War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy – A re-read, because there is so much in this marvellous book that it is worth re-reading it every few years. Except for the philosophy of history bits. They are deadly dull. But the stories of the people are marvellous. Tolstoy has a way of capturing the essence of a scene or a quirk of character in just a few words that makes the book extraordinarily vivid. You should read it.
The Silver Brumby by Elyne Mitchell – Australiana, which I read as a child, and my daughter is reading now. I read it for nostalgia, and to get me through a bout of insomnia.
War Stories for Girls by Jill Atkins, Vince Cross and Sue Reid – Part of the My Story series, which is a fabulous way to introduce children to some history. I could do without the gender split, but aside from that, this is great reading for my girls.
The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood – Continuing my slow love affair with Margaret Atwood’s writing. This is brilliant and disturbing, and tragic. My third time reading this book, and I read it very slowly. I suspect that this is one of those books that I will read again when I’m older, and find more in it.
Nemesis by Hallett Shueard – Oh dear. Turgid doesn’t quite capture it. There was a thriller hidden in this book, trying to break out, but it never made it. Published by Peacock.
Tolstoy: A biography, by A. N. Wilson – A fascinating biography, which was neither hagiography nor viciousness. It made me want to read more works by Tolstoy, especially his short stories. I enjoy A. N. Wilson’s biographies: he combines insight with literary criticism, and does so in a way that shows us why his subject is interesting, and to be admired, without neglecting more problematic aspects of the person. Even so, he doesn’t dwell on his subjects’ faults, but describes them, so that we may understand the people he writes about better.
Middlemarch by George Eliot – I love this book. It’s full of insights into character and motivation and social pressures. I read it very slowly this time, savouring each chapter.
North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell – A coming of age novel. Margaret changes from being a school girl to being a woman who is capable of effecting change herself, set against a background of industrial unrest in a northern manufacturing town.
Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell – The parallels to Mansfield Park are striking, in a quiet critique of social structures and misplaced pride and patriarchal dominance.
The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood – Compelling, and disturbing, and like The Handmaid’s Tale, I suspect it will be even more disturbing in 10 or 15 years time. I’ve become somewhat addicted to Margaret Atwood’s books this year, but I’m taking them very slowly, one at a time, to give myself time to think in between each one.
The Talent Code: Greatness isn’t born. It’s Grown. Here’s how. by Daniel Corn – Practice, and in particular, slow, slow practice, deeply absorbed in the activity. Nothing all that new here, but an interesting enough read.
Magpie Hall by Rachel King – Worth reading, and a fascinating puzzle, but somehow, something didn’t quite grab me in the first chapter. I think there was something in the cadence of the narrator’s voice that wasn’t quite lively enough, didn’t quite pull me in. But I did become absorbed in the mystery, and the historical sequences.
The Book of the City of Ladies by Christine de Pizan – A glorious response by a medieval woman to the common arguments by male writers about the inferiority of women.
Persian Fire, by Tom Holland – A riveting read which has made me want to read more ancient history. Holland makes it all fresh and lively, and fascinating. I was increasingly reluctant to finish the book, wanting to savour it for longer. If you are at all curious about ancient history, then this is an excellent book to read.
The Treasure of the City of Ladies, by Christine de Pizan – Didactic and disconcerting, unless you read it as de Pizan instructing women in ways to subvert the patriarchy.
Fatherland, by Robert Harris – An excellent, and disturbing thriller. We borrowed a copy from friends in New Zealand, and I’m not sure that they’re going to get it back.
Lustrum by Robert Harris – The easiest way to learn a little bit of history: read an historical novel! Slow for the first half, but excellent in the second, and a very good successor to Imperium.
Galileo’s Dream by Kim Stanley Robinson – A fascinating portrait of Galileo, and intriguing metaphysical speculation about time travel. The futuristic sections are just a little ‘meh’ but the historical sections are excellent.
Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood – Again, a first time read. It took me a while to get into it, but then it became compelling, and distressing.
The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver – I loved this book, and I cried as I turned the last page, for its beauty and sadness and love and hope.
Stephanie Alexander’s Kitchen Garden Companion by Stephanie Alexander – Inspirational, helpful and comprehensive.
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood – The first time I have read this book. It was compelling, and frightening, even more so now than it may have been when first published.
The 2 1/2 Pillars of Wisdom by Alexander McCall Smith – Very, very funny, especially for academics, both current and former.
A Thousand Splendid Suns, by Khaled Hosseini – Moving.
Rubicon, by Tom Holland – The way I like history: digestible, entertaining, well-written and reasonably rigorous.
Recorded in order of reading, and grouped into months based on when I finished each book.