Archive for the ‘reading group’ Tag

16 years and counting

 

mothering sunday graham swift novel book cover

Had a splendid evening yesterday at the annual Dickens gathering of one of the members of the book group to which I belong (and have done since it was set up in November 2001 by David Price). We drank a Victorian brandy & rum punch made to a recipe of Dickens himself, the preparation process reaching its apex when the whole thing was set aflame (harder than you’d imagine). Besides the vigorous blue flames, other highlights included lively readings from Bleak House and Great Expectations among others. I chose the passage from Our Mutual Friend (my favourite Dickens) which gave T.S. Eliot his working title for The Waste Land – ‘He do the Police in different voices’. It culminates in…

“I aint, you must know,” said Betty, “much of a hand at reading writing-hand, though I can read my Bible and most print. And I do love a newspaper. You mightn’t think it, but Sloppy is a beautiful reader of a newspaper. He do the Police in different voices.”

I last wrote about Dickens in Simple Pleasures part 4 a year ago almost to the day. I was reflecting on 2016 through the lens of the opening of A Tale of Two Cities:

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way.

Not much changed there then.

Nor has much changed in the book group. Same personnel since June 2015, which is when I last listed what we’ve read since the very first gathering – for Atonement. I seem to have become the de facto archivist so here is an update to the on-going list which is put out there in the spirit of offering ideas to other book group title choosers.

In The Country Of Men by Hisham Mitar – June 2015
The Good Soldier by Ford Madox Ford – Sep 2015
The Moor’s Account by Laila Lalami – Nov 2015
Soumission/Submission by Michel Houellebecq – Jan 2016
Brooklyn by Colm Toibin – Feb 2016
The Man without a Shadow by Joyce Carol Oates – Apr 2016
The Tiger’s Wife by Tea Obreht – May 2016
A Golden Age by Tahmima Anam – July 2016
The Yacoubian Building by Alaa Al Aswany – Sept 2016
The Looked After Kid by Paolo Hewitt – Nov 2016
The Sell Out by Paul Beatty – Dec 2016
Autumn by Ali Smith – Jan 2017
The Vegetarian by Han Kang – Mar 2017
It Can’t Happen Here by Sinclair Lewis – Apr 2017
Mothering Sunday by Graham Swift – June 2017
Men Without Women by Haruki Murukami – July 2017
Zeno’s Conscience by Italo Svevo – Sep 2017
The Remains of the Day by Kasuo Ishiguro – Nov 2017
The Information by Martin Amis – Jan 2018

The first 14 years

brooklyn colm toibin novel book cover

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14 years and counting

The best of the last 4 years

The best of the last 4 years

I marked the 10th anniversary of our old slippers of a book group by listing all that we had read to that auspicious date. The personnel is remarkably stable, adding members very rarely, so to herald the arrival of my friend Martin Bright I am updating the list:

  • In the Country of Men – Hisham Matar (Jun 15)
  • The Bone Clocks – David Mitchell * (Apr 15)
  • The Narrow Road to the Deep North – Richard Flanagan  (Mar 15)
  • Oblivion – David Foster Wallace (Nov 14)
  • The Leopard – Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa (Sep 14)
  • What Was Promised – Tobias Hill (Jun 14)
  • Stoner – John Williams * (Apr 14)
  • Rabbit at Rest – John Updike *** (Feb 14)
  • Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage – Alice Munro (Dec 13)
  • May We Be Forgiven – A. M. Homes (Nov 13)
  • Irretrievable -Theodor Fontane (Sept 13)
  • Wise Men -Stuart Nadler (July 13)
  • Bring out the Bodies – Hilary Mantel (March 13)
  • Yellow Birds – Kevin Powers (Jan 13)
  • There’s no such thing as a free press – Mick Hume (Dec 12)
  • Love and Summer – William Trevor (Nov 12)
  • The Uncoupling – Meg Wolitzer (July 12)
  • A Death in the Family – Karl Ove Knausgaard (May 12)
  • Nemesis – Philip Roth ** (April 12)
  • Old School – Tobias Wolff (March 12)
  • A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court – Mark Twain (Jan 12)
  • the first ten years
The runner-up of last 4 years

The runner-up of last 4 years

The Book Group 10th anniversary list

The best so far?

Ten years in the life of a London book group…

Atonement – Ian McEwan (Nov 2001) *

Oxygen – Andrew Miller (Dec 01)

The Corrections – Jonathan Franzen (Jan 02) ***

Stupid White Men – Michael Moore (Mar 02)

Rings of Saturn – WG Sebald (Apr 02)

The Year of the Goat – Mario Vargas Llosa (Jun 02)

Twelve Bar Blues – Patrick Neate (Sep 02)

Swann’s Way – Marcel Proust ??? (Oct 02)

Life of Pi – Yann Martel (Jan 03) *

A Fine Balance – Rohan Mistry (Mar 03)

Light of Day – Graham Swift (May 03)

After the Quake – Haruki Murakami (June 03)

Code of the Woosters- PG Wodehouse (July 03) **

Voyage au bout de la Nuit – Celine (Sept 03)

Revolutionary Road – Richard Yates (Oct 03)

Tomorrow’s People – Susan Greenfield  (Dec 03)

Touching the Void – Joe Simpson (Jan O4)

Vernon God Little – DBC Pierre (March 04) **

Elizabeth Costello – J. M. Coetzee (April 04)

The Comedians -Graham Greene (June 04)

The Line of Beauty – Alan Hollinghurst (Sept 04)

Clear – Nicola Barker (Nov 04)

Havoc in its Third Year -Ronan Bennett (Dec 04)

The Plot against America – Philip Roth (Jan 05)

A Heart so White – Javier Marias (March 05)

A Tale of Love and Darkness – Amos Oz (April 05) **

Saturday – Ian McEwan (June 05)

The Radetzky March – Joseph Roth (July 05)

Identity -Milan Kundera (Sept 05)

Oryx and Crake – Margaret Atwood (Nov 05) **

We need to talk about Kevin – Lionel Shriver (Dec 05)

The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini (Jan 06)

Cloud Atlas – David Mitchell (March 06) ***

Prague – Arthur Phillips (May 06)

Things Fall Apart – Chinua Achebe (July 06)

Kalooki Nights – Howard Jacobson (Sept 06) **

People’s Act of Love – James Meek (Nov 06)

The Woman in White – Wilkie Collins (Jan 07) **

The Secret River – Kate Grenville (Mar 07)

Homo Faber -Max Frisch (May 07)

My Name is Red – Orhan Pamuk (Sep 07)

Run Rabbit Run – John Updike (Nov 07)

In Cold Blood – Truman Capote (Jan 08)

Blindness – José Saramago (Feb 08)

What Sport Tells Us About Life – Ed Smith (May 08)

The Enchantress of Florence – Salman Rushdie (Jul 08)

The Yiddish Policemen’s Union – Michael Chabon (Sep 08) **

Engleby – Sebastian Faulks (Nov 08)

Homecoming – Bernhard Schlink (Jan 09)

Audacity of Hope – Barrack Obama (Feb 09)

Oscar Wao – Juan Diaz (Apr 09) *

Humboldt’s Gift – Saul Bellow (Jun 09)

Scoop – Evelyn Waugh ** (Nov 09)

Pnin – Nabokov (Jan 10)

Therese Raquin – Emile Zola (Mar 10)

The Razor’s Edge – Somerset Maugham (May 10)*

The Death of Ivan Ilyich / Kreuzer Sonata – Tolstoy (Jul 10)

Alone in Berlin – Hans Fallada (Aug 10)

Freedom – Jonathan Franzen (Sep 10) *

Byzantium Endures – Michael Moorcock (Jan 11)

The Bottle Factory Outing – Beryl Bainbridge (Mar 11)

The Heather Blazing – Colm Toibin (Apr 11)

The Tunnel – William H. Gass (Jun 11)

Manhattan Transfer – John Dos Passos (Aug 11)

The Sisters Brothers – Patrick deWitt (Oct 11)*

A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court – Mark Twain (Nov 2011)

On the Shelf of Honour

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