I always begin the year by giving you my Top Ten books of the year before. Please remember that my Top Ten always automatically includes the novels of Jane Austen – I just don’t list them every year! I am cheating a bit this year as I’m including some series of books as one choice, but I hope you’ll forgive me. I also hope that I am giving you some good recommendations for books you might like to read this year. They are listed alphabetically according to author’s surname:
- Jane Austen: Reflections of a Reader by Nora Bartlett was published after the author’s death. A truly fabulous book of literary criticism, elegantly written and a work that shows deep knowledge of Jane Austen’s fiction.
- As a leader of literary tours, I got huge enjoyment from Larissa Behrendt’s After Story, about an Aboriginal woman and her daughter who go on a literary tour in England, visiting Stratford, Chawton, Bath and many of the places I include in my English tours. The story was half told by the mother, and half by the daughter, so you got their very different reactions, and it was a moving account of loss, grieving, and the way in which travelling somewhere else can make you see where you have come from with new eyes.
- I enjoyed two excellent books about Coco Chanel this year – Coco Chanel: An Intimate Life by Liza Chaney, and Chanel’s Riviera by Anne de Courcy. I hope you can get to see the Chanel exhibition in Melbourne.
- Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder by Caroline Fraser was a fantastic biography and also history book. I learned so much from this book.
- Like Stephen Fry, A.S. Byatt and Margaret Drabble, I am a huge fan of Georgette Heyer. This year I re-read her Venetia, one of her best books. Heyer’s witty Regency novels were the perfect antidote to lockdown and I loved rediscovering just how good Venetia is. You might like to watch my YouTube talk about the theme of the novel.
- The Cazalet novels of Elizabeth Jane Howard, read on audio by Jill Balcon (except for the 5th book). I had never read any of Howard’s fiction before, but adored this series and felt bereft when it came to an end.
- Lampedusa by Stephen Price is a biographical novel about the author of The Leopard. I wrote about this book a few months ago and really recommend it.
- A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth was first published in 1993 and I read it that year. However, this year I re-read it and was blown away by how marvellous and magisterial it is. I loved all its connections with Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen is one of Seth’s three favourite novelists (you can learn more about Seth and his other favourites in my video talk on the book).
- C.J. Sansom’s historical series, featuring lawyer Matthew Shardlake, and set in Tudor England. I have read them all before, but this year had the huge pleasure of listening to them superbly read on audio by Anton Lesser. Definitely my favourite mystery novels of all time!
- The Jane Austen Remedy by Ruth Wilson is not yet a book, but it will be published early this year. I had the privilege of reading it in manuscript and it is superb – moving, thought-provoking and memorable.
Good books to read have helped me endure a second year of lockdown and disruptions. I hope books have helped you, too.
Have you read any memorable books this year? I’d love you to recommend a book to me. Tell me by leaving a comment.
Jane Austen: Reflections of a Reader by Nora Bartlett
After Story by Larissa Behrendt
Coco Chanel: An Intimate Life by Lisa Chaney
Chanel’s Riviera by Anne de Courcy
Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder by Caroline Fraser
Venetia by Georgette Heyer
The Light Years: The Cazalet Chronicles 1 by Elizabeth Jane Howard
Lampedusa by Steven Price
A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth
Dissolution: A Shardlake Novel 1 by C.J. Sansom
Susannah Fullerton: My Literary Tours
Susannah Fullerton: Coco Chanel, A French Trailblazer
Susannah Fullerton: Georgette Heyer, Venetia
Susannah Fullerton: The Cazalet Chronicles
Susannah Fullerton: Lampedusa
Susannah Fullerton: A Suitable Boy
Susannah Fullerton: Absorbed in C.J. Sansom