Five times Five equals Five

Happy Birthday to Me!

This week marks my fifth blog birthday. Good grief! Thanks to everyone who’s joined me along the way, and a special thanks to those of you who’ve stuck with me from the very first year – your company is always greatly appreciated.

I usually do a big round-up of bloggy statistics for my birthday post, but this year I’ve decided to do something a little different. So just a few stats first, covering the full five years…


(always makes me laugh, since only around forty or fifty people actually visit me on any kind of regular basis, but it’s still always fun to see that “followers” figure grow)

Rafa still hasn’t followed me…

1131 posts

(I’m so sorry! *faints*)

George hasn’t read any of them…


(at least half of them from kids looking to cheat on their homework, I suspect)

Tom hasn’t viewed a single post…


(My favourite stat! Thanks for being such a chatty bunch – that’s the real reason I blog! C’mon – help me get it up to a round 50,000…)

Aragorn has never left a single comment…

400 5-star reviews

(that’s the book or story that got 5-stars, obviously, not the review…)

But Darcy always gets 5-star reviews…


* * * * *

The access to new releases via NetGalley and publishers is one of the major perks of book blogging, of course. But I do find it has a small downside, in that I never seem to find time to follow up on authors with extensive back catalogues. I end so many reviews with “I’m looking forward to reading more of his/her books in the future”, and then I never do. So, since I’ve discovered that setting myself a little challenge concentrates my mind, that seems like a good way to celebrate my fifth anniversary.

The Five times Five Challenge

I’ve selected five authors, each of whom I’ve given at least one 5-star review and then failed to follow up on. And for each author, I’ve selected five books I’d like to read. I’m not setting myself any dates or deadlines – this is just for a bit of fun and to keep them in the forefront of my mind when I’m splurging on books to top up my TBR.

Philip Roth

Philip Roth
(Photo: Jenny Anderson/Getty Images)

I’ve read Roth’s American Trilogy (American Pastoral, I Married a Communist and The Human Stain) before, many years ago, and recently re-read American Pastoral, giving it not just 5 stars but the title of The Great American Novel. So I’d like to re-read the other two and read a few of his others that have achieved critical acclaim.

I Married a Communist

The Human Stain

The Plot Against America


Sabbath’s Theatre

* * * * *

Toni Morrison

Toni Morrison
Photo: Reuters

Toni Morrison’s Beloved was the second book to earn the title of The Great American Novel, and shamefully I still haven’t got around to reading anything else by her. Some of these have been recommended to me – others I’ve picked more or less at random.

The Bluest Eye

Song of Solomon


A Mercy


* * * * *

John Steinbeck

John Steinbeck

I had mixed feelings about The Grapes of Wrath – profound and stunningly written but I really object to the way he sets out to emotionally manipulate the reader, sometimes blurring the line between pathos and bathos. So while I want to read more, I’ve tried to include some lighter ones too.

Cannery Row

East of Eden

A Russian Journal

The Pearl

The Wayward Bus

* * * * *

William McIlvanney

William McIlvanney
Photo: Chris Watt for The Telegraph

I’ve loved everything I’ve read of McIlvanney’s – the three books in his Laidlaw trilogy and Docherty – and really want to explore his work more thoroughly. I’ve pretty much picked these as the ones most easily available, often a sign that they’re considered the best.

The Kiln

The Big Man

A Gift from Nessus

Remedy Is None

Walking Wounded

* * * * *

Robert Harris

Robert Harris

Harris seems to be pretty prolific and I’ve managed to keep up with his new releases over the last few years, but have still barely scratched his back catalogue. I actually already own two of these, so really ought to get around to reading them!


Imperium (Cicero Trilogy 1)

Lustrum (Cicero Trilogy 2)

Dictator (Cicero Trilogy 3)


I’ve deliberately omitted crime fiction since my existing Murder, Mystery, Mayhem challenge is enough to be going on with, I feel. And I was also forced to omit several other authors I’d have loved to include – Daphne du Maurier, Ernest Hemingway, Hilary Mantel, H Rider Haggard, to name but a few.

So what do you think of my list? Do any of them appeal to you? Which writers would you like to find time to explore a bit more?

* * * * *

Thanks for your company in year 5 – hope you’ll stick around for year 6.
It should be full of books and chocolate!
(And maybe some more pics from my Heroes’ Gallery if you’re good…)

You never know – maybe one day Robert will visit…

129 thoughts on “Five times Five equals Five

  1. Happy Blogday FF! Can’t quite remember when I found you, a few years back, it’s been a wonderfully rewarding encounter, thank you. Of your five, I have read (and recommend) all Toni Morrison’s books, and only some of the others. I definitely have some McIlvanney and Harris books on my list. Best wishes for a year full of books and chocolate 🥂

    • Thank you, underrunner! I can’t remember when we met either, but I know it was way back near the beginning. So glad we did! 😀 Oh, good to hear Morrison’s other books come recommended. Maybe this will finally give me the push I need to finally get to her. So many great authors with potentially great books out there…

  2. Wow! Amazing stats! Many congratulations on your fifth blog birthday! I love your lists and have read some of the books – all the Robert Harris ones except for Archangel, all of Toni Morrison’s except for Sula and just one of Steinbeck’s – loved Cannery Row. I downloaded East of Eden yesterday for 99p and have a paperback of The Grapes of Wrath (but not read it yet).

    Here’s to many more years of reading your lovely blog – Cheers!

    • Haha – thank you! I love the comments stat – no wonder it sometimes seems as if blogging has taken over my life. 😀 I used to be so much better at following up if I liked one book by an author, and I’d love to get back to that a bit, especially for Toni Morrison! Coincidentally I was doing this list just when the Steinbecks went on sale on Amazon so managed to pick up three of them at £0.99 each – Cannery Row, East of Eden and The Pearl. So I really have no excuse now…

      Thank you! Have a piece of virtual cake! 🎂 😀

  3. Happy birthday! Amazing ratio of comments to posts and I’m sure that’s down to you replying to them all and keeping the conversation going. Sounds like a good plan – I have a load of re-reading I want to do (Anne Tyler in particular) but need to work on the TBR first!

    • Thank you! Haha – I know! I love the comments stat – but I’m one of the lucky ones to have enough free time to make regular visiting and chatting possible. I have no idea how people manage to combine blogging with real jobs. Yeah… the TBR… I decided just to put it out of my mind for a bit while I was doing this post… 😉

      Have a piece of virtual cake! 🎂 😀

    • Thanks, Angela! Always a great excuse to have some of my heroes pop by – virtually, anyway! Aarghhh!! I shall be singing that all evening now… and possibly dancing a bit too… 😀

      Have a piece of virtual cake! 🎂 😀

  4. Dearest Fiction Fan, it’s been a delight to read and joke with you over these five years – I feel I’ve known you for at least ten! You are always a delight, and your cats are firm favourites of mine too. As for your passion for tennis and Darcy, well, we all have our weaknesses. Here is mine. (Not so much as Prince Albert, for some reason – probably the moustache).

    • Aw, thank you! And lovely to “see” you. 🙂 Haha – I know! I never thought I’d stick it out for five years, but it seems to have taken over my life! Have a piece of virtual cake! 🎂 😀

    • Thank you! 😀 Finding the wonderful world of gifs has been one of my bloggy pleasures, and I couldn’t have a birthday without inviting my heroes along, could I? 😉

      Thank you! Have a piece of virtual cake! 🎂 😀

    • Yes, from memory they have very little to do with each other except that they use the same framing device, I think, of being told as if by Zuckerman, Roth’s frequent alter-ego, and are all based in Newark, NJ. I thought all three were great books, although American Pastoral is the one that stood out as the most powerful. But I’m looking forward to re-reading the others with my Great American Novel Quest hat on… 😀

        • I haven’t read the Dos Passos books but looking at the wiki page it does look as if Roth may have been trying to do something similar. Interesting! Over here at least I’d say Roth is by far the better known.

  5. Happy blog birthday, FictionFan! Congratulations! I know that yours is one of my absolute must-stops – every time. May we have many more years of learning from you and chatting! Oh, and don’t think we didn’t notice that Darcy found his way into your post… 😉

    You’ve got a lot of great books there for your challenge. I know what you mean about reading a book – even an excellent one – and not following up. I do that, too.

    • Thank you, Margot! I’ve loved exchanging bookish thoughts with you over the years, even though I hold you directly responsible for the state of my TBR! 😉 Haha – now it wouldn’t be a birthday without Darcy, would it?

      I used to be better at following up pre-blogging, but in the last few years I’ve been introduced to so many great authors by other bloggers… *sighs*. It’s a nice problem to have, though! Here, have a piece of virtual cake! 🎂 😀

  6. Happy blogoversary! Here’s hoping Mr. Darcy and Iron Man will at least stop by for a visit today. It’s your blogoversary after all. 😃

    I read Sula and The Bluest Eye back in college.

    I didn’t realize our blogs were born around the same time! Yay!

    • Thank you, L. Marie! I’ve had my party frock on all day hoping that at least one of my heroes might turn up to take me dancing, but sadly not! Dancing with Iron Man might be uncomfortable anyway though – imagine if he stood on my toes… 😉

      I didn’t know we were twins either! There are a couple of other bloggers I know who started out at the same time too – the stars must have been in bloggy alignment…

      Have a piece of virtual cake! 🎂 😀

    • Thank you! Have a piece of virtual cake! 🎂 😀

      Haha – since there are 102 crime novels on my Murder, Mystery, Mayhem challenge I felt that was probably enough to be going on with… but there are loads of crime authors I’d like to follow up on one day…

    • Thanks, Carol! Yes, we were both part of a little batch of people who all started out around that time, and I think most of them are still going… it must have been written in the stars… 😉

      Have a piece of virtual cake! 🎂 😀

  7. Happy Blogbirthday!
    Like you, I haven’t read much Roth or Morrison, but I’ve read all of McIlvanney. If I had to suggest one, I’d go for Remedy is None, which is quintessential McIlvanney. I’ve also read all of your Steinbeck choices – East of Eden is an all-time favourite – but I was about 13 when I first read it, so I’ll be interested to read what someone who comes to it as an adult.
    I’ve been reading Harris as each book came out – Fatherland is a favourite.
    Wishing you many more years of reviewing.

    • Thank you! I have a horrible feeling you’ve read every single one of my 1000+ posts, so I do apologise! But that’s what sisters are for, eh? 😉

      I already own The Kiln, so that’ll be my next McIlvanney, and I’ll put Remedy is None in the next slot. I can’t imagine why I haven’t read East of Eden, but I’m certain I haven’t. Amazon had a little Steinbeck sale coincidentally as I was doing this post, so I picked up it and a couple of the others. And I’m very much looking forward to Harris’ back catalogue… 😀

      I would offer you a piece of birthday cake, but I know you’d prefer me to eat it for you. Happy to oblige… 🎂 😀

  8. Congratulations on the 5 year achievement. That is awesome.
    One day Rafa will read, George will comment, Tom will follow and Aragorn will view…and Darcy will still get 5 Stars. At least one of them will do the right action. He he he.

  9. Happy Blogiversary! Loved your GIFs, as always! I think Viggo M. has never been as attractive as he was as Aragorn! I love your challenge idea – an excellent way to keep these authors at the forefronf of your mind. It’s so easy to leave a series or an author behind for the shiny new book.

    • Thank you! Have a piece of virtual cake! 🎂 😀

      In truth, it’s Aragorn I’m in love with more than Viggo – he’s never appealed as much to me in any other role. But don’t tell him! Yes, I used to be better at following up on authors but all the shiny new books have distracted me over the last few years. And I really needed to add some books to my TBR… don’t want to run out… 😉

  10. Huge congratulations and I do love the comment about kids visiting when they are supposed to be doing their homework.
    Love the new challenge too – I also have a stack of authors whose back-catalogues I keep meaning to catch up on, only to get waylaid by something else – My top choice as I believe he has five other books, is Pierre Lemaitre whose Blood Wedding and Three Days and a Life were so different from each other but both were awarded the full five stars from me.
    Happy Birthday – you are now ready to go to school and sit in the reading corner 🙂

    • Thank you! Have a piece of virtual cake! 🎂 😀

      Haha – it’s all those Great American Novels – I’m sure they use my reviews for their book reports. Their poor teachers must be baffled by my ramblings… 😉

      I used to be much better at following up on authors but I keep getting distracted by all the new shiny books since I started blogging. So far I’ve managed to avoid getting into Pierre Lemaitre, but they always look very appealing…

      Ooooh!!! Yes!!!! That sounds perfect! I wonder if I’ll still fit on those little stools though…

  11. I have a hefty backlog of emails to wade through after being away for a few days but I had to jump in and read yours, seeing as how important this event is. And wish you a Very Happy 5th Bloggy Birthday, dear FF! I am always impressed by how prolific you are and at such a consistently high standard. Not to mention the pics…. and the cats…. and of course the chocolate…. Oh, and the cake…

    I got very excited to see Steinbeck’s name on your 5 by 5 challenge. Should be very interesting. And I so want to read anything by Toni Morrison. I know you’re going to tempt me – yay!!!

    • Aw, thank you, Sandra! Have a piece of virtual cake! 🎂 😀

      Haha – I’m amazed by how prolific I am too… sometimes I feel blogging has taken over my life! But someone has to keep all those heroes on their toes, and I feel it’s my duty… I’m waiting to see if Darcy pops by to take me out for a birthday dance. *taps foot impatiently* My fall-back position is to dance with Tommy…

      Coincidentally Amazon had a little Steinbeck sale as I was preparing this post, so I picked up a few of them – no excuse now! And I shall do my best to tempt you to Morrison, McIvanney, Harris… 😀

      • How annoying that I missed the Steinbeck sale… though I do have at least 4 of his waiting on my shelves. It’s GoW I need. Anyway, back to the grand catch-up …. The cake’s delicious by the way; that’s going to keep me going when all this snow arrives down here….

        • I reckon you really need to build up gradually to GOW – do a bit of weight-training. It took me about a million years to read and six weeks to write the review!!! I still bear the emotional scars… It’s been snowing up here today too, though not loads. I’m kinda ready for spring now…

          • Oh err – you just made GoW sound very scary! I’ll follow your advice and work up to it 🙂 Still waiting for the snow. Due tomorrow now apparently. Hand in hand with the meteorological first day of spring. Get your Easter bonnet out FF! 😀

  12. Happy Blog Birthday, FF!! While I haven’t been around these parts for all of those five years, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the time I’ve known you and the reviews I’ve read. I can always count on you to add some eye candy, too! As for your new challenge, it sounds most interesting. I’m sure that should keep you out of mischief for a while!

    • Thanks, Debbie! I always think of the old Punchy Family as being some of my earliest blog buddies – it’s been a pleasure to chit-chat with you on your blog and mine over the years and watch you turn from aspiring to published author! Have a piece of virtual cake! 🎂 😀

      Haha – all my challenges added up would equal about three years of reading, I think! Still, what’s life with out a challenge… or Darcy! 😉

  13. Gosh……….Happy Blogging Birthday FF – and though I like your dance, you are looking awfully skinny there. Suggest, to go along with the 5 by 5 you eat 5 by 5 pieces of chocolate. NB that is pieces, not boxes or bars……………..

    It’s kind of nice and surprising to see some gifts of rather nice looking chaps on this blog. I was surprised though, you don’t normally do that. They look very unfamiliar…who are they, ?……..

    • Ah, my very first blog buddy! And pre-blog too! Haha – I do look like I need feeding up, don’t I? Oh… only 5 pieces?? I knew I should have read your full comment before opening the boxes… *wipes chocolate crumbs from chin*

      I know – I don’t understand people who post gratuitous pics of gorgeous men – I’d never do that! These pics are all merely pictorial aids to help illustrate the serious statistical information – my personal PowerPoint presentation. It’s entirely coincidental that they’re all rather yummy…

      Have a piece of virtual cake! 🎂 😀

  14. Happy blog birthday and congratulations on five years of blogging! I love the new challenge – I am also guilty of not following up with back catalogues, so I should really do something like this myself.

    • Thank you! Have a piece of virtual cake! 🎂 😀

      Oh do! I’d love to see your list. I used to be much better at following up on authors, but since I started blogging I find it’s too easy to get distracted by al the shiny new books… nice problem to have, though! 😀

  15. Those are some pretty impressive stats FF, congrats! I like the idea of a year full of books and chocolate too 🙂

    I would love to read more Toni Morrision, nothing she’s ever written has been a disappointment!

    • Haha – the sign of a misspent… ahem… youth! I think someone should invent chocolate books, where you eat the pages after you’ve read them…

      I used to be much better at following up on authors. I loved Beloved so much – can’t believe I’ve still not read any of her other stuff…

      Have a piece of virtual cake! 🎂 😀

  16. Well, maybe it’ll make you feel better to know that none of those guys have ever visited, read, or commented on my blog either. What could be the matter?! 😉
    Great idea for a challenge. I have a hard time getting around to older books by beloved authors, as well. There are just so many books I want to read !
    Happy 5 years, FF! And I hope you’re around for another 5+… I always love reading your posts!

  17. Happy blog birthday, FF! 5 years old! And you don’t look a day over 2 😉 I love your book reviews, as you know, but it’s the chats and the humour that really set you apart from other book review blogs. If I were a student I would definitely come here to cheat at homework and learn the various nefarious ways of the world from the comments section while I’m at it. Here’s to the next five, my friend! x

    • Aw, thank you! *slaps on more wrinkle cream* It’s definitely the comments and general chit-chattiness that keeps me blogging – who cares about the reviews! I know I don’t! I’m lucky to have met a bunch of people who’re willing to come and talk nonsense, of which illustrious company you are a major part – or perhaps a Major General! Will we both still be doing what we’re doing now in five years time? It’s a thought, isn’t it? *reaches for the wine*

  18. Congratulations! Definitely sticking around for year 6. You’re always a pleasure to read and you usually make me laugh so why wouldn’t I? I fancy Imperium. I haven’t read any of his Cicero trilogy but have heard very good things about it.

    • Aw, thank you! Have a piece of birthday cake! 🎂 Yes, I’ve seen loads of positive reviews of the Cicero books and actually own the first one, so you’d think that would make it easy for me to get around to reading it… *sighs and reaches for the emergency chocolate*

  19. Happy 5th blogoversary 😀 And good luck with your five time five challenge – I haven’t read any of these authors, but I have heard good things about Robert Harris’ Cicero trilogy. Happy reading!

    • Thank you! 😀 I even own the first of the Cicero trilogy, so you’d think I could actually get around to reading it, wouldn’t you? Oh well, now it’s a challenge, it’s bound to happen… 😉

  20. Congratulations – I’m glad to have found your blog as it’s always a fun read.
    P.s. Don’t worry about the lack of cake – I’m reducing my waistline in tandem with my TBR (LOL).

    • Thank you! I’m glad you found it too! 🙂

      Haha – but don’t you know that only cakes you buy yourself contain calories? Cakes you’re given are calorie-free… 😉🍩

  21. Happy Birthday, FF! Hard to believe it’s been five years. Your ambition and energy are an inspiration.

    On another note, I have started and stopped often with Roth, including even his GAN. But I loved Everyman.

    • Thanks, Matt! Haha – tell me about it! I can’t believe I’ve spent five years doing this (nearly typed ten years there – a Freudian slip? 😉 )

      I do have mixed feelings about Roth. I’ve also abandoned a couple early on, although I loved all three of the American Trilogy. Unfortunately I can’t remember now which ones I abandoned! I definitely haven’t tried Everyman though, so I’ll bear it in mind if any of the others get thrown at the wall at an early stage…

  22. Congratulations! That is quite an accomplishment. I so enjoy your blog. I came here for crime fiction and never left.

  23. Happy 5th Birthday 🎉!! Gosh, aren’t we getting old? I feel the same as you, sometimes I say in reviews “I must check out this author’s back catalogue,” and never get round of it. I’m blaming the new shiny books that come in to tempt me!! 😉

    • Thank you! I know! We’ll all be going to bloggy primary school soon, though I’m kinda hoping to be home-schooled… 😉 Yep, those new books are fun but they’re pesky nuisances too… you’d think they’d have found a way by now to make us able to read more…

  24. A belated Happy Blogoversary! You will be happy to know that I currently have 5 books on top of the book pile next to my bed that have all been recommended by you. And I bought a Robert Harris book at the library because I knew you like his books so much. 🙂 Here’s to another 5 years!

    • Thanks, TJ! Five??! Good heavens – I think that makes you my best customer! 😉 I do hope you enjoy them all, and the Robert Harris – I’m feeling very flattered now. 😀 I’m also desperate to know which ones they are, so you must either tell me or hurry up and review them all… 😉

      • I wouldn’t be so sure about the “best customer” part. 🙂 I am about to finish The Perfect Pass, and I started Dark Matter. I have The Gowk Storm and His Bloody Project ready. And I gave in and bought the Audible version of Treasure Island. And I think the Harris book is called Archangel. So there… lots to keep me busy. 🙂

        • Oh, some excellent choices there! I haven’t read Archangel yet but it’s on my own list. I’m particularly pleased to hear about The Gowk Storm, since I may make it my life’s mission to get that one better known. 😉 And the Treasure Island audio is brilliant – I do hope it gives you as much fun as it did me! 😀

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