What is on your reading shelf?

I often have more than one book on the go at once. Depending on my mood and mental state, I will choose one or the other each night. At other times, I am drawn deeply into a book and must, must read it without pause. At times, to slow down my eagerness to know how a book ends, I will read the last chapter to stop the anxiety and slow down the reading process. It has never worried me knowing how a book ends, if it is a good read!

These are the books I am currently juggling. I am afraid I am not a great reader of fiction, though I have been drawn to fiction of the nineteen thirties and forties in recent months. I know – a librarian who doesn’t like fiction. I blame my undergraduate degree – to much analysis and deconstruction!

Lives Like Loaded Guns: Emily Dickinson and Her Family’s Feuds by Lyndall Gordon

Emily Dickinson is regarded as one of the greatest poets of all time, but she has come to us as an odd and helpless woman living a life of self imposed seclusion. Lyndall Gordon sees instead a volcanic character living on her own terms and with a steely confidence in her own talent; a woman whose family feuded over a hothouse of adultery and devastating betrayal and a woman who had her own secret. After her death the fight for possession of Emily and her poetry became the feud s focus. 

Mistress of the Monarchy: The Life of Katherine Swynford, Duchess of Lancaster by Alison Weir

The life and times of the remarkable woman who was mistress and eventually the wife of John of Gaunt, duke of Lancaster, third son of the charismatic and accomplished king of England, Edward III. Through John and Katherine Swynford (1350–1403) descended centuries of British sovereigns, including Queen Elizabeth II.


At the peak of her fast-paced career as a news presenter and interviewer Selina Scott bought a house in the Tramuntana hills of Mallorca. It was a dilapidated old farmhouse without even mains electricity or water, but the beauty and peace of the surroundings promised an idyllic escape from her high-pressure job and unwelcome tabloid attention

Corvus: A Life with Birds by Esther Woolfson

Esther Woolfson’s daughter rescued Chicken, a fledgling rook sixteen years ago. Amazed by their intelligence and personalities, Woolfson became fascinated by corvids. Chicken, Spike the magpie, and, most recently, Ziki the Crow, have formed sibling relationships with Woolfson’s daughters and with each other; cached food in her kitchen wall and laid eggs in her living room; called to her at dawn, and perched companionably on her knee of an evening; and taught her more than she ever expected about birds and about human beings.

Merry Hall by Beverley Nichols

An unusual gardening book that discusses flowers and gardens in a non-fictional novel format, telling the story of a deserted garden that is transformed into a paradise

11 thoughts on “What is on your reading shelf?

  1. I have a bio of Charlotte Bronte written by Lyndall Gordon. I haven’t finished it, but I’ve enjoyed as much of it as I’ve read.

    I also have never gotten over my literature major habit of reading several things at once. Atlhough I do prefer fiction to non-fiction. At the moment I’m in the middle of some Tolkien, Conan Doyle, Michael Innes, and Jasper Fforde.

    What kind of 30s and 40s books do you like? That’s the Golden Age mystery heyday. Or if you prefer funnier stuff, there’s always Wodehouse or E.F. Benson.


    • I just ordered the E.F. Benson, Mapp and Lucia novels. I have read most of Wodehouse and of course Christie, years ago. Recently I have read The Diary of a Provincial Lady by E.M. Delafield, and Excellent Women by Barbara Pym.

      I love reading biographies of women who lived in the late 19th century and first half of the 20th century and I think that naturally leads to reading fiction from that era.


      • If you like that kind of bio, you’d love “A Lady’s Life in the Rocky Mountains” by Isabella Lucy Bird. It’s a collection of letters she wrote to her sister during a six-month journey through Colorado Rockies in 1873. I read it in college, and it was fascinating. Of course, living a stone’s throw from the Rocky Mountains made it more personal, but it would still have been good if it had been a place I’d never been. (And I believe she has other books, because she traveled extensively.)

        Also, if you enjoyed Christie, you might also enjoy Dorothy Sayers, Ngaio Marsh, and Michael Innes. (And maybe Margery Allingham. Other people include her in with the Golden Age “greats” but I personally loathe her books.)


  2. Business in Great Waters – The U Boat Wars 1916-45 by English historian John Terraine who also wrote an appreciative biography of Australian nemesis Gen. Douglas Haig. Also Bernard Salt’s latest on the what is happeninging to Australia’s population demographics as the Baby Boomers retire. Several others I’ve dipped into – i.e. read the inro and am waiting to start. I try to get them finished, but occasionally I find something too hard (or just lose interest)


    • I no longer stick with a book I don’t enjoy. Once I would have read it because that was the “right” think to do. No more – life is too short and there is so much to read. I always enjoy Salt’s writing and his interviews.


  3. I’ve never been one to read more than one book at a time, unless you count Vanity Fair. When that comes in, whatever I’m reading sits by the wayside until I’ve gotten through the magazine.
    Hubby helped me create a “What I’m Reading Now” widget in my sidebar, with a pic and link to Amazon. It’s been fun. I just update it when I start anything new…


    • I used to read just one thing at a time, and I often still do, but I find that different moods mean I enjoy some books more than others at various times. It does more justice to the book and the writer if at least I am in the right mood to read the work!


  4. I was just thinking yesterday or the day before that I can really only read one book at a time. But, it depends. I’ve done it a couple times and I was actually thinking I could do it with the Dexter series I’m reading, because I can fly through one of those in 2 or 3 days (less if I really have the opportunity to sit and read for as long as I like). But I’ve been reading the Dexter series by Jeff Lindsay (just finished the 2nd one, have to get my hands on the rest, I will probably see if the library has them) and James Ellroy, I finished My Dark Places last week and started L.A. Confidential last night. I can really only focus on one thing at a time, or else I will start mixing up characters and plots between books (unless of course I had 2 completely different types of books).
    That book about the birds sounds really interesting!


    • I think the trick is to have very different and distinct books, or genres. Otherwise, as you mention, one runs the risk of total confusion. No use if one has to back track to clear things in your mind all the time!
      If it is something that really pulls me in I will neglect all other things and read and read until the end. And then be miserable that the experience is over.
      The older I become, the more I am enthralled by birds.


  5. I have a book going about Victorian jewelry, as well as ‘The Guns of August’ by Barbara Tuchman…and I’ve just purchased a photography book that deals solely with birds’ nests as well as a contemporary illuminated picture book called ‘I Wonder’. It deals, as far as I understand, on the depth and importance of those two little words.

    ‘Mistress of the Monarchy’ sounds like a good one – an important, but sadly unemphasized, point in English history.


  6. At this point of time not much. I am browsing through the shelves of the family and right now I am carrying around Bill Bryson’s ‘The lost continent’ and ‘Neither here nor there’. Then again I’ve been reading this for almost 2 year, since I started it at the visit when my cousin got married. 😛


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