How Reading Kept Me Sane

How Reading Kept Me Sane

Update: This post is part of my crime reading challenge. You will find my completed reading challenge that includes my tips and a summary of each author and their novels on my Top 100+ Crime and Mystery Novels list page. I wrote the following posts in addition to this post as part of this reading challenge:

I’ve always enjoyed reading but it’s importance increased while caring for my mum who had motor neurone disease (MND/ALS). During the day I would work away on my computer while she spent her last 17 months in the bedroom next to my office often with her TV turned up loud. By the end of the day I craved peace which I found in reading. And with limited times I could leave the house as she required 24/7 care — it helped me relax.

More importantly it gave us both shared enjoyment. Reading was her escapism. She only left her bedroom a few times in those 17 months (excluding showers). Daily we would discuss what we were reading, our likes/dislikes or what we learnt from the books.

After growing tired of searching for new modern authors I wanted to read I set a goal in August 2018 of reading Top 100+ Crime and Mystery Novels of All Time as a way of introducing myself to new authors in a genre I enjoy reading. Goals help me; having an achievable goal while dealing with a challenging situation helped.

Mum died in January, 2019 and she would be pleased that she had passed on her passion for reading and proud that I’m still working through my Top 100+ Crime and Mystery Novels of All Time list. Here’s my progress report from last year (I’m glad she encouraged me to document it). I miss discussing what we’ve been reading, what she can remember from a novel I’ve read or what she can remember from the era the novel was written.

Mum interrupted reading
Mum taking break from reading to play with Nova.

Finding Your Own Reading List

This year I discovered list challenge which is a great way of finding a list you want to read and for monitoring your progress.

Here is a link to their most popular book list challenges. My husband is working through The Guardian’s 100 Best Novels Written in English.

My list was created by combining The Top 100 Crime Novels of All Time published by the British Crime Writers Association in 1990 and The Top 100 Mystery Novels of All Time published by the Mystery Writers of America in 1995 into one list and removing any duplicates of the same book.

My progress with the The Top 100 Crime Novels of All Time on List Challenge:

My progress with the The Top 100 Mystery Novels of All Time on List Challenge:

And for the Agatha Christie fans like me.

My Tips For My Crime Reading List

Here is what I wish I knew when I started working through my Top 100+ Crime and Mystery Novels of All Time reading list:

1. It’s better to read the novels in order of their year published; from oldest to newest.

Some of the authors from the early to mid 1900’s refer to novels, authors or characters published by some of the more famous earlier authors from the 1800’s. Reading the earlier novels provides context if mentioned by other authors.

Reading from oldest to newest allows you to understand how the genre evolved with time.

Nowadays crime and mystery novels are a popular genre. The novels I’ve read over the past 2 years are from the early days of the genre when it was less popular. A fact I didn’t appreciate until I read an article about Michael Innes in 1945 which highlighted the “Book Review Digest:” only recorded 12 detective mysteries in 1914, 97 in 1925 and 217 in 1939.

2. For most authors it is better to start with earlier novels by the author and work through their novels until you reach the author’s novel on the list.

The reason for a particular author’s novel to be included on the Top 100+ Crime and Mystery Novels of All Time reading list is the novel might be unique, one of the first examples of a category or early example of a specific school of writing.

This is more important if the novel is part of a series. ‘The Murder of Roger Ackroyd’ is the sixth novel in Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot series, ‘Gaudy Night’ by Dorothy L. Sayers is the tenth novel in part of her Lord Wimsey series and ‘Daughter of Time’ by Josephine Tey was the fifth novel in her Inspector Gran series. I would have appreciated all these novels more if I had read the earlier novels in each of these series rather reading these three novels that ranked high on the list first.

Off course, there are always exceptions! “The Four Just Men” is one of Edgar Wallace’s earliest novels. Edgar Wallace was one of the most prolific thriller writers of the early 1900’s. He was once considered second in popularity to Dickens and his popularity diminished after his death. The Four Just Man was the first of his novels I read (hated it). It was only after reading some of his other novels that I appreciated how enjoyable his novels can be. Same with John Buchan! I wasn’t a fan of his Richard Hannay novels which are his most popular novels but love some of his other novels!

Below is what my list now looks like listed in order of date published and my progress:

The number of novels read column lists how many novels I’ve read written by that author. The total per author is only listed once so I can track the total number of novels read since starting my challenge. I’ve read ~187 novels since starting in August, 2018.

Final Thoughts

If you reached the end of this post you might be questioning my sanity and definition of sane!

And for those wondering – I prefer paper based books to eBooks due the amount of time reading text on screens for work. Most my books are purchased from charity shops or charity book sales ($1-2 each). Harder to find are read as eBooks (older novels are often available as free eBooks).

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