#1976club – focusing on some previous reads!


As is usual during our Reading Weeks, I always like to focus on volumes I’ve read in the past – either pre-blog or during the life of the Ramblings. Although I’m sure there are more than these few which I’ve encountered before, above are a few titles.

“To Loud A Solitude” by Bohumil Hrabal was a dark story I read back in 2018,and I found much of value in it, despite the harsh treatment of books, commenting “There are probably many allusions I missed and commentary on the state of Prague or living under Soviet rule that I didn’t pick up on, but that didn’t detract from the sheer impact of the storytelling or the dramatic, if perhaps inevitable, ending… Reading a book about the destruction of books and the written word is perhaps an odd choice for someone like me who loves them both; but we should never forget how fragile and vulnerable books are, yet how important they can be as weapons against tyranny, and how we need to protect them.” Still agree with that…


Sasha Sokolov’s “A School for Fools” was a book I encountered back in 2016. It’s not always an easy read, but a fascinating one. I said at the time “I’d be lying if I said “A School for Fools” was a light or easy read, because it isn’t. It’s a complex, brilliantly structured exploration of any number of themes, and I think best read in as few sessions as possible. I spent a couple of days in its company and absolutely loved it, despite its intricacies. Sokolov has created a way of writing and a world of his own, a pair of remarkably unreliable narrators and a portrait of life on the margins in Soviet society – a gripping and essential book.”

Finally, there’s “Definitely Maybe” by the remarkable Arkady and Boris Strugatsky, which I loved to bits in 2014. It was my first encounter with their work, a wonderfully clever mix of science fiction and quite obvious Soviet satire of which I remarked, “How this book got published is something of a miracle, as the analogies do seem to stare the reader in the face. The crushing weight of both Nature and the Soviet state are obvious, but it is the human condition that is so tragically portrayed – the decisions that have to be made in extreme circumstances and the effect they have on the human psyche.” 

As for pre-blog reads, I do have some titles which have lurked in the stacks for decades….

The Solzhenitsyns were both purchased in the 1970s, in fact possibly 1976; I was having a huge phase of reading his work at the time, and I still rate him after all these years. “Lenin in Zurich”, a fragment from a larger work, was one of my favourites… As for Virginia, “Moments of Being” was acquire during my first phase of reading her in the early 1980s. I had to have everything I could find by her, and one day will do a complete re-read!

There are of course other books I’ve read from 1976 – two titles which spring to mind are “A Stitch in Time” by Penelope Lively and “Interview with the Vampire” by Anne Rice, both of which I think may still be in the house somewhere – in fact, I wouldn’t have minded re-reading either of these too, had I been able to dig them out, but it was not to be…

Anyway, those are some of my previous reads from 1976 – what titles have you read from the year, and are you planning to revisit any of them??? ;D

#1956Club – a look at some previous reads…


As is my usual habit with our reading clubs, I thought I would take a look at a few previous reads from the year; and a quick trawl of the piles I pulled off the shelves revealed these lovelies:

There’s quite a range of different texts there, and interestingly almost all of them are titles I read pre-blog. C.S. Lewis was a huge favourite when I was a child – I loved the Narnia books – and as a young adult went on to enjoy his adult fictions. I’ve still to revisit them – one day… Ed McBain made an appearance here yesterday, and I’ve read all of his books; I’d love to revisit more, including the other two 1956 titles, but I suspect I will run out of time…

The Mishima and Baldwin titles are ones I discoved more recently, in my 40s, and both are fine works which again I would love to have the time to go back to. The Maigret I considered re-reading, as I often choose one of Simenon‘s works for our reading weeks; but the story felt too familiar, having made an appearance on the blog in one of my early, amateurish posts, and so I decided against it in the end.

As for Mervyn Peake, this wonderful collection of his work includes the short story “Boy in Darkness”; a strange and disturbing work, first published in a sci fi anthology, it tells a dark tale of a boy who may or may not be Titus Groan and a disconcerting encounter. I remember it as being odd and unsettling and I confess to being tempted to sit down and read this whole collection again.

However, one book I would really like to highlight is “Every Eye” by Isobel English; this is a lovely Persephone release which I read just before starting the Ramblings, and it’s one of my favourite from the publisher. A short and evocative work at just 119 pages, the narrative tells the story of one woman’s life in alternating sections; looking back at her past and evaluating how she has got to where she is currently, it’s a compelling story with a killer last line (*don’t* ever cheat by looking at it) and I so recommend it. I would love to read it again for 1956, but I think time will be against me. A really great novel(la) and one of Persephone’s finest!

So – those are a few of my previous reads from 1956. Have you read any of these? Which books from the year remain in your mind and your heart?

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