Seasonal Reading

Oh, isn’t it lovely outside with all the leaves turning various shades of burnt amber and the sky being a beautiful azure blue and the sun still shining even though it is very nearly October? How I love the changing seasons. England might be a rubbish place to live a lot of the time as it does rain considerably more than in other places (except for Scotland, and Seattle, apparently) but one thing it does do well is clearly delineating between seasons. In our green and pleasant land you know when it’s Autumn, and then when it’s Winter, and then when it’s Spring, and then when it’s Summer. I find this reassuring. I enjoy structure. This is why I work in an office.

I also like reading seasonally. There are certain books that evoke a particular season for me, perhaps because the first time I read them was during that time of year, perhaps because the action is set in that season, or perhaps just because they give me the feeling I associate with certain months. Some I have discovered fairly recently, and will be re-reading at the same time next year, others are old favourites that I always pull out for a comfort read, year after year.

There’s nothing like curling up with Jane Eyre beside my mum’s fire while the wind and rain lash against her lovely French windows and I am all safe inside, reading about Thornfield and the wild moors and Jane hearing Rochester’s cry on the wind… there is also nothing like sitting outside in the summer with the sun on my back and the delicious smell of roses in the air, reading about Emma matchmaking amongst the shrubbery. When I read The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie I can smell pencil shavings and feel the excitement of a new school term, and imagine walking to school through the park, kicking up the golden leaves….it is pure autumn to me. And The Secret Garden is my ultimate spring book; the time of year when all is coming alive again, when hope springs eternal, when the sun is back and new plans are made, the story of Mary and Colin and their transformation from surly sickly things into healthy robust funloving children is wonderful and always gives me a real feeling of being revived after a long, cold and often dull winter.

Some of my favourite seasonal reads:

Autumn

Persuasion by Jane Austen

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark

Unless by Carol Shields

The Brimming Cup by Dorothy Canfield

Winter

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

Possession by A S Byatt

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak
Spring

The Enchanted April by Elizabeth Von Arnim

Illyrian Spring by Ann Bridge

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

The Pursuit of Love by Nancy Mitford

Summer

Emma by Jane Austen

The Go Between by L P Hartley

Tender is the Night by F Scott Fitzgerald

Goodnight Mister Tom by Michelle Magorian

Do you have any books that you associate with certain seasons? Comfort reads that you return to at the same time of the year, every year? Or is it just me? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

**Edited to add, for all interested parties: The Children’s Book is progressing well…nearly 200 pages in and I am enjoying it immensely! Just a shame there are another 400 pages to go!**

Jumping on the Bandwagon


Everyone’s doing this BBAW Reading Meme and as my life is dull now I’ve finished reading my review copy of Her Fearful Symmetry and I haven’t finished my current read, Little Boy Lost, I haven’t got anything interesting to blog about today. So this will have to do!!

Do you snack while you read? If so, favorite reading snack?

Do I snack while I read…interesting question. If I’m hungry, yes. Reading wouldn’t prevent me from eating at the same time, but I wouldn’t specifically say I set out to read a book and then make something in particular to eat while I’m doing so. However I do throughly enjoy having a nice cup of tea to sip while I read.

Do you tend to mark your books as you read, or does the idea of writing in books horrify you?

I wrote all over my university books, but that’s because I knew they would be so dogeared and disgusting by the time I’d finished with them that they’d be going straight into the recycling anyway. And don’t judge me for this, they were only Wordsworth Classics! Otherwise, no. I would jump in front of a bus to prevent a book from being defaced, and that is no exagerration. It would have to be a slow moving one though, writing in books isn’t worth dying over.

How do you keep your place while reading a book? Bookmark? Dog-ears?

Never dog ears! They ruin a book! When I read a Persephone I always use the matching book mark but otherwise it’s whatever is around…usually a receipt or a train ticket or a ripped bit of newspaper, anything I can find. I do have a few bookmarks but I tend to leave them inside the books I finish and then I can’t remember which book they’re in!

Laying the book flat open?

Heavens, no! A creased spine is a painful sight.

Fiction, Non-fiction, or both?

A bit of both, really. I like a good biography, diaries, letters, etc, as well as general history books, but I don’t read nearly as much of them as I would like to as they take me a while to read and they also tend to be big unwieldy things that I can’t really take on the train. Fiction will always be my main material.

Hard copy or audiobooks?

I’ve tried and I just can’t get on with audiobooks. I drift off and before I know it I’ve missed a whole chapter. Hard copy suits me down to the ground, plus I love the look and smell and feel of books.

Are you a person who tends to read to the end of chapters, or are you able to put a book down at any point?

Ideally I will read to the end of a chapter just because it gives a nice sense of roundness but most of the time I have to shut up shop wherever I am, even be it midsentence, as most of my reading is done on public transport and if I’m at my stop, I’ve got to stop reading and get off!

If you come across an unfamiliar word, do you stop to look it up right away?

I’d like to say yes, but no. If I remember I’ll look it up later, but most of the time I just skip over it and guess what it means.

What are you currently reading?

Little Boy Lost by Marghanita Laski in a gorgeous Persephone Classics edition. It’s excellent!

What is the last book you bought?

I bought lots at the same time – see my post here.

Are you the type of person that only reads one book at a time or can you read more than one at a time?

I used to read several at a time but then it just got confusing so now I just stick to one. If a book is boring me enough to make me want to intersperse it with another then I’ll just stop reading it. Life’s too short to plough on with a dull book.

Do you have a favorite time of day and/or place to read?

I love to read in bed. My most indulgent reading times are on Saturday mornings when I don’t have to get up and can sit in my warm cosy bed with a cup of tea and some biscuits and read for a good hour uninterrupted. My other favourite reading time and place is in my mum’s living room on a Sunday afternoon, curled up on her comfy sofa with the fire on. Preferably in winter, preferably with Jane Eyre in my hands.

Do you prefer series books or stand alone books?

Stand alone. There’s nothing worse than spending a week of your life reading a book that doesn’t have a conclusion. It makes me feel so cheated.

Is there a specific book or author that you find yourself recommending over and over?

Yes, I constantly recommend Rosamond Lehmann and Dorothy Whipple because I think they are criminally underread.

How do you organize your books? (By genre, title, author’s last name, etc.?)

I don’t! They go wherever they fit. It makes life interesting.

Charity Shop Loot

I went out on my lunch break today to Brompton Road, ostensibly to buy a dress for a wedding I am going to on Saturday, but somehow I returned back to my office with no dress and a bag full of books. Such is life.

I managed to find, for £2, a pristine copy of The Tortoise and the Hare, which I have been wanting to read since I read dovegreyreader’s marvellous review (and there is another good review from The Times here). The cover leaves a lot to be desired; I really am quite ambivalent about these chick lit covers Virago seems to be using for its re-released Modern Classics; I understand that they’re trying to reach a larger readership and encourage people who wouldn’t ordinarily pick up a Virago author to try something new, but I do wish they wouldn’t try and make every book they publish look like a light and frothy beach read. If I hadn’t have known the true content of The Tortoise and the Hare, I would have dismissed it straight away just by looking at the cover. This would have been the same of my next find; a completely unread looking copy of Jane and Prudence with a bubble gum bright cover depicting two fashionably dressed ladies that lunch, priced at £3 and which will be my first Barbara Pym. I’m rather excited by this one as the blurb is enticing indeed and Philip Larkin said ‘I’d sooner read a new Barbara Pym than a new Jane Austen’, and if Philip Larkin is a fan, I am sure I will be! I was prepared to leave with just these when a lovely hardback of The Spare Room, which I have heard many great things about, caught my eye – £4 only and it slipped into my arms along with the others. I took my first step on to the staircase that would lead me to the ground floor and the till when another book managed to jump off the shelf and into my already full hands; Black Diamonds, a book I sneaked a peek at over someone’s shoulder on the tube a few months ago and it looked marvellous – all about the fall of an eccentric British dynastic family who made their money from coal in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

Then I got back to my office and a colleague gave me a copy of The Journal of Dora Damage, which she is finished with and says I will love (it still surprises me that people are willing to just give away books to other people…maybe I need to get more selfless when it comes to sharing my books). It’s set in Victorian London and is all about a woman called Dora whose family run a bookbinder’s business and when the business gets in trouble she becomes involved in a web of deceit and crime in order to help her family. Sounds wonderful and will probably fit in nicely with the ‘Sensational September’ challenge you’ll read more about below.

So all in all a very good haul for someone not intending to buy any books today, but it now just increases my TBR pile even further, and so the pressure to reduce the pile by reading ever faster. I am going to put this in writing so I actually do it – this month I WILL READ AND FINISH THE CHILDREN’S BOOK. It needs to be read and I need to stop being such a wuss about having to plough through 600 odd pages of the intensity that only A S Byatt can produce and just get on with it. So I shall. I will clear my diary for a few evenings and just sit in and read and I will get it done in no time. There is nothing to be scared of! Nothing at all!

On top of this I have just found Simon at Savidge Reads’ blog and on it he has a Sensational September challenge; a month of reading late Victorian ‘sensation’ novels; the sort that Sarah Waters’ best sellers are based on. This is the perfect excuse to finally get my copies of East Lynne and No Name read, so they will also go on to the TBR pile.

And finally, I got home from work tonight to find two very welcome parcels on the doormat; my win from FleurFisher’s blog draw, Little Boy Lost, which is beautiful and also came with a lovely card depicting Penzance, which was so thoughful. So thank you very much Jane! I also received a book I ordered from Oxfam online the other day, The Peachgrower’s Almanac, which is known as A Proper Education for Girls in the US, and which I read about a while ago and desperately wanted to read, partly because the cover is so beautiful, and also because it sounds like such a fun read!

So clearly I am going to have a busy month, reading wise. I am currently ploughing my way through Daphne Du Maurier’s Hungry Hill and loving every minute of it; it will probably take me until the weekend to finish though, so a review won’t be coming until then.

A Fish Called Tony

Some sad news to report today, my book loving friends.

Last night my flatmate and I returned home to find a terrible sight awaiting us. Our fish, Tony, was floating upside down on top of his water, the life gone from him, never to delight us with his swimming again. After the initial screaming, flapping of hands, cries of distress, and searching for a suitable vessel to transfer Tony from his tank to his toilet shaped watery grave, we were left bereft as Tony, the only man in our lives to never have caused us a moment’s distress except for in his passing, disappeared down the drain.

Tony was a fine fish, a stoic survivor of house moves and accidentally polluted water; of occasional, wholly unintentional neglect; of too much sunshine. He swam on when his friends gave up and ate each other; he didn’t complain when his food came a few days late. He asked for little and gave much joy; he was a faithful fish to us. I hope that he enjoyed his time swimming gently in a tank with some plastic plants for company and a view of a suburban living room as his entertainment.

RIP, Tony. You will swim forever in my heart.

On the plus side, I found out I won the Persephone Week prize for my post last week. The prize is a copy of A London Child of the 1870s and I am just over the moon. It has cheered me up immensely and I am so grateful to both Claire and Verity for awarding it to me. Thank you ladies!

Book Addiction

A couple of days ago I read with envy that Nan over at Letters from a Hill Farm had pledged to not buy or borrow any books for 12 months. Instead, she was going to read the books she already had that she had never read. Seven months on she is still going strong apart from one trip to the library and I am seriously impressed with this. So impressed that it made me take a Long Hard Look at my own book buying antics. And I didn’t like what I saw.

I am a book buying addict. I earn a fairly small salary for someone supporting themselves in London, and I spend far too much money on books I don’t need. I don’t need more books because I have literally hundreds stacked up around my flat waiting to be read. I know I don’t need any more books and I know that I could probably go for two years without buying anything new and still have enough books to read, but somehow I just can’t stop buying more books. Part of the problem is that I love reading book blogs and seeing what other people are reading and what they recommend. I look up these books on amazon and then I see the ‘other people who bought these books bought…’ section and then before I know it I have another fifteen books on my wishlist. In fairness I only really ever buy books used from charity shops or second hand book shops, as I don’t really like new books anyway, so they don’t cost me much individually, but lately I have been stockpiling at the rate of knots and as my mother always says, all those pennies soon add up.

But I just can’t help myself. I can’t see a used bookshop or a charity shop without going in to browse. I plan days out to specific places solely because I know they have good book shops. I take detours on my way home so that I can just ‘pop’ in to the book shops on Charing Cross Road and end up spending an hour in there, never failing to come out with something I just ‘had’ to have. I get excited and a little bit breathless when a book I have wanted for a long time is sitting there for £1.99 on a shelf, waiting to be taken home and loved, and finding that book makes me even more anxious to go back again, and soon, because if I found that book, I might find this book, and so on. I am obsessed and addicted and it needs to stop.

Yesterday I decided I wasn’t going to buy any more books until I had read all of the ones I currently have. And yet today I went to Oxfam Books on Gloucester Road during my lunchbreak and bought two books. I felt so ashamed as I walked out with my two new purchases burning a hole in my bag, and I knew full well I shouldn’t have gone in, but I just couldn’t help myself.

I have a problem! But it’s ok because the first step of breaking an addiction is acknowledging that the addiction exists. I hold my hands up and say I am addicted and I want to stop buying books so that I can read all of the perfectly wonderful books I have already bought and have callously left unopened on my shelves while I feed my insatiable desire for MORE BOOKS!

So I am making this public. As of today no more book buying. The Read My Own Books project starts today. I can do this. I must be strong!!! Of course, though, book shaped gifts will still be gratefully received….