1990s

I’ve sort of given up on the idea of actually finishing A Century of Books in 2014 – when I started, Shiny New Books was just a twinkle in Annabel and Victoria’s eyes, and it has taken me away from my checklist of years – but I will still finish it, even if it takes a bit longer than planned. And, you never know, publishers might considerately start reprinting precisely the years I need to fill.

It’s become clear, from the list I’ve read and the books I want to read, that the biggest gap is the 1990s. Unsurprisingly the interwar years are nearly completed – either in black ink (finished) or pencil (planned) – but I have only read two books from the 1990s (A.A. Milne: His Life and The Blue Room), with three more vaguely planned (Summer in February, Silence in October, and Old Books; Rare Friends). That leaves 1991, ’92, ’93, ’94, and ’96 without even the glimmer of a suggestion.

So… over to you for guidance. What do you think I should read for those years? Extra points if the books are in any way zeitgeisty… because I’ll probably end up just reading 1990s biographies of people from the 1930s, won’t I?

38 thoughts on “1990s

  • August 26, 2014 at 6:59 am
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    Some suggested books chosen from those I have read myself

    1991 – Paradise News by David Lodge
    1992 – The Crow Road by Ian Banks
    1993 – The Shipping News by Annie Proulx
    1994 – Of Love and Other Demons by Garcí­a Márquez
    1996 – Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood

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    • August 29, 2014 at 9:40 pm
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      Thanks! I have been meaning to read something by Lodge for years (as I think you know, actually – thanks again!) so that might well make the list.

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  • August 26, 2014 at 7:47 am
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    Have you read Pat Barker's Regeneration (1991)? – brilliant. The two sequels would knock out 1993 and 1995 too.

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    • August 29, 2014 at 9:41 pm
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      I have, and I thought it very good – but I haven't read the sequels yet.

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  • August 26, 2014 at 8:20 am
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    How about these:
    1991
    Generation X by Douglas Copland
    King Solomon's Carpet by Barbara Vine (Ruth Rendell)

    1992
    Rising Sun by Michael Crichton
    Smilla's Sense of Snow by Peter Hoeg
    The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje

    1993
    Operating Instructions: A Journal of My Son's First Year by Anne Lamott
    The Stone Diaries by Carol Shields

    1994

    The Wind-up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami

    1996
    Bridget Jones's Diary by Helen Fielding
    Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer

    Taci

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    • August 29, 2014 at 9:42 pm
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      Thanks so much, Taci! The only one of these I've read is Bridget Jones, so plenty of lovely options.

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  • August 26, 2014 at 8:37 am
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    Hmm – difficult.

    Any of the Harry Potters (if you can stand it)
    Memoirs of a Geisha (I'm assured it's good)
    The Virgin Suicides (I quite liked it)
    The Secret History
    Snow Falling on Cedars
    And I'd second Alias Grace and say also The Robber Bride – Atwood is always brilliant!

    Good luck…… :)

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    • August 29, 2014 at 9:43 pm
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      Thanks Karen! I actually lovely Harry Potter, so have read those lots of times – although I'm not sure how many were published in the 90s? The first two, maybe?

      And I'm afraid I'm not an Atwood fan… I thought The Handmaid's Tale was quite badly written, but I'd be willing to give her another go sometime.

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  • August 26, 2014 at 8:38 am
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    I have my list of a century of books which is complete. Must put it up so eti e!will check the nineties

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  • August 26, 2014 at 8:49 am
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    There are some great suggestions above – I'll add:
    1992: Time's Arrow – Martin Amis,
    All The Pretty Horses – Cormac McCarthy
    The Secret History – Donna Tartt
    Wild Swans – Jung Chang (eyeopening)
    1993: Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha – Roddy Doyle
    Trainspotting – Irvine Welsh
    1994: Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil (John Berendt)
    1996: Fight Club – Chuck Palahnuik
    Bridget Jones' Diary – Helen Fielding

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    • August 29, 2014 at 9:44 pm
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      I've heard a presentation of Time's Arrow, so I should actually read it…
      I've read The Secret History and Bridget Jones' Diary, both of which I liked, so that's a good sign :)

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  • August 26, 2014 at 11:50 am
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    Ah. Zeitgeisty. I guess my assumption would be that all books in a Century of Books would be of their time. (Not that I've ever even tried to pull that off, since that's not my cup of tea.)

    Barbara Kingsolver – Animal Dreams, 1990, High Tide in Tucson, 1995
    Alice Hoffman – Turtle Moon, 1992; Practical Magic, 1995

    I'd go for Jennifer Crusie too, for sheer fun. She really began hitting her stride in the late 1990s with Tell Me Lies and Crazy for You.

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    • August 29, 2014 at 9:45 pm
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      Ah, no, getting books of their time for each year is a bridge too far!
      Thanks for these suggestions – I would like to read more early Kingsolver, as I like The Bean Trees (but not Poisonwood Bible so much).

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  • August 26, 2014 at 11:51 am
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    Ah. Zeitgeisty. I guess my assumption would be that all books in a Century of Books would be of their time. (Not that I've ever even tried to pull that off, since that's not my cup of tea.)

    Barbara Kingsolver – Animal Dreams, 1990, High Tide in Tucson, 1995
    Alice Hoffman – Turtle Moon, 1992; Practical Magic, 1995

    I'd go for Jennifer Crusie too, for sheer fun. She really began hitting her stride in the late 1990s with Tell Me Lies and Crazy for You.

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  • August 26, 2014 at 4:46 pm
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    thank u so much for your blog..loooove it…jeanette winterson is always a good bet:
    Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit: the script (1990)
    Written on the Body (1992)
    Art & Lies: A Piece for Three Voices and a Bawd (1994)
    Great Moments in Aviation: the script (1995)
    Art Objects. Essays in Ecstasy and Effrontery (1995) – essays
    Gut Symmetries (1997)
    The World and Other Places (1998) – short stories
    so so love your postings…congrats ….
    quinn

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    • August 29, 2014 at 9:46 pm
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      Thanks Quinn! Do you know, I've never read anything by Winterson, so thanks v much for these suggestions.

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  • August 26, 2014 at 5:06 pm
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    Hi
    I couldn't find anything for 1992 but for the other years, here are my recommendations:

    1991: True Believers by Joeseph O'Connor

    1993 : The Women in Black by Madeleine StJohn
    or Montana 1948 by Larry Watson

    1994: Tomorrow in the Battle, Think on Me by Javier Marias

    1996 : Distant Star by Bolano
    or The Enchantment of Lily Dahl by Siri Hustvedt

    Reviews on my blog if case you're interested.

    Have fun

    Emma

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    • August 29, 2014 at 9:46 pm
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      Thanks Emma! I've never heard of any of those, so even better :)

      Reply
  • August 26, 2014 at 5:08 pm
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    Ack! Twice I've tried to reply only to hit the wrong button or something. Last time…for 1994 I'd recommend The Beekeeper's Apprentice by Laurie R. King. I'll also second the recommendations above for Wild Swans and Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil (both of these are nonfiction, but Midnight reads like fiction).

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    • August 29, 2014 at 9:47 pm
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      Lovely, thank you Susan (and thank you for persevering!) The Brendt is getting plenty of votes, so I should look into that….

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  • August 26, 2014 at 11:09 pm
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    Hey Simon,
    Here are my choices:

    1991 – The Market Bell by TF Powys – 1920s masquerading as 1990s!
    1992 – The Colors of Heaven (ed Trevor Carolan) – anthology of stories from Pacific Rim countries
    1993 – Tintin in the New World by Frederic Tuten – 'metafiction' but good
    1994 – One of the Wattle Birds by Jessica Anderson – fine Australian novelist
    1996 – We Were the Mulvaneys by Joyce Carol Oates – one of her best

    Reply
    • August 29, 2014 at 9:48 pm
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      Thanks Mike! Was this an undiscovered Powys? Or was he still alive then??

      Reply
  • August 27, 2014 at 3:26 am
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    I really enjoyed John Lanchester's wonderful, and hilarious, 'A Debt to pleasure', which you start off thinking is just a foodie blog, but soon realize it's very dark indeed… (1996)

    also 1993 – The Stone Diaries – Carol shields
    " – Pillion Riders – Elizabeth Russell Taylor
    1991 – Wartime Lies – Louis Begley

    Sally Tarbox

    Reply
    • August 29, 2014 at 9:49 pm
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      A Debt to Pleasure I have read – and yes, isn't it dark! It was chosen by a lovely woman in my book group who always worries if we don't know when characters are eating :)

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  • August 27, 2014 at 12:18 pm
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    I'd second Snow Falling on Cedars (1994) but really recommend avoiding Miss Smilla's Feeling for Snow – it goes from Nordic-ish Noir to bad science fiction with no warning or explanation. I was a book I felt betrayed by! On the other hand, your view of it could be interesting.

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  • August 27, 2014 at 7:05 pm
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    From looking the previous comments, I think you actually have LOTS to choose from.

    I am not sure if you have read any of these, but I recommend Possession by A.S. Byatt (1990), The Blue Flower by Penelope Fitzgerald and/or High Fidelity by Nick Hornby (1995), The Number 1 Ladies Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith (1998), The Interpreter of Maladies by Juhmpa Lahiri (1999).

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    • August 27, 2014 at 11:21 pm
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      I have read and enjoyed everyone of those books! And that was back when my kids were young and I barely read anything – I call the '90s my lost decade. Very funny to see your list.

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    • August 28, 2014 at 5:31 pm
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      That is neat Annie! See, they must be very good books because you managed them despite the distraction of young children.

      I just looked more closely at Simon's missing years, however, and realize none of these were published in the years he needs…oops.

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    • August 29, 2014 at 9:55 pm
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      Oops! But thanks anyway :)
      I have read Possession and No.1 Ladies D, and enjoyed both – and I love P Fitzgerald, so really should read the one that is reportedly her best. I have to overcome my historical fiction caveat first…

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  • September 4, 2014 at 8:59 pm
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    Mrs de Winter by Susan Hill (1993) would go down very well if you're a fan of Rebecca. The Last Thing He Wanted by Joan Didion (1996) was confusing but excellent. I'll need to do more research to find books for your other years!

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  • October 9, 2014 at 12:30 pm
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    These are the ones I've done so far. The 60s is my big gap at the moment. And as I'm doing it "naturally" at the moment still, I am constantly finding it odd that so many books I read were published in 1933 or 2010!

    1990 Dorothy Sheridan – Wartime Women
    1994 Veronica Stallwood – Oxford Exit
    1995 Jane Smiley – Moo
    1997 Laura Kriska – The Accidental Office Lady
    1999 Alice Thomson – The Singing Line

    Now I'm not sure whether you "do" non-fic or it's a fic-only challenge for you. But maybe some ideas. I can lend you the Dorothy Sheridan if you'd like.

    Reply

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