Simon from Stuck in a book tagged me for this meme earlier this week. The idea is to close your eyes, choose 10 books at random from your shelves & write about them – where they came from, what they say about you. Well, I cheated a little. As my blog is new, I thought I would deliberately choose 10 books with my eyes open to describe my reading life over the past 30 years so that visitors have a better idea of who I am & what this blog is going to be about. The other point is that these are only the books I’ve kept. I’ve weeded hundreds of books from my collection over the years. So, there’s now no evidence of my passion for historical fiction – all those Jean Plaidys & Victoria Holts have long gone. All my school & university textbooks have gone unless I really enjoyed reading them, so only a few classic novels made the cut. So, here’s the list from the books I own now.
The Penguin Book of First World War Poetry – I’m fascinated by the writers of WWI. Owen, Sassoon, Gurney, Rosenberg. This anthology, edited by Jon Silkin, has a lengthy introduction putting the work & the writers in context.
The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey – a tribute to my love of history & classic crime fiction. I’ve read this book at least a dozen times. It sparked a passion for Richard III that I’ve modified over the years & led to joining the Richard III Society & reading widely about medieval England.
William : an Englishman by Cicely Hamilton – Well, there had to be a Persephone! This was one of the first Persephones I bought. As I said in a previous post, Persephone has been my most important literary discovery of the last 10 years.
Nicholas & Alexandra by Robert K Massie – I first read this in one of my Dad’s Readers Digest abridged volumes. They came out every month with 4 abridged books in each volume. I read the abridged version over & over again until I came across this copy in a bookshop in the mid 70s. It lead to a fascination with Russian history which was also sparked by a children’s book which I borrowed from the school library & read many times & have never seen since, The Youngest Lady in Waiting by Mara Kay, about a young girl at the court of Nicholas I during the Decembrist revolt.
Selected poems by John Donne – One of my favourite poets. This could have just as easily have been Byron, Keats or Emily Dickinson. This slim Penguin has travelled with me & been read & reread many times. I don’t read as much poetry now as I used to but Donne is a fond memory, especially the songs & sonnets.
Testament of Youth by Vera Brittain – I remember reading this book over Easter, it must have been around 1980 as this copy has a still from the TV series on it. I was totally absorbed in this wonderful book. Vera’s experiences in WWI & the loss of so many of her loved ones made a deep impression on me. It started my love of the writing of the period, not just the war but the between-the-wars period when it was written. I’ve since read Vera’s diaries & some of her fiction. An inspiring woman.
Ladies in Waiting by Dulcie M Ashdown – Another historical book. This is here because it was one of the first books I remember saving up to buy. I had to go into the city several times a year as a child to see an eye specialist. There was a bookshop on Collins St & I would go in each time & look longingly at this book, saving up & always hoping it would still be there. I finally bought it. It cost all of $14.95, but it was the mid-70s & I had to save my pocket money.
South Riding by Winifred Holtby – There also had to be a Virago in the pile. I’ve been reading Viragos since the compaby began & discovered so many favourite writers between the beautiful green covers. Besides Vera & Winifred, there’s Elizabeth Taylor, Elizabeth Von Arnim, Rosamond Lehmann. The list goes on.
Now, the list wouldn’t be complete without a couple of titles from the tbr shelves.
The Diary of a Country Parson by James Woodforde – This is a beautiful Folio Society edition. I’ve been a member of the Folio Society off & on over the years. Their books are always beautifully produced & illustrated. I love journals & letters & I will get to the parson one of these days.
Kristin Lavransdatter by Sigrid Undset – My dear friend Dani at A Work in Progress read this a couple of years ago, wrote about it so persuasively that I bought this gorgeous Penguin edition with every intention of reading it immediately & haven’t started it yet.
So that’s the list. I could have chosen another 10 books quite easily. It would be interesting to do a list just from the tbr shelves. Why did I buy it? Do I have any real intention of ever reading it?? There’s always my retirement, I suppose.