Thursday, December 29, 2011
Top 10 Books of 2011 - Non Fiction
Charles Dickens by Claire Tomalin. A marvellous biography of a complex man. An excellent introduction if you know nothing about Dickens & full of interesting detail for those who have read all the other biographies.
Magnificent Obsession by Helen Rappaport. I knew as I was reading this that it would make my Top 10. Again, there are hundreds of books about Victoria & Albert but Helen Rappaport's deep concentration on the crucial decade from 1861-1871 makes this special.
Memoirs of a Highland Lady by Elizabeth Grant. Along with The Highland Lady in Ireland, these two books provide a memorable portrait of life in Scotland & Ireland in the early 19th century. I was completely absorbed in Eliza's remarkable memories of her childhood & early married life.
Victorian Secrets is a wonderful publishing house specialising in reprinting 19th century fiction complete with new Introductions & contemporary reviews. One of the books published by Victorian Secrets this year was Notable Women Authors of the Day by Helen C Black. These interviews with now-forgotten authors are a fascinating insight into the literary life of the 1890s.
Behind Closed Doors by Amanda Vickery was an enlightening & unputdownable journey into the Georgian home. I especially remember the importance of wallpaper - the patterns, the colours were markers of social status. A beautifully illustrated & produced book by Yale University Press. I also loved the TV series of the book, At Home with the Georgians.
The Letters of T S Eliot Vol 2 1923-1825 was a book I'd waited 20 years for. That's how long ago Vol 1 came out. Full of detail about his editing, his struggles to leave the Bank & his worries about the health of his wife, Vivienne, I was fascinated.
An Autobiography by Anthony Trollope. This was one of those serendipitous reading choices that came from reading a review on another blog & taking the book from the tbr shelves where it had sat for far too long. Trollope was such a lovable man & his modesty & surprise at his success are very endearing. If you're interested in how writers write, especially Victorian writers, or in how a man can overcome a desperately unhappy childhood, you need to read this book.
Becoming Jane Austen by Jon Spence. Again, I picked this from the tbr shelves after reading an obituary of the author in the Jane Austen Society of Australia newsletter. Jon Spence looks at Jane's work through her knowledge of her family history & through her relationships with Tom Lefroy & her cousin, Eliza. A fresh look at a well-known story. This book proves that there are always new angles to explore in any life.
Graven with Diamonds by Nicola Shulman is about Sir Thomas Wyatt & his poetry. Not a conventional biography, Shulman looks at the way Wyatt wrote & how his poetry, with its obscure (to us) allusions, can illuminate the Court of Henry VIII. I love books about the less well-known corners of history & this book taught me about the way poetry was written & read in Tudor times.
Montrose by C V Wedgwood was the result of reading one of Montrose's poems & posting it as a Sunday Poem earlier this month. The comments on the poem inspired me to take this book from the tbr shelves & I discovered a fascinating & ultimately tragic life story.
So, that's the list. If anything, it justifies my overflowing tbr shelves as four of these books had been sitting on the shelves for some years. Tomorrow, my Top 10 Fiction of 2011.