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Gentle readers, I need your literary advice. What shall I read next? I've been in one of those annoying moods all week when you wander around looking at bookshelves unable to decide exactly what you want to read. So now you can help me decide! But first, some background material:

What I am Reading Now
Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons (I'm re-reading it for umpteenth time since I was 13, and it's still as good as ever)
Jane Runs Away From School by Joanna Lloyd (very funny vintage school story)
Phoenix and Ashes by Mercedes Lackey (Got one of her historical fantasy novels, based on the plots of various fairy tales and set in Edwardian London, for Christmas, and loved it so much I got the other three books in the series straight away. Her "straight fantasy" novels look absolutely godawful, but these are wonderfully entertaining. However, now I am on the last one, and will be craving more in vain very soon)

And now, to the future....
Poll #421796 gimme something to read

which of this pile should I read first?

The Doomsday Book by Connie Willis (re-read)
Middlemarch by George Eliot
Northanger Abbey (re-read)
The Ready-Made Family by Antonia Forest
a book which I will suggest in a comment

Bear in mind I'm currently in the mood for:

  • Witty books written between the wars

  • Realistic fantasy novels (no horrible elves or stupid magical worlds ruled by warrior bards, thanks very much)

  • Something funny. My favourite funny writers, should you be unfamiliar with my sense of humour (unlikely, if you're reading this), include Geoffrey Willans, P. G. Wodehouse, Tim Moore, Richmal Crompton, Nancy Mitford, Joe Queenan, E. F. Benson, Meg Cabot and E. M. Delafield.

  • Nothing particularly gritty or disturbing.

Alas, I have read all the books I own which fit these categories far too recently (I am dying to re-read my Dorothy Sayers, but I read them just a couple of months ago and won't enjoy them properly if I read them now. Likewise just about everyone on my "favourite funny writers" list). Help me, readers!


( 25 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 20th, 2005 10:17 pm (UTC)
If you like Georgette Heyer, might I suggest Sorcery and Ceceila?
Jan. 20th, 2005 10:26 pm (UTC)
Read it, I'm afraid, and quite recently too! And its sequel! But thanks for an excellent suggestion.
Jan. 20th, 2005 10:31 pm (UTC)
I don't have anything to suggest, but I don't think you should read Middlemarch right now since it is kind of the antithesis of what you are currently craving.

Aren't I helpful?
Jan. 20th, 2005 10:54 pm (UTC)
The Daily Show with Jon Stewart Presents America, The Book: A Citizen's Guide to Democracy Inaction

Annie's parents gave it to me as a Christmas present and, well, if you like The Daily Show...

I especially enjoyed the chapter on the media.
Jan. 20th, 2005 11:00 pm (UTC)
What about rereading To Say Nothing of the Dog or Brideshead Revisited?

I also recommend all of Sarah Caudwell's books and Pamela Dean's Tam Lin.
Jan. 20th, 2005 11:07 pm (UTC)
I really want to read TSNotD, but I lent my copy to someone a while ago and never got it back!

I haven't heard of Sarah Caudwell, but I've wanted to read Dean's Tam Lin for ages - alas, it's never been in print over here and is bizarrely hard to find online. Boo!
Jan. 20th, 2005 11:28 pm (UTC)
Sarah Caudwell's books are fabulous. She was British, I believe, and wrote four comedy-of-manners mysteries all featuring the same cast of characters. They're very witty and well-plotted, and the characters are a hoot.

My favourite is A Sibyl in Her Grave.

This amazon.com review by one Marcy L. Thompson says it better than I can:

The point of Sarah Caudwell's mysteries was never the plot, or the plausibility. The novels are full of majestic letters no one would ever really write, wonderful characters who would never have the careers they have, and intriguing conversations that could never really happen. The pleasure of reading one of these books is, however, all the things that could never really happen.
It's hard to know how to help someone decide whether they would like this book (or the other three the author wrote before she died last year). I'd say that if you like Wodehouse, you will probably like this (but I hate Wodehouse myself). People who like Benson's Lucia books will likely enjoy these. And, oddly, if you are one of the people who loves Pamela Dean's _Tam_Lin_, you will no doubt find these mysteries engaging.

The books are full of improbable plots, which at least don't fall apart until you reflect on them later. The plots are as tangled as a pile of extra-long spaghetti, which makes it all the more fun when the professor untangles them. If you want realism, look elsewhere. If you want beautiful language, interesting characters and acerbic humor, and you are willing to take that wrapped up in a mystery, you'll love these books.

(Sorry about that, but it really sums up why I adore these books and I will stoop to anything to get more people to read them!)

I have fabulous Tam Lin finding luck. I'm looking for one for my grandma (who read it twice in a week when I loaned it to her and now must have her own) but I shall keep you in mind for the next one I locate.

Jan. 20th, 2005 11:43 pm (UTC)
Oh, yes, Sarah Caudwell! She died sometime in the last few years but she was a barrister and she wrote these lovely mysteries with detective Hilary Tamar and a bunch of young barristers. The first one is Thus Was Adonis Murdered but I think you could quite safely read them out of order, although I'm least fond of The Shortest Way to Hades. Very funny, very witty. I suppose they're set in the 80s and 90s but they're so unlike anything to do with real life that they have a sort of timelessness about them, sort of the way Wodehouse does.
Jan. 21st, 2005 12:02 am (UTC)
Have you read Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K Jerome? One of my best reads of 2004, I think...
Jan. 21st, 2005 12:51 am (UTC)
Oh my god! That's one of my favorite books. I inherited an old Penguin paperback edition of it from the 50s that was my grandfather's, and I reread it about once a year.
Jan. 21st, 2005 09:44 am (UTC)
I have indeed - I read it first when I was still in school, and have loved it ever since! Excellent recommendation. Have you read the sequel, Three Men on the Bummel? They go on a cycling tour, and it's very funny....
Jan. 21st, 2005 12:05 am (UTC)
If you want some scarily reastic historial / political fantasy and haven't yet read it, I'd suggest The Plot Against America, by Philip Roth.
Jan. 21st, 2005 09:46 am (UTC)
Hmmm, I don't think that exactly counts as the "fantasy" I had in mind (which is basically magic realism!. Also, I have hated Philip Roth ever since I was 15 and he horrified me with descriptions of Portnoy wanking into liver....
Jan. 21st, 2005 12:53 am (UTC)
I keep hearing about "The Ready-Made Family." I really need to locate a copy of that book.
Jan. 21st, 2005 06:22 am (UTC)
Fantasy: have you read the George R.R. Martin epic, A Song of Ice and Fire? Three books in the series so far, with the fourthexpected (or at least hoped for) later this year. No elves, no warrior bards, cobines a sort of gritty realism with family drama and a few wolves and dragons.
Jan. 21st, 2005 08:05 am (UTC)
Native Tongue by Suzette Haden Elgin, a feminist science fiction book. Also in the series: Native Tongue 2 - The Judas Rose, and Native Tongue 3 - Earthsong.
Jan. 21st, 2005 11:13 am (UTC)
I reread A Confederacy Of Dunces recently, and nearly did myself an injury with the laughing - maybe that?

Oh, and I recommended China Mieville's Perdido Street Station to pinguin this week, and I will recommend it to you too - excellent, page-turning fantasy, without a warrior mage in sight. And if you like it, the sequel has pirates in it! Arrrr.
Jan. 21st, 2005 11:37 am (UTC)
Hmm, though Perdido Street Station, come to think of it, has a fair amount of "gritty and disturbing" going on.
Jan. 21st, 2005 01:54 pm (UTC)
ti does, at that.
but it's also a staggering book...
although it pales in comparison to the scope and madness of 'the scar.'
Jan. 21st, 2005 01:52 pm (UTC)
'dandelion wine' by ray bradbury, if you've not yet read it.
it's a beautiful book that will make you pine for summer.
Jan. 21st, 2005 05:07 pm (UTC)
I voted for 'Middlemarch' because it's excellent, and if you haven't read it, you definitely should, sometime. But it doesn't sound as if your mood is bending that way at the moment.

Um, I know you said 'no horrible elves or stupid magical worlds' but, perhaps, under the 'Something funny' category, Terry Pratchett might fit in? Perhaps you already hate him with a passion. But you could always try 'Good Omens', which is set in England (and has v good jokes) and is not gritty and disturbing. Also, he has a couple of children's ones out recently (Wee Free Men was one, I think, and the other was A Hatful of Sky) which don't bother you with Discworld stuff (thus largely avoiding 'stupid magical worlds' again).
Jan. 22nd, 2005 12:00 am (UTC)
Heh, I actually do hate the work of Terry Pratchett with an unholy passion (the whackiness! Gah!), but I do really like Good Omens (especially the William stuff) and may indeed read it again. Thanks!
Jan. 24th, 2005 03:31 pm (UTC)
I voted for The Ready Made Family because it's a reflex action for me to encourage people Forest-wards.
But I have some other suggestions too - your tastes are v similar to mine and these are some of my favourite reads:
Diary of a Nobody and a sequel to it by Keith Waterhouse called Mrs Pooter's Diary
Angela Thirkell (if you can ignore the politics)
Jasper Fforde (my current read)
Antony Armstrong - wrote from WW1 onwards for Punch and autobiographies about moving to Sussex and restoring a cottage in the 30s - a bit like an uncamp Beverley Nichols (who I also like)
Joan Coggin - Joanna Lloyd writing detective stories
Jan. 24th, 2005 09:21 pm (UTC)
Hee, I've been putting off reading The Ready-Made Damily, because it's the only Forest book I haven't read since childhood, so it might as well be new, as I can't really remember it at all. So I want to save it as a treat!

And thanks for the news of Joan Coggins! I only discovered Joanna Lloyd relatively recently, and adored the two books I've been able to find (Catherine, Head of House and Jane runs away....) - alas, the other two school stories only ever appear on Abebooks et al for vast sums, and the copies have somehow disappeared from my alma mater's library (it's a copyright library, and is where I was able to read Noel Streatfeild's "Susan Scarlet" romance novels). So maybe I'll have better luck finding these ones...
Jan. 25th, 2005 03:18 pm (UTC)
Those are the two Joanna Lloyd books I have - I despair of finding the others unless GGB comes to the rescue.
Are the Susan Scarlet romances good? I have only read a couple of her adult novels - I quite liked them but not as much as her kidlit.
( 25 comments — Leave a comment )


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