I guess the best place to start is with what I've been reading during this year.
The year took off when I discovered Rosamund Lehmann, who had somehow passed me by as a teenager. I stumbled across Dusty Answer at the tail end of 2008 and was hooked. From there it was a short step to Invitation to the Waltz and all of her other writings. I rushed into work to see what we had by her (my library has an English literature section) and was astonished to see that we didn't have anything, and in fact, we were very short of any 20th century English writers. I discovered the Virago website and tried to rectify some of the gaps. After that I started to read other Virago authors as so many were from the same period as Lehmann. I tried Sylvia Townsend Warner (loved Lolly Willowes), Elizabeth Taylor (started with Angel, and was absolutely addicted, so had read her complete works by March), Rebecca West (not so much of a hit), and Barbara Pym. I'd read Pym's autobiography previously, but none of her fiction, and found her absolutely hilarious. I'd like to say that I've read all of Pym now, but I've still got two to go (Excellent Women and Some Tame Gazelle), and I'm saving them as I can't bear the thought of only being able to reread her. It was interesting reading so many Virago authors together, especially when I realised that two of my existing favourite authors - Daphne Du Maurier and Antonia White, were also published by Virago.
The other publishing house that I have been using as inspiration, has been Persephone. Persephone published neglected classics, in beautiful grey softback bindings with exquisite endpapers. I'd read a couple of these volumes back in 2004 (Saplings and Family roundabout), but they were suddenly brought to my attention by Amazon and their "other customers bought this". I have a slight confession to make with regard to Persephone books, I haven't read all of them in the Persephone edition; the public library had a number of the original books stored in the depths of the library. But I loved the Dorothy Whipple books, and decided that I liked their ethos so much that I wanted to read all of the 80+ books. So, quite a lot of books on my to-be-read shelves are Persephone books.
Persephone aren't the only publishers bringing out old books for today's audience. I've got a set of the GreyLadies books (on my to-be-read bookshelves) which I'm looking forward to immensely, especially the Noel Streatfield ones, and I've just placed orders for some titles from Bloomsbury coming out in August (search for "Bloomsbury group" on www.bloomsbury.com) which I'm really excited about.
I'm digressing from "what I have been reading about" to "what I will be reading" which is going to be the subject of another post.
I've also read a lot of Hilary Mantel this year (who deserves a post of her own), and quite a lot of chick lit (I'm not ashamed of it, I like to read something completely non stressful before I go to sleep), and also Rebecca Shaw (who writes primarily for a middle aged audience (my Mum is a fan) about a village called Turnham Malpas, which are non challenging and surprisingly addictive - a more up to date, and a bit like Miss Read, but without the social historical interest).
I've read some non fiction too - I enjoyed the Played in Britain book "Great Lengths" about indoor swimming pools (although not as much as Liquid Assets, about Lidos) and the Played in Britain book about Birmingham (interesting reading about the Cadburys). I've also read a number of books about stomach problems in an attempt to figure out what is wrong with me, but more cheerfully, my boyfriend and I were reading Nigella's How to be a domestic goddess last night to figure out what I should bake next!
Which takes me conveniently onto my next post - what have I been baking this year?!
At the writing desk with Alan Bradley
2 hours ago