In exactly one week, at 11 a.m. 30 November, The Reading Hour will begin. Part of Book Week Scotland, it’s a single hour in which everyone is encouraged to drop what they’re doing, pick up a book, and read. Just an hour out of your day, no big deal, right? But the question is, what will you read? Well, if you’re a fan of the shows on this blog, here are a few recommendations:
Fiction: The American Heiress by Daisy Goodwin. Life as Cora would have known it—a young American woman marrying into the English aristocracy. Hell, the main character’s name in the book is even Cora; it’s like it was meant to be.
Non-Fiction: I wrote a whole blog about Downton-related reading, but my personal pick would have to be The Perfect Summer by Juliet Nicholson. This incredibly addictive read covers the whole span of society, from aristocrats to servants and everyone in-between and follows their scandals, heartbreak, hopes, and dreams during one lovely pre-war summer.
Fiction: Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel. This is my pick for The Reading Hour. The way Mantel uses words astonishes me (it’s no wonder she won the Booker for both this and its sequel, Bringing Up the Bodies) and it’s nice to see Thomas Cromwell, an oft-maligned historical figure, treated so sympathetically.
Non-Fiction: The Six Wives of Henry VIII by Alison Weir is one of my all-time favourite non-fiction titles. Weir (a much better historian than fiction writer, just so you know) delves deeply into the lives of the women who defined Henry’s reign.
Fiction: A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket. The sex may not be there, but the black humour sure is. These books are seriously dark and incredibly hilarious. Plus, they’re quick reads, perfect for an hour-long break. If you want dark humour with sex, I’d recommend Candide by Voltaire.
Fiction: This one’s already based on a book—The Ladies’ Paradise by Émile Zola, which is now more widely available thanks to the series.
Non-Fiction: Shopping, Seduction & Mr Selfridge by Lindy Woodhead tells the story of Moray’s real-life counterpart, Harry Selfridge, who founded his eponymous luxury store in London before spectacularly crashing and burning. For those who want to get more into the nitty gritty of early department store commerce, Selfridge wrote a book himself called The Romance of Commerce. Sexy!
Game of Thrones
Fiction: This one’s based on a book as well (actually, a series, as I’m sure you know). If you’re not currently enmeshed in it, I hear The Wheel Of Time series is excellent. And, for those who don’t mind trading dragons for giant worms, there’s Frank Herbert’s Dune series.
Non-Fiction: You want interfamilial love, enemies around every corner, paranoia, backstabbing, and gore? Pick up pretty much any book about ancient Rome and its rulers.
Fiction: For a less harrowing glimpse of the era, try Carry on, Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse
Non-Fiction: Also based on a book (makes it easy, doesn’t it?). There are a slew of Prohibition-era reads to go along with it, including Last Call by Daniel Okrent, and, for those Chalky White fans out there, The Northside: African Americans and the Creation of Atlantic City by Nelson Johnson