Recommended by: just about everyone. A Christmas present from Ma and Pa Blonde.
Read: 6 January - 12 February
I'm not sure, bar Les when I was living in Tanzania on my gap year, a book has ever taken me this long to read. But by golly - what a book. There's not a lot that I can say that's not been said by better-qualified people than I, but I'd urge pretty much everyone to read this. It's epic, but takes in the minutiae of life. It's unexpected, and engrossing, and feels weighty without ever weighing the reader down. There's love and loss and nihilism, and I almost feel I need the York Notes to really be able to understand everything that woven into her writing.
Recommended by: Holly Smith, who gave me her copy
Read: 5 - 16 February
This is a skinny, elegant little book - a love letter to the rural way of life in Wyoming. It sketches the people, the rituals, the seasons, and the landscape, and made me quite seriously want to run off and be a cowgirl somewhere in the mid-West. A joyous book that reminds you, when you're crushed up against an armpit on the tube, that there's a big, wide world out there.
Author: Jessica Mitford
Recommended by: no one. I've wanted to read this ever since I picked up Letters Between Six Sisters years ago. Ordered on Amazon, and apparently quite hard for them to track down.
Read: 13 - 27 February
An odd-sounding book, perhaps, especially as a choice of someone who primarily reads novels, but this is a brilliantly written, unexpectedly funny exposé of the American funeral system (told you it sounded odd). It's about the tricks and traps that funeral salesmen in the States will use to part the grieving from as much of their hard-earned money as possible which, when you think about it, is a pretty vile thing to do. In this revised version, Mitford includes snippets of feedback her book got from the industry at the time. Needless to say, she wasn't their person...
Recommended by: chosen as the London Book Club's book for February
Read: 17 - 19 February
If The Goldfinch was a weighty tome that took me over a month, Rosie is the polar opposite. It's short; you could easily read it in a sitting; and it's completely insubstantial. Ultimately a boy-meets-unlikely-girl story, it's fun and lightweight and would be a good book to take to a park in the sunshine on a Sunday afternoon. It's not going to break any ground, but that's not necessarily a terrible thing. Whereas Goldfinch is literary purple sprouting broccoli (delicious and super-nutritious), Rosie is a bag of (tasty, and you'll speed through it, but it won't do you any long-lasting goodness).