This is nothing to do with painting!
But if, like me, you find more time to read in the winter, I thought you might like a few ideas from books that I have read or re-read this year. I love it when I really enjoy a book and then discover that there are more books available by the same author. So most of these ten recommendations are for not just one but a group of books, some an actual series, others just linked by their being written by the same person.
So here goes! Five fiction first!
Catherine Fox: A trilogy – Angels and Men, Unseen things above, and Realms of Glory. They are set in a cathedral close, and the various vicarages and rectories of the diocese, they are both very funny and moving, although you have to ignore an awful lot of bad language! It helps probably if you have some idea of how the Church of England works. If you enjoy them her three previous novels give the backstory of some of the characters – Acts and Omissions, Love for the Lost and The Benefits of Passion.
Ali Smith: Autumn and Winter. The first two in a quartet of books, I think Spring will be out . . . . in the Spring? Brilliantly written and intriguing.
Jill Paton Walsh: Thrones, Dominions, The Attenbury Emeralds, A Presumption of Death and The Late Scholar. If you like Dorothy L. Sayers Lord Peter Wimsey novels, then these are for you. Jill Paton Walsh carries on the story of Lord Peter and Harriet into their married life, through the second World War, children, changes and chances of fortune . . . She captures the character and mood of the original books with real flair.
Hugh Lupton: The Ballad of John Clare and The Assembly of the Severed Head. The first tells the story of the poet John Clare’s early life, based in fact, but vividly fictionalised and brought to life. The second tells the story of the making of the Mabinogion. Hugh is an internationally acclaimed story teller, and is as gripping on the page as he is in person.
Terry Pratchett: The Tiffany Aching series – The Wee Free Men, A Hat full of Sky, Wintersmith, I Shall Wear Midnight, and The Shepherd’s Crown. These are not really intended as adult books! – but they were recommended to me by my sister who said they had ‘real magic in them’ and she’s quite right – I loved them!
And now five non-fiction:
Mark Cocker: Claxton and Crow Country. Mark Cocker lives in the village of Claxton just south east of Norwich, and the first book is a series of short articles/diary entries about the wildlife in and around his village. He writes with a wonderful mixture of scientific accuracy and lyrical descriptiveness and a deep understanding of the inter-relatedness of the natural world. Bite-sized chunks, easy to dip into! Crow Country is about his obsession with and study of the crow family, particularly rooks, and is absolutely fascinating. He draws you into his own fascination.
Robert Macfarlane: The Wild Places, The Old Ways, Holloway and Landmarks. All encompassing books about the natural world – geology, history, landscape, literature, people, travel, cultures, language, wildlife, botany, trees . . . and written with such style and elegance. If you enjoy them, look out for his next book Underworld coming out in the spring of 2019.
Alexandra Harris: Weatherlands and Romantic Moderns. The first starts from the English preoccupation with weather, and traces ‘weather-worlds of English culture and history’. The subtitle is Writers and Artists under English Skies. I found it fascinating, and Alexandra Harris’ breadth of knowledge is awe-inspiring – and it is shown again in her earlier book, Romantic Moderns, which is subtitled, English Writers, Artists and the Imagination from Virginia Woolf to John Piper. As both Woolf and Piper are of particular interest to me, and I’ve read very widely about both, the subtitle drew me in – and there is a lot here about both, and many others besides!
John Lewis Stempel: The Wood, Meadowlands and The Running Hare. Lewis Stempel writes as an unusually hands-on naturalist, using a wood that he owns, and a meadow that he manages as the subject of these books. All three books are evocative and thought-provoking, demonstrating how land can be managed with the welfare of wildlife in mind, and what a positive impact this can have even in the space of a year.
Bill Goldstein: The World Broke in Two. Subtitled Virginia Woolf, T S Eliot, D H Lawrence, E M Forster and the year that changed literature. A very readable account of the birth of modernist literature.
So that’s it, lovely blog readers, I hope you find something there to enjoy and some quiet time for reading once the business of Christmas is over. Any recommendations of your own? – do share in the comments which you can open by clicking on the post title.
Happy reading! 🙂