The Alphabet of Fiction

A couple of years back, I was concerned that I wasn't reading enough non-sf fiction; and using Librarything, I decided one way of addressing this might be to go through my unread pile, choosing the first non-sf fiction novel as arranged alphabetically by author, for each letter of the alphabet.

Three years on, the experiment has reached its natural end, and my conclusion is that it flagged up some good books that I otherwise might not have got around to as quickly, and also some authors who I will avoid in future. The full list was:

June 2011: Alias Grace, by Margaret Atwood – excellent
August 2011: Old Goriot, by Honore Balzac – interesting
September 2011: The Princess Diaries, by Meg Cabot – awful
November 2011: Moll Flanders, by Daniel Defoe – great
March 2012: The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana, by Umberto Eco – intriguing
July 2012: The History of Tom Jones: A Foundling, by Henry Fielding – worth the effort
August 2012: The Public Prosecutor, by Jef Geeraerts – sordid
August 2012: Not a Creature Was Stirring, by Jane Haddam – unexceptional
November 2012: The Portrait of a Lady, by Henry James – remarkable
March 2013: The Castle, by Franz Kafka – frustrating
July 2013: Desert, by J. M. G. Le Clezio – illuminating
August 2013: Far North & Other Dark Tales, by Sara Maitland – entertaining
September 2013: Home Truths, by Freya North – much more fun than expected
October 2013: The Far Side Of The World, by Patrick O'Brian – immersive
December 2013: The Truth Commissioner, by David Park – close to home
January 2014: The Saint Zita Society, by Ruth Rendell – closely observed
April 2014: Revelation, by C. J. Sansom – not entirely convincing
May 2014: Dotter of Her Father's Eyes, by Mary M. Talbot and Brian Talbot – beautiful and remarkable
July 2014: Billionaire Boy, by David Walliams – terrible
September 2014: The Memoirs of Hadrian, by Marguerite Yourcenar – thorough and carefully thought out

Now that I have a glut of sf books coming in, I’m revamping my reading lists somewhat, and also dismayed by the still bulging unread shelves. So, among my other lists, I’m segmenting the collection by year of acquisition, and going through them by order of popularity on LibraryThing. This gives the following lists as of now:

Beach Music by Pat Conroy
Rules by Cynthia Lord
Islands In The Stream by Ernest Hemingway

Home, by Marilynne Robinson
The Professor, by Charlotte Bronte
The Egyptian, by Mika Waltari

The Grass is Singing, by Doris May Lessing
I Don’t Know How She Does It, by Allison Pearson
The Seven-Per-Cent Solution, by Nicholas Meyer

Harlequin, by Bernard Cornwell
Naamah’s Kiss, by Jacqueline Carey
Mating, by Norman Rush

Wool, by Hugh Howey
Kushiel’s Justice, by Jacqueline Carey
And Another Thing …, by Eoin Colfer

2014 (so far)
The Shadow of the Wind, by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
A Scanner Darkly, by Philip K. Dick
The Redbreast by Jo Nesbo

That somewhat expands the list of lists, but it also rebalances the sf/non-sf equation quite a lot, and – the key goal – broadens my reading day by day to include books that other people have already found entertaining and interesting.

Caveat: Non-fiction does end up a bit isolated, and I need to think about that.