My, I was a lucky girl this birthday. Not only did I receive a huge pile of books from various lovely people, but I was also given a wad of book tokens, which I of course immediately went out and spent in their entirety. It’s a non-fiction bonanza this year. Witness:
From John, my beloved, I got two books which he knew I’d been after, plus one excellent guess on his part. Thames: Sacred River by Peter Ackroyd and The Middle Class: A History by Lawrence James he knew I wanted, but he pulled a blinder from left field when he got me Historic London: An Explorer’s Companion by Stephen Inwood. It’s a book of London walking tours divided by type. There’s Dickens’s London, London’s Underworld, and my personal favourite, Historic London Pubs. I fear we may be doing that one first – and soon.
I also received a signed copy of Theatres of Glass by Rebecca Stott, about the woman who introduced aquariums (aquaria?) to London – thank you kindly, Academic Friend Lauren. From my brother I got a book of Aubrey Beardsley drawings, and a collection of Edith Wharton stories called The Ghost-Feeler: Tales of Terror and the Supernatural. I also got, from John’s mum and step-dad, the Norton Critical Edition of Jane Eyre (my favourite book, alongside Mrs Dalloway) and the DVD of the recent BBC adaptation of Little Dorrit – hooray! I have countless editions of Jane Eyre, but I’m a complete geek about it, and love to read all the critical material I can get my hands on about it. So, I was chuffed with that.
Then to the book tokens (thanks mum!). I went a bit mad and spent all of them in one go, and came home with a non-fiction stack of joy: The Discomfort Zone by Jonathan Franzen, Singled Out by Virginia Nicholson – about the thousands of women who lost their husbands etc in the First World War and how they went on to make lives without men – Necropolis: London and its Dead by Catharine Arnold, The Kit-Cat Club by Ophelia Field, 52 Ways of Looking at a Poem by Ruth Padel, and the wonderfully titled An Utterly Impartial History of Britain (or, 2000 Years of Upper Class Idiots in Charge) by John O’Farrell.
Phew! I have no idea at the moment when I’m going to get a chance to read all these, especially as I’m about to dive headfirst into another essay (this time on Thomas Hardy’s poetry), quickly followed by my MA dissertation, which will be 15,000 words on the New Woman writers and motherhood. I’m feeling a bit light-headed just thinking about it all to be honest.
As for my current reading, at the moment I unsurprisingly have my head stuck in a book of Thomas Hardy poems. I’ve also got two more novels to read for class. The first is King Solomon’s Mines by H. Rider Haggard. I fear it might not be My Thing, but the reading list decrees it, so it shall be read. At least it’s short. Finally for the term I have Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad lined up. I have read that one before, back in the dim and distant days of my undergraduate, though I have managed to remember very little about it, other than largely thinking at the time how much I prefered The Secret Agent. I do, of course, have to have a non-university book on the go, otherwise I’d go bonkers, and at the moment it’s Claire Tomalin’s biography of Mary Wollstonecraft. I’m not far into it yet, but she’s such a wonderful writer that I already know that it will be an excellent book to relax with.