Friday 22 November 2013

My reading list, c.1963

A snapshot from almost exactly fifty years ago: the above is a list of forty books that I read when I was eleven or twelve. I found it in a shoe box after my mother died in 2004. I’ve written here about this list before, but then I put it in a safe place and lost it; now I’ve found it again, disguised as a bookmark, so it gets another airing.

War and animals (especially dogs, wolves), mostly. Except for Shakespeare, no poetry (maybe poems didn’t count as ‘books’). C. S. Forester scores four, ‘+ 6 others’ (I’d already read the earlier books in the Hornblower series). John Buchan scores three, also Jack London, Conan Doyle; H. G. Wells scores two, as also Rider Haggard and Dickens. Shakespeare scores three but I think that was cheating, we probably did them in the classroom, reading aloud, the next boy along (it was an all-boys school) picking up whenever a new character entered, some giggling if that character was female). One each from Victor Hugo, Kipling, Walter Scott, RLS, Alistair MacLean, Hammond Innes. (Though I recall another year when, laid up with mumps, I read fourteen Hammond Inneses in a row.) A few predictable singles: Spencer-Chapman, The Jungle is Neutral; Lew Wallace, Ben Hur. The Lion is by Joseph Kessel, who also wrote Belle de Jour.

There are just two women writers on the list, Baroness Orczy and Rosemary Sutcliff. And only one book, I think, that was specifically written for children (Sutcliff’s Eagle of the Ninth). ‘Young adults’ hadn’t yet been invented. Nor, of course, had PlayStations and Xboxes, which left a lot of time to fill.

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