“My library was dukedom enough”

The Tempest, Act 1, Scene 2

William Shakespeare

So I thought I’d tell you about the books I’ve read in the past year (since September – I think in school years) to help you get to know my preferred styles and periods of writing. I tried to read reasonably broadly, basically trying to study as many classics as possible without getting bored!

  • Agent Zigzag – Ben Macintyre: A great read, especially when you consider that it’s based on a true story. So often non-fiction becomes bogged down with detail, but this novel is very easy to read and always entertaining and interesting.
  • Stasiland – Anna Funder: Another non-fiction book that reads as fiction. Recommended by my school for my A Level History course, but Funder has just released a fiction novel, so it could be interesting to compare the two.
  • Catch22Joseph Heller: I loved this book – constantly funny, yet it also provoked thought. Definitely recommended, although it can become confusing at times, so you may find yourself reading the same page a couple of times over.
  • The Great Gatsby F. Scott Fitzgerald: Another classic I felt I had to read. However, although I loved the imagery and the mystery of the start of the book, I have to admit I was a little disappointed by the ending. Even though I’m glad I read it, I didn’t enjoy it as much as I was told I would, so I ended up feeling slightly dissatisfied. Saying this, I’m looking forward to comparing the book to the film adaptation (starring Carey Mulligan and Leonardo DiCaprio) which is being released soon, and my interest has recently been piqued by the reviews of ‘Gatz’ by the Elevator Repair Service. In this performance, the entire 4,900 word novel is read out whilst the other actors perform around the narrator. The show goes on for a staggering 8 hours (with a break for dinner), but, according to the reviews, is well worth seeing. If anyone’s seen it, please comment and tell me about it!
  • Wild Swans Jung Chang: I am so glad I read this novel. Admittedly, it took me ages, but since I knew nothing of Chinese history before, every chapter had something new to discover within. Definitely a recommended read.
  • I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings Maya Angelou: In my opinion, not as good as ‘Wild Swans’, as memoirs go, but worth a read. Some beautiful imagery and descriptive language and interesting as well.
  • Behind the Scenes at the Museum Kate Atkinson: I hadn’t really read much modern literature (that wasn’t trash or for teenagers) and this was a nice surprise. I really enjoyed, so definitely give it a go. It’s easy to read and has a great twist at the end.
  • Tess of the D’Urbervilles Thomas Hardy:  Now, I have to admit, one of my flaws when reading is that I easily get irritated with heroines. For example, Cathy in ‘Wuthering Heights’ was much too over-dramatic for me and Jane in ‘Jane Eyre’, I felt, was too naïve. I had the same problem with Tess in this novel. Although, of course, the writing was great and, again, I’m glad I can say I’ve read it. I did try to reconcile myself to the character by watching both ‘Tess’ (Roman Polanski) and the recent BBC adaptation (starring Gemma Arterton and Eddie Redmayne) and these did make me a little more sympathetic, but I can’t say this was my favourite book.
  • Vanity Fair William Thackeray: I thought this book was fantastic, though it did take me weeks to finish it. I particularly liked the witty remarks on the social states that existed in Victorian England, which leads me on to my next (and favourite!) book…
  • Barchester TowersAnthony Trollope: I absolutely loved this novel! It was funny, sarcastic and the ending was satisfying, unlike so many other books. Definitely planning to read more Trollope this year.
  • A Room with a View E.M.Forster: If I’m honest, by this time I had had a little too much of books based on Victorian society. Still, the book was good, well-written and interesting.
  • The Odd Women George Gissing: The only reason I’d even heard of Gissing was because of my ex-History teacher who has recently given me this book. I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised; it was particularly interesting because it talked of early Feminist ideas and of the idea of women against marriage, which made a pleasant contrast to the books I’d read before in which the women were most concerned with potential husbands. I also read a bit about Gissing’s background, which is really interesting; he was kicked out of university, where he was considered a scholarship student, for stealing money to fund the prostitute he later married. Research him, if you have the time.

I think those are the main books I read this year so far. Of course, I also re-read old favourites and I also read quite a few fiction books which I haven’t put up here. For me, the creams of the crop were: ‘The House of Silk’ by Anthony Horowitz (a Sherlock Holmes story – I LOVE Sherlock Holmes), ‘The Double Shadow’ by Sally Gardner and ‘Divergent’ by Veronica Roth.

Hope you enjoy this; it took me ages to write it all out! Please comment – it makes it all worthwhile.

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One comment on ““My library was dukedom enough”

  1. Pippa says:

    I am SO glad that Trollope is your favourite. So many more fantastic ones to read but the big question is – will you be in the Barchester Towers or the Pallisers camp in the end?

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