I begin 2017 with a confession – I’m well behind on my reading. Strikingly, shockingly and chronically behind. For anyone this is bad. For someone who has made it his business to keep on top of the latest offerings from popular historians, it’s an absolute disaster.
I’ve got some catching up to do. So for the first part of 2017, whenever I’m not working, writing or trying to lose a little of the Christmas weight, you’ll find me with my nose in a book (or at least my kindle). Part of the fun is that I don’t know yet exactly what my reading list will look like. There are however 5 books – not necessarily new – that I simply must read sooner rather than later. I thought I’d share those with you.
Game of Queens by Sarah Gristwood – This ambitious books claims to capture the lives of the powerful women of the 16th century. There’s been much debate in recent years as to whether modern, feminist writers are giving too much attention to women from this period, but I for one am enjoying seeing this long-term inbalance corrected. Gristwood’s ‘Blood Sisters’ which charted the collective lives of the women at the heart of the Wars of the Roses was one of the most readable history books I have ever thumbed my way through so I have high hopes for her new offering.
The Lives of Tudor Women by Elizabeth Norton– I was first introduced to Norton’s stimulating style through her biography of Margaret Beaufort and I’m intrigued as to how she has tackled the task of exploring ‘the seven ages of the Tudor woman, from childhood to old age.’ As I said above, the lives of powerful 16th century woman have finally started to capture the public’s imagination. This book, as I understand it, will explore the stories of some lesser known characters and provide a rich tapestry of cultural context. If so, then it’s a book I will enjoy.
Elizabeth: The Forgotten Years by John Guy – Strangely, my knowledge of Elizabeth I is shockingly limited and what I do know tends to centre around a few dramatic episodes – upbringing, love life and her dealings with that pesky Queen of Scots. I’ve been keen for a while to get under the skin of the politics of her reign, particularly the latter half and when I saw a review of this book on the Guardian website I knew it would be added to the reading list. I know little of the writer so it’s something of a shot in the dark – but come on, geeks; experimenting is all part of the fun.
Magna Carta by Dan Jones – Okay, okay I know this book is nowhere near ‘new’ – but I never said that only newish books had a place on this list. Dan Jones’s offering was originally published in 2014 and despite the ‘Magna Carter’ fever that dominated 2015, I just didn’t have time to read it. However, I thoroughly enjoyed ‘the Hollow Crown’ (and found ‘the Plantagenets useful) so it was always inevitable that I would one day dust off the cover of the book in question and give it the once over. 2017 will be its lucky year.
Anne Boleyn, A King’s Obsession by Alison Weir – Hot on the heels of the first book in her ‘Six Wives’ novel series last year, the Queen of history, Alison Weir has been teasing her facebook friends with the twists and turns that she took when writing her fictional account of Anne Boleyn’s life. Given Weir’s experience and expertise there is no real doubt as to the quality and historical reliability of this eagerly-awaited book, expected to hit shelves in May. But there is much anticipation as to what we might learn. The author herself has admitted that writing fiction gives her greater freedom to explore theories and suggestions that have no place in a history book but are nonetheless a valid contribution to the debate. With most of Anne’s letters lost to us, her inner thoughts can only largely be guessed at. Weir’s informed portrayal of who Anne truly was as a person will be one that many are waiting for.
Anyway, all five books shall be duly reviewed on this site. But until then…let me know what is on YOUR reading lists for 2017 geeks!