Here are the books that I enjoyed most in 2021. You can read about those I liked best in 2020 here. Biography/memoir/autobiography/history The Element of Lavishness, Letters between Sylvia Townsend Warner and William Maxwell was a Christmas present from 2020 that got shunted into the waiting room while I read her letters to and from … Continue reading The Good Books 2021
After a long break, I express my annoyance at more books that should have been better. Part of the irregular Duds series (all links at the end). David Abulafia, The Boundless Sea Yes, it won the Wolfson History Prize. Yes, the author is a professional academic, a professor at the University of Cambridge, and a … Continue reading From merely annoying to utter tosh
This is a list of the books I read in 2020 that I still remember with enthusiasm and about which I have something to say. As if we were browsing together in a bookshop, and I'm the irritating one who keeps breaking your concentration to say 'You must read this, it's so good ... Oh … Continue reading 2020: The good books
I read the first volume of James Lees-Milne's edited diaries, Ancestral Voices, which cover the years 1942-43, and was both repelled by his spiky and judgemental personality, and intrigued by his account of social history and the Blitz experience. But the diaries were very edited, and JLM assumed that his readers would understand his allusions … Continue reading Michael Bloch, James Lees-Milne. The Life
I've wielded the hatchet over at Vulpes Libris, on a biography of William Wilberforce. Great subject, awful execution.
First Light is an Unbound book, initially paid for by its subscribers. Because the book has to sell before it’s published Unbound have to do a great deal of pre-sell publicity, and it certainly helps if the author, or subject, is famous. In this case – First Light: A Celebration of Alan Garner, edited by Erica … Continue reading First Light for Alan Garner
I’ve read two biographies of Naomi Mitchison in the past week (working up some conference papers). Both lean very heavily on Mitchison's published memoirs, and note that her record of her interwar life, You May Well Ask (1979), is deliberately vague about some important matters. Jill Benton’s Naomi Mitchison. A Biography (1990) is both rather too personal and unsettlingly … Continue reading The two biographies of Naomi Mitchison
Today’s letter in the Really Like This Book podcast series A-Z is I, and I have moved out of fiction, and to the intriguing biography by Molly Izzard, of the Middle Eastern traveller and woman of letters, Freya Stark. Stark made her name in the 1930s as the first western woman to travel in some very remote … Continue reading Unpicking a life of glamour: Molly Izzard’s Freya Stark