My top 10 books for the 1976 Club



For several years, Simon at Stuck in a Book, has been organizing club years, in which he encourages everybody to read books published in the same year.

This time, he chose 1976

I think the main idea is to draw a literary portrait of that year.
If you are curious, you can check on this Goodreads list or on this one (less complete, but you can compare with the books you have read), or on this wikipedia page (more complete I think) titles of books published that year.

Before considering what to read for this club, it seems I had read 8 books published that year.

Click on the book covers to discover my reviews

2 mysteries: 

  Mrs Pollifax on Safari   Sleeping Murder  

Mrs. Pollifax on Safari is the #5 in this delightful series with Mrs. Pollifax.
Imagine: Emily Pollifax is retired and is bored, so she goes to the CIA if by any chance they would have some little jobs for her. Who would think twice about this grand-mother who loves flowery hats? She would actually be a perfect spy. So in each book of these books, she’s sent on a mission in a different country.

You may not all know Mrs. Pollifax, but you all know Miss Marple.
Sleeping Murder is #12.

1 poetry in prose:


I recently fell again in love with Paul Valéry, and I read this one a few months ago.
It’s a collection of vignettes each starting by a letter of the alphabet, written as poetry prose. Powerful gem!

1 classic nonfiction:


I read Roots in my late teens, in French.

3 spiritual nonfiction books:

  The Genesee Diary   One Yet Two

For those who are into spirituality, Henri Nouwen is an important author. Combine that to the milieu of a Trappist monastery in his Genesee Diary (Genesee is a Trappist abbey in Piffard, NY), and you have quite a nourishing book!

When looking for a cover for this post, I was shocked to discover that One Yet Two: Monastic Tradition East and West, edited by the Trappist monk Basil Pennington is no longer available in print.
Very sad, as it was an excellent compilation of the Orthodox-Cistercian Symposium that was held at Oxford University, from August 26 to September 1st, 1973. A very important symposium for unity of Christians. The articles were excellent.

Second Look at Saint Bernard

And same for A Second Look at Saint Bernard (by Jean Leclercq, the Belgian authoritative voice on Saint Bernard of Clairvaux), which I read back then in French.
So sad to see that very solid spiritual books published a mere 35 years ago are already out of print!

And I just read 2 this month for the #1976 club, which I am reviewing here:


by Renata Adler
Published in 1976
192 pages
Literary fiction

My first reading for the #1976Club left me rather disappointed.
Speedboat is a novel without any plot, that reads more like a rather boring nonfiction work (though most of the nonfiction I read is NOT boring!).

The narrator is a young journalist in New York. She writes a collection of short vignettes with for the most part no beginning and no end, and which seem more or less random.
I actually often understood the connection between them, a keyword, or the type of connection that happens in your thoughts or during your dreams or nightmares, but still it left me rather cold. If I read experimental fiction, I prefer the real thing, coming from Oulipo writers especially.

As for the content, it looks like Adler is intending to provide us with glimpses into the cultural world of New York in the 1970s, with the variety of people you could have met then and there.
I’m too young to feel it as being familiar, especially as I didn’t grow up in the US.
1976 was a very important year for me, but that was thousands of miles away from the confused American youth.

My own mind is a tenement. Some elevators work.

“I have lost my sense of the whole” says the narrator. And that’s definitely the impression given by the book.

A few aphorisms did talk to me in the first quarter of the work, but not enough to make the whole book really interesting. 

I think sanity is the most profound moral option of our time.

Actually, in the one cultural element I had in common, my experience was vastly different.
The narrator was invited for a surprise event. It turned out it was a five-hour performance of Parsifal. She ends up being totally bored and her boyfriend who invited her sleeps during most of it.
When I was 16, Parsifal came out as an opera-movie. We had a special theater in my French city that would exclusively show that type of cultural movie. This was the closest for me to going to Bayreuth, which of course I would never have been able to afford.

So I went (by myself, no one else I knew was interested) to watch the five-hour opera-movie. Like in Speedboat, we were just a few in the room. But I didn’t sleep and it totally fascinated me. To this day, I remember some words of it in German.

Final verdict: A rather boring glimpse on the chaotic New York society of the 1970s. Skip.

A River Runs Through itA River Runs Through it,
by Norman Maclean
Published in 1976
168 pages
Historical fiction

From a boat we go to a river and to fly fishing – totally by chance.

I know nothing about fly fishing or plain fishing, but still I thoroughly enjoyed the style of the author, with all his highlights on the beauty of nature, and the close connection between the inner landscape of his characters and the outdoors.

A River Runs Through it was published when the author was 73, and I think you can feel the tranquil wisdom of its author. Even the dramatic event concerning his brother near the end of the story is presented with a certain calmness.

It also contains a certain nostalgia at the past, at lost time, at people we have lost. 

It consists basically of reminiscences of a young boy with his brother Paul and his father, a Presbyterian minister, especially as they go fly fishing.

The first sentence grabbed me right away:

In our family, there was no clear line between religion and fly fishing.

Now did you notice I actually mentioned 10 books?
So here is my fun story with my 10th:

I actually experienced a powerful memory near the end of A River Runs Through it.
A paragraph suddenly reminded me of another book about fish that I had read decades ago and had left me that same feeling of nostalgia.
It was extremely far in my memory, I couldn’t remember the author (I only thought maybe he was a Jean-Marie) nor the title (except that it was one short word and the noun of a fish).

I focused really hard with the sounds I could remember from the title, starting with something like sola, sora, to rhéa, to finally créa!! The book is Le Créa (which is a common name for un esturgeon, that is, a sturgeon) by Jean-Marc Soyez.

Le Créa

And the amazing thing is that this book was also published in 1976.
And I did manage to request it through inter-library loan.
It will be interesting to see if I experience what I felt when I read it about 45 years ago!

My year 1976 recap:
So beside my disappointment with Renata Adler, looks like this year brought a solid and memorable harvest.



Six degrees of separation: From Moscow to Vimy


Six degrees of separation:
From Moscow to Vimy

Using my own rules for this fun meme hosted by Kate at Booksaremyfavouriteandbest (see there the origin of the meme and how it works – posted the first Saturday of every month), I started in Moscow and ended up in Vimy, France, where many Canadian soldiers fought during WWI.
Come with me!

Here are my own quirky rules:

1. Use your list of books on Goodreads
2. Take the first word of the title offered and find another title with that word in it
3. Then use the first word of THAT title to find your text title
4. Or the second if the title starts with the same word, or you are stuck

After the covers,
you can find the links to my reviews
or to the title on Goodreads

 a-gentleman-in-moscowArsene Lupin 

 Mrs Pollifax and the second thiefStar For Mrs Blake

 Shakespeare's Star warsUnravelled

1. A Gentleman in Moscow
I was going to read it, as I have heard so many people rave about this book. But then, I talked with a Russian woman, and she told this could really never have happened in Moscow. As it’s a historical fiction, and I like my histfic to be based on real facts, I’ve passed so far. But you may convince me to read it?

2. Arsène Lupin, Gentleman-Thief
The author Leblanc is basically the French Conan Doyle. This is a major classic in mystery, and totally fun! He’s a thief, yes, but what a gentleman!!

3. Mrs. Pollifax and the Second Thief
I discovered Mrs. Pollifax, because I wanted to read books set in different countries, for the 52 countries challenge.
I have loved this series to pieces, the character of Mrs. Pollifax is delightful: image a retired lady who’s afraid to get bored, and ends up working as a secret agent. Each book of the series is set in a  different country. This one is in Sicily, and is about art thieves and the mob.

4. A Star For Mrs. Blake
Excellent historical novel featuring Gold Star Mothers, whom I knew nothing about.
VERDICT: Very powerful, yet not overwhelmingly emotional historical novel, reflecting on many facets of international conflicts. Highly recommended to anyone curious to know what happened on the field of WWI, and how it affected people, relationships, and countries.

5. William Shakespeare’s Star Wars
This is an incredible series: imagine Star Wars, “all recounted in the style of the Bard,
with rhymes, chorus, list of characters entering and exiting for each scene, just like a real play. It really made me laugh aloud many times.”
VERDICT: For fans of Star Wars and Shakespeare,  this book offers a refreshing look at how it all began. Tension, suspense and humor are all present. Not to miss.
(the link is to book 1)

6. Unravelled: Two Wars. Two Affairs. One marriage
Another great historical novel, both on WWI and WWII. Great author!


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Bout of Books 22: Day 2 challenge

Bout of Books 22


Click on the logo to join the fun!

The Bout of Books read-a-thon is organized
by Amanda @ On a Book Bender
and Kelly @ Reading the Paranormal.
It is a week long read-a-thon that begins
12:01am Monday, May 14 and runs through Sunday, May 20
in whatever time zone you are in.
Bout of Books is low-pressure.
There are challenges, giveaways, and a grand prize,
but all of these are completely optional.
For all Bout of Books 22 information and updates,
be sure to visit the Bout of Books blog.
From the Bout of Books team

Bout of Books 22:

Day 2 Challenge

Challenge “Year of You”

Share a book that was published the year you were born.
If you don’t wish to disclose your age (that’s fine; you’ll get no judgment either way here),
pick a book that was significant to your childhood.
Thanks to Courtney Lynn (@ceelynnreading) for today’s challenge!

In 2011, I started hosting a reading challenge (I just did it for a few years) based on books published in the first years of your life. For that challenge, I picked a book that I had to read for university studies. I had liked it back then, but I no longer do. Long story short, I had to go and find another book!
I chose one that is probably not familiar to many of you, but that I REALLY enjoyed a lot:

Unexpected Mrs Pollifax

Have you ever met Emily Pollifax? She’s basically Mrs Marple’s American cousin!
I met her back then when I was doing the 52 countries reading challenge, I was looking for books set in other countries, and I found her in the audiobooks at my library: the cool thing in this series, is that each book is set in a different country. I invite you to read my recap post to learn more about it. It’s an excellent series, with good suspense, smart characters, and lots of travel adventures!
And the first book of the series, the one here featured, happened to be published the year I was born, 1966.

 What great book was published
the year you were born?