Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Best historical novels & best travel writing

Of the Telegraph's recent feature on "Ten Best Historical Novels," I was chuffed to see that we had a number of the books mentioned at a discount (we try our best to make prices lower than Amazon, FYI). Restoration by Rose Tremain was one. Also on the list, natch, was Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall, seen here with its British cover design. We seem to have sold out of that at the moment, but we have the equally engrossing (and more clearly written) Bring Up the Bodies, the second in the trilogy-in-progress. If it's not getting too far ahead of ourselves, we also have a book on Katherine Parr called The Sixth Wife as well as Elizabeth and Mary: Cousins, Rivals, Queens.
Having just spent many nights avidly devouring  G.J. Meyer's excellent The Tudors: The Complete Story of England's Most Notorious Dynasty, I can say that I am well and truly sickened by Henry VIII and by the staggering accumulation of pernicious consequences his reign had for England. And that goes for his daughters too! Sometimes reading history takes a strong stomach.
Master and Commander by Patrick O'Brian was also cited, and we have five of his "Aubrey & Maturin Adventures."
Moving along to another genre that often combines fact with fiction, I thought that Smithsonian Magazine's roundup of "Top Ten Most Influential Travel Books" was one of the better attempts in this genre. Among the men (and two women, thank God) singled out for their lasting impact were Herodotus, Marco Polo, Freya Stark, Jack Kerouac, Bruce Chatwin, and Peter Mayle.
The life of Dame Freya Stark suggests that travel (and a tot of Scotch?) can promote vitality as well as broaden the mind: she died in 1993 at the age of 100.
 Any suggestions for other books in these genres to add to our reading lists?

7 comments:

  1. I just checked out the list of "Ten Best Historical Novels" I was happy to see William Golding's much overlooked book, "The Inheritors on the list. I love how the book was written in the point of view of one of the Neanderthals, save the last few chapters.

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    1. That one really caught my fancy too ... what a tour de force it sounds like. Have you read any of the YA novels of michele paver?

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  2. I've always been partial to Michael Shaara's "The Killer Angels" and E.L. Doctorow's "Ragtime." They both take liberties but, as far as historical fiction goes, are superb! I keep meaning to read Mantel. Ughhh, now I have no excuse:)

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    1. I absolve you. You don't have to read her. Now, doesn't that feel better??

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  3. A few people seem to have been pretty upset with the 10 books chosen in this list (check the comments at the bottom of the Telegraph web page). I was looking for an explanation of how the list was compiled, but could find nothing on that page. I'm assuming it is just one person's opinion, versus a wide-spread public vote? :-/

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  4. The Killer Angels is the first book I thought of too, but then again that list was published in an English paper. Gore Vidal’s Burr and Thomas Berger's Little Big Man also could be included as worthy. And I did love Flashman, the first book mentioned by the Telegraph. (Next on my personal list of historical fiction to read: Andersonville.)

    As for the travel books, I was surprised to find that I really didn't care much for The Innocents Abroad, On the Road or In Patagonia, but I suppose there's no denying their influence.

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