The act of reading ... begins on a flat surface, counter or page, and then gets stirred and chopped and blended until what we make, in the end, is a dish, or story, all our own.
— Adam Gopnik

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

February 13, 2016

Bingeing on biographies

Since, if asked, I would say that biographies — especially literary biographies — were probably my favorite form of reading. I was surprised (even a little sad) to realize that I had read relatively few of them last year. I didn't really plan to make up for that in first few months of this year, but I'm glad that I did. :)

Especially since two of these books {the one about Lady Byron and the one about Dora Wordsworth  and Sara Coleridge} reminded me why I love reading biographies so much — because in skilled hands a biography can deepen my interest in someone I know a little about but also so often awakens it {as these did} in someone I don't, and to be honest can often provide the kind of enchanting, or even gripping, read that I don't always find in fiction or mysteries. 

The third one (the one about Queen Elizabeth} reminded me how disappointing a not-as-well-written  biography can be, one that takes what should be a fascinating story and left me wanting so much more.   I was a little surprised because I remember enjoying her book on another young queen {though I read somewhere that she didn't have access to very much material this time}. 


Mac n' Janet said...

I read very little nonfiction, but when I do it's generally a biography. Been working on William Manchester's massive 3-volume biography of Winston Churchill.

lyn said...

I have The Poet's Daughters on the tbr shelves. Another excellent biography on the women involved with the Lake poets is Passionate Sisterhood by Kathleen Jones. I read it years ago (published by Virago in the 90s) but have never forgotten it.

Audrey said...

Oh! I have Passionate Sisterhood on my list, too, and I'm sure I heard about both of these books from you - so thank you, Lyn!

Lisa said...

I find I can't binge on non-fiction - I need some story in between my history :) I always think of Helene Hanff's comment on why she didn't read fiction, because she couldn't get interested in "things that never happened to people who never existed." I've never felt that way!

Audrey said...

Me neither, but I love that!

Jane @ Beyond Eden Rock said...

I have Passionate Sisterhood in my Virago collection and The Poets Daughters on my non fiction bookcase and I am so tempted to pull them both out. I love the idea of non fiction, I often love reading it, but I don't pick it up often enough.

I'm about to pick up the Antonia Fraser that you recommended to read another chapter before I sleep.

Kate Williams seems to spread herself very thin these days - writing non fiction, writing fiction, and often appearing as an expert on royal and historical matters for the BBC - so I do hope the quality of her work isn't suffering.

JaneGS said...

I'm a big fan of this subgenre myself--reading lit bios is such fun and illuminating. I really like the cover of The Poet's Daughters, and that one appeals to me the most as well.

And yes, not all biographers are equally skilled in their craft. Sorry to hear the EII one was a bust.

Thank you for visiting!

Card Catalog

#6barsets #emma200th #maisie #Middlemarchin2019 #PalliserParty #Woolfalong A.A. Milne Agatha Christie Alexander McCall Smith Allison Pearson Amy Lowell Angela Thirkell Ann Bridge Anne Perry Anthony Trollope Anticipation Armchair Travels Art Audiobooks Barbara Pym Biography Bloomsbury Bookish things Boston British Library Crime Classics Cambridge Cathleen Schine Charles Dickens Coffee-table books Cookbooks D.E. Stevenson Deborah Crombie Donna Leon Dorothy L. Sayers Dorothy Whipple E.H. Young E.M. Delafield E.M. Forster Edith Wharton Elinor Lipman Elizabeth Gaskell Elizabeth Jenkins Elizabeth Taylor Elizabeth von Arnim Ellizabeth Taylor Emily Dickinson Ernest Hemingway Essays Eudora Welty Fanny Burney Fiction Films Food from Books Food Writing Found on a Blog George Eliot Georgette Heyer Gertrude Stein Helen Ashton Henry James History Homes and Haunts Ideas Imogen Robertson Isabella Stewart Gardner Jacqueline Winspear Jane Austen Joanna Trollope Julia Child Language Laurie Colwin Letters Library Books Literature Louise Andrews Kent Louise Penny M.F.K. Fisher Madame Bovary Madame de Sévigné Madame de Staël Margaret Kennedy Margery Sharp Martha Grimes Mary Shelley Memoirs Miss Read My Year with Edith Mysteries Nathaniel Hawthorne Nonfiction Nook Only Connect P.D. James Paris in July Persephones Plays Poetry Pride and Prejudice 200 Queen Victoria R.I.P. Reading England 2015 Ruth Rendell Sarah Orne Jewett Short Stories Susan Hill Switzerland Sylvia Beach Team Middlemarch The 1924 Club The Brontës the Carlyles The Classics Club Thomas Hardy Virago Virginia Woolf Washington Irving Willa Cather William Maxwell Winifred Peck Winifred Watson