All Roads lead to Austen - Amy Elizabeth Smith. She goes to Latin America for a year, taking her Jane Austen novels, and leading book clubs in different countries, to see if Jane Austen transfers into other cultures, and what their versions of Jane Austen (or recommended books) are. It looks very interesting and very fun. I love the idea of talking about and reading Jane Austen in different countries, and to see how she does cross cultures. Plus it's about books and reading books, specifically Jane Austen, and a chance to learn about some of the best writers in Latin America from people who read. It's like being part of book club on the road with her!
The Civil War of 1812 - Alan Taylor. It is the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812, the war that defined Canada as a land that was not going to be part of the US. This book looks at the war from both sides of the border, and what it meant really - because even back then, families and towns straddled the border, and brothers and cousins fought for one side or the other, depending who they wanted to belong to. This history looks at the war from the lives of the people who fought it, the soldiers, immigrants, settlers and Indians on both sides of the border. It looks fascinating.
God's Mercies - Douglas Hunter. The story of the rivalry between Samuel de Champlain and Henry Hudson (for whom Hudson's Bay is named, as well as the Bay, one of Canada's largest and oldest household good and fashion store). They both raced to explore and map the northern half of North America, and find the route to the Far East, in the 17th century, and were to two principal explorers from the St Lawrence River up to Hudson's Bay. Samuel Champlain came by the Ottawa River, and his sextant was found in a field further up the Ottawa Valley. A statue to him is on a cliff beside the National Gallery of Art here in Ottawa, across the Rideau Canal from Parliament Hill. Here is a link to a little historical view of these two. One was French (Samuel de Champlain), one was English (Henry Hudson). The Hudson River in New York is named for him. Hudson died ingloriously after his crew mutinied while he tried to find the Northwest Passage, while Champlain had success after success in mapping the land through to Georgian Bay. This book won one of Canada's Non-fiction prizes in 2007, the Nereus Writer's Trust. As a companion to this I still need to pick up Champlain's Dream by David Hackett Fischer.
A Train in Winter - Caroline Moorhead. About the friendship between a group of 230 French women resistance fighters who were rounded up from Gestapo detention camps and sent to Auschwitz. The only train to take women of the resistance to a death camp. This book explores who they were, why they joined the Resistance, how they were captured and their life in the death camps. 49 women came back. Six of them were still alive in 2010, and were able to share their stories for this book.
The Occupied Garden - Kristen den Hartog and Tracy Kasaboski. A couple live in Holland when the Nazis march in. Years later they move to Canada, and after their deaths, their granddaughters begin to piece together what happened during the war to their grandparents. They had never spoken of what happened to them in Holland, while alive. A family memoir that is about life in wartime Holland, something that surprisingly there isn't alot of, in English. My stepfather grew up in Holland during the war, so I've heard a few stories from him also, but it's not something people talk about often.
The Years of the Sword: Wellington - Elizabeth Longford. I blame the .99 price tag, and that it has illustrations. Some day I will read this biography of Wellington and the battle of Waterloo.
The Hare with the Amber Eyes - Edmund de Waal. A family memoir of a man who explores his family history while uncovering the history of 264 netsukes, Japanese wood carvings that he inherits. Who handled them? Where did they come from, what was their history? Along the way he discovers that his family were once a banking dynasty in Paris and Vienna in the 19th century, yet by the end of WW 2, all that remained of this dynasty were these netsukes. This was an award winner when it came out, winning the Costa Book Award for Biography, among others.
The Pre-Raphaelite Tragedy - William Gaunt. 1.99 price, long out of print, about the Pre-Raphaelites' lives - especially their daily lives, with anecdotes more than any long narrative - biographical studies this kind of biography is called. It looks interesting and a good find for my growing Pre-Raphaelite library. They are among my favourite artists.
Graven with Diamonds - Nicola Shulman. The Many Lives of Thomas Wyatt, Courtier, Poet, Assassin, Spy. He is the author of one of my favourite poems, "Whoso List to Hunt, I know Where There is a Hind'. There are not many biographies out on him. This is was just published recently, and won the 2011 Best Non-Fiction of 2011 Writer's Guild Award. I'm fascinated with the Tudor times, and the enormous changes that occurred then, and what life was like at the courts for Wyatt, who was both a courtier and a poet. Poetry was held in much higher esteem than it currently is, and the best poets could be ironic, witty, and sarcastic, under the guise of poetry. He avoided being beheaded even though he was thought to have had an affair with Anne Boleyn. Here is a link to some of his poems online.
John Donne: The Reformed Soul - John Stubbs. Published in 2006, now considered one of the best biographies on Donne. I am fascinated with his life and how it informed his poetry. No one could use words and twist them like he could, making one meaning from just the way the words are placed, from what you think they will be. He struggled with his faith at a time when it was dangerous to have faith, in the Reformation.
Mistress of the Monarchy- Alison Weir - about Katherine Swynford, the mistress of John of Gaunt, later to become his wife. He was the Duke of Lancaster. This was in medieval England, in the 14th century. I want to read about how a woman went from being a mistress to the wife of a Duke, and how she survived court in a time when women were mostly used as property. It looks very interesting. She wss intelligent and considered one of the beauties of medieval England.
Shakespeare's Wife - Germaine Greer. Other than her name, not much is known about Ann Hathaway, the wife of William Shakespeare. This is the first major biography of Shakespeare's wife, the woman who bore his children and lived far from the London scene. Who was she? How did she feel as Shakespeare gained so much acclaim, and she was never by his side?
Elizabeth's London - Everyday Life in Elizabethan England - Liza Picard. This is part of a series of books Liza Picard has written, about daily life in London through the centuries. This was published in 2003, so fairly new, and covers all the things you wanted to know about Elizabethan England: from House Moving, to Garden Design, to The Bills of Mortality, to The Markets, Cooking and Recipes, Sex Outside Marriage, The lottery, Education, Interiors and Furniture, Clothes and Beauty, Law. These are chapter headings, and there are many more fun ones! Just everything you would want to know about life in Elizabeth England. I have Restoration London and Dr Johnson's London in this series. Victorian London rounds out the titles. So if you are looking for a good history of daily life in London in different centuries, this is an excellent series to start with.
and lastly, bought today, just out in sofcover:
Effie - Suzanne Fagence Cooper. About the live of Effie Gray, John Ruskin and John Everett Millais, the Pre-Raphaelite painter. She married John Ruskin first, who on their wedding night turned away from her saying she didn't inspire desire in him. When Millais was hired to paint Ruskin's portrait several years later, Millais and Effie fell in love. She dared to leave Ruskin, and go to live with Millais. This makes it sound boring when it really looks very interesting and intriguing, a love triangle that involves one of England's greatest art critics and one of the Pre-Raphaelite painters. And the woman who caused Victorian England's most scandalous love triangle. Passion, art, and real life - this is irresistible.
Now the challenge is to find time to read them all! 13 books, one per month, I could feel a challenge coming on.
So, how about you? Have you been buying any unusual for you books lately? Is any non-fiction suddenly drawing your interest?