Smorgasbord Posts from My Archives – The Literary Column with Jessica Norrie – What Bestsellers were released in the year of your birth?

We are coming to the end of the re-run of Jessica Norrie’s Literary Column from last year, with one more to come at the end of November with some great gift recommendations.. In the meantime, Jessica who was reaching a milestone birthday at the end of last year, shared books that were released in the year of her birth.. It is an interesting exercise to check which bestsellers were released at the same time as you were!  I was fascinated to discover that some of my favourite reads were in the list for 1953, including Seven Years in Tibet, The Go-Between and The Bridges at Toko-Ri…

Goodreads has the bestsellers for every year and here is my link and you can find your own..

Time to enjoy Jessica’s post…..

What Bestsellers were released in the year of your birth?

Ahem! Shortly I’ll have a significant birthday present from Transport for London of free travel on bus, tubes and some trains. If you’ve never tried people watching from the top deck of a London bus, put it on your bucket list. But I’ll need a book for those long underground rides. Where better to start a stockpile than rereading bestsellers published in the year of my birth? When I googled them I was surprised and rather moved to find how many I’d read and how they still resonate. (Do this for your own year of birth and see if the same thing happens. Obviously, I read them at appropriate stages in my life, not when they first appeared!)

The covers shown here are from the editions I read. Cover design fashion over the years is fascinating. Most of these books now look different, but they’re all still available.

My birth year saw some fantastically high quality children’s fiction, but in schools some pupils were still stumbling at the first post. So “Dr Seuss” was commissioned to write a book using only words from the first reader.  The Cat in the Hat burst into life, and you can read the fuller, fascinating story here

Having mastered that, children could discover  The Treasures of Green Knowe, published in the UK as The Chimneys of Green Knowe. I’m amused by a current Amazon review that says “There isn’t much action”. If time travelling 200 years for a rescue mission that includes climbing the chimneys of a haunted house with a blind ancestor isn’t much action, what is? Incidentally, throughout this series, L M Boston wrote quirky, independent female characters, including elderly and disabled ones.

Another female character whose ill health leads to wider worlds was created by Catherine Storr in Marianne Dreams. Just the book for any budding psychoanalysts out there. I now discover it’s the start of a series, but this first one is complete, weird, and memorable in itself.

An audience that would now be called Young Adult could learn a lot, as I did, from The Witch of Blackbird Pond. Anyone still seeking to know why single, intelligent, lonely and/or “different” women are so easily categorised as witches by suspicious narrow minded societies, will find the saddest and most exciting of well researched signposts here.

Even with a diet as rich as this, the child reader moves on, and I was pleased to be reminded of Things Fall Apart, by Chinua Achebe. It was a first introduction for this white middle class first worlder to the richness of African writing, a completely new perspective for me in my late teens. Achebe’s prose is poetic, his story moving, his world evocative. This is the clash of white arrival against black tradition; missionary against culture; city against tribe. It’s still required reading; things are still falling apart.

To my shame, I’ve never been a huge reader of poetry. But the late teens were a great time to discover E. E. Cummings, whose last collection, 95 Poems was born in book form the same year as me. Try him. If you’re in the right mood, his stars and wordplay, his individual punctuation and eroticism and wit and wonder and poignancy will play your head space with. If not, leave it for ‘anothertime soonever’.

Off I went to university, including a year in Paris where I wrote my dissertation on Simone de Beauvoir. So I probably knew then, and rediscover now, that the first volume of her autobiography was published in English on New Year’s Day of the year I was born, as Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter. Looking at recent reviews, people (women, mostly) are still finding it readable, funny, perceptive, and angry. It seems the #MeToo generation could still learn a lot from de Beauvoir.

I have fond memories of lying on the sofa, heavily pregnant with my first child, gobbling up films that my husband gloomily predicted we’d never be able to watch uninterrupted again. One was Breakfast at Tiffany’s, so good that I didn’t bother reading the book for years. When I did, I seem to remember wincing at some of the views. Stick with the film, I’d say.

Skip two decades when I must have been reading other things. The daughter who’d have heard “Moon River” as she shifted about waiting to be born, was living in Palermo, Sicily, as part of her Italian degree. I had the pleasure of visiting twice, and The Leopard was an entertaining fictional guide to the history, climate, politics, gastronomy, and characters I came across.

It was fun discovering this list. Goodreads has lists of world bestsellers for most years – do have a look for yours. The guidance you get from the books on it beats any star chart. Oh, and there’s another important birthday on the horizon – Happy Christmas all, when it comes around.

©Jessica Norrie 2018

The Magic Carpet – Jessica’s new release.

Outer London, September 2016, and neighbouring eight-year-olds have homework: prepare a traditional story to perform with their families at a school festival. But Nathan’s father thinks his son would be better off doing sums; Sky’s mother’s enthusiasm is as fleeting as her bank balance, and there’s a threatening shadow hanging over poor Alka’s family. Only Mandeep’s fragile grandmother and new girl Xoriyo really understand the magical powers of storytelling. As national events and individual challenges jostle for the adults’ attention, can these two bring everyone together to ensure the show will go on?

One of the recent reviews for The Magic Carpet

I must admit that I got an expected but completely welcome surprise when I read this book. The magic carpet is an intricate and beautifully told tale of a school project and several families involved. Each child in the class has been allocated a fairy story to take home and make their own any way they wish.

The narratives switches between each family and each chapter is dedicated to a different class member. Diverse, intriguing and almost voyeuristic, we are allowed to peep into the lives of each family as they tackle the homework project in very different ways. All the adults in the story are increasingly distracted by events in their own lives and it’s up to the children to bring everyone together.

I adore that Jessica Norrie has given each family a very unique identity through circumstances. culture and race. Each relationship and situation is delicately written and issues are tackled with sensitivity but bring he characters to life. I became invested in every single child in this novel.

This is a breathtaking and addictive story about stories, families and children.

Read the reviews and buy the book:

And on Amazon US:

Also by Jessica Norrie in English and German

Read the reviews buy the books:

and on Amazon US:

Find more reviews on Goodreads:

About Jessica Norrie

Jessica Norrie studied French literature at Sussex University, and trained as a teacher at Sheffield. Then she wandered into parenthood, told her now grown up children stories, and heard theirs. A qualified translator, she worked on an eclectic mix of material, from health reports on racehorses to harrowing refugee tales. She taught adults and children, co-authored a textbook and ran teacher training. In 2008 came the idea for “The Infinity Pool”, which appeared in 2015 (and in German in 2018). Her second novel “The Magic Carpet”, inspired by teaching language and creativity in multicultural schools, was published on July 22nd 2019, and she is working on a third. She also spends time blogging, singing soprano, walking in the forest and trying to move out of London.

Connect to Jessica


I know Jessica would love your feedback on the post and it would be great if you could share. thanks Sally

49 thoughts on “Smorgasbord Posts from My Archives – The Literary Column with Jessica Norrie – What Bestsellers were released in the year of your birth?

  1. “Let us not forget the past, it determines the future.” Someone said it, and its true. Thank you very much, i think now its Google(R)-time for me too. 😉 But i think more in a worldwide view. Around 100 km from here there was not published anything of great relevance. ;-( Michael

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Not sure what year this was and only familiar with Cat in the Hat, and of course one of my alltime favorite movies – Breakfast at Tiffany’s. I never read the book, but have seen that movie at least a dozen times. 🙂 ❤

    Liked by 2 people

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  6. This is such a clever idea. I enjoyed this post very much. Of course I had to take a look at my year and I was also moved. Some of the books were my absolute favorites as a child and young adult such as Sheila Burnford’s “The Incredible Journey.” That’s a memory. 🙂 Thanks for a wonderful start to the day.

    Liked by 1 person

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