What year were you born?

One of the Bingo Squares I have to fill for 2017’s Goodreads CanadianContent challenge is to read a book published in the year you were born. I’ve looked up the lists of Canadian books and there’s not a lot that interests me. One book, The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz by Mordecai Richler would have been my choice but I read it last year! If I do stick to a Canadian author, probably I’ll be reading The Watch That Ends the Night by Hugh MacLennan. Apparently, I could go with anything published in the 1950s because the challenge says Year/Decade but we’re still pushing things.

During a discussion thread on the group the other day, someone posted a link to a slide show of the Most Popular Book The Year You Were Born, showing one for each year back to 1930. This will be American published books and ranking, which is obvious from the book titles, some of which are indeed classics.

There are 87 books on the slide show, going right up to 2016. I would suggest that the last 5 – 10 years wouldn’t be of interest to anyone born during those years, not yet anyway and they wouldn’t likely be reading the list in the first place but never mind. I’m being a bit pedantic. Of the books, these are the ones I’ve read:

1936 – Gone With The Wind – Margaret Mitchell (one of my all time favourite movies. The book is great, too!)
1937 – Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck (short book, more of a novella really, liked the movie better!)
1943 – A Tree Grows in Brooklyn – Betty Smith (a real weeper, loved it and loved the movies (film and tv) as well)
1945 – Forever Amber – Kathleen Winsor (I can’t remember it well, but I’m pretty sure I read it. One of the first historical romances I think I read)
1948 – Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl (Hasn’t everyone read it?)
1952 – The Catcher in the Rye – J. D. Salinger (I don’t think I finished it. Didn’t like it)
1957 – Peyton Place – Grace Metalious (a real pot boiler soap type book, early “trash” reading and it was great! Due a reread, I think! It’s probably pretty tame by today’s standards but it raised a few eyebrows in its day)
1960 – To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee (Very long time since I’ve read it. Might read again sometime)
1966 – Valley of the Dolls – Jacqueline Susann (another pot boiler, racy book, probably the best example of early “chick lit” aka “women’s fiction” there is. Certainly one of the most famous along with Peyton Place)
1971 – The Exorcist – William Peter Blatty (I read this many years ago, was probably too young but I seem to recall being a bit sneaky while reading it! I must have enjoyed it!)
1977 – The Thornbirds – Colleen McCulloch (every woman I know that read this book absolutely loved it. Soap story in Australia, romance between a young woman and a young priest at the heart of it. It follows several generations of a family and was probably the book that really sparked my love of the family generational sagas.)
1979 – Sophie’s Choice – William Styron (I know I’ve read it, but I don’t remember how much I may have liked it or not)
1980 – The Bourne Identity – Robert Ludlum (I really liked it, never read too many thrillers before that but this one was good. Read a few early Ludlums until they all started to become “samey”)
1983 – The Color Purple – Alice Walker (A modern classic. Very good book)
1986 – The Prince of Tides – Pat Conroy (Liked it a lot as I recall)
1987 – Patriot Games – Tom Clancy (Quite liked a lot of the early Clancy books)
1988 – Queen of the Damned – Anne Rice (I preferred Interview with the Vampire and the Vampire Lestat, this was the third book I think, or the middle of the three but not as good as the other two for my liking)
1992 – Waiting to Exhale – Terry McMillan (Four women friends, all looking for love, all older than the age of 35. yes!)
1993 – The Bridges of Madison County – Robert James Waller (Read this months after everyone else. Wondered why the hype? Boring book. Boring movie)
1994 – Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil – John Berendt (Scandal behind the posh doors of the Savannah mansions)
1999 – Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (aka The Philosopher’s Stone) – J. K. Rowling (another book I didn’t read until months or even a few years after everyone else was in Pottermania. This first book really is a children’s book but they became more and more grown up and while a bit long and unwieldy at times, were very un-put-downable)
2003 – The DaVinci Code – Dan Brown (Didn’t get more than about 4 chapters in. Dreadfully cliche writing, just couldn’t do it. Watched the movie so that I knew how it ended. it spurred on a raft of books with similar plots, some of which I did really like, such as Labyrinth by Kate Mosse)
2007 – Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – J. K. Rowling. See above.
2010 – The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo – Steig Larsson (love it, really kicked up my love of “serial” killer thrillers. Great characters, flawed and fascinating. What Would Lisbeth (Salander) Do? Kick ass.)
2011 – The Help – Kathryn Stockett (Liked it, though it could have taken the subject a lot further I think)
2013 – Gone Girl – Gillian Flynn (Liked it a lot, though I think her two earlier books were even better)
2015 – The Girl on the Train – Paula Hawkins. (Liked the book, but the movie really lacked something)

These are the ones that I think I’ll add to the To Be Read list. I do like to mix in a few classics each year and I think by now, anything before the mid 60s for the most part could be considered a classic.

1931 – The Good Earth – Pearl S. Buck
1939 – The Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck (a “maybe” to be read, haven’t decided)
1959 – Doctor Zhivago – Boris Pasternak (My birth year and I think I’ll read this even if it doesn’t get used for the Bingo square. I have a feeling I’ll like it more than MacLennan’s offering)
1961 – Tropic of Cancer – Henry Miller (first published in 1934 in Paris, banned in the USA for almost 30 years.
1967 – Rosemary’s Baby – Ira Levin (Another classic or candidate for a modern classic. The movie was superb, it’ll be interesting to compare to the book since books are usually better)
2001 – The Corrections – Jonathan Franzen (looks like a good family saga, A have an eye on a few of his books, I really must get around to him)
2002 – The Lovely Bones – Alice Sebold (Been on my TBR list for a long time but keeps getting passed over. One of these days!)

When I look over the list, especially the books from the past 30 years, I wonder if any will be considered true classics in another 30 years. Certainly The Color Purple should be on that list. It’s far more than just popular fiction, it’s an examination of a culture, a social commentary. I wonder if that’s the modern equivalent, in some ways, to To Kill a Mockingbird? They’re certainly along the same lines though two very different stories and told from different points of view, of course. I think perhaps they complement each other in a way, maybe because they are told from opposite sides of the coin.


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