10% Report: 100 Years of Books


100 different books by 100 different authors – 1850 to 1949!

Had I known when I began this project, six years ago and in another home on the internet, that it would go on for so long, it probably wouldn’t have ever got off the ground.

I read the 20th century following exactly the same rules in two years, without making too much of an effort to find books to fill particular years; but pushing the start of the period back by fifty years has made a made this project rather more demanding.

There were fewer books published in those years, there are not so many authors to choose from, and many of the books are very long. Long isn’t a problem – I’m reading a very long book at the moment – but I need to balance the big books with other things.

That’s the negative, but the positive is that this project has led me to some wonderful obscure books, and that it has made me read some of the classics that I have been meaning to try for years. My 100 Years of Books project led me to books by Trollope and Tolstoy that have become particular favourites, and remembering that makes me want to make sure that there is room for every 19th century author that I have thought about reading or re-reading.

That means I may have to re-shuffle my list, I many end up reading more that 100 books, but so be it.

I have read eighty books for my list, so I am not going to back out now. And I am never going to read a book just to fill a year; every book on the list is going to be one I wanted to read for its own sake.

It many take time, but I really want to see the final list one day – 100 years, 100 books and 100 authors!

Today though I just have my latest ten books – here they are:

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1874 – Other People’s Money by Émile Gaboriau

‘The police are certain that all they have to do is find the missing man; and so his son and his daughter’s admirer, who have ideas of their own, set out to find out – and to prove – exactly what happened at the bank. There is drama and romance, intrigue and suspense, as the story moves apace through grand houses, poor backstreets and criminal dives. In the early part of the book I thought of Trollope, but in this part of the book I saw the influence of Dumas.’

1892 – Grania: The Story of an Island by Emily Lawless

‘The pictures of Island life that Emily Lawless draws are wonderfully vivid. She conveys the unforgiving nature of the landscape and the ongoing struggle for poverty that trapped so many of the islanders; she understands the beauty of the island, and the strong sense of identity felt by the islanders. She sees the joys and the sorrows of their lives.’

1901 – East of Suez by Alice Perrin

‘Alice Perrin had the knack of making the India she knew come to life. It was a place where she was one of a small community of British people, surrounded by a culture quite unlike her own. It was a culture that she appreciated but didn’t really understand. She did understand the home-sickness, the isolation and the alienation that many of her compatriots felt. And the effects that that the climate, the way of living and the  local traditions had on their lives. These stories reflect all of that, and they reflect the author’s great love of the India that she knew.’

1902 – A Welsh Witch by Allen Raine

‘Catrin is the ‘Welsh Witch’ of the title. She was happier out on the hills and in the countryside than she was at home with her father, who had struggled to cope since the death of the gypsy girl he had married, and her two dour brothers. The natural world had become her natural home, and she had an uncanny intimacy with it. But when she spoke to the village priest about how she saw God and his work not in the church but all around her every day, he condemned her, he spoke out against her, and she was ostracised by his congregation.’

1906 – The Belovéd Vagabond by William J Locke

‘Asticot knew a little of Paragot’s story, over time he would learn more, and the day would come when Paragot was given a second chance to claim the life – the destiny – that he thought that he had missed. Could he step back into the life he had always dreamed of, or did the very different man he had become – The Belovéd Vagabond have a different destiny?’

1909 – Starbrace by Sheila Kaye-Smith

‘This is the story of Miles Starbrace; the son of a gentleman and a serving maid who died when her son was so young that he has no memories of her. His father, Gerald, had done the honourable thing, telling his his father that he was going stand by the woman that he loved, and that he would support their child. His father disowned him and Gerald fell a long way … Gerald’s greatest hope was that Miles would rise in the world, and regain everything that his father had lost …’

1914 – The Pastor’s Wife by Elizabeth Von Arnim

‘I appreciated that Elizabeth Arnim made her main point well. Ingeborg was cast in different roles by her father, by her husband, and by her would-be-lover in turn. None of them gave much thought to what would make her happy, what life would be like for her, but none of them were villains, none of them were deliberately cruel or unkind. They were simply men who assumed that they would – they should – be at the centre of her world ….’

1917 – The Lady of the Basement Flat by Mrs. George de Horne Vaizey

‘Of course Evelyn’s feelings were mixed. She was happy for her sister, but just a little sad that their bond would never be quite the same again, that she had been left behind. She was uncertain what her own future would hold, but the more she thought the more confident she became that she could lead an interesting life and be valued in the world.’

1944 – China to Me by Emily Hahn

‘Emily Hahn was a proud feminist and fearless traveler, and the kind of woman who lived life as she felt it ought to be lived without waiting for the rules to be changed. That made her wonderful company, but it was her skill as a writer and her interest in the people around her that really elevated this memoir. She made clear and insightful observations about the people around her – and herself and how they dealt with cultural differences, the changes that politics and the war brought, and all of life’s ups and downs.’

1946 – More Was Lost: a Memoir by Eleanor Perenyi

Though the young couple’s assets were substantial – a baroque property, 750 acres of gardens and farmland, a vineyard, a distillery and a sizeable forest – and they were far from poor, they didn’t have the capital that they needed to restore the dilapidated property and to run the estate as they felt they should. And though Zsiga was Hungarian, his estate wasn’t in Hungary anymore: it was part of the territory given to the Czechs after WWI, and he needed a passport and permission from the authorities before he could travel there.

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The full list of what I’ve read is here, and my 1862 book will be finished very soon.

4 thoughts on “10% Report: 100 Years of Books

  1. I think the century you chose to read is more difficult than when I did ACOB (I also duplicated lots of authors). I used to read a lot of Victorian literature at one time, but very rarely do now, and yes many of those books are long. The only one of those I have read is The Pastor’s Wife, though I like the sound of More was Lost.


  2. Some interesting choices there. I remain in awe of people who embark on this challenge – I’m not nearly well organised enough!


  3. This makes me feel better about my 1914-2013 project, which I started in 2014 and am about 70% through. I did read a few for the year – but The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists was brilliant and my friend Laura bought me four books from years I didn’t have covered for my birthday one year, which was great, too.


  4. I have been thinking about setting up some kind of long reading project to help me read the vast number of books that I always want to get around to, but somehow never reach. It seems as if the thing to do is not worry too much about how long the project takes, just to enjoy the process of coming across those obscure books you mention, as well as reading long-anticipated treasures. Thanks for sharing your experiences, which are so interesting. 🙂


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