I’m at that stage in life where I tend to care less about a whole lot of things.
It’s a stage I wish I had known was coming when I was in my 20s. Unlike most normal people, I was a relatively calm teenager. While my family might have nominated me for the much-coveted Moody Bloody Cow From Hell Award at least 4 years running (come to think of it, I never thanked them for their support) I was pretty happy and relaxed in school, postponing the one-way anxiety-ridden ticket to Paranoiasville until my third decade.
Fortunately, that too went into the rearview mirror once I hit 30. And while I have absolutely no intention of telling you what age I am now, I’ve been getting gradually more laid back as time marches on, to the extent now that I am a Paragon of Apathy. Some people are even said to shrug in my honour.
This is a long-winded way of telling you that I don’t feel one bit guilty about the lack of constructive thought which went into this post. This is one of those 50/50 posts where you start wondering if it’s actually 40/40 and if you’ve been short-changed somewhere along the line by some 18.7%.
But I’m digressing with fake self-deprecation. Because the crux of this 44% of the post is to tell you that I’m back to books, having posted another article yesterday on writing.ie, giving out yards about 5-star reviews, discussing in detail how useless they are, demanding that all of you stop writing them, and threatening your nearest and dearest if you don’t.
So in the interests of everyone having to behave as I see fit, off you go now and have a look here.
And Now, Part II of This Shakily-Partitioned Post
The second part of this post is actually a question. And while I might sound flippant as ever about it, this is actually a very, very important question for me. So if you choose to answer it, please be honest.
What have I missed over the past 80 or 90 years that I absolutely, positively should have read?
I mentioned in this post (“Theres a New Villain in Book Land, and It’s An Old One”) that I was finding more gems on old bestseller lists than I was on the contemporary shelves.
I blamed this partly on the penchant for faddish genre fiction, because I’m not myself currently going through a crime phase (incidentally, I went through a verrrrry looooong crime fiction phase in my angst-ridden 20s; what does that tell me?), and crime thrillers are still pretty much all that’s being pushed at the moment.
I love literary fiction, but rarely find the kind of stories there you can really escape into. So to get away, I found I had to go back to the old bestseller lists – particularly those from the 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s – for jewels which bring me out of the frequent Meh of daily life.
Screen adaptations also brought my attention to some great stuff which had previously passed me by. I’m grateful for this, because there’s so much noise out there now, and so much to disbelieve about bestseller lists, I’ve come to the conclusion that I need prodding in the right direction.
The books I discovered late (or lately) which I’ve enjoyed so much have generally been adventures, that is, good old-fashioned stories.
I’m talking about well-written, well-researched, genre-defying books which can’t be slotted into one neat category, and usually span many. They’ve been epics; historical, adventure or family sagas, full of battles and journeys and births and deaths. Plot-heavy and yet character-driven romances in the medieval sense of the word ‘romance’ – that is, long(ish) tales, sprinkled with comedy, tragedy, surprise, suspense, and a happy(ish) ending.
To give you a rough idea of what I’m talking about, there were many individual books, but some authors I kept returning to, such as Ken Follett; Diana Gabaldon; John Irving; Amy Tan; Daphne Du Maurier; Mary Stewart; Winston Graham, and Philip Pullman.
So now I’m asking you to tell me: what do you think I’ve missed?
I have a few rules for answering this question (of course I do. I might be laid back, but my dictatorship isn’t) as follows:
1. No books (or 1st books in a series) from the last 10 years.
There is a reason for this: and that’s because, whenever you ask this question on the internet these days, you CANNOT STOP PEOPLE PROMOTING THEIR OWN BOOKS. This is not the purpose of this exercise, and this is where me not caring really comes to the fore.
2. The books must have sold healthily in their day, and be available now.
Again, this is not about your friend’s aunt’s book which was amazing and should have done much better than it did back in 1983. If I can’t buy it in e-book or paperback then it’s no good to me, is it?
3. There is always a third rule.
So, can you help a girl out? Or will this in itself turn into the soon-to-be-bestselling Girl Who Couldn’t Find Something To Read?
(Oh, and thank you in advance. I might be merciless and apathetic, but that’s no call to be impolite.)