The Real Jane Austen by Paula Byrne
For all of Jane Austen’s constant popularity, the image of Austen as sequestered spinster is weirdly durable. I’ve mentioned before that I am awfully enamored of Becoming Jane, a film whose other faults we will get to. But even that film, which depicts the young Austen in a tempestuous relationship with one Tom Lefroy (giving me a reason to see Anne Hathaway and James McAvoy make out, so thank you), ultimately plays into that image after spending so much time trying to subvert it in the most cliche of ways. (I don’t think it’s a spoiler to let you know that Hathaway and McAvoy cease making out at some point.) So when I was given the opportunity to read a biography of Austen that promised to explode that image, I leapt at the chance to finally read something that presented Austen as a human being.
Marvel Comics by Sean Howe
If you’d asked me three years ago “Marvel or DC”, I would have answered, in a heartbeat, DC—after all, DC publishes Vertigo, the imprint that puts out my beloved The Unwritten, and Harley Quinn is one of my favorite comic book characters. But Gotham City Sirens tried my patience and the reboot, while letting me jump into Wonder Woman, just punched me in the gut. So I started reading Journey into Mystery and here I am, bugging people with how the Enchantress should totally be in Thor 2 or, at the very least, a joke about Loki and horses. Hence my desire to learn a bit more about Marvel, beyond some basics I already knew.
Telegraph Avenue by Michael Chabon
It’s been a bit of a rough year for Michael Chabon, one of my favorite writers—John Carter, which I went to go see because of his involvement in the writing, didn’t do terribly well at the box office. I personally dug it, but I will also be the first to admit that I am biased towards totally ripped scientist princesses. Still, my faith in Chabon remained as unshaken as ever, and I happily leapt at the chance to read Telegraph Avenue pretty much sight unseen. If you’ve been with me long, you’ll know that’s extremely rare, as I gravitate towards story over style. But was my faith rewarded?
Thornfield Hall by Emma Tennant
Emma Tennant’s Thornfield Hall appears to have gone through a few stages in its life—originally published as Adele in 2000, it was reworked into The French Dancer’s Bastard in 2006, before it became Thornfield Hall and published by Harper. Tennant’s written other pieces of fanfiction, such as Pemberly, a sequel to Pride and Prejudice, and Elinor and Marianne, a sequel to Sense and Sensibility, so I would have encountered her even if I’d decided to do my project on Pride and Prejudice instead of Jane Eyre. Of course, either encounter would be unpleasant…
She-Wolves by Helen Castor
After watching The King’s Speech, I finally grew interested in the British monarchy, if just for a little while. During AP European History in high school, I was always much more interested in the Russian monarchy or defending my motherland against scurrilous claims. (What’s that? The French do what? I’m sorry, I can’t hear you over the sound of William the Conqueror taking over your island of perpetual rain and fog. Deal with it.) When I was offered the chance to review She-Wolves, I took it, curious about female power in the British monarchy, especially back when it actually was a position of political power. Unfortunately, it fell short.
Manhood for Amateurs by Michael Chabon
As I continually mention, I will read anything Michael Chabon publishes, and someday, I’ll get around to doing just that. (But you know how life is; so many books, so little time…) As I settled back into town for school, I picked up Manhood for Amateurs, as I’ve heard only good things about it, especially about Chabon’s self-identification as a fan (as in fandom). That, I feel, is massively important. There’s a specific slant to the way a fan sees the world, the way we reference and frame things in context of the stories we love. To watch Chabon, and his mastery of language, do that? Sign me up.
This Book is Overdue! by Marilyn Johnson
I always encourage fellow readers to do two things in the digital age–support your local independent bookstore and thoroughly abuse your library privileges. As someone who comes home with wonderfully heavy piles of rented books every week, I tend to scoff at people who declare that digital readers are the future (not until you can buy a ten dollar waterproof Kindle) and I’m always a bit befuddled by people who don’t taken advantage of their library systems. So when Marilyn Johnson’s This Book is Overdue came across my field of view, a book that celebrates the modern librarian, I knew I had to read it.