Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Christmas treasures

This Christmas season was a wonderful time for reading.  I'd found small bits of time for fiction during the academic semester, when I was busy with classes, research, writing, and singing, but winter break provided a tremendously refreshing opportunity to read fiction for hours on end.  And by the end of break, I'd also added two new bookshelves and many new books to my home.

These books arrived in an excitingly large package from my mother, who has been trying to organize her basement.  I grew up with the Harry Potter books.  I've read them all countless times; they're some of my absolute favorites.  I'll always remember my elementary school librarian with fondness; knowing I'd read through nearly all of their fiction collection, she recommended the first Harry Potter book to me a month or two before the craze started.  I got to read both the first and second books before the waiting list even got started!  I was always approximately the same age as Harry, Ron, and Hermione when each new book came out.  It was really cool how I was just figuring out that Ron and Hermione liked each other at the same point when they too were starting to realize it.  Every year I plan to re-read this whole series (as does my husband; in fact, I had barely opened the box before he'd snatched the first book and scurried off to read it).  Many thanks to my mother for allowing me to adopt the hardcovers and leave her with my family's softcover versions.

These Madeline books belong to my sister and me - in fact, my mother wrote our names on the inside front covers.  She figured my sister probably wouldn't mind if I adopted her two, so she sent me our complete set of four.  I think there's been a few more written since we originally got these.  They were childhood favorites; I remember eagerly anticipating the movie (and then being disappointed because, as usual, the film couldn't measure up to a favorite book).  I don't actually remember many of the details, so I'm really looking forward to re-reading these soon.

I didn't receive any books as Christmas gifts.  This isn't cause for lament; among the wonderful presents I was given was the camera with which I took these photos!  Between my academic work and my newfound love of classics and other great literature, my family is no longer sure what I read.  Instead, I bought myself a few books to celebrate a successful first semester of graduate school.  All of these are used, of course; most came from the fabulous Book Shop in Chapel Hill and a few were ordered from the ever-useful abebooks.com.

The Shooting Party and Statues in a Garden by Isabel Colegate - after Rachel's glowing review, I was dying to read The Shooting Party, especially after my husband and I watched season two of Downton Abbey and I found myself desperate for more Edwardian England.  I happened to find it at the Book Shop right next to another of Colegate's Edwardian novels, and for only about $3 for the pair, decided to pick them both up!

Middlemarch by George Eliot - Rohan at Novel Readings has sung Eliot's praises enough that I had to purchase Middlemarch to join my copy of The Mill on the Floss.  I've been delaying starting to read Eliot for fear that my reading chops weren't up to her books yet, but quite frankly, that's silly.  I hope to start one of these two novels soon, and if I don't fully understand or absorb it all, I own these books and can always return to them.

Lady Susan, The Watsons, and Sandition by Jane Austen - Now I have all seven of her finished novels, and am seriously contemplating taking a month over the summer to read nothing but Austen.  It sounds delightful, and I'd have to supplement my reading with frequent tea parties.

The Diary of a Provincial Lady by E.M. Delafield - This Virago edition actually includes all three sequels as well!  I almost never buy books with television/film stills on the cover.  Those irritate me a lot; I want the freedom to create my own picture in my mind.  However, I loved these four books when I read them last spring, and can't imagine finding all four individually in used bookstores - in the same edition to create a set - without a long hard search.  I think this volume, with all four diaries included, will make the perfect airplane book.

One Fine Day by Mollie Panter-Downes - Yet another book purchased at Rachel's recommendation.  She has such wonderful taste!  I'm fascinated lately by the individual or family's experience of larger national issues, particularly by women's experiences during the world wars, and this book promises all that and more.

Seducers in Ecuador and The Heir by Vita Sackville-West - All Passion Spent was the first Virago I ever read, and its haunting beauty has stuck with me ever since.  I can't wait to try these two novellas; I hope they're just as good.

Gone to Earth by Mary Webb - I picked this up to go with my other Webb Virago (Precious Bane); then I came home and found Simon's hilariously scathing commentary on the first page and a half.  Oops.  Well, different readers have different tastes, so I'll still give it a shot.

The Glimpses of the Moon and Summer by Edith Wharton - I absolutely adored The Age of Innocence (surprising to me, given how much I'd hated the dismal Ethan Frome in my eleventh-grade English class) and was pleasantly surprised to find two of her other novels that look even more light-hearted and fun.  Perhaps this author is more versatile than I'd believed in high school.

With all of these new books, I'm well-stocked for a month of reading only from my own shelves (at least a month?  I'm contemplating extending this through February as well).  I'm still reading Villette, usually a chapter or two at night right before bed, and would like to keep reading other books during the day (lighter books that are easier to carry to school).  The only question is, of all the books on my to-read shelf, including all of the new additions, which should I read next?  There's too much great stuff to choose from!


  1. What a nice mum!

    And what a lovely pile of books you picked up over the holidays. I have Middlemarch and Diary of a Provincial Lady and Vilette on my list for this year too. Happy Reading, Samantha!

    1. And to you! Do let us know what you think of them - one of my favorite things is seeing what other bloggers have to say about books I'm already familiar with.