After taking part in the 1956 Club challenge, I was looking forward to hunting down some books on my TBR shelves for the next year chosen, which turned out to be 1936: the 1936 Club is born! Thank you to Kaggy’s Bookish Ramblings and Stuck in a Book for picking such an interesting year: unrest on the horizon, but pre-WWII. It was also a very eventful year, with the infamous Berlin Olympics, the Depression in full swing in the USA, the abdication of King Edward VIII, Beryl Markham was the first woman to fly the Atlantic, the Hoover Dam (then called the Boulder Dam) was completed and Crystal Palace burnt down. But what to read? I had plenty of time. I could read the books beforehand and line up some blogposts ready to go, surely… Full of enthusiasm, I did some research, made a 1936-club tab for my Goodreads page, started reading early and still didn’t manage to read them all. Here are my initial thoughts. I’ll be adding my reviews and updating the links here in the coming week, work and gardening commitments willing.
Books on my TBR shelves
I already had a few lined up on my shelves, but I discovered an unexpected one while perusing the shelves:
The Insect Man: Jean Henri Fabre by Eleanor Doorly, with an introduction by Walter de la Mare and the most wonderful woodcut illustrations by Robert Gibbings. This is a biography aimed at children and bought from my school library when it was selling off old stock. I seem to have been in a biography reading stage at the time because I believe I also bought a biography of Salk, the inventor of the polio vaccine. This was also when I bought the book about the Pestalozzi Children’s Village that I read and reviewed for the 1956 Club.
South Riding by Winifred Holtby, published posthumously after she died tragically young. This is a semi-autobiographical novel set in rural Yorkshire, centring on the county council where all walks of life come together. This was given to me by a fellow BookCrosser together with Testament of a Generation, a collection of journalism by Holtby and her lifelong friend Vera Brittain, whose book A Testament of Youth made me a lifelong pacifist. I may very well have bought that at the same library sale; dangerous things, library sales. Sadly, Vera Brittain’s daughter, the indomitable politician and academic Shirley Williams, died on 11 April 2021 at the grand old age of 90. She was a worthy testament to her mother’s beliefs, so reading South Riding now seems perfect timing.
A City of Bells by Elizabeth Goudge. This is the first book in a trilogy set in a small rural country town where everybody knows everybody else’s business. Since the town has a cathedral, it is officially a city. In the books it’s called Torminster, but the author grew up in the similarly tiny rural city of Wells so it echoes the real place. This was a book that used to belong to my mother, who was the one to tell me about Elizabeth Goudge as The Little White Horse was her favourite book and was mine too, for a while. As one of the main protagonists is a young girl, it sometimes seems like a children’s book, but as one of the themes is mental health, desperation and suicide, though not too prominently, it is definitely aimed at adults. I did say I was going to read Goudge’s The Rosemary Tree for the 1956 Club, but that still hasn’t happened yet; it’s planned for June and my gardens theme.
Also on my shelves but unlikely to be read within the time frame (if at all) are Erle Stanley Gardner’s The Case of the Sleepwalker’s Niece and The Case of the Stuttering Bishop, books 8 and 9 in the series. I discovered to my surprise in the 1956 Club that the books are more entertaining than I expected, but I have so many books I really do want to read and these aren’t going anywhere as they’re part of my husband’s permanent collection. Having looked at the back covers, The Sleepwalker’s Niece sounds like it all comes down to the “brilliant cross examination” in the court case, my least favourite part of this sort of book. The Stuttering Bishop, on the other hand, sounds like it’s going to be far more about detective work and interviewing suspects, which I usually enjoy far more. And who could resist the front cover tagline:
Bogus bishops. Gold-digging granddaughters. No one in this case is for real – except the corpse.
1936 books I’ve already read
One book published in 1936 that I read years ago and has stuck in my mind is Peter Fleming’s News From Tartary, about a journey on the lesser-travelled southern silk route. I will try to add my review near the 1936 Club week.
Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfeild. As one of my imaginary career options at the age of ten was to become a ballerina, I obviously read Ballet Shoes and several others by Noel Streatfeild. I still have it and am rather surprised it was written so long ago. Not to mention feeling perplexed to realise that I spent my entire life not noticing the odd spelling of the author’s name!
Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell. I read this and loved it years ago, but was extremely disappointed by the film. After hearing about it my entire life, I found the first fifteen minutes so slow I turned off the television. I suspect I would feel the same way about the novel now, but it’s on my shelf, just in case I feel an uncontrollable urge to read it again. In actual fact, there is another reason to reread it with fresh eyes: when I first read it years ago, I was caught up in the romance. With a heightened awareness of race issues, it would be interesting to reread it from that point of view.
The Necronomicon: The Best Weird Tales of H.P. Lovecraft. My son listened to some of these creepy stories online somewhere and treated himself to an 878-page doorstopper commemorative edition. Fortunately for me, only three of the stories were originally published in 1936:
- At the Mountains of Madness – an Antarctic expedition, extremely verbose
- The Shadow Over Innsmouth – A Cthulhu tale; something fishy this way comes
- The Shadow Out of Time – “After twenty-two years of nightmare and terror, saved only by a desperate conviction of the mythical source of certain impressions, I am unwilling to vouch for the truth of that which I think I found in Western Australia on the night of July 17-18, 1935.” That’s the one for me!
Other books published in 1936
War With the Newts by Karel Čapek ticks all my boxes: it is on the 1001 list, it was written by an author from an interesting country (he was Czech), satirises many nationalities but especially the Czechs and Dutch (my adopted country) and it was already on my wishlist. However, it’s not on my shelf, so it will have to wait.
Eyeless in Gaza by Aldous Huxley. On the 1001 list and on my wishlist. I devoured A Brave New World as a teenager, but unfortunately I haven’t come across a copy of this, especially as the title is so intriguing.
The Negro Motorist Green Book by Victor Hugo Green. First published in 1936, this was an annual guide book along the lines of a Michelin Guide, but instead of listing the best viewpoints or historical sites along the way, it listed places that it was safe for a person of colour to stay or stop to buy supplies en route. This was the era of the Jim Crow laws in the USA, so it also gave tips about places to avoid such as the so-called sundowner towns that were for whites only. I know I had read about this before and now I’ve found out where: it has turned up in a recent book review of Lovecraft Country by Matt Ruff. This sounds like a book I want to read.
One Thousand Ways to Make $1,000 by Frances C. Minaker. This was the book that inspired Warren Buffet, who must have been an overachiever because he claims to have read it when he was about seven and went on to become a multimillionaire.
The Story of Ferdinand by Munroe Leaf, illustrated by Robert Lawson. This was a children’s picture book with a story about a little Spanish bull who preferred to sit under a tree and smell the flowers rather than fight. I will add a review to this soon.
So, there we have it! Unfortunately I haven’t found anything in Dutch or translated from any other language published in 1936. I’ll be looking forward to finding out what other people found.