Monday, 8 February 2010

10 books meme

At the beginning of the year, I spotted this meme on Stuck-in-a-book, and then almost every book blog I read (well, it felt like it anyway!). It's probably a bit late to jump on the bandwagon but it was so interesting to read about the books which people chose that I thought you might like to see mine too.

(The original instructions for the meme are:
1.) Go to your bookshelves...
2.) Close your eyes. If you're feeling really committed, blindfold yourself.
3.) Select ten books at random. Use more than one bookcase, if you have them, or piles by the bed, or... basically, wherever you keep books.
4.) Use these books to tell us about yourself - where and when you got them, who got them for you, what the book says about you, etc. etc.....
5.) Have fun! Be imaginative. Doesn't matter if you've read them or not - be creative. It might not seem easy to start off with, and the links might be a little tenuous, but I think this is a fun way to do this sort of meme.
6.) Feel free to cheat a bit, if you need to...)

I'm afraid that I shamelessly chose all of they are...

and this is what I have to say about them.

How to be a domestic goddess (Nigella Lawson)
Regular readers will know that I love baking, and I have found much inspiration from this cookbook full of wonderful things such as these muffins. I aspire to being a domestic goddess, and feel that being able to make tasty cakes and biscuits and keep the house tidy is an important part that I have to play in the relationship I'm in.

Our hidden lives (Simon Garfield).
My first degree was in history, and whilst studying I developed a huge interest in the social and domestic history of the Second World War. I found out about the Mass Observation Archive from which these diaries are selected and have loved reading people's accounts of life in wartime Britain. I was not a distinguished scholar at university, but I did win a "Collection Prize" for an in-house exam on my WW2 paper, and it was with the book token I recieved that I purchaed this book.

Liquid Assets (Janet Smith)
Some of you may know my penchant for swimming, and in particular swimming outside. From an early age my Mum spent many summer days with me at an outside swimming pool and I am sure it was this which makes me feel so holidayish when I get to swim in an outdoor pool. In 2007, my partner and I tried to swim in as many different outdoor pools as possible; I think we managed about 15.

White bird flying (Nicholas Orme)
My father is a historian with a number of erudite history books to his name, but when I was small, he also had a book of children's short stories published (in fact, it was taken on by the Longman's Books for Schools project and is probably his bestselling work as it got sold to schools across the country). Before it was published, he appointed me to be his "publisher's reader" and say whether or not I thought it should be published! Unfortunately, Longman's wouldn't let him include a dedication, but luckily the main character in one of the stories is called Verity.

Astonishing splashes of colour (Clare Morrall).
I have only been given a handful of books in adult life, mainly because people worry that I will have already read what they choose, and this is one of them. I hadn't heard of it before I was given it and really enjoyed it, so it proves that it is worth taking the risk! It was a 20th birthday present from a friend who is no longer alive and hugely special. Incidentally, the author went to the same school as my friend and I!

Frost in May (Antonia White)
Some of you may have seen my other Virago Venture blog. Frost in May was both the first Virago Modern Classic, and the first one that I read..

Vanishing Cornwall (Daphne Du Maurier)
This book is no surprise to those of you who know how much I love Cornwall. I spent so much time there on holiday in my childhood and teens. This book is special because it combines my favourite place with one of my favourite authors.

Sunbathing in the rain (Gwyneth Lewis)
Subtitled "A cheerful book about depression", I was lent this in 2003 when I was extremely ill with depression. The book showed me that other people suffered from depression too, and that it was ok to feel like that. Hugely affirming for me at the time, I occasionally like to revisit it to remind myself how important it is to stay well.

One pair of hands (Monica Dickens)
I am a big fan of autobiographies, and I think that this started with this book, which was on the shelves of the flat we used to stay in in Cornwall. Every year as we arrived for our holiday, I would rush to check that this book was still there and reread it several times during our fortnight's stay.

The school at the chalet (Elinor M Brent-Dyer)
It seems strange that only one of these ten books is a children's book but this book is important for a number of reasons. It was a present from my Mum when we went to Austria for the first time, aged 8, and it was fantastic to be able to read a book set in the place we were visiting, sparking off an interest in "themed" literature. This book is the first in a series of over 60 books, and later in my life it provided my first impetus towards collecting, as I tried to obtain a complete set of the series (I was successful, but only by mixing different editions).


  1. Great choices! I definitely share your desire to be more Nigella-like and am also a huge fan of the MO archives. Was intrigued by 'Sunbathing in the Rain' and then reminded how sad I am that my parents never introduced me to the Chalet School series when I was young (they'd never heard of it, so an introduction would have been difficult, but I still feel the tiniest bit cheated anyways). Thanks for sharing!

  2. Such wonderful stories about some of the books in your collection! I love that your father wrote a children's story and used your name for the main character. In fact, I may just need a tissue.

  3. My ex-girlfriend also read "Sunbathing in the rain" and I'm glad that it helped you; you might like to know that I catalogued the first copy on OLIS of "Liquid assets" yesterday, for your old college's architectural history collection; but most of all I want to echo Darlene in saying what a splendid thing it must be for you to have your name inside a story!

  4. I really must get myself a copy of Vanishing Cornwall... how can I be Cornish and not own that. Have you got Poldark's Cornwall by Winston Graham? The photos are stunning.

    One Pair of Hands... gosh that takes me back to our school library and me taking that out several times. Haven't read it in years.

    I've come to the conclusion that I just can't make muffins. I've tried and tried, and I can bake anything else you ask for, but muffins... no. My daughters, on the other hand, make wonderful muffins so I gladly hand over oodles of our homegrown raspberries and the most delicious raspberry muffins get handed back. Works for us. :-)

  5. Captive reader - I'm sure your parents introduced you to other wonderful books.

    Darlene - I am very lucky to have that book. I haven't read it in years, so must get it out to show Ken.

    Owen - Sunbathing was a wonderful book (although reviews on Amazon are mixed - many people feel that Gwyneth Lewis was a bit self-indulged in the book!).

    Cath - maybe you mix your muffins too hard? it's tempting to make the mixture smooth but that makes them heavy. You must get Vanishing, and in turn I shall look out Poldark's Cornwall - defintiely one for my project too.

  6. A number of these books/things they show about you are things that I have learned whilst getting to know you over the last year but it is lovely to read about them in bulk and glean some new details. A very touching and illuminating response to this meme, Verity.

    Have you read The Trick is to Keep Breathing by Janice Galloway? It's an interesting fictional book about depression that I read many years ago; I would have to reread it but I recall being irritated that the protagonist seemed to become well overnight at the end; I'd be interested in your take on it.

  7. P.S. How apt that your first VMC was the FIRST VMC. Hee. I like that serendipity.

  8. Thanks Claire. I have read The trick is to keep breathing – I probably read it when I was depressed in 2003 and reading a lot of memoirs. As I recall, quite a lot of it rang true, but I agree with your take that we never find out how the protagonist recovered. However, in some ways that rings true of my experiences of depression, and of that of those that I know – you never really know quite how you get better.

  9. True, that is a very valid point and true of my own experience (a few years after reading the book).

  10. A very interesting post. I too discovered 'Sunbathing' when suffering from depression. I was lucky at work to be able to access a counsellor and CBT. The counsellor reccommended it to me and then I gave my copy to a colleague who needed it later. :)

    Lucky girl to have an author in the family and to have a character named after you too.

  11. Glad to see you joining in the meme!
    p.s. thanks for the offer of Housewife, 49 - I will bear it in mind, have a stack of DVDs to get through, but may well be in touch in the future...

  12. Dear Verity, I liked your meme. Your honesty about depression is so valuable as it is a topic that needs de-mystifying and de-stimatising. All your book choices appealed to me.

  13. Redwitch - I have since lent my copy of Sunbathing to various other people :)

    Simon - sure, it is just sitting at home.

    Merenia - I think there is a lot of stigma about depression which is really quite unnecessary. Mind you, in the throes of a depressive episode, I am as embarassed as anyone else.

  14. This was so interesting and I have loved finding out more about you!

  15. What a LOVELY idea for a blog post. I'm going to borrow it ( if I may). I hardly have any space left on my shelves so the books are in two rows. There's going to be a bias, cos the books in the back row will sadly not participate in this :)

  16. Oh I've only just realised that you have the COMEPLETE chalet school series:) Brilliant. I think I have the complete set as well. But am looking for her other books set in Guernsey

  17. Thanks for visiting my blog Edina - sounds like we have some similar tastes!


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