The Last Ten Books tag

This is a marvellous tag which I borrowed from Annabel at AnnaBookBel, after she borrowed it in her turn … and maybe you will be enthused enough to do the same!

1. The last book I gave up on:
I hate giving up on books, so I pretend I’m only temporarily laying them aside and that I’ll return to them when I’m ready. That said, I’m ashamed to say I couldn’t get on with Alexander McCall Smith’s surreal Portuguese Irregular Verbs although I’m sure it must be very good. It’s on the charity shop book pile now.

2. The last book I re-read:
I was going to name The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper, but see below for why not. So I shall go for Joan Aiken’s alternate history fantasy Dido and Pa. (Possibly all my related research and note-taking for additional posts may count as multiple re-readings…)

3. The last book I bought:
This is easy: Alan Moore’s graphic novel V for Vendetta. I’ve been meaning to get this, a not-so-obscure critique of Thatcher’s Britain, for some time now, but the parallels between 1980s Britain and Theresa May’s régime (I use the term deliberately) are too strong for me to ignore, and I’m in the mood for some trenchant satire: it may be the only bit of political satisfaction I may get if current events pan out to their disastrous conclusions.

4. The last book I said I read but actually didn’t:
I’ve been reading Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising with an increasing sense of unfamiliarity, so much so that I’m now doubting whether I actually read this back in the early 1970s, contrary to what I at first thought. Has my previous confidence been misplaced? I’m beginning to think so. And yet, and yet…

5. The last book I wrote in the margins of:
This was probably a school text book in the late sixties, and only because this is what every self-respecting schoolboy did. I’m a self-respecting reader now so such acts are tantamount to sacrilege. (See the post ‘The Inconstant Lover’ for more on this crime. )

6. The last book I had signed:
I can’t remember if it was Katy Mahood’s Entanglement or Jasper Fforde’s Early Riser: both authors had appeared at Crickhowell’s fourth literary festival and I had the books at hand to be signed. Katy Mahood was an ex-student of mine (when I taught music in Bristol) so it was a real delight to catch up with her and hear how her debut novel was written. Jasper Fforde is a local author of comic fantasy with a global following and, having heard him before and attended his creative writing workshop at CrickLitFest in 2015, I knew I was in for a treat. I have reviews of both books planned for early 2019—after I’ve finished them.

7. The last book I lost:
The choice for this is probably the same as No 10 below, so I refer you to that.

8. The last book I had to replace:
Strictly speaking I wasn’t obliged to replace Rosemary Sutcliff’s Swords at Sunset, but as Dale at Earth Balm Creative had kindly offered me a hardback copy it would be remiss of me not to replace it, wouldn’t it? Not to say ungrateful. And reprehensible. But if you press me, I’d probably have to say Hermann Hesse’s The Glass Bead Game which, at some time during a house move I inexplicably discarded, and only recently bought anew.

9. The last book I argued over:
‘Argued’ is a strong word. It implies cross words, heated debate. As I don’t do these I’ll go with ‘demurred’. Henry James’s novels are not to everybody’s tastes, but those who’ve read his novels critique him for a number of reasons — inconclusive conclusions, long-windedness, displeasing protagonists and so on. I’d be prepared to half-heartedly suggest that these aren’t weaknesses but positive attributes, but as I’m not totally sure I disagree with any of these criticisms you can see my dilemma. The nearest times I’ve got to disputation with bloggers are (1) a mild disagreement with the author over how much detail is too much in Steve Silberman’s otherwise excellent NeuroTribes, and (2) an indignant fan who objected to my downplaying of one of Carlos Ruiz Zafón’s YA novels.

10. The last book I couldn’t find:
Graham Anderson’s study Fairytale in the Ancient World has escaped my bookshelf searches for a while now — I fear that I may have inadvertently lent it out to persons unknown or forgotten, and despite enquiring from a couple of likely friends my quest has proved fruitless. As a new copy starts in the high twenties (pounds sterling) I’m a bit gutted.


Hope you enjoyed this post-Christmas bit of fun! I’d be interested in your choices, either in the comments or (even better) in a post of your own.

37 thoughts on “The Last Ten Books tag

  1. earthbalm

    Excellent post, great idea. I feel moved to create my own. Thanks for the mention Chris. I haven’t forgotten the books that I’ve promised you but have to admit that I’m no longer able to part with the Tiffany Aching books. Shall get them to you very early in 2019!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’d be most interested to read your choices, Dale, so glad this post inspired you! Don’t worry about Tiffany’s chronicles, I’ll finish my paperback copies first, then think about a series of posts to go with my reviews ahead of any consideration of replacing them with hardbacks: one step at a time. And, as always, no rush about those books, I’m always grateful, and anyway have a ton and a half to read as it is! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. piotrek

    Very interesting tag! I’m also a fan of V for Vendetta, it transcends its origins, you don’t have to experience the actual thatcherism to appreciate it as a great warning against dictatorship. We have a different view of the Iron Lady here anyway, she’s a part of the Holy Trinity of Anti-Communism, with Reagan and John Paul II… they started being seriously criticised only lately, by the young left that no longer sees the 80ties as important reference point.

    Zafón – I’ve enjoyed “The Shadow of the Wind”, the idea of the Cemetery of Forgotten Books is just perfect, but never felt the need to follow up on that. Ola chastised me once when she noticed I kept “The Shadow..” on one shelf with Golding and Eco 😉

    I don’t think we’ll be doing the entire tag, I’ll be writing about my re-reading in the last post of the year tomorrow, and whenever I seriously argue about books, the argument results in a two-shot post on Re-E 🙂

    I gave up on Auto-da-Fé, the most known novel of the Nobel-winning Elias Canetti… I got the message, but it was hammered with absolutely no subtlety. Or maybe I felt threatened, reading about how having all the books is not the sure way to happiness 😉

    And the book I pretended to have read… at school, I just couldn’t finish one of the big XIX-century novels, very boring & patriotic, so I’ve read a summary got away with it 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I can see how Thatcher might be viewed as a bulwark against communism, but over here many can’t forgive her for her damaging the welfare state, dismantling public ownership of utilities and attacking fundamental workers’ rights. The replacement of socialist-in-name-only dictatorships with neoliberal tyrannies is simply a case of plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose—the difference often being only a change in shackles being gilt rather than rusty.
      But V for Vendetta strikes me as being a mirror for all times, witness its purloining by the Occupy movement.

      I’m intrigued by your unnamed “big XIX-century novel” that you never could finish—there are so many to choose from… 😁

      Liked by 2 people

      1. piotrek

        There were good reasons for Poland to go neo-liberal in the early 90ties I’d say, the liberals just missed the moment where the adjustment was necessary – and possible – to ease the pains of the wider population. Add to this the problems with Polish Catholicism, and the big cities/provinces divide, and now we have a populist-nationalistic regime and clueless democratic opposition… we might get into the details one day on Re-E, although that would be a big off-topic… I’m afraid the new left in Poland views the recent history in too simplistic way, and ends up defenceless against the populist side of the ruling party’s ideology. Through these lenses, I also find it hard to get enthusiastic about Corbyn 😉

        XIX century novels in Poland where, mostly, concentrated on one big problem – the fact that we were partitioned between regional powers with no independent state of our own. Some writers where still able to notice the big societal and cultural issues of the age, but some just wrote sentimental books about how innocent and suffering we all are. For a modern reader, it’s hard to suffer through their works 😉

        I think “The Promised Land” by Wladyslaw Reymont is actually really good, showing the Polish question on the background of the industrialization of the peripheries of Europe, in the Western parts of Russian Empire. Enterprising Poles, Russians, Jews and Germans try to make it big, and the larger populace suffer unbearable living conditions. Reymont got the Noble prize, and there is a movie by Oscar-laureate Andrzej Wajda that should be obtainable 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

        1. A lot of what you say is both familiar and depressing. After the Solidarność years many of us liberals had great hopes for Poland (and later for other former Eastern bloc countries) which have not been fulfilled. I went to a Catholic boys school in the 60s, where many of the students were offspring of Poles who’d fought alongside the RAF during the war, so have slight familiarity with the cultural strengths and weaknesses of Polish Catholicism—its vibrancy but also its inherent conservatism, even reactionary attitudes. So what’s emerged in Polish government saddens but doesn’t surprise me.

          As for Corbyn: while I’m no ‘Corbynista’ (such a stupid label, but we know what it meant to indicate) I’m broadly in favour of his domestic agenda. However, his Eurosceptic stance—in a recent interview he decried EU state aid rules that say “that we can’t use state aid in order to be able to develop industry in this country”—means that he would deny all the many benefits of being in the union for the sake of traditional industries which, given the volatile nature of things, have to be looked at critically for the sake of people and the planet. (Heavy industry, the manufacture of throwaway consumer products, the wasteful transportation of goods around the world and back in the name of competitiveness, it all needs to be examined, and it needs to be done within the framework of transnational organisations, not outside them, and certainly not left to the whims of globalist enterprises.)

          Thanks for the details about 19th-century novels in Poland, and Wladyslaw Reymont study. I really should read more widely…

          Liked by 1 person

  3. Re your comment about The Dark is Rising….the feeling that the more you read the less certain you are that youhave read it before. My Silent Companion has an opposite feeling…the more he reads the more he thinks he has read the book before…..

    Liked by 2 people

    1. 😄 The Better Half—a voracious reader, needless to say—has several times come to the end of a book only to realise she has read it before, and not just once before.

      I’ll have more to say when I finally publish my review of TDIR about that uncertainty, but I’ll just add that for me every case is different. Thank goodness.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. There are books I am sure I have read of which I have no recollection when I read them lo these many years later. So it’s possible you read The Dark Is Rising – or not! I’ve also had the experience of getting nearly to the end of a book before realising I’ve read it before.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. It’s rare I find myself unwittingly reading a novel I’ve already read, Lory, so rare it’s happened less than twice—but don’t ask me to remember the title, author, or when it happened! I think I read so few novels (and that mostly SFF) in the first half of my life that I tend to remember what I’ve already consumed (and the evidence is sometimes still on my shelves, waiting for a bona fide reread!).

        Liked by 2 people

        1. It happens to me more often than I care to admit – which leads to some embarrassing misinformation as a blogger. There was the time I had been so convinced I was reading American Gods for the first time for Witch Week, and midway realized it was not the first time at all. But unlike you I went through heaps of fiction in the first part of my life and my memory needs refreshing by now, for which I have to forgive myself.

          Liked by 2 people

  4. Thank you for the link! I really enjoyed your answers – esp No 4 – those books we read when young and re-read when much older can seem totally different things, can’t they? I enjoyed the V for Vendetta film, but find the illustrated Moore on the page a bit too much! Also loved your demurring – a great choice of word 😀

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I was in my twenties when TDIR came out, so I was more ‘younger’ than ‘young’ when I read it (or did I?), but I know what you mean!

      Haven’t seen the film but I do know that Alan Moore never endorses screen versions of his novels. (Certainly that was the case with Watchman, though I thought the look of the movie remained faithful to the book’s graphic aesthetic; the film of V for Vendetta takes, I understand, more liberties with its original.)

      Glad you liked ‘demurring’—I like to include words like this, before ‘less familiar’ and ‘little-used’ becomes ‘obsolete’ and ‘old literature is so wordy!’

      Liked by 1 person

          1. Yeah, I noticed that, Chris. I was just wanting to be sure, since the article made me very excited about reading this title. I don’t read a lot of recent books, but I like the idea explored in this one. It reminds me of a popular movie when I was young, with Juliet Binoch in it. Two women who look alike (they are both played by Binoch), live in different places, and they don’t even know about each other, but they are connected. It is not clear that they are twins, it’s more a fable or the exploration of a concept similar to what the article mentions about the book. Small doings or happenings ended up having a major part in the life of both women. (I need to find out the title of the movie. I would love to watch it again).

            And sure, lol, most of us “know” more classics than we have read.

            Liked by 2 people

            1. Intrigued by the movie you mention: I’ve looked through her filmography (in both French and English language films) on imDb and Wikipedia and while Juliette Binoche has played two-in-one roles in productions (as Mary Magdalene and the actress playing her; and as Cathy as well as her daughter in Wuthering Heights) nothing quite matches your description. Perhaps you had another actress in mind?

              Liked by 2 people

            2. You know, I have been looking too, and it must have been a different actress, and I can’t find the movie. I saw it at the time when Juliette Binoch was popular in Spain. At the times of Delicatessen, etc. I watched a lot of European cinema at the time. It was more popular in our circle in Madrid than Hollywood. I remember The Crying Games, many other great movies. I will keep looking until I find it, and let you know.

              Liked by 2 people

            3. Bingo. It was by Kieslowsky, the director of the trilogy played by Binoch. The movie is called The double life of Veronica! Sigh. I am so excited I found it!

              Liked by 2 people

  5. I remember Binoch’s trilogy, superb, Blue, Red, White. But that was not by a French director. I have been looking at French movie titles to no avail. Director must have been Polish, Belgium, Check… I will keep trying.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I always like the variety on your lists — you enjoy a catholicity of tastes!

    I’ll take you up on this challenge, on my own blog, but only if I can come up with answers to a majority of the questions — I may have to revise a couple. If no post appears, then take it as a signal of my dissatisfaction with the results, and not with the questions themselves.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Pingback: The Last Ten Books Tag | Lizzie Ross

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