Top Ten Tuesdays is a meme currently being run by the blog That Artsy Reader Girl. Put simply each Tuesday has a theme assigned to it and participating blogs have to come up with a top ten list around it. Last week I found compiling the list difficult because I had too little to choose from, so this week it was only natural that I would have the opposite problem! Eventually though I did narrow things down and I even decided to do some genre(ish) categories, (and no this was not just a ploy to be allowed to include more books!!) I did actually think it might be nice to give a wider picture of my reading tastes, outside of crime fiction. But don’t worry we’ll start with the crime fiction list first…
Book Number 1 – The Affair at Royalties (1971) by George Baxt
I know some of Baxt’s other books are not popular, specifically the ones including real celebrities, but I very much enjoyed this non-celebrity featuring title. I felt the amnesia angle was well done.
Book Number 2 – The Dinner (2009) by Herman Koch
I don’t remember much about this book but the switching narrative viewpoints has stuck in my head well and I think the growing tension created at the dinner is well-crafted.
Book Number 3 – An Expert in Murder by Nicola Upson
This is the first title in a series in which real-life author Josephine Tey stars as an amateur sleuth. I have read a few more in the series but felt the first title to be the best.
Book Number 4 – What Happened at Hazelwood (1946) by Michael Innes
Regular blog readers will know I am not a fan of Innes’ work, finding his stories to be rather incredibly dull, (sorry!) Interestingly though this is the one title I have been impressed by. It doesn’t feature Appleby which is a bonus, and I felt the use of narrative voice made this a more compelling story.
Book Number 5 – The Affair of the Mutilated Mink (1981) by James Anderson
Conversely, I am quite well-known for my love of comic crime novels so Anderson’s trilogy of parodies was going to be a natural choice for me.
Book Number 6 – A Toast to Tomorrow (1940) by Manning Coles
Being typical me I ended up reading this book before the first book in the series, Drink to Yesterday (1940). My advice is to read them in order. Nevertheless, both of these titles were ones I really enjoyed. Espionage is not my preferred subgenre, yet I found these two, particularly the second title, poignant and moving.
Book Number 7 – The String of Pearls (1846-47) by Thomas Peckett Prest
I selected this as one of my three favourite reads published prior to 1929 a few years ago. This tale concerns the life and crimes of Sweeney Todd and it is a little like Frankenstein in that the later film adaptations have captured the cultural mind so much, that the original story is somewhat overlooked.
Book Number 8 – Close Up On Death (1989) by Maureen O’Brien
This is one of those titles where I remember really enjoying it but cannot remember anything else about it! May need to re-read that one… However, Aidan at Mysteries Ahoy reviewed this title a while back favourably, which I’ve included a link to, to compensate for my lack of memories.
Book Number 9 – The Late Scholar (2013) by Jill Paton Walsh
I feel like this might be a contentious choice as I know the Lord Peter Wimsey continuation novels are like marmite amongst Sayer fans. Unusually for me I can remember where I read this book, mainly because I was boiling to death on a beach in Barcelona. So I feel like it must have been good if I still went away having enjoyed it. A further continuation novel is due out in February next year I believe.
Book Number 10 – Malice Aforethought (1931) by Frances Iles
This is perhaps the title which it is most remiss of me to not have reviewed on the blog, given its classic status. I think it shows Berkeley writing at his best and I probably prefer it a bit more than Before the Fact (1932).
These are all pre-blog titles and I am curious which of these I would still love if I re-read them. Perhaps at some point in the future I may re-read some of them, in particular the ones by Manning Coles, George Baxt, James Anderson, Frances Iles and Jill Paton Walsh.
I decided to not include any Christie titles, as it felt too hard to pin myself down to just one or two. However, Christie titles which I really enjoyed, but have not yet got around to reviewing on the blog are: Murder at the Vicarage (1930), And Then There Were None (1939), (though I have commented on the play version I saw a while back), Death on the Nile (1937), Murder of Roger Ackroyd (1926), The A. B. C. Murders (1936) and Endless Night (1968).
Book Number 1 – The Red Notebook (2014) by Antoine Laurain
I have enjoyed quite a few books by this author, but I think this is my favourite, followed by The President’s Hat. I like how in these two titles he uses an object to propel the plot forward.
Book Number 2 – The Puppet Boy of Warsaw (2013) by Eva Weaver
Book Number 3 – Butterflies in November (2004; 2014) by Auður Ava Ólafsdóttir
This is another book in translation that I have enjoyed. I like unusual plots or books with novel ways of telling a story or structure, and I tend to find those narratives more in books that are in translation.
Book Number 4 – The Peculiar Life of a Lonely Postman (2005) by Denis Thériault
Book Number 5 – The Adventures of Dougal (1970s) by Eric Thompson
Yes I have somewhat reduced the literary calibre of the list with the inclusion of this title, but come on who doesn’t love the sarcastic Dougal?
Book Number 6 – Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand (2010) by Helen Simonson
A fellow bus user was particularly impressed with my reading speed when reading this one.
Book Number 7 – The Library of Unrequited Love (2010) by Sophie Divry
I felt this was a very convincing novella which is purely a monologue of a librarian talking to a library user; a character who in fact never talks but is conjured up in the reader’s mind through the librarian’s comments. Great book and this reminds me I should check out what else Divry has written.
Book Number 8 – Symposium (1990) by Muriel Spark
Another writer I really need to read more by.
Book Number 9 – Mister Pip (2006) by Lloyd Jones
A book with a surprisingly dark ending.
Book Number 10 – The Penguin Lessons (2015) by Tom Michall
Anyone who knows my love of animals will not be surprised by my fondness for this book.
Book Number 1 – Persuasion (1818) by Jane Austen
A bit of an obvious choice I know!
Book Number 2 – Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
… as is my second one!
Book Number 3 – A Woman of No Importance (1893) by Oscar Wilde
I saw this performed in Dublin a few years ago and really enjoyed it.
Book Number 4 – The Story of An Hour (1894) by Kate Chopin
I may be cheating by including a short story, but Chopin really does show what you can achieve in two pages.
Book Number 5 – The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (1886) by Robert Louis Stevenson
Another slim volume but a very good story to seek out.
Book Number 6 – Thankyou, Jeeves (1933) by P. G. Wodehouse
I decided to just pick one title by Wodehouse for the list, but you can read more about my thoughts on his work and the genre of crime fiction here.
Book Number 7 – The Picture of Dorian Gray (1890) by Oscar Wilde
Not a crime novel, but certainly a tale with interesting criminal threads in it. I have often thought the protagonists in this book, The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde and The Invisible Man (1897) are all lead into criminal acts through their lack of something. In the case of Dorian Gray, it is the lack of the ability to age, whilst for Dr Jekyll it is lack of a consistent personality, and for Griffin it is the lack of a visible presence. Each lack to me pushes them into crime.
Book Number 8 – Frankenstein (1818) by Mary Shelley
This is a story which I do not feel is done justice in its famous film adaptations. The book itself is particularly innovative and it has a lot more going on in it thematically than a scary monster on the loose.
Book Number 9 – Machinal (1928) by Sophie Tredwell
This is a play I encountered during my degree and I think it is an interesting exploration of femininity and criminality.
Book Number 10 – The Secret Agent (1907) by Joseph Conrad
Again this was another text read whilst at university and I enjoyed Conrad’s use of language, as I think it elevated what was probably quite an average plot.