We are all different in how we approach summer reading; some like to use the opportunity to read classics, some go down the crime and chick-lit route. Me? During the holidays I often gravitate towards non-fiction. A thick memoir or biography is a treat, as is books about travels or a deep dive into a particular topic.
“Truth is stranger then fiction” it is often said, and it’s funny because it’s true. In a book I read about Russian history (I forget which one) someone pointed out that you couldn’t make up a character like Rasputin; he just wouldn’t be believable and would have been edited out. Non-fiction be very relaxing in that I’m engaged but it’s written in a way that is easy to read; it’s about the story, not the language. I’ll save the the brilliant wordsmiths for the dark months of the year; currently I want to be entertained and quite possibly learn a thing or two.
And so I give you a few recommendations in that category, books that I have read in the past that maybe aren’t so much talked about but still worth reading.
- Furious love by Sam Kashner & Nancy Schoenberger; The life of Elizabeth Taylor, and her on and off relationship with Richard Burton, is the stuff of legends. The sex, the glamour, the jewelry, the art and the scandals; this has got it all. You really couldn’t make this stuff up if you tried. And how they met! Oy vei! This book is well-researched and well-written, throughly entertaining and it will have you going “Oh Lizzie please” a bunch of times. And I don’t really know that much about them to begin with but it was still entertaining.
- A perfect red by Amy Butler Greenfield; As someone who is interested in colours, fashion and history I’m always on the look-out for books that combine the three. This one does. And along the way we encounter Romans, pirates and the odd scientist. It is fascinating stuff: we take the colour red for granted but it has a rich history and there is a reason why this book has the subheading “empire, espionage and the quest for the colour of desire”. Says it all really.
- The Diana Chronicles by Tina Brown; Before I say something about the book I just want to say that I hope someone writes a good biography of Tina Brown at some point because her story is a rollercoaster. The former editor of Vanity Fair however did a good job with this book. I don’t know that much about Princess Diana, and I don’t know if I care, but what Brown does well is put her story against a backdrop of a changing society and media landscape. In a sense Brown sites what she knows, she knew Diana personally and has worked in media, and spins that yarn to effect. I don’t know id I totally buy her reasoning, but it is good reading and food for thought. Especially in the light of how royalty are depicted in the press now, how media works etc.
- The real Jane Austen by Paula Byrne; I’ve extolled the virtues of this book on Instagram more then once but I do really love it. Such a good read, and so well-researched and written. That whole “Jane Austen was a sad recluse that never got to get married-myth” needs to be put to sleep. There was more to her than that. I also remain fascinated with her rich relative that got caught shoplifting lace.
- Jewels by Victoria Finlay; Finlay has also written a book about colours so that’s a bonus suggestion. But everything I said about A perfect red also goes for this book except it’s about gemstones. Come to think of it Elizabeth taylor probably would have liked this book.
- Madame Pompadour by Nancy Mitford; An oldie but goodie. Of the Mitford biographies I have read this is the best. A woman much smarter then I said that Mitford approaches the subject not with admiration from afar but as a peer and thus has insight and understanding. I agree.
- The skies belong to us by Brendan I. Koerner; In an age of terrorism this book reminds us that it’s nothing new, but the results are much worse sadly. Plane hi-jackings were epidemic in the 60’s and 70’s as there was no airport security and when people got away with it then others followed suit. Usually it was desperate people looking for a way out, or politically motivated terrorist that didn’t want to kill but achieve something. Which doesn’t excuse what the Baader-Meinhof did one bit (but if you find it; do watch the movie about them from 2008). Anyways; this books reads like a thriller and keeps you on your toes.
Also worth reading;