I’m getting through a lot of books lately, and the stacks are (as always) growing. Here, what I’ve been reading:
A little reading with my tea
These Ruins are Inhabited, Muriel Beadle
I found this one at the Montague Bookmill (shelved in the fiction section!). It’s a delightful memoir by a journalist whose husband was a visiting professor at Oxford in the 1960s. Like me, they spent a year in Oxford as wide-eyed Americans who soaked up all the joys (and some of the frustrations) of English life. Some of the details are quaintly outdated, but much of Oxford’s character endures (as always). Beadle’s stories of rambling round the city and meeting all kinds of English folks (and fellow expats) are charmingly familiar. So much fun.
Emily Davis, Miss Read
This is the life story of Miss Clare’s dear friend Emily Davis, longtime village schoolteacher. Best enjoyed if you’re already familiar with Fairacre and its mores and citizens. The more time I spend there, the more I admire these quiet, hardworking, kind country people. (Link is to a 2-in-1 edition including this book and Miss Clare Remembers.)
Bloomability, Sharon Creech
Domenica “Dinnie” Doone, who has spent her childhood moving around the U.S., spends a year in Switzerland attending the boarding school where her uncle works. She misses her family, but meets fellow students from all over the world, learns to ski and starts to believe that anything is “bloomable” (her Japanese friend’s word for “possible”). Sweet and fun. (Recommended by friend and reader Allison.)
What I Wore, Jessica Quirk
Quirk runs a popular fashion blog (which I found via Anne at Modern Mrs. Darcy). Her book is a practical, colorfully illustrated collection of tips on building a wardrobe of mixable basics, layering and accessorizing for each season, and putting your own spin on classic styles. Lots of her advice is basic, even obvious, but it helped me take a fresh look at my closet (always a good idea during the change of seasons, especially after recently reading Overdressed).
Boy Meets Girl, Meg Cabot
I so enjoyed The Boy Next Door that I checked out its sort-of sequel (same setting, mostly different characters). Told in emails, scribbled notes, to-do lists and instant messages, this is a lighthearted story of love, office politics and navigating the single-girl life in New York. Predictable, but fun – perfect for a holiday weekend.
Glory Be, Augusta Scattergood
An unusual take on the “Freedom Summer” of 1964, from the perspective of 11-year-old Glory Hemphill, who lives in Hanging Moss, Mississippi. She writes a letter to the editor when the (segregated) town pool closes, befriends a new girl from the North, and (I love this) stands up to her best friend when he expresses some bigoted opinions. Scattergood evokes the Deep South perfectly; I could almost feel the humidity and see the lightning bugs. The ending is hopeful, but I appreciated that it wasn’t all neat and tidy. (For more, see Beth Fish Reads’ review.)
Oxford, Jan Morris
This is a classic account of the city I adore: a great introduction for Oxford newbies, but with plenty of interesting tidbits for those of us who already know and love it. Morris loves Oxford as much as I do, and she examines many aspects of the city: its religious heritage, its often chaotic college system, the rise of industry and the Cowley motor works, its vegetation, its architecture, and on and on. Her narrative rambles at times, but is mostly fascinating and always thorough. Recommended if you really love Oxford.
The Wicked and the Just, J. Anderson Coats
A fascinating glimpse into medieval Caernarvon, Wales, told alternately from the perspective of Cecily (an English transplant) and Gwenhwyfar (a Welsh girl forced to become Cecily’s servant). Both characters are prickly and not immediately likable, but I kept turning the pages because I wanted to know what happened. (Also intriguing: Gwen never refers to herself as “I” until at least two-thirds of the way into the book.) The plot is based on a historical revolt by the Welsh in 1294, against the English burgesses who were taxing them unfairly. More info at the book’s site.
And Then There Were None, Agatha Christie
A perfectly plotted, truly creepy tale from the Queen of Mystery. I couldn’t go to sleep without finishing it (and then I had to dip into a Miss Read book to calm me down). A cast of distinctly unlikable characters find themselves marooned on an island off the Devon coast, and an unknown murderer starts picking them off one by one. An ingenious (if unsettling) piece of work.
Tyler’s Row, Miss Read
Well-meaning village folk (including all the usual suspects), ambitious renovation projects, cantankerous neighbors, lively schoolchildren, Miss Read’s matchmaking friend Amy, and wry musings by my favorite English schoolteacher. Another winner in the Fairacre series.
Three Bags Full, Leonie Swann
A smart, funny, highly unusual detective story – the detectives are a flock of Irish sheep trying to find out who killed their shepherd! They are unusually intelligent sheep, of course – though they don’t always understand humans. (Neither do I, for that matter.) Such fun and really inventive – a great mystery spiced with philosophical discussions.
What are you reading these days?
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