Thursday, February 4, 2016

Reading in February - A Dozen Snuggle-Worthy Books

Reading in February
 A Dozen Snuggle-Worthy Books
For someone who loves the pleasures of winter as much as I, the arrival of February kindles a feeling of melancholy in my soul.  It always seems to get here faster than any other month, almost as if the paucity of its days makes it anxious to get started.  Twenty-eight short days left for snuggling down beside the fire after long cheek-numbing walks under low grey skies.  While it’s certainly true some of our most memorable snowstorms have occurred in March, when that month rolls into view it seems I’m nearly always thinking of spring, with pictures of new plants for the garden swirling like dandelion floss in my head.  So I resolve every year to make the utmost of February’s few days of cold weather comfort and, as good books are some of the certain pleasures of winter, here are a dozen vying for my attention in this last full wintertime month.  Hopefully, you’ll find some that interest you as well.  
Stay warm and read, everybody!

1. My Name is Lucy Barton
by Elizabeth Strout
I was one of those people who loved Ms. Strout’s last novel, Olive Kitteridge, so I’m looking forward to diving into this new one.  It’s earning excellent reviews and Strout has such a preceptive ear for the inner workings of human beings.  Her characters are not always likable, but they are always real.
Find it HERE

2. Alice in Wonderland
by Lewis Carroll
This story always scared me a bit when I was small.  That sneezing pig/baby was the worst.  But Alice stretched my imagination wide, letting in all sorts of colour and light, and I loved it.  This is the 150th anniversary of the publication of this fabulous classic and this is a beautiful edition. 
Find it HERE

3. Threads, The Delicate Life of John Craske
by Julia Blackburn
The story of a Norfolk fisherman who first went to sea at the age of eleven and who became an astonishing embroidery artist.  That is an unusual enough description, I realize, and believe me, the book is so, so much more.  I discovered it in the window of John Sandoe Books in London this past September and it has become one of the treasures of my library.  It’s wonderful.
Find it HERE

4. H is for Hawk
by Helen MacDonald
I have really high hopes for this one.  I’ve heard so many raves about it.  The story of a woman who attempts to train one of the world’s most vicious predators, the goshawk, as a way to cope with the grief over her father’s sudden death.  The writer took her inspiration for this endeavor from the path followed by T.H. White in his memoir, The Goshawk, so yes, I want to read that one as well.
Find H is for Hawk, HERE
Find The Goshawk, HERE

5. The Illustrated Herdwick Shepherd
by James Rebanks
One of my favorite reads last fall was A Shepherd’s Life, by Cumbrian farmer, James Rebanks.  I simply loved it and wanted more the minute I read the last sentence.  Fortunately, Mr. Rebanks has complied with this marvelous book that includes wonderful photography of the land he loves.  It’s a joy to read.
Find The Illustrated Herdwick Shepherd HERE
Find A Shepherd’s Life HERE

6. When Breath Becomes Air
by Paul Kalanithi
The writings of a young doctor facing his own death.  This is, admittedly, not the expected recommendation for a book to snuggle up with on a cold night.  But I’ve heard so many good, good things.  Having read a couple of essays by Dr. Kalanithi in the past, I know he is an elegant, thoughtful writer.  To read his account of this inescapable journey seems important to me.
Find it HERE

7.  Lolly Willowes
by Sylvia Townsend Warner
Cannot believe I’ve never read this.
I’m rectifying that this month.
Find it HERE

8.  Pack My Bag, A Self-Portrait
by Henry Green
The witty autobiography of a witty novelist.
Find it HERE

9.  Alive, Alive Oh!: And Other Things That Matter
by Diana Athill
I, for one, need to hear what a brilliant ninety-eight year old woman thinks about the things that matter.
Find it HERE

10.  Knitlandia, A Knitter Sees the World
by Clara Parkes
I can empirically tell you that knitters knit all year long.  I have been observed knitting wool scarves at the beach in August, so I know.  But really, winter was made for knitting.  It’s hard to beat sitting by the fire with a big white dog asleep beside you (or with his head in your lap) while you knit yourself a sweater more beautiful than anything you could possibly find at Saks.  This month is also the perfect time to read about knitting when your hands get tired.  Perfect month to release this book. Perfect month to read it.
Find it HERE

11.  The Corfu Trilogy
by Gerald Durrell
I re-read My Family and Other Animals at least once a year.  It’s a joy to me.  Now there’s a new edition that includes all the Durrell books set on Corfu in one volume.  
Divine to be reading of sunny Corfu just now.
Find it HERE

12. Bright Wings
An Illustrated Anthology of Poems About Birds
Edited by Billy Collins
They are the jewels in our garden this month.  The ruby red of the cardinal.The sapphire blue of the jay.  They gather at our feeders and roost in our trees.  We feel so fortunate to share our lives with these feathered creatures.  This beautiful book celebrates them and they so deserve that celebration.
Find it HERE 


  1. Good grief, what a luddite I am. I haven't read nor heard of any of those books. Thanks for the heads up. Since THREADS is such a treasure, I will have to try that one first.

    1. Though I am a luddite too, I meant an illiterate.

    2. Oh okay, I have heard of Alice, and read that one so long ago, but none of the others.

  2. Oh, so many of these sound like must reads to me. Alive, Alive Oh is on my wish list now. I have bought several copies of the 3 Gerald Durrell books over the years to keep and to give away and his My Family and Other Animals is on my top favorites list. Your list is great.

  3. Pamela thank you for these wonderful selections. I am excited to add several to my book list!

    The Arts by Karena

  4. H is for Hawk was one of my favourite books of the year Pamela. Sever of the others sound exciting and as we are planning a river cruise soon I shall take one or two to read there.

  5. Thank you Pamela. You've given me a new perspective on February!

  6. Oh dear I'm still ploughing through recommendations from a previous post of yours and now I have more but thank you I love looking at what others are reading so much fun

  7. We have many of the same favorites! Have you read any Barbara Pym? You might like her.

  8. My to-be-read book piles are already groaning and teetering - now this! Ms. Strout wrote The Burgess Boys after Olive. You might like that, too.

  9. Oh, thank you, thank you for these, some of which are already on my list, some that now will be. I know I must engage in Bright Wings (love Billy Collins, so, will be a good volume he's edited) and Elizabeth Strout is an author whose characters have staying power. When Breath Becomes Air has shown up on every imaginable list, now yours. I value your lists, Pamela, and will be looking for these.

  10. Well, Pamela, I gave them all the first page test and declare that they are ALL winners. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I will admit, the when testing "Corfu Trilogies", I exceeded more than one page...couldn't stop laughing and couldn't stop, they will be my first. Gratefully, Angela Muller

  11. I so much appreciate your reading recommendations, Pamela. Lucy Barton is at the top of my list. Now I'm tempted to add each and every book you have listed.

  12. Pamela,
    What a wonderful list of books. I too love winter and wish it were one more month. We do get one additional day this February, before we need to think of spring.

  13. I have the Hawk book, and look forward to it. And I have an Athill that I haven't read yet - Instead of a Letter. I would like to read all her books.

  14. I've read H is for Hawk and heartily second your recommendation. And I've loved everything Athill has written and am very much looking forward to this most recent memoir -- she's astonishing, really! I'm also going to read Paul Kalanithi's book -- don't know if you follow Cup of Jo, but that delightful blogger wrote about this one from the perspective of Kalanithi's sister-in-law. Her twin sister is his widow. So poignant.
    your post's timing is perfect for me, as I was just thinking of what I should add to my e-reader for tomorrow's long trip back home (Rome to Vancouver), and I think the Strout title is just what I need once I finish my Donna Leon mystery. Thanks so much for the literary round-up!

  15. I love your lists! H is For Hawk was one of my favorites from last year and I also enjoyed A Shepherd's Life so I'll check out Rebanks's latest. Strout is one of my favorite authors and lives part time in my town so I'll check it out her latest for sure. Alice and Wonderland still haunts me today in a good way. I have another book to add to your list, reviewed today on my blog which picks up on the theme from your last post.

  16. These are such good suggestions . . . our reading tastes are very similar, so I'm filled with book WANT. I've read H is for Hawk; it's SO wonderful. You can see my mini-review on Instagram. The only other thing I've read here (other than Alice, of course) is the Corfu Trilogy. But what a lovely cover! That's a marvellous reread.

  17. I stopped reading for a while and I could tell my vocabulary turned rusty. Seeing this post just inspires me. Great list you have!:)

  18. I like your list so very much. I've read just the one and need to check on the others. Some gems here.

  19. Yes, your list does make me wish February was longer!
    I adored the Corfu books when I first read them - made it impossible to take his brother's Alexandria Quartet as seriously as I should have done.
    I had better read H is for Hawk soon - so many people whose taste I admire have enjoyed it enormously.
    Happy reading!

  20. What a wonderful collection of books. I think I must start with Alive, Alive OH!! and then 'When breath becomes Air". Love the Durrell books,- both brothers...

  21. Hi Pamela,
    Always love your book lists and I can see everyone else does too.
    Loved H is for will too.
    Anita xx

  22. An old friend has just lost his wife. A great countryman. Have been going through your book lists and Amazoned off a dozen titles including H for Hawk , Herdwick and Meadowland. A much better way to be distracted from sad thoughts than flowers. Thank you.


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