yasushi Inoue, The Hunting Gun, [Japan]
  55. Robin Jenkins, A Very Scotch Affair. [Scotland]
  56. Ma Jian, Stick Out Your Tongue. [China]
  57. Andrew Kaufman, The Tiny Wife. [Canada]
  58. Michael Kimball, How Much of Us There Was. [USA]
  59. Katie Kitamura, The Longshot. [USA]
  60. Milan Kundera (*), Slowness. [France]
  61. Rodrigo de Souza Leão, All Dogs are Blue. [Brazil]
  62. J.M. Ledgard, Submergence. [Scotland]
  63. Stephen McGeagh, Habit. [England]
  64. Norman Maclean, Contracts. [Scotland]
  65. Tessa McWatt, Vital Signs. [Canada]
  66. Ernesto Mallo, Needle in a Haystack. [Argentina]
  67. Sándor Márai, Esther's Inheritance, [Hungary]
  68. Cornelius Medvei, Caroline: A Mystery. [England]
  69. David Miller, Today. [England]
  70. Alison Moore, The Lighthouse. [England]
  71. Alistair Morgan, Sleeper's Wake. [South Africa]
  72. Herta Müller, The Passport. [Romania/Germany]
  73. Irène Némirovsky, David Golder. [Russia/France]
  74. William Newton, The Two Pound Tram. [England]
  75. Raul Nuñez, The Lonely Hearts Club. [Argentina]
  76. Simon Okotie, Whatever Happened to Harold Absalon? [England]
  77. Anna Maria Ortese, The Iguana. [Italy]
  78. Julie Otsuka, The Buddha in the Attic. [USA]
  79. Chuck Palahniuk, Tell-All. [USA]
  80. Franck Pavloff, Brown. [France]
  81. Mervyn Peake, Letters from a Lost Uncle. [England]
  82. Per Petterson, It's Fine By Me. [Norway]
  83. Padgett Powell, Edisto. [USA]
  84. Annie Proulx, Brokeback Mountain. [USA]
  85. Atiq Rahimi, Earth and Ashes. [Afghanistan]
  86. Joan Riley, Waiting in the Twilight. [Jamaica/England]
  87. Mary Robison, Why Did I Ever. [USA]
  88. Knud Romer, Nothing But Fear. [Denmark]
  89. Meg Rosoff, How I Live Now. [USA]
  90. Leo Rosten (*), The Education of H*y*m*a*n K*a*p*l*a*n. [USA]
  91. Ambalavaner Sivanandan, Where the Dance is. [Sri Lanka/England]
  92. Elke Schmitter, Mrs Sartoris. [Germany]
  93. Alan Sillitoe, The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner. [England]
  94. Ali Smith, Girl Meets Boy. [Scotland]
  95. Alexander Solzhenitsyn, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich. [Russia]
  96. Simona Sparaco, About Time. [Italy]
  97. Muriel Spark (*), The Finishing School. [Scotland]
  98. Graham Swift, Learning to Swim and Other Stories. [England]
  99. Véronique Tadjo, As the Crow Flies. [Côte d'Ivoire]
  100. Mary M. Talbot, Dotter of Her Father's Eyes. [England]
  101. Pier Vittorio Tondelli, Separate Rooms. [Italy]
  102. Jáchym Topol, The Devil's Workshop. [Czech]
  103. Justin Torres, We the Animals. [USA]
  104. Kurt Tucholsky, Castle Gripsholm. [Germany]
  105. Fred Uhlman, Reunion. [Germany/England]
  106. Dimitri Verhulst, The Misfortunates. [Belgium]
  107. Sarah Webb, Behind Closed Doors. [Ireland][
  108. Nathanael West, The Day of the Locust. [USA]
  109. Rebecca West, The Return of the Soldier. [England]
  110. Jeanette Winterson, Weight: The Myth of Atlas and Heracles. [England]
  111. Taichi Yamada, Strangers. [Japan]
Okay, I felt compelled to add some genre stuff too. It's a rare crime or sci-fi book that comes in at less than 300 pages, but if you look closely enough, there are some sub-200 ones. Rare, but they're there.
  1. Ted Allbeury, Dangerous Arrivals. [England]
  2. Benjamin Black, The Lemur. [Ireland]
  3. Lilian Jackson Braun, The Cat Who Went Bananas. [USA]
  4. Max Brooks, Closure, Limited and other Zombie Tales. [USA]
  5. Tori Carrington, Queens Ransom. [USA]
  6. Judith Cutler, Silver Guilt. [England]
  7. Philip Daniels, The Inconvenient Corpse. [England]
  8. Francis Durbridge, Curzon Case. [England]
  9. Wolf Haas, The Bone Man. [Austria]
  10. Gerald Hammond, With My Little Eye. [Scotland]
  11. Alanna Knight, Deadly Beloved. [Scotland]
  12. Bill Knox, To Kill a Witch. [Scotland]
  13. Fritz Leiber (*), Swords and Ice Magic. [USA]
  14. Elmore Leonard (*), The Switch. [USA]
  15. Roy Lewis, An Assumption of Death. [Wales]
  16. Roger Ormerod, More Dead Than Alive. [England]
  17. Anne Perry, A Christmas Visitor. [England]
  18. Alexei Sayle, Mister Roberts. [England]
  19. Leopold Ritter von Sacher-Masoch, Venus in Furs. [Austria]
  20. Georges Simenon (*), Maigret Sets a Trap. [Belgium]
  21. Peter Turnbull, False Knight. [Scotland]
  22. Barry Unsworth, Morality Play. [England]
  23. Minette Walters, The Tinder Box. [England]
  24. David Wilson, The King's Park Irregulars. [Scotland]

The authors with stars against them are those I've read before. Onward!

Update: December 10: I'm beginning to think that with twenty-five books into this quixotic randomness, I've still not passed the first three letters of the alphabet. Too slow a progress! So, from the letter D, I'll only pick up books by authors I haven't read before - unless I really want to read that book.

Update: January 21: Incredible. There are books in this list that I cannot bear to continue reading. Sub-200? Pshaw. The books that defeat me are crossed out in the list above.

Update: January 31: I figured I might as well add the country of origin of each writer, so that I can keep track of the translated works.

Update: February 10: Letter 'I' and Inoue's doing my head in.

Update: February 18: Up to the letter 'K' with a slight detour towards Verhulst.

Update: February 28: Now nipping my way to 'O'.

Update: March 12: Decided to scan the crime/sci-fi/fantasy/horror shelves alphabetically as well.

Update: April 6: In the 'R' lot, with a couple of 'S' lying around too.

Update: April 16: Added the first graphic novel/memoir into the mix (Talbot's 'Dotter of Her Father's Eyes').

Update: May 8: Man, I'm really suffering now. I'm at the W's and it's a real drag to continue with this. Second wind, second wind...

Update: June 4: Haven't really made much progress with the W's, but rather liked Taichi Yamada's Strangers...


Space Bar said...

Can't *wait* to read what you have say about Bataille. *snort*

(You have considered the probability of of under 200 page books being a continuous pale parabola of joy?)

Feanor said...

Yes, I'm a bit concerned about that one. A bit of a song of squalor perhaps? Still, a man's gotta do what a man's said will do...

Space Bar said...

No, it's worth reading, I think. You need a strong stomach for it, though.

Also interested in your response to Bolano.

(And totally get the attention span thing. I find having a Kindle very unhelpful in this matter. I flip restlessly from one book to another with no effort at all - that part is good, I admit - and read nothing.)

Oh. I am about to read this person: Marek Krajewski. You have read? You approve?

Feanor said...

I read one by Krajewski - wrote about it in 2008 during those days of crime fiction in translation...

Bolano, umm, not entirely convinced by M'sieu Pain. All foreshadowing and

Space Bar said...

And? Suspense? Zombitude? What?

Feanor said...

Amazing. The rest of the text got glumped...

Bolano sets up scenes and builds up expectations of resolution - instead, every action evanesces. It's like walking through cobwebs and expecting to see a spider, except that there are only more cobwebs. So I remain puzzled by it.

Have you read it? What did you think?

Space Bar said...

I am sad to say I have never finished a Bolano (but that was 2666 so I can be forgiven?)so I wouldn't know.

But there seems to be an endless supply of material turning up, so who knows - one day.

The one I am now curious about is Clarice Lispector. Any thoughts?

Feanor said...

Haven't read Lispector! But that's the letter L, and at my current rate of consumption, even assuming that she has books of 200 pages or under and they're available at my local, I'm a couple of months away, heheh.

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