I had a great haul of books in my Christmas stocking. Here’s a list of what I got from family and friends and will be reading over the next few months. Some of them are for general interest, some work, and some just for fun.
First of all, I was given Mark Ormrod’s Edward III, one of the Yale English Monarchs series. Over 20 years in gestation, it’s a massive book, as is needed for a King who ruled for 50 years and whose reign shaped the fourteenth century both at home and abroad. I wrote my doctorate on Edward III’s court and household in the first third of his reign so I’m dying to read what I imagine will be a great book by a great historian.
Next up is Claire Tomalin’s biography of Charles Dickens that has received rave reviews. Now it’s actually 2012 – Dickens’ bicentenary – I’m looking forward to diving in as soon as possible to give myself some background for the celebrations. PD James’ Death Comes to Pemberley has me licking my lips, as does the secret santa present I received on New Year’s Eve: Decadence Mandchoue – a modern edition of the scurrilous Chinese memoirs of the Edwardian scholar Sir Edmund Backhouse, who claimed to have slept with both Lord Salisbury and the Dowager Empress of China, among many others (though not at the same time, I think). Are they fake or not? I’ll soon find out.
Back to some more serious books to tick off: A Short History of Parliament edited by Clyve Jones and John Tosh’s Why History Matters. Which reminds me that I have still to finish John Maddicott’s Origins of the English Parliament 924-1327. To my deep shame, this marvellous book got sidelined last year when all my spare time was taken up with, well, you know what…
I bought myself David Abulafia’s The Great Sea: A Human History of the Mediterranean just before Christmas, one of the surprise hits of last year. It’s another massive doorstop – hard to read on the train – so that’ll be for evenings and weekends only. Over the holidays I’ve also been reminded of the difference in meaning between ‘historic’ and ‘historical’ by Simon Heffer’s Strictly English, a rather humourless grammar refresher.
What’s still on my wish list but not in my hand? Well, I keep meaning to read Simon Winchester’s Atlantic: Vast Ocean of a Million Stories, and Helen Castor’s She-Wolves: The Women Who Ruled England before Elizabeth (probably good ebook downloads for my commute), and I have a few unread monsters on my shelves which have been languishing there for too long. I’d also like to take a look soon at Thomas Penn’s Winter King, which breaks new ground on Henry VII (the essential but forgotten Tudor), and Mathew Lyons’ book The Favourite, on Walter Raleigh.
That’s enough to be going on with, I think. In the words of the title of a final stocking filler anthology, I am Buried in Books. What books did you get for Christmas?