Memes are cool; I like memes. I came across this one on David Hebblethwaite’s excellent blog Follow the Thread. He writes that he found it on the Musings of a Bookshop Girl blog. As memes go, it is beautifully simple… and bloody hard to complete. Just list a favourite book for each letter of the alphabet. To be honest, for a couple of letters I had so many choices, I wasn’t sure which one to pick. Other letters – you know, the high-scoring ones in Scrabble – were not so easy…
A The Alexandria Quartet, Lawrence Durrell (1960)
B The Balkan Trilogy, Olivia Manning (1981)
C Coelestis, Paul Park (1993)
D Dhalgren, Samuel R Delany (1974)
E Evening’s Empire, David Herter (2002)
F The French Lieutenant’s Woman, John Fowles (1969)
G Glimpses, Lewis Shiner (1993)
H How Far Can You Go?, David Lodge (1980)
I Icehenge, Kim Stanley Robinson (1984)
J Jerusalem Fire, RM Meluch (1985)
K Kairos, Gwyneth Jones (1988)
L Lady Chatterley’s Lover, DH Lawrence (1928)
M The Master Mariner: Running Proud, Nicholas Monsarrat (1978)
N Nightwatch, Andrew M Stephenson (1977)
O The Ophiuchi Hotline, John Varley (1977)
P The Prodigal Sun, Sean Williams and Shane Dix (1999)
Q The Quincunx, Charles Palliser (1989)
R The Right Stuff, Tom Wolfe (1979)
S Synthajoy, DG Compton (1968)
T Take Back Plenty, Colin Greenland (1990)
U The Undercover Aliens, AE van Vogt (1950)
V Voyage, Stephen Baxter (1996)
W Where Time Winds Blow, Robert Holdstock (1981)
X X, Y, Michael Blumlein (1993)
Y The Yiddish Policeman’s Union, Michael Chabon (2007)
Z Zoo City, Lauren Beukes (2010)
Sadly, it’s a poor showing on the gender parity front – only 15% women writers. There were a number I wanted to include, but I happened to like a book beginning with that letter by a male writer just a little bit more. Also, I am generally a bigger fan of the oeuvres of women writers than I am of individual works by them.
On the other hand, I hadn’t expected science fiction to make such a strong showing, though it has formed the bulk of my reading since an early age. The numbers go: sf 62%, mainstream 31%, and 1% apiece for fantasy and horror. While I find mainstream novels of a higher quality than sf overall, some of my favourite novels remain science fiction ones.
Finally, the 1980s and 1990s are the most popular decades, with 27% and 23% respectively. I’ve no idea why, since I may not have read the books in question during those decades. The first decade of the twenty-first century scores a measly 8%, and there’s only one book from this decade.
April 27, 2012 at 10:32 am
But SF would have a strong showing because of the greater liklihood of titles beginning with high-scoring Scrabble letters!
April 27, 2012 at 2:30 pm
This is a good one!
We’d definitely overlap on Z. My Fowles would be at M. Not sure we’d have any other overlap at all. Crikey.
(Also, your blog still thinks I’m Sir Arthur C. Clarke)
April 27, 2012 at 2:35 pm
I don’t think I’ve read that many books whose titles begin with Z, which made it a bit easy. But no Dhalgren?
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