Home > Challenges, Personal Posts > Next reading club year is 1956: It’s heaven sent, I’m rooting for this edition

Next reading club year is 1956: It’s heaven sent, I’m rooting for this edition

Kaggsy and Simon have announced the year they chose for the next reading club. The idea is to read books published in a specific year and write reviews about them.

It will be 1956 and it will take place from October 5 to October 11.

Can you imagine that The Roots of Heaven by Romain Gary was published on October 5th, 1956?

Now, is there any other book to read for #1956Club? It’s serendipity! 😊

The Roots of Heaven won Gary his first Prix Goncourt. Set in Africa, we follow Morel, an early environmentalist who fights against the killing of elephants. Morel is assisted in his task by two misfits, Minna and Forsythe. In Morel’s mind, the destruction of nature leads to the destruction of humanity and while saving elephants from extinction sounds futile, it’s actually symbolic. If we lose that fight, what will become of humanity?

Est-ce que nous ne sommes vraiment plus capables de respecter la nature, la liberté vivante, sans aucun rendement, sans utilité, sans autre objet que de se laisser entrevoir de temps en temps? Are we no longer able to respect nature— freedom in living form —, which offers no yield, no usefulness, which has no other aim than to let itself be observed from time to time? 

Can you imagine that Gary wrote this in 1956? What would he think about the environmental crisis we’re facing now? The Roots of Heaven also mentions the burgeoning fight for independence of African colonies and Gary proves to have a lot of insight when you know what will happen next.

If you want to know more about this outstanding novel, I recommend James Henderson’s review.

But there were other noteworthy books published in 1956. I’ve done a bit of research and came up with:

Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin. This one I want to read as I’m a Baldwin fan.*

Diamonds Are Forever by Ian Fleming. Espionage isn’t my cup of tea, I’ll skip this one.

The Lonely Londoners by Sam Selvon. I really recommend this one and my billet about it is here.

There’s Always a Price Tag by James Hadley Chase. I don’t know what this one’s worth.

French Leave by PG Wodehouse. I’d like to read this one, just because of the title, especially since in French, to take the French leave is filer à l’anglaise, literally, to take the English leave. It’s all a question of perspective, right?

Temple of the Golden Pavilion by Mishima. I guess everyone has heard of classic of Japanese literature.

The Fall by Albert Camus. I read this one a long time ago and a re-read could be welcome.

The Devil to Pay in the Backlands by João Guimarães Rosa. (Diadorim, in French translation) I’ve had this daunting masterpiece on the shelf for ages. Maybe it’s time to read it.

Palace Walk by Naguib Mahfouz. I really recommend Mahfouz’s Cairo Trilogy. It’s wonderful and full of life.

The Fingerprint by Patricia Wentworth (La Trace dans l’ombre, in French) I’ve read it pre-blog. I used to read a lot of easy crime fiction like Wentworth when my children were little and when juggling with toddlers, a full-time job and other obligations didn’t leave a lot of brain power to read. I have fond memories of these books.

Nedjma by Yacine Kateb. I’ve never heard of this one but I’m tempted to read a novel by an Algerian writer published during the time of French colonization. I’d like to read more about it from the Algerian perspective.

The Barbarous Coast by Ross Mcdonald (La côte barbare, in French) Gallmeister has started to publish new translations of Mcdonald’s books, it could be an opportunity to read one.

– In 1956, Ed McBain published three books of the 87th Precinct series, Cop Hater, The Mugger and The Pusher. Has anyone read them?

The Diamond Bikini by Charles Williams. Does anyone know if it’s good?

– For French readers, there’s L’histoire d’une solitude by Milán Füst, a Hungarian book not translated into English.

I already know that I won’t be able to read all these books but I had a lot of fun researching them and you should have seen me internally squeal when I discovered that 1956 was the next chosen year. 1956, the year The Roots of Heaven was published!

  1. April 27, 2020 at 1:07 pm

    When I was looking up books for this club I saw the Gary and immediately thought of you Emma 🙂 I didn’t realise the publication date coincided so nicely too – as you say, serendipity!


    • April 27, 2020 at 6:04 pm

      Good to know that it popped up in your research.

      I knew it was published in 1956 but still checked it out and discovered this perfect date!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. April 27, 2020 at 1:56 pm

    Thank you for the tips. It’s nice to find sources of books not originally written in English.


    • April 27, 2020 at 1:58 pm

      I’m French and we’re natural when it comes to reading in translation! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • April 27, 2020 at 7:27 pm

        What country is your favourite?


        • April 27, 2020 at 8:05 pm

          I’m not very original: I like American lit.

          I’ve read a few books by Australian writers and I’ve enjoyed all the Hungarian lit I’ve read.
          We get a lot of Italian lit here and I usually enjoy the Italian books I read.
          I don’t connect well with Japanese and German lit, I don’t know why.

          If you’re looking for books from a specific country, there are categories on the blog that help you with that.

          Liked by 1 person

  3. Tony E.
    April 27, 2020 at 3:05 pm

    Also, A Walk on the Wild Side by Nelson Algren!


    • April 27, 2020 at 5:14 pm

      Good suggestion, I’ve never read Algren. I’m afraid that here, he’s more known as Simone de Beauvoir’s lover as anything else.


      • Tony E.
        April 27, 2020 at 5:48 pm

        Yes that’s true but a shame as well. Set in the old French Quarter of New Orleans in the 1930s and written in 1956, this cult classic is probably his best work and led the way for many American writers in the 60’s and 70’s.


        • April 27, 2020 at 6:01 pm

          Sounds great.

          Let’s say that, for once, a man is known for his relationship with a famous writer and not the other way round. 🙂


  4. April 27, 2020 at 4:24 pm

    Glad we’ve chosen a year that suits you Emma! 😀 Seriously though, there are lots of wonderful titles to choose and you’ve listed some really excellent ones there, I have read all 3 McBains (I read all his 87th Precinct books back in the day) and I loved them. Rate him very highly.


    • April 27, 2020 at 5:13 pm

      Happy to know that the Ed McBains are good, I was tempted by these ones.
      I hope work won’t get in the way by then, September, October and November are usually very busy months for me.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. April 28, 2020 at 6:20 am

    I recommend anything by Charles Williams (FYI there’s another author, British, with the same name who wrote entirely different stuff)


    • April 28, 2020 at 8:53 am

      Thanks, I knew of Charles Williams (the US one) but didn’t know if this one was good or not.
      I should get to The Hot Spot, btw.


  6. May 1, 2020 at 10:05 am

    What luck that they chose a year when the Romain Gary book was published. I’ve never experienced him but the short synopsis you’ve given is enticing me. I checked my TBR and I have The Fall so will definitely read that one


    • May 2, 2020 at 2:50 pm

      I know, what were the odds that they’d pick 1956?

      I think I’d like to re-read The Fall. I should get a nice collection of Camus, I want to re-read The Plague too.


  7. May 5, 2020 at 2:28 am

    I read Giovanni’s Room a long time ago, my memory is that it was depressing. Australians from 1956 I have read and reviewed quite a few, The Drums Go Bang a lightly fictionalised memoir of the early years of their marriage by Ruth Park and D’Arcy Niland is probably the best. A suggestion: Beyond the Black Stump by Neville Shute.


    • May 5, 2020 at 9:19 pm

      James Baldwin is not a very cheerful writer but I really like his style and his insight about the world we live in.

      Thanks for the 1956 Australian recommendations. I’ll note them down.


  8. buriedinprint
    May 21, 2020 at 5:03 pm

    This really does seem like a great year. And I’m with you on the whole “make a massive list and then regret that it’s not all going to happen just like that”. 🙂


    • May 22, 2020 at 12:54 pm

      It was a great year. I hope I’ll get to read some of them. I’m interested in the Nelson Algren mentioned by Tony in the comments.


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