Sunday Bulletin – January 13

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Mabel helping me reorganize my shelves.

Hello! I hope you’ve all had a good week. I spent my evenings reorganizing my bookshelves and am not even close to being finished with the project. I got a wild hair last Sunday evening to alphabetize all my novels by author’s last name (they were organized mostly randomly before) and have worked a bit each evening on completing the project. I am only through the J’s as of last night. It has gone a lot slower than I thought it would and my house is a complete wreck! But I have five days off beginning on Thursday and will finish getting them all in order then. How do you organize your books?

Books finished this week: The Stranger Diaries by Elly Griffiths sounded so good when I saw it pop up on Goodreads a few months ago. I was able to get a review copy from the publisher and spent most of the week utterly engrossed by it. However, when I got to the end I wasn’t satisfied. I think I had such high expectations for the book that it was bound to disappoint. The mystery was fine, the characters were okay, and I did like it – it just wasn’t the knockout that I thought it was going to be.

Did you finish anything wonderful this week?

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Sunday Bulletin – January 6

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Happy New Year! I hope you’ve all had a grand start to 2019. I spent mine working and reading and pondering how I want to spend my time this year.

A few times during the past week I found myself making lists of books that I need and want to read in January. And then I tore them all up because I don’t want to conduct my reading life that way in 2019. I want to read one book at a time this year and choose books by whim as I go along – unless it is something I really do have to read for work. I was asked by my boss to lead two book discussion groups at the library beginning this month so I do “have” to read two books a month for work, but as I get to choose the books it shouldn’t be too much of a chore.

Books finished this week:

The Nine Tailors by Dorothy L. Sayers is such a gem! I read Gaudy Night a few years ago and thought it was enjoyable, but I wasn’t interested in reading more of the Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries. Then when I was in the hospital in November and I saw that Miranda from the Tea & Tattle podcast had chosen this for the T & T winter book club I thought it was time to try another one. I liked this one so much better than Gaudy Night. It is set in a small village in the Fens and has a very clever plot, great secondary characters, beautiful (but not too excessive) descriptions of the countryside and a whole lot of information about bellringing, of which I knew nothing and which Sayers manages to make interesting. I can see why this book is a favorite of golden age mystery fans. It’s excellent. I own a couple of the early Wimsey mysteries and I want to read them sometime this year – but I’m not adding them to a list!

Have you read the Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries? Have a wonderful week!

Sunday Bulletin – December 30

IMG_0273.JPGDid you all have a nice Christmas? Mine was a really good day spent with parents, brothers, sisters and many nieces and nephews. Then on Wednesday I was straight back to work for the rest of the week, but it was not very busy so felt like I was still enjoying the holiday!

I’ve spent the past few days thinking about things I want to do and accomplish and learn and undertake in 2019. And naturally that includes things I want to do in my reading life. I want 2019 to be a much better reading year than 2018 has been. I haven’t really loved very many books I read this year and I’ve spent lots of time feeling guilty for reading books that I want to read that are not library books. The guilt has nearly frozen my enjoyment and many times has stopped me from reading anything at all. So I’ve decided that 2019 is going to be my “Year of Reading Selfishly”. Of course, I’ll still read the books I am required to for work, but otherwise I am going to read whatever I want and I’m not going to feel guilty about it in the least. If I want to read Nancy Mitford or Elizabeth Jane Howard or Elizabeth Taylor or Elizabeth Von Arnim, then I am going to. And I am not going to mentally berate myself for reading them though my library doesn’t own any of their books. I’m hoping to return to the pleasure and pure delight of reading by whim.

Do you have any reading resolutions for 2019?

Books finished this week:

None, but I started The Nine Tailors by Dorothy L. Sayers and am loving it so far.

Happy New Year to you all! Have a lovely week.

 

 

 

Operation Read Persephone

 

While pondering my 2017 reading goals the other evening I happened to look up at my bookcase to see the lovely row of dove grey Persephones and the colorful spines of the Persephone Classics that I have shelved together. I’ve been collecting Persephone titles for about 7 or 8 years now and, as happens to the best of us, the collecting has far exceeded the reading of these wonderful books. I recall Nicola Beauman saying in an interview I read (I can’t find the quote) that she hoped that people weren’t just collecting the books but reading them too. In this Guardian interview she says, “That’s all I care about, really, you see: the text, the text, the text.”, when asked about the design she chose for the novels she republishes. And I realized that maybe I have been collecting them just to have them – just out of a sense of pride in owning them, because I haven’t read nearly enough of them to justify their expense!
So – I came to the obvious conclusion that reading the Persephones I currently own should be my goal for 2017. I went to the Persephone website and found the master list of all the titles they’ve published, made a list of all the ones I own and haven’t read and stuck it up at the top of the page (under Operation Read Persephone) to serve as a constant reminder of this goal. Shockingly, I own 26 of the grey darlings that I have not read! The shame! But I will try to remedy that this year.
I decided that I will start with A Very Great Profession by Ms. Beauman herself as it describes her interest in and love for the books she’s chosen to republish. I’m looking forward to not just looking at and enjoying the beauty of these books but to actually honoring their authors by reading what is between the iconic covers.
Do you have a favorite Persephone? What are your reading goals for 2017?

My Top Eleven Books of 2016

 

Last year was the best reading year, numbers wise, that I’ve had in quite a while. I read 66 books (6 over my goal) and am pretty content with the mix of contemporary novels and classic novels that I completed. A lot of my reading was generated by the two “book buzz” presentations that I gave at my library, one in the summer and one in the fall, where I presented 10 buzzy books of those seasons. I’ve not chosen very many of those books, however, as favorites for the year. Most of them were really good and very enjoyable, but not memorable. Classics and books by favorite contemporary authors (like Hilary Mantel) will still always be my favorites.  I was originally only going to have 10 books on my list, but I finished Terms and Conditions by Ysenda Maxtone Graham at the end of December and had to add it to my favorites – it is a little gem. Also, I intended to publish this post around the end of the year, but I had some pesky health issues going on and everything (reading included) fell by the wayside so I am only now sharing my favorites.

Here are my Top Eleven Books of the Year:

Charlotte Bronte: A Fiery Heart by Claire Harman – I really enjoyed this well-written, novelistic biography of the quietly passionate author. It is very detailed about her writing life and about the life of the entire Bronte family – definitely a must-read for Bronte fans.

Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell – I listened to Cranford on my phone and I think it is the perfect classic to enjoy on audio – episodic, funny and heart-warming. It is one of the favorite books that we read in my book club this year.

The Fortnight in September by RC Sherriff – This beautiful novel about a family’s vacation to Bognor Regis was a highlight of my summer. It’s a book that’s not really dramatic or plot-driven – it quietly describes the relationships between parents and their children and the traditions of their yearly trip. Simple and lovely.

Giving Up the Ghost by Hilary Mantel – Mantel’s childhood is opaquely recounted in this dazzling memoir. I always find Mantel’s writing to say as much in what she doesn’t say then in her devastating observations. The combination is so chillingly good. I hope 2017 is the year her third Thomas Cromwell book is published!

LaRose by Louise Erdrich – LaRose is a marvelous book about redemption and justice set on a Native American reservation in North Dakota. Full of wonderful characters and really sensitive writing it moved me to tears several times and made me think so much about forgiveness. I just loved it.

The Light Years by Elizabeth Jane Howard – This is the first novel in the Cazalet Chronicles, the most perfect family saga series. I devoured this book and am now almost finished with the second in the series, Marking Time. I’m sure I will read the entire chronicles this year.

My Antonia by Willa Cather – My Antonia is another book club book and one that I’ve read before. I also listened to this on my phone and appreciated how beautiful Cather’s writing sounds spoken aloud. I find her books, especially this one, to be achingly nostalgic and gorgeous.

News of the World by Paulette Jiles – This short, adventurous novel is what I would call a “literary Western”. It has lovely writing, suspense, great dialogue, a journey, and a heart-warming relationship. I really enjoyed this and recommend it if you are looking for something gripping yet well written to break you out of a reading slump.

The Past by Tessa Hadley – I read this way back at the beginning of 2016 but it has stayed with me throughout the year. I find Hadley’s writing to be so lyrical and the story of a family deciding whether to sell their grandparents’ home or not is riveting. I hope to read more from Tessa Hadley.

Swing Time by Zadie Smith – Reading Swing Time was my first experience reading anything by Zadie Smith and I was stunned by her writing. It’s so vigorous, intelligent and perceptive. And also very moving. I loved this story of two friends and the different paths they take from their childhood on a housing estate in North London.

Terms and Conditions: Life in Girls’ Boarding Schools, 1939-1979 by Ysenda Maxtone Graham – As I mentioned above, I think this is a gem. It is very funny, fascinating and really engrossing. I want to read more about girls’ boarding schools so I’d love if Maxtone Graham next wrote a book about finishing schools (as she mentions she might). I would be first in line for that book!

I hope you’re all having a great start to the new year!

Cover Collection: Lady Audley’s Secret

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Tuesday was one of the most disappointing days of my life – not to mention heartbreaking, maddening and sickening. But after a couple of days of mourning I finally feel somewhat fine thanks to chats with sympathetic friends, intelligent and realistically wary articles (like this one) and just knowing that I am not alone – that millions of people feel the very same way that I do and that we’re not going to be appeased.

And I suppose life goes on, including reading. One of the books I want to read soon is Lady Audley’s Secret. It is currently up for election as one of my book club’s 2017 books for discussion. Voting ends Tuesday so I will know next week if it is selected for us to read or not. If so, I will wait and read it with the group, but if it isn’t selected I want to read it this month. November is my only free month to read what I want before I have to start reading for the next set of presentations I am doing for work, one in March and one in April.

When I do read this novel I will be reading a copy just like that on the top left but I don’t think it’s my favorite from this collection. I really love the drama of the top middle, not to mention the colors – so striking.

Have you read Lady Audley’s Secret? Which cover do you prefer?