Posted by: Kirsty | February 18, 2009

Birthday Books

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:

inwood1From 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.



  1. Kirsty, congratulations on all those wonderful books. I am working my way through 52 Ways of Looking at a Poem by Ruth Padel at the moment (yes, one poem each week) and am really enjoying reading poetry again. It had been decades since I last immersed myself in a poem and this book was just the right one to get me going again.

  2. Happy Birthday and what lovely books.

  3. Whoot! What a great haul of books. Theatre of Glass is a great book – I am a Rebecca Stott fan. (Her femme fatale book about fin de siecle is great). Also I have Singled Out from my last birthday – I really must read it. Good Luck with Heart of Darkness and Rider H for class! (I’m also a big geek about buying different versions for notes, I’m about to buy the World’s Classics Reissue of origin of the species because it has Gillian Beer doing the notes and pretty cover!!)

  4. Great selection Kirsty and your diss. subject almost makes me want to write one myself! Are you going for Charlotte P-G (don’t miss What Diantha Did) and Kate Chopin? Did the Vicars idea go down the drain or did I get that wrong?

  5. Ah, the vicars have been and gone, that was the Christmas essay! Next essay is the Hardy poems, and then the dissertation. Definitely hoping to get CPG in there after revelling in the recent Virago collection. Looking forward to reading The Heavenly Twins by Sarah Grand too.


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