Reading List


I can never resist studying a reading list to see how many I can tick off. Daft really because the vast majority of books on those lists are ones I have no desire to ever read no matter how well regarded they are. This list for example seems particularly bossy -1000 novels everyone must read, why must I read them and who says so? And what about 1001 Books to Read Before You Die, when else would you read them?  And as for The Top 100 Books of All Time, good lord, my brain hurts just looking at some of those titles. The BBC Big Read seems to go to the other extreme -I counted Jacqueline Wilson's name at least 13 times- but this is a list of books people actually enjoy reading and I have read more on this list than any other. I made my own alternative list.

Books I Will Never Read 
(Some of these have been attempted)
Anything by Virginia Woolf
Anything by Jodi Picoult
Any science fiction
A Clockwork Orange
War and Peace
Anna Karenina
Catch 22
The Great Gatsby
Of Mice and Men
To Kill a Mocking Bird (please don't hate me!)
Catcher In the Rye
Les Miserables
Finnegan's Wake
Dracula
Frankenstein
Brave New World
Heart of Darkness
The Handmaid's Tale
Satanic Verses
A Song of Ice and Fire
Twilight
And many more

So, reading lists don't work for me, nor do reading groups. I was a member of one about 13 years ago and liked (but not that much) only one book out of the ten or so I stuck it out for. I didn't even finish the others which included books by Ian McEwan and Donna Tartt. Reading books I haven't chosen myself doesn't work for me, neither does reading a book I hate to the bitter end.

I do want new things to read though, and I want to read more mindfully. When I saw Laura's A Year In Books I knew I'd have to join in. One book for each month of my own choosing, perfect. But what to choose?

My overwhelming preference is for the woman's middlebrow novel of the first half of the last century. I also enjoy some Victorian and Edwardian literature, a few contemporary authors, and crime. My crime preferences tend to be for women authors. Actually I seem to prefer women writers in general. I like domestic settings, descriptions of home comforts and of meals (especially that), of gardens and the countryside. I am regrettably xenophobic when choosing reading matter, I like British settings and British authors. But not always. I tend not to go for great drama, but in an effort to branch out a bit I chose Rebecca as my January read.


I can't think how I've managed not to read any Daphne Du Maurier before. Now that I have I shall certainly read more. I shall take at least one with me to Cornwall this summer. I haven't seen any screen adaptations of the novel but I have seen a few clips here and there and therefore had a rough idea of what it was about. I knew the narrator and heroine was not Rebecca but an unnamed second wife to Maxim de Winter, I knew Rebecca was his first wife and that she is dead before the story begins, I knew also that there was a sinister housekeeper called Mrs Danvers, and that the story takes place at a large house called Manderley. And of course I knew the first line of the book 'Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again'.

Rebecca would make a good book to read after Jane Eyre. Unsurprisingly it's a much less challenging read, a reward perhaps for finishing Jane. Rebecca is an echo of Jane Eyre, the same, yet different. I'm sure there's been an exam question 'Jane Eyre and Rebecca -compare and contrast paying particular attention to the themes of madness, jealousy and sense of place.


 I read more than one book a month, depending on the length of the book of course, so alongside my book of the month I am going to read all 12 of Agatha Christie's Miss Marple books* in order of publication. A bit of light relief really, not that I intend to read anything too heavy this year. I've read a lot of Christie but never the Miss Marples. Thanks to the tv adaptations in the 1980s I know whodunnit in each one but I'm finding that isn't spoiling my enjoyment of the Murder At the Vicarage one bit.


What about you? What are you reading right now and how do you decide what to read next? Do you challenge yourself to read outside your comfort zone or do you like to read the same sort of books?

* All bought second-hand from Amazon for £2.81 each -actually I used a gift voucher so they were mostly free.

Comments

  1. You left out Moby Dick, Dostoyevsky and anything by Conrad! I am speed-reading (or rather speed re-reading) Middlemarch for this month's bookgroup, very glad to be kicked into tackling it - and I'm enjoying it - but it possibly wasn't the best choice to be reading over Christmas.
    How lovely to have all of Daphne du Maurier ahead of you. The old b/w film is the best.

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    1. Yes, those too! I want to have go at George Eliot but obviously don't want to start with Middlemarch. Can you recommend something? Silas Marner, Adam Bede?

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    2. Silas Marner is one of my favorite books, ever, in the history of books.

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    3. No, MIddlemarch is not the one to start with. Silas Marner is lovely - and quite short!

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    4. Anonymous10:39 pm GMT

      Adam Bede is brilliant

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    5. Start with Silas, get to Middlemarch quickly, but leave The Mill On The Floss until you feel emotionally very strong.

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  2. I'm sorry to be a bore but I loved To Kill a Mockingbird, but I hatehatehate The Great Gatsby and you'd think I'd said I liked to murder puppies when I've admitted that to all the English majors I know!

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    1. Dear Jen,
      I share your feelings exactly. TGG was terrible and TKM is perfect.
      Cheers,
      Dana

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    2. I expect I'd probably quite like TKM, but I'm so sick of seeing it on must read lists, also the American setting just doesn't speak to me, and I already know the story!

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    3. Jen, I completely agree. Thought I must be the only person who wondered what everyone saw in The Great Gatsby but I think To Kill a Mockingbird is one of the great books of all time.

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    4. I HATE TGG. Had to read it for A level with a narcissistic and egocentric teacher who thought he was the bees knees. Hate it. But love TKAM. So much.

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  3. Hi Sue, I love those lists too but I agree that they end up revealing more about the list setter or whatever is fashionable at any given moment. I am in a reading group and some of our members are busily compiling their own lists at the moment but they are always contentious! My reading group is slightly fanatical about reading, we meet fortnightly on a Wednesday and if you feel like it you could pop in to the Monday fortnightly group also if you have the time. Occasionally, if we have a spare week, someone will organise a classic to read and there has been talk of organising an evening monthly crime fiction meeting! I enjoy all the impassioned debate and we have as many opinions as there are members but sometimes no matter how much I try there are some books I just cant finish, -fantasy of the goblin/orc type and Paul Coelho. At the moment, I am supposed to be reading 'Let the Great World Spin' but first I am curled up with Ann Cleeves, Raven Black.
    Shauna. x

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    1. And isn't Raven Black perfect for this time of year? i love when a book fits the season. Paul Coelho should be on my not reading list too.

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    2. My life currently seems ful of coincidences - and here is another - I have only just discovered Ann Cleeves and in the past two/three weeks have devoured Raven Black, White Nights, Red Bones, Blue Lightning, Dead Water - all set in Shetland. This morning I finished Silent Voices and have yet to start on The Crow Trap. When I read a really good book I then try to read all the other books by the same author - I find it usually works well! I must agree with you on the majority of the titles on your list of books not to read. I have seen parts of the film Rebecca over the years but never the whole film so I shall look forward to reading the book (always more enjoyable than a film because of all the extra detail) especially as you recommend it for reading after having already read Jane Eyre. I have read Jane Eyre several times and absolutely love it. As for Agatha Christie, I think I have read (and kept) all of her books, they hold my interest and are a very easy read, so much better than the TV adaptations. Happy reading.

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    3. As I said I haven't seen the film of Rebecca but I do know that there is a major plot detail which was changed in the film, so I definitely recommend reading the book first.

      I wish Ann Cleeves would hurry up and write another Shetland book.

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    4. Me too. Am pining for Jimmy...

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  4. Dear Sue,
    I've recently discovered your blog and have really enjoyed catching up with the archives. I appreciated your anti-resolution list after the turn of the year, for I too have a bit of that 'don't tell me what to do' attitude. I also share your feelings on book clubs. (Tried it and was bored silly.)
    I noticed you have some Persephone books on your shelves and I am a fan of those too. I also loved "Rebecca". My all time favorite book in the whole wide world is To Kill a Mockingbird. If it isn't one of your tried-it-but-hated-it attempts, I encourage you to give it a shot. I find it to be the most perfect book.
    Of course, I'm American, so the cultural aspect of the book is naturally more meaningful to me but it is so wonderful.
    Anyway, thanks for your blog. I've got it in my RSS Feeds and a new post always makes me glad.
    Cheers,
    Dana

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    1. I knew when I added it to my list there would be appalled people on the other side of the Atlantic. Maybe you will persuade me Dana.

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  5. I completely struggle with reading books that anyone tells me I "must" read. Everyone raving on about "50 shades of grey" made it all the more certain that I was highly unlikely to read it.
    Du Maurier is definitely on my list to try - although I'm more likely to go for one of the lesser known ones first - just to be contrary of course!

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    1. All that raving about 50 Shades turned me off too and what I heard of the subject matter didn't impress me but I decided to investigate so I read them all. Very Mills and Boone I thought and not nearly as shocking as I expected !

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  6. I'm with you Sue, I wouldn't like anyone else to pick my books for me. They have to be just right, and if I don't like them I don't struggle on through them. Rebecca sounds good, I like Jane Eyre a lot. And I like your idea of reading all of the Miss Marples, there's nothing like a spot of murder. I'm between books at the moment (I never used to be between books for more than a day, Before Children) and I'm reading Alys Fowler's "The Edible Garden" (which doesn't count because it's non-fiction). I might read The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest next.

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  7. I meant to say, some of my favourite books are Philip Pullmans' His Dark Materials trilogy, starting with Northern Lights. Breathtaking.

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    1. I loved Northern Lights but found the sequels less good. I think it was because the worlds they described were just too fantastic for my taste whereas Lyra's world was just different enough from our world to be enchanting.

      Although I like crime Nordic noir is a bit too grim for me,

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  8. This is an interesting read. We're have similar tastes but very different ones too. I like when that happens. I'm surprised by your never-read list, mostly because I can't imagine making one myself. I will try almost anything in the book, just to see what it's like. I may not finish them, though. I don't think people should ever feel like they MUST read any books. But I do think there are some books which would enrich any life. For me, To Kill a Mockingbird is in that category.

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    1. I can see I'm going to have to read it aren't I? My list isn't meant to be serious, more a reaction to the lists of books one is supposed to read.

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    2. I understand your meaning with the list, I really do. I don't enjoy being told what to read either. I think it was the downside of being an English major, I had to read a lot of books I hated and would never pick up on my own! But TKAM is great. I think it's one of those where it seems like you know the whole story but there are nuances of dialogue and character-development that are just wonderful. It's more thought-provoking than it seems, in my opinion. :)

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  9. I'm with you on not reading books chosen by someone else. Life's too short to spend it struggling through something you don't like I say. I want to read Rebecca now that I've read what you say as I did Jane Eyre for A level as an adult although I must say I didn't fall for Mr Rochester at all as most of my fellow students did! I shan't be trying 50 Shades of Grey from what I have heard it wouldn't be my cup of tea at all. I do often get from the library books which I read about on blogs and some I enjoy and some I don't. Thank goodness for libraries I say.

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  10. Don't discount Moby Dick! It is one of the true greats and has surprising humour in it. I believe it's free on Kindle. Have you read Barbara Pym? She seems to fit your criteria. I know she fit mine as I've read everything of hers I could get my hands on. Oddly, I'm American but have always loved British settings in fiction. I try to stretch myself beyond my preference for female authors, domestic settings, etc. Book groups never worked for me. I must choose my own books and I have no patience with a book I don't like. It gets hurled across the room. :)

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  11. I'm reading Elizabeth Taylor's Complete Short Stories in rationed doses and the Old Capital by Yasunari Kawabata but only because I'm going to Kyoto. I ought to try George Elliot again but A-level Middlemarch put me right off. Have I tried to sell you Molly Keane before?
    I've never belonged to a book group and never will.

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    1. Elizabeth Taylor's short stories are on my wish list. I know about Molly Keane, is it possible there was a tv adaptation some years ago?

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    2. Very possibly - Good Behaviour? Treasure Hunt would make a good TV adaptation. They are all good.

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  12. Completely and utterly agree with one and all about not reading anything you haven't chosen yourself. I don't see the point of book clubs and it seems from friends who have been members that they are mostly wine drinking and gossip in reality. I wondered what you thought of Hemingway? Apart from The Old Man And The Sea, I love his stuff. His use of language is genius.

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    1. i've never read any Hemingway, I think he falls in my American male writers who don't appeal to me category. I will read some samples on Amazon though.

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    2. I thought I'd give Hemmingway a go after my interest in him was awakened by the movie Midnight in Paris. He has a powerful way with words but I haven't managed to get interested inThe Sun Also Rises though I read and enjoyed Old Man and The Sea many years ago

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  13. I agree about lists f books that are recommended that one "should" read, I prefer to make my own choices or to take friends advice about books they are reading when I can trust that they know my taste in books. There are a lot of books on your never read list that I adore like all of Tolstoy's and Margaret Atwell's books amongst a few others. It's good that we are all so different and I hope to branch out being part of Laura's book group and learn fro others. I think I will look out for Rebecca too, always wanted to read a du Maurier book.
    I am currently reading Kartography and really enjoying it. If I have read a quarter of the way into a book and really don't like it I don't bother carrying on, life's too short! One tuning I will say Sue is that I can't stand any books that are described as "chick-lit" gives me shivers down my spine!

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    1. Completely agree about chick-lit. The covers are so awful.

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  14. One of my MOST favorite Daphne du Mourier books is Frenchman's Creek! I have a thing for pirates and the pirate in this story is near perfection. An easy summer vacation read. :)

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    1. That's the one I'm planning to take on holiday with me this year. We stay not too far away from Helford which I think is the inspiration for Frenchman's Creek. I'll take Jamaica Inn too.

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    2. Oh, how lovely, Sue! I didn't mention what I am reading right now, as it is how to book...Beekeeping for Dummies! lol! But, perhaps I'll have to search about for a Daphne du Mourier book or two to read next. : )

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  15. Oh I love this post, Sue. The description of the books you prefer is exactly the same as mine, except I dislike almost all contemporary authors. And the Miss Marple books are my comfort reading. I've read all of them several times. I've also read 11 of the books on your not to read list, as I sometimes read things I feel I aught to read, just so I can understand the references in the early 20th century books I enjoy. The only one I liked on the list, surprisingly enough, was Frankenstein. The others made good insomnia cures. But I'm going to add my voice to those who are encouraging you to read To Kill a Mockingbird. I'm not American and I dislike North American books (even the Canadian ones, so unpatriotic of me). I really only like British books. But TKM is such a beautiful book. I've never read any du Maurier, though. Must try it.

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  16. I'm joining in too Sue, my reading has really slipped since having kids. Need to get my January review up on my blog.

    Absolutely agree with you on lists and book clubs. They both make me dig my heels in. I refuse to feel like reading is a task. The themes I like echo yours too, love home comforts and descriptions. Reading something very light hearted for February but may have to give du Maurier a go. Ahhhhh Cornwall!

    Smashing post, thanks x

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  17. Rebecca is one of my favourites, as is Jane eyre and I really enjoy re-reading Agatha Christie from time to time - but a lot of my other favourites are science fiction or fantasy, including Frankenstein, Dracula, and A Song of Ice and Fire. The Handmaid's Tale, Brave New World and Anna Karenina were brilliant at the time I read them (my mid teens), but I have never had any desire to re-read them as an adult. TKM though.... I managed to avoid reading it for 20 + years, in great part because everyone and their dog kept telling me I should, and then had to cave in when DD had it as a set text and needed help with it. I loved every word.

    On the whole though, I read what I like, and if I really like it, I am likely to comfort re-read it into oblivion. It's almost a form of meditation for me - many of my favourites I would probably be able to quote verbatim if pressed, but this does not retract from the enjoyment on the umpteenth re-read - quite the opposite.

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    1. Oh, and I would really like to see a list of "100 Books To Read After You Die". "Lurching for beginners", perhaps ? "Coffin Decoration on a Shoestring" ? "Why Is It So Dark In Here?"....

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    2. Maybe that's when I should read Dracula....?

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    3. Dracula surprised me. Thought I'd hate it but actually quite enjoyed it. Read it when I was up in the night when Smallbean was a new babe. Strange choice in retrospect...

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    4. That is a bit strange.... was Smallbean born with teeth?

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    5. Haha. Actually, he does have a certain vampirish look about him sometimes... It was quite creepy reading a scary book in the dead of night with plants banging against the window. Am now very bored with the Simon Brett murders. They are all the sameish and there are so many typos it is beginning to p*** me off. Don't start them...

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  18. Your blog post did make me smile. The books that you will never read are mostly ( I haven't read every single one) books that I love. But , what does it matter. I'm not you and we all should read what we enjoy. There are more than enough fantastic books to go round.

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    1. There are more than any of us could ever read which is a rather wonderful thought.

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  19. So glad that you are joining me, Sue! Love your alternative book list. I enjoy women writers and domestic settings too, hence the fondness for Persephone books. I hadn't thought of the similarities between Rebecca and Jane Eyre before, but there is indeed a potential exam question in it! Laura

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  20. I hated The Great Gatsby which I read last year but at least it was mercifully short. But I loved To Kill a Mockingbird as I did Rebecca. In fact this post has made me think I might like to read it again. Loved the black and white film version too.

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  21. I don't wish to read any of those books, either! Can recommend Elizabeth Jane Howard's five Cazalet Chronicles, the historical novels of Katharine McMahon and Charlotte Betts and, right up to the minute, the just-published first novel by Sophia Tobin, The Silversmith's Wife. Great middle-brow books for women. Middle-brow is Good.
    Margaret P

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    1. The Cazalets are on my list Margaret. I will check out your other recommendations. Thank you.

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  22. Oh I love reading. My niece and I have our own little book club and we pick a book each every month and then discuss them. We mostly pick great books, but we have chosen some stinkers. I've been reading the James Bond novels recently, apart from Casino Royale the films are nothing like them. I am a fan of To Kill a Mocking Bird though, just saying.

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  23. I too love reading and can't imagine not having a book or two or three on the go! My tastes over the years have changed a lot or developed with age and circumstance. I loved Eng Lit at school and in sixth form until my early twenties devoured any thing by DH Lawrence, Thomas Hardy, George Elliot, Evelyn Waugh, Daphne Du Maurier and other weighty authors. All that hormonal angst! Marriage and children brought me to read all of Joanna Trollope's books as I still do. Then I discovered Joanne Harris, Tracey Chevalier, Tess Stimson, Judy Astley, Anita Shreve and others. Oh and a bit of Agatha Christie last summer! I love to hear what others are reading. I have forgotten about the Cazalets! And I loved all of Susan Howards books. I could go on and on! Thank you for a great blog, Jane x

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  24. Everything by Mary Wesley! How could I miss her, she is my absolute favourite author, Jane x

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  25. Rebecca is one of my all time favourites. Just finished "The Language of Flowers" by Vanessa Diffenbaugh (different but wouldn't be in my top 50), now reading "Wildflower Hill" (thoroughly enjoying it) by Kate Morton (author of another favourite "The House at Riverton - highly recommended).
    I get through a lot of books, including audio ones (from the library) which accompany me when I am ironing, gardening, crafting etc. I love books.
    Carol xx

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  26. Anonymous9:39 pm GMT

    I don't have much interest in reading lists. One of the great things about being an adult is you get to read what you want, not what's on the syllabus. I skimmed through The Guardian list out of curiosity. What popped out at me was Pippi Longstocking. Huh? I read them as a kid. Very amusing, but...
    I can't remember if I ever read Mockingbird, but certainly watched the movie. It always struck me as an odd story with divergent plot lines. I never quite saw what they had to do with each other. Never really embraced it. I must admit I find it efficient to listen to audio books as I do dishes, or walk to the store. Right not I'm going through "Wolf Hall" which I'm really enjoying. Whoever is reading it does a fabulous job of all the voices of the characters.

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    1. Absolutely agree about the audio of Wolf Hall -marvellous.

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  27. hi sue I am another fan of Persephone books and would recommend Dorothy whipple's "greenbanks",delightful!

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  28. Some truly wonderful books and authors mentioned here! Villette by Charlotte Bronte as a follow up to Jane Eyre anybody? And Precious Bane by Mary Webb is just gorgeous!

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  29. I totally agree about 'The Catcher in the Rye', I read nearly all of it and hated it, and even though i only had a little bit left I really didn't care one bit how it ended, so abandoned it! Don't know why people rave about it!

    I joined a book club 2 years ago because i wanted to challenge myself and read different books, but what i found out is I don't really like reading books other people pick - i like to choose my own books, lol. I'm still in the group, but I don't read every book. In fact I recommended a book this month that I'd already read, so it would free me to read something else I'd LIKE to read.

    I read 'Rebecca' last year and loved it. Also loved 'Middlemarch' - truly wonderful book. The Cazalet Chronicles are great.

    A great Autumn read is 'Between Friends' by Kathleen Rowntree - very English, countryside, cozy, domestic.
    Read 'Wolf Hall' also last year, I carried it everywhere all summer till i finished it. Need a rest before I start the second one!

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  30. I'm also a great fan of Miss Marple though it is many years since I last read any Agatha Christie. I've seen a lot of good recommendations here to help us all along.

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  31. I am rubbish at reading "worthy" books, such as those on your not read list, and things that win prizes, I don't think that I have ever finished a prize winning book! Not sure what that says about me, but I don't really care!! I think that you will really enjoy the Miss Marples, but you will find yourself hearing Joan Hickson talking in your head, but don't worry, it is only temporary!! xx

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    1. I don't mind hearing Joan Hickson in my head at all.

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  32. Anonymous1:10 am GMT

    I wasn't allowed to post what I wrote as it had too many characters. Suffice to say it was a very long comment and I love books.

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    1. Gosh, I didn't even know there was a character limit on comments! You can always send me a long email.

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  33. What a fun post! Briefly, I hate book groups (don't care what you think!); have trouble reading any book someone else recommends, including my lovely adult children, who do know what I would like; loved Rebecca, hated Jane Eyre (what a wimp); loved TKM, but the movie is really good, too; almost never read a North American author (I'm a Yank), because they are so earnest and depressing on the whole; never, ever will read a Scandinavian crime novel again (so grim); just read "Miss Buncle's Book" and loved it; One classic I would recommend is "Kristin Lavransdotter," which made me cry and occupied many long hours in a cold Montana winter. Love your blog, Cheers, Kate in Oregon

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  34. Sue, it's been fun to read your post and the earlier comments. I was an early reader and have been greedy in my reading ever since I was five. A long time ago.

    I have read some of those books on your won't read list, and their identities might surprise you.

    Right now I have a clutch of early Simenon Maigret novels checked out from my marvelous library's stacks. I can renew my loan endlessley. However, due tomorrow...and not quite finished, is Mary Beard's Confronting the Classics. I can't read, paint and do complicated knitting at the same time, so it's a toss up for me on which of these solitary pursuits get top billing in my free time.

    My wish to meet up with friends, do laundry, obtain groceries and cook meals (some inspired by your posts, dear Sue) also competes for my time.

    Oh, sleep also interrupts the reading flow.

    Subway commutes to and from work give me some reading time, but I usually use those minutes for catching up on the latest New Yorker magazine articles. Lighter to carry a magazine than a book. Nooks and Kindles are not my style.

    Have I gone on to long in this post? Probably. Must stop now and get back to that almost due Mary Beard book.

    xo

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  35. Great post! Completely with you on female authors. Rebecca and Jane Eyre are beloved on my over stuffed bookshelf. Crime + domestic + female = PD James for me . Plenty of narrative and less conversation. I find her stories have more depth than those of Ann Cleeves, enjoyable as hers are though.
    Just finished Donna Tartt's Goldfinch but preferred The Little Friend, think I'm alone in this.
    Currently reading Wind in the Willows (need something light after the Goldfinch) before starting on the last of the Pullman trio.

    Love the covers on your Miss Marples.

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  36. I received the Booker shortlist for Christmas, currently reading 'Harvest' which is excellent and not the type of book I usually read (hence requesting the Booker books, to hoik me out of a reading rut). I also have the Cazalets on the go - Casting Off at the moment.

    I discovered Agatha Raisin last year and have been devouring these and Hamish MacBeth - bears no resemblance to the TV series - I'd be surprised if MC Beaton could recognise her own character.

    Have you read Susan Hill's 'The Magic Apple Tree'? The English countryside through a year, it's one of my favourite books, read again and again. We lived in Australia for years, and much as I love Australia I used to torture myself by reading The Magic Apple Tree every so often and yearn for cool green England.

    I realised a while ago that 90% of the books I read are written by women, and 90% of the music I listen to is written/performed by men. Go figure....

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    1. I love The Magic Apple Tree.

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  37. Isn't it funny that we're all recommending books as so many of us don't like being told what to read! Here's a couple more - someone up thread recommended Barbara Pym, I'd second that - gentle, humorous and very English. Also Miss Read, I read these over and over and I don't think they're as widely known as they should be.

    The Molly Hughes autobiographies give a wonderful picture of a girl growing up in the latter half of the 19th century, Her book about her mother's Cornish family 'Vivians' could be another one to take on holiday with you. The books are lovely except for one or two rather bitchy comments about her brother's wife which have a surprising whiff of spite about them. I think Persephone publish the first book.

    I promise I'll shut up now.

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  38. Anonymous9:04 am GMT

    Hi Sue - Just loved reading this post and all of the comments. As a very avid reader all of my years, I notice that there has been, in my life, quite a predominance of female writers. Probably started with Enid Blyton. Here in Australia (going back a long way) there was an author named Mary Grant Bruce, who wrote wonderful stories (for an about 11 year old). Then Georgette Heyer , Agatha Christie (I may well know some of her books off by heart), I also enjoy Elizabeth George and of course PD James. Those lists just make me weary, even though there are some on them I really did enjoy. Thanks for stirring up the memories. As always a most enjoyable post. Sheridan

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  39. We do seem to have similar tastes and thoughts to our reading. I too joined a book club until modern books with male authors were the reading order of the day. I just can't read books that I don't lose myself into. I read to relax and Ian McEwan and George Orwell just didn't do it. I did read one of Daphne Du Maurier's books and loved it so now I've started reading all I can find of hers. I read in the Telegraph that her book Jamaica inn is being made into a TV series so I look forward to that. Here's a link http://www.telegraph.co.uk/property/westcountryproperty/10595472/Jamaica-Inn-for-sale-cash-in-on-the-ghosts-of-a-literary-past.html I have never read one of Agatha Christie's books and I've never seen the TV series so I plan to get the first book, I've looked at it on amazon and as you say, it's a light read and I plan to get it soon so thank you for the tip. I was given an Amazon gift card for my birthday so I won't be paying either. Our local Oxfam book shop usually has good clean book for £2.49 so I'll look there too. Thanks for such an excellent post. Thanks for the link to The Year in Books, I will certainly read that too. Happy reading.

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  40. You're in for a treat with both Daphne du Maurier and the Marples. Enjoy them all

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  41. We too, seem to have similar tastes in reading. I do sometimes read outside my comfort zone, just because I think I should, you know? Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. Not a great fan of crime fiction until I read Susan Hill's Simon Serrailler novels, and am hooked on those. Love the Persephone books too, Marghanita Lasky, Winifred Holtby, Dorothy Whipple, D.E.Stevenson, Denis Makail etc. On my blog is a picture of my 'waiting to be read'pile, but I am also working my way through my collection, re-reading books for a second or third time, after which they will go to the charity shop To decide on the next book, I pick one up, read the first page, if it holds my attention, I go with it, if not, I replace it on the shelves, in the pile, and choose another until I find The One I want to continue with.
    I am hoping the year in books will introduce me to some new and interesting blogs - good start here! - and new authors too. Interesting post, thank you.

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  42. I am a bit creeped out by this post - it is almost exactly my thoughts. (get out of my head woman). I have been buying old Agatha Christie paperbacks from Charity shops since the beginning of the year as my reading challenge. I also will not push myself to finish a book I don't like, life is waaayyyy too short.
    I love all the earlier Joanna Trollopes for her description of family life and lady angst.
    I have made a pile of books by my bedside which I intend to read this year (the Agatha's are in a separate, more aesthetically pleasing pile elsewhere) which I am quite excited about.
    It doesn't take much to get me going these days....

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  43. If you're reading du Maurier in Cornwall, I must put a plug in for Jamaica Inn and my favourite, The King's General...

    I read War & Peace whilst doing the night-time breast-feeding with my youngest daughter - can't say I remember all that much about it apart from unpronounceable Russian names, but it wouldn't be possible if bottle-feeding - not enough spare hands!

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  44. Well, you won't like what I'm reading (currently re-reading A Song of Ice and Fire, which I love and which should never, ever be set beside Twilight, even by accident!).

    I would always and forever recommend Barbara Kingsolver, though, starting with either The Poisonwood Bible, or Prodigal Summer

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    1. My son would agree with you about A Song of Ice and Fire and Twilight.

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  45. Currently reading Examination of The Newborn - A practical Guide and Pharmacology for Midwives. They are a little dry!!

    For pleasure this year's reading will be light and fun to balance out the textbooks. I too recommend Jamaica Inn if you like du Maurier.

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  46. I totally agree with you Sue, I much prefer to read what I want, especially Crime and it's usually my favourite authors. I LOVE Daphne du Maurier and read a few of her books, I can recommend The House on The Strand, it's brilliant.
    irene
    xxxx

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  47. How about Helene Hanff?
    An American lady, her book "84 Charing Cross Road" evokes the charm of a second hand bookshop and the delights of good English customer service. Here you go - the Telegraph says it well.
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/8594808/84-Charing-Cross-Road-revisited.html

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    1. Oh yes, her books are old favourites. Thanks for the reminder.

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  48. I am allergic to reading books I feel I 'ought to'. But there are a couple on your 'never reading' list that I have read and loved, but then I like books by American authors.

    I have finished the book about Iceland I was talking to you about last time we spoke - shall I send it to you? Or better yet, pass it on in person…?

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    1. In person sounds favourite. Will email you.

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  49. I am struck dumb by so much knowledge! The only opinion I will impart is that I recently read 'My Year of Meats' by Ruth Ozeki and was, surprisingly, impressed with it.

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    1. Toffeeapple, I've had the pleasure of meeting Ruth Ozeki and will tell you that she is a lovely person. I would recommend that you try some of her other books. The latest one, A Tale for the Time Being, is very layered and takes a bit concentration. (I admit that I've borrowed it several times from the library but have yet to finish it. I'll just keep on trying!)
      xo

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    2. Oh, Frances, how exciting for you. I will certainly read more of her work though I think that there are not many books. Thank you for the recommendation.

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  50. I'm with you, seldomly like the books listed on books you have to read. I agree with some of your books not to read, particularly Catcher in the Rye, one of the most pretentious pieces of twaddle ever written and admired---for reasons I can't understand.

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  51. I don't join book groups either - they had one at my old job and the reading list looked dire. Sci-fi aplenty... definitely not my thing!
    Apologies if I'm repeating any of the (many) comments on this post, but Daphne du Maurier's short stories are very good - particularly the one about an apple tree.
    I went to see Rebecca on the stage with my mum a few years ago. Nigel Havers was in it, but the actress who played Mrs Danvers stole the show... you'd have to, playing a part like that!
    I too am a Christie fan. Surprising how sitting in bed reading about murders can be so comforting...
    I've read a few on your list of 'never read's. None stick in my mind as being particularly earth-moving for me. I do, though, love Jane Eyre. A challenging book is so much better than 'chick lit' (shudder).
    Happy reading!
    Sarah.

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  52. Oh dear, have it got to have another bash at Mockingbird? Loathed it the first time, but of course when so many people rave about a book we are, naturally curious. But Sue, it gladdens my heart to see your never intend to read list, thought I may well be alone.

    However, book groups. I joined one while living in the wilds of north east Scotland and met people who have become dear friends. The meet ups were always so good and we all, in turn, suggested books we fancied reading. If we should find one dire we didn't read it, but the discussion following it was always very interesting and often made me think I should perhaps have another go.

    Whatever our thoughts on whatever books lets just celebrate the fact that they truly enrich our lives and we are so lucky to have such a vast choice.

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  53. What a wonderful post & some fabulous comments! I have been reading avidly since I was 4.5 and was already reading 'Sherlock Holmes' at 11. Conan Doyle seems to have been the foundation of my reading preferences - crime! Ngaio Marsh, Dorothy L. Sayers, Christie right up to the present day - Peter Robinson (D.C.I. Banks), Peter James, Ann Cleeves plus Henning Mankell (Wallander) , J Nesbo and other Scandis.

    I'm actually allergic to Dickens, Trollope, Austen, in fact practically all 'classics' that I either read at school and hated or just can't be bothered to read now I'm retired and can presumably read what I like. I do love to read what other people are reading/liking/hating and like most of the commenters don't have too much luck with reccommendations - if someone enthuses over a book (or film, come to that), I ALWAYS loathe it. However, I would just say, Sue, read 'The House on the Strand' and the 'Scapegoat' - both by du Maurier - both brilliant. xx

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    1. I'm already sold on Daphne Tigger. Luckily she was pretty prolific so I've got plenty to keep me going.

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  54. Terrific post, I hope you enjoy Miss Marple, agree about Virginia Woolf omg head recking SORRY if I've insult anyone

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  55. Tell me what you know of Jodi Picoult and her books. I have often seen them on the book shelves and never bothered with them, I can't even say why. Then I needed something in a hurry having run out of last thing at night reading material and picked up The Storyteller at Sainsbury's. I've ploughed through about a third but have found it very hard going, dark and the subject matter not something for a cosy getting ready for sleep read. I have now put it down in favour of Debbie Macomber, much more sleep inducing! Are all Picoult stories as hard and dark as this one, is that why you would never read one, has her fame gone before her in this way?

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    1. I have actually read one Jodi Picoult -My Sister's Keeper -can't remember what prompted me to try it. Her subject matter doesn't appeal to me at all, nor do her settings. She tells a good story but her writing is very one-dimensional, no depth, mind you you could say the same about Agatha Christie and I like her books.

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    2. I also read My Sister's Keeper and felt totally cheated by the ending which I felt was a total cop out. The issue was an important one, but she chose not to resolve it. I vowed never to read another of her books. An easy resolve to keep.

      As to some of your other "I won't read" books, I think what's important to remember is that when one comes to some books is more important than what's in the books. Catcher, for example, is a book to read when one is a teenager - or at least young enough to remember the great angst that one suffers then. Gatsby and Brave New World - the same.

      Have you read "Miss Read," Jane Duncan's My Friends, and Angela Thirkell? Good long series types for winter time.

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    3. I quite agree that there are books for the stage in one's life. I have in fact read Catcher when I was a teenager but it didn't resonate with my experiences at all. The reason I want to read to read about housewives is because I am one. It's nice to live a quite different life through a book sometimes though.

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    4. And yes, Thirkell is on my list and I keep meaning to try a Miss Read.

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    5. Anonymous6:46 pm GMT

      I think you would like Miss Read. She is very sensible and humorous.

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    6. I tried a Miss Read one day when the library had run out of Rosamund Pilcher

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    7. Maybe Miss Read will not be quite my cup of tea then....

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    8. I have been reading Miss Read for about 30 years, I have all of her fiction apart from one I think, and I really enjoy them. If you like the Agatha Christies, I think that you may well like these Sue, they are light, but interesting, definitely not deep intellectual thinking stuff though. xx

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    9. I don't necessarily agree with the part about needing to read something at a certain point in your life to appreciate it. Both my kids read Catcher in the Rye as teenagers and they both felt the main character was just too whiney. Also, I don't think Miss Read would be your cup of tea, Sue.

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    10. I think you may be right about Miss Read Kari ;-)

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  56. Anonymous10:04 am GMT

    Hi, I've never commented before but I love reading and so thought I'd pitch in. Rebecca is fantastic, one of my favourites but when I read it I had no idea of the story (it was a long time ago). We watched the Hitchcock version on TV recently and my daughter was completely hooked. It is a great tale. I read a bit of all sorts and I subscribed to the Waterstones email to get an idea of what's coming out (in paperback) and there are some helpful outlines on there. I asked for 8 books for Christmas as a result. I've just read Simon Armitage's Heading Home - funny (giggle when reading and get strange looks funny), lyrical and well written so I was quite sad to finish it. I don't read worthy books any more - did all that as a student and it was that time when I read some of the books on your list. I still love an Agatha though, like you, despite knowing the plots they are still a great read. Ali x

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  57. Pati from London10:35 am GMT

    What a brilliant post Sue! Those lists of "1000 books you need to read before you die", the "100 must see paintings" etc get on my nerves.
    I also feel that these lists are very much anglosaxonised. In terms of artworks, they tend to contain a lot of paintings in British collections and in terms of books it seems that apart from a few foreign classics (namely Dostoyevsky, Tolstoy, Kundera, Nabokov, Cervantes, Eco, Rousseau, Murakami, Garcia Marquez etc that are ubber famous) most of the other "must reads" are written by American or English writers, which is quite a narrow view.
    I understand that these lists cater for the British or American reader and what gets published in UK etc but I suppose that if one is going to bother to compile and suggest 1001 books, then surely the scope should be broader, less commercially driven and more thoroughly researched.
    I love reading but with my Uni studies I was feeling that I was only reading art history books and thus 2 years ago, I decided to join a bookclub with a few friends and neighbours to force me to read other things in a way and I am loving it. It's a great bunch of people and we have lovely cozy gatherings at each other's houses, we talk, we eat, have a glass or two of vino and talk about all sorts before discussing the books.
    We meet every 6 weeks and a few nationalities are represented in there so there is always variety in the books selected which we usually vote out of a selection of 5 or 6. I don't always like the books but I find that after discussing them, I usually end up liking them more.
    A would suggest a few good books we've read:
    A Norwegian modern classic, it's short but beautifully writen called "The Ice Palace" by Tarjei Vesaas, A lovely modern French book about 4 interesting characters in Paris, very human, called "Hunting and Gathering" by Anna Gavalda and an Australian book called "The light between oceans" set in 1920's Australia, in a lighthouse by L.M Stedman.
    I have read a few of the classics you mentioned and really enjoyed The catcher in the Rye when I was a teenager but I find others boring.
    The least popular book in our bookclub was Oliver Twist by Dickens....
    Ohh well, I'd better go back to my text books now.
    Have a lovely day!
    Pati x

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  58. Pati from London10:38 am GMT

    sorry, I hadn't realised that my previous email was as long as War and Peace....:-)

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    1. Ha ha! I don't do well with books in translation. I feel I'm might be missing something because I'm not reading the author's intended words. I don't think I've actually read a book that has been translated into English -isn't that awful? I have read Harry Potter in French though so perhaps that redeems me a little. Oh, and now I think about it I read quite a lot of Scandinavian books as a child.

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    2. Oh Sue... I think foreign books can be quite enriching and different.... then again, I'm a foreigner here...so what can I say? It's a bit like watching Borgen with subtitles.... :-), isn't it?
      Pati x

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  59. Anonymous1:32 pm GMT

    I also like novels written by women and have enjoyed Ann Cleeves books. I started with hers because I like reading books set in Scotland and so her Shetland series were perfect for me, but I have also enjoyed her Vera Stanhope books. M.C. Beaton "Hamish MacBeth" are good, quick read. In recent months I have been reading Kate Ellis "Wesley Peterson" books. These are set in Devon and have an archaeological interest as do Elly Griffiths "Ruth Galloway" series. Kate Ellis also writes books based in fictional northern city of Eborby and are quite absorbing. I must admit that I don't labour over books and find that if after a while I don't enjoy a book I will move on to something else. Life's too short and there are too many other books to be read.

    Frances SW

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    1. I love Ann Cleeves Shetland books and the Ruth Galloway books, did you know there is a new Ruth due out next Thursday? I didn't take to the Kate Ellis books though, not quite so well written as the Elly Griffiths I thought.

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  60. Anonymous4:30 pm GMT

    Thanks Sue, I did know and have asked our library to reserve it for me. I think I took to Kate Ellis books because we went to Dartmouth, for a quick visit last year, and her books are obviously based on that town. Thankfully, we didn't come across any murders tho'.

    Frances SW

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  61. Oh my. I was once a reader. Then life got too busy and I haven't been able to read a full novel in so long. I have read a lot of those you posted. Mostly for school. Right now I read a bit of my Bible daily and maybe a few Shakespearean sonnets when time allows. I really miss just reading to read.

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  62. I'm another who can't abide book clubs because they dictate my reading choices. I've also largely gone off fiction in the last few years.Something to do with the quality of the prose I think ... there's a lot out there now that's so sloppy! I'm really looking forward to seeing what everyone comes up with in the months ahead ... I'm hoping it might help me find my way back to the made up stuff.

    Happy reading Su :)

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  63. Love Rebecca. However, I think I love My Cousin Rachel even more. Read them in my late teens and again last Christmas when my husband bought me some lovely hard-back versions. So wonderful to read them again as a "grown-up".
    Looking at your list, I wonder if you have read "Precious Bane", by Mary Webb. Wonderful.

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    1. I am thinking of reading Precious Bane followed by Cold Comfort Farm.

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    2. Cold Comfort Farm and really, anything by Stella Gibbons is, in my opinion, well worth the effort.

      For Elliott, I would recommend starting with Silas Marner, I still find Middlemarch grindingly boring and some of the characters in Mill on the Floss could do with a slap on the side of the head.

      I adore TKM, found it an interesting and absorbing read. I also keep a copy of Moby Dick in my bedroom, very well written.

      If you like the macabre, try Edgar Allan Poe. As for crime, have you read the Frost series or that of Morse?

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  64. I read 'Rebecca' years ago and loved it - would also recommend 'My Cousin Rachel'.
    I've also joined Laura's Year in Books as I like the idea of linking up with other readers but like you, don\t like being told what to read.

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  65. To Kill a Mocking Bird (please don't hate me!)
    ------------------------------------------------------------------

    Ha Ha! I won't hate you. I would love to read this book and have tried. Too many $10 words to read for my style. In other words, I don't want to have to have a dictionary nearby when I read a book. :)

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  66. I have already commented, but wanted to thank those who have made suggestions for stuff to read, quite a few that I had forgotten about too. Has anyone read Room by Emma Donoghue? I loved it, but it seems to be one of those love it or hate it tomes.

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  67. I liked your list. I agree with some of the books. I read one and only one book by Jodi Piccoult and that was more than enough. Unfortunately, as an American, a number of your books were required reading for high school. I read them because I had to, not because I wanted to. My problem with book lists and bestseller lists is that I usually do not like the books that are on them. My biggest problem is that I like well written books and those are hard to find in newer books. I like classics, but some are just so long winded that they're hard to follow, like Tolstoy. I'm definitely going to look through everyone's suggestions and go to my library. That's another thing I hate, buying a recommended book and not liking it. I don't feel guilty if I don't finish a library book because the story was awful

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