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.