I read thirty books last year, a mixture of fiction and non fiction, and some of those I had read before. I keep a list of what I read, but there are no dates attached; however, I think the first book I read last March was Corduroy by Adrian Bell, a fictionalised memoir of life on a Suffolk farm in the 1920s and the last book I finished was The Dillen, Memories of a Man of Stratford-upon-Avon. This is an old favourite, a comfort read if you like, but I didn’t need a pandemic to prompt me to pick it up.
I haven’t read any more or less since the pandemic started; I always have a book “on the go” and plenty of unread volumes around the house that I’m now getting round to. I have also bought books online and received them as gifts. Usually, I’m inspired to buy after reading a review in the Saturday edition of the Guardian or hearing an interesting interview on Radio 4. Friends, too, have passed on books and recommendations during this year. I don’t listen to audio books, although just this week I heard and enjoyed a podcast of Babette’s Feast by Karen Blixen. Does that count?
I really can’t say the pandemic has much affected my reading, except in one respect: I decided last March that I was going to read two poems every day for the duration (fourteen weeks as I recall) and have done so. I have two large anthologies and every day read one from each volume. The collections span several centuries, include classics and the less familiar, and many poems in translation. I have enjoyed that quiet time every day.
Five books I have read this year and would recommend:
Middlemarch by George Eliot. A book to live your life by.
The Debt to Pleasure by John Lanchester. Very funny and very clever.
Golden Hill by Francis Spufford. Wonderful, entertaining pastiche of a picaresque novel.
The Siege of Krishnapur by J.G. Farrell. Inspired by the siege of Lucknow, comic and scathing by turns.
A Life of My Own – the autobiography of Claire Tomalin.