‘Tis the season…

… for gifting!

This year I took part in the Persephone Secret Santa, courtesy of Claire at http://www.paperback-reader.co.uk/

I love giving (and receiving!) gifts – especially books, and Persephone’s rare and beautiful classic novels are just the perfect gifting material. I fell in love with Persephone books recently (again courtesy of Claire) and up until last week the below three books were the only Persephones I owned (still – yes, you guessed it – courtesy of Claire). Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day is still by far the best book I’ve read in years.

Now, thanks to co-organiser Verity of http://cardigangirlverity.blogspot.com/ I am the proud owner of Mariana by Monica Dickens and can’t wait to curl up in a corner, cosied-up beneath blankets and cardigans, and become lost in another world. Verity also sent me a gorgeous advent calendar (and mini jigsaw!) featuring book covers, and it has been the envy of all around me at work, hung beside my desk! Thank you, Verity!

And this may give away the “Secret” nature of the “Secret Santa” game entirely, but I must apologise (again) for the fact that my recipient is, in fact, not yet a recipient. Christmas is glorious, but also prone to be riddled with disasters – including locking oneself out of one’s house!

Merry Christmas to all (and Persephone book lovers in particular)

“I’ll Pheeze You, In Faith”

Another year; another pile of books. Quite a lot of these seem to have been carried over from the last pile. Don’t think I’m doing very well here. However, one of my surely ill-fated New Year’s Resolutions is to read books of different genres (i.e. less classic, historical, romantic fiction). So here we have a non- fiction memoir about a woman’s battle with breast cancer; an Italian novel in translation, recommended by Nick Clegg (!);  a very funny satire of Dr. Johnson, sprung to fame from an anonymous twitter account; a classic I claim to know merely because I’ve seen and love the West End musical; admittedly, an historical classic (Fowles), but one I incurred a huge library fine for before acquiring my own copy and am thus determined to get beyond chapter 2; a Man Booker shortlisted novel written in a new and innovative style far outside my comfort zone; Birdsong, which I’ve put off reading for too long and want to read so that I can go see the new stage show; and yes, another craft book so that I can annoy my family still further by leaving thread and scraps of material around the house! And then there’s a novel I read in proof form that I’m very much looking forward to seeing out in hardback later this year…

Any New Year reading challenges on the horizon for you? Maybe this year will even be the year I finish a Russian Tolstoy classic! (Pigs flying?!)

“I Learn in this Letter…”

Since university I have done very little reading. The weeks after my finals I think I did none at all. Then, over the lazy summer months I read nothing but trash- quick and easy, but highly enjoyable, fictional trash. Novels I didn’t have to analyse so could just guiltily inhale in the knowledge that the plots were predictable but fun, and that my professors would scorn me – but from a distance, as they had no power over me anymore. Georgette Heyer, Philippa Gregory, Sharon Penman, J K Rowling (again)… Once I’d recovered from the worry that my English Literature BA had killed my love of reading, my ability to endure it and stick with somewhat not always likeable characters for more than 300 pages, and the perseverance to resist the tempting face of other pastimes – such as rather interesting television, I began to rack up bills in bookshops, buying more varied modern classics, poetry, even non-fiction. Whilst I was reading Dickens, Gaskell, Hardy, Shakespeare, Tolstoy (ok, so maybe I didn’t actually ready Tolstoy), the Man Booker prize winners and nominees passed me by (until I bought Hilary Mantel for my mother for Christmas and she raved about it for weeks). I finally discovered Margaret Atwood and devoured The Handmaid’s Tale in 48 hours. It was completely not what I expected, but it gripped me and wouldn’t let go, which was exactly what I needed. I’ve since bought The Penelopiad and am hoping it will be just as rewarding. The Reluctant Fundamentalist followed suit, thought-provoking and fast-moving, its ending left me undecided and challenged, if not a little confused. But because I didn’t have to discuss it for hours in a seminar, I revelled in it and moved on. I’m a sucker for pretty hardbacks (I’m afraid I do quite often judge a book by its cover) so bought The Diary of a Provincial Lady for its gorgeous floral front, without knowing much more about it than the review in the shop, but read it travelling to and from London on the train whilst working for Dorling Kindersley, its epistolary, epilogue style being perfect for commuter journeys. Brideshead Revisited kept me in touch with more “classic” classics and made me nostalgic for university (and long gone eras) and I acquired The Misanthrope after seeing the recent stage production with Damian Lewis and Keira Knightley. Currently I’m buried deep within Angela Carter’s Fairy Tales, luxuriating in the fact that they echo a childlike feeling within me and yet they’re oh so grown up. And I am once again excited about the fact that I have lots of books to read…

(“Much Ado About Nothing”)