Carolyn’s Reading Choices for the Holidays 2010/2011

The act of reading has been for me, in my lifetime, both saviour and friend.

I particularly love reading about people. So biographies are always near the top of my list. And, having worked in the creative industry for much of my life, poetry, classic novels, art, design and style books are next.

But…I do love cookbooks, so its all just too confusing to actually have to make a choice and number them as a top ten.  And for fiction, well who can beat Stieg Larsson’s fabulous Millennium Trilogy over the past decade or the continuing blockbuster novels of someone like Tom Clancy.

All are simply riveting reading for the holidays.

They are all available on the Australian on line only book store, which offers outstanding value for money on books delivered to your door. They also have a great search engine that lets you search for any title you want world wide, which I find very handy.

Here are my ten choices for 2010/2011 Christmas New Year Period although they are not necessarily in any order.

The Millennium Trilogy Boxed Set from Stieg Larsson features revised cloth-bound hardcover editions, with maps, of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played with Fire and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest, plus a fourth volume containing essays by those who knew and worked with Stieg Larsson, as well as other original material.

And Furthermore is an autobiography from one of England’s most loved and revered actors Judi Dench. Here she tells her story for the first time in her own words and her impish sense of humour contributes vividly to her account of more than half a century as Britain’s best-loved actress.

The King’s Speech - Mark Logue and Peter Conradi is about an unknown Aussie who taught a King how to overcome a stuttering affliction that had plagued him all his life.

Ballet Russes: Art of Costume from Australian National Gallery curator Robert Bell. It showcases costumes designed for dancers in Sergei Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes a Russian ballet troupe that included stars like Anna Pavlova and shocked and awed audiences around the world throughout the early 1900s.

Bligh: Master Mariner from Rob Mundle is about a man whose amazing exploits and adventures were more than remarkable in his own day, and seem completely astonishing in ours.

Firth as Bertie, and Bonham Carter as the Queen Mum in the King's Speech

Residence showcases international designer Thomas Hamel’s ability to produce an interior that accommodates the needs of the client in a timelessly elegant and stylish way while providing just the right amount of ‘depth and resonance’ as an essential aspect of its ingredients.

Poh’s Kitchen from Poh Ling Yeow features recipes from the show, as well as many new, original and delicious dishes from Poh, who adds her own inimitable style and charm to the mix.

Jane Austen For Dummies from Prof. Joan Elizabeth Klingel Ray who is an international authority on the works of Jane Austen, will help all those coming to the novels for the first time, and refreshen the spirit for old timers who thrill to fall at the feet of Mr Darcy.

The Story of England from the Romans to the Normans comes to us from England’s most entertaining historian Michael Wood

Dead Or Alive is the latest from thriller writer Tom Clancy #1 international bestselling author, bestselling videogame presenter and one of the preeminent and most prescient storytellers of our time. He has written a modern-day techno-thriller like nothing he has ever done before.

Lady Mary Wortley Montagu and her son pioneering innoculation against smallpox

No entertainment is so cheap as reading, nor any pleasure so lasting‘ said Lady Mary Wortley Montagu (1689 – 1762) one of the eighteenth centuries most colorful adventuresses and prolific correspondents.

Her boast was that she and her husband were the first Christians from Europe to journey across the Hungarian plains. She was undoubtedly the first Englishwoman, to do so clad as she was in rose coloured pantaloons and wearing rose tinted spectacles.

Lady Mary bravely allowed her only son to be inoculated against the smallpox in Constantinople, where her husband was the English ambassador.  In a letter written home on April 1, 1717 to  Miss Sarah Chiswell she says

“I am going to tell you a thing that I am sure will make you wish yourself here.

The small pox so fatal and so general amongst us, is here entirely harmless by the invention of ingrafting, which is the term they give it. There is a set of old women who make it their business to perform the operation every autumn, in the month of September, when the great heat is abated.

People send to one another to know if any of their family has a mind to have the small pox; they make parties for this purpose and when they are met (commonly 15 0r 16 together) the old woman comes with a nut shell full of the matter of the best sort of small pox and asks what veins you please to have opened.

She immediately rips open that you offer to her with a large needle (which gives you no more pain that a common scratch) and puts into the vein as much venom as can lie upon the head of her needle; and after binds up the little wound….when the fever seizes them on about the eighth day they keep to their beds two days, very seldom three.

They have very rarely above 20 or 30 in their faces which never mark; in 8 days time they are as well as before their illness. Every year thousands undergo this operation; the French ambassador says pleasantly, that they take the small pox here by way of diversion, as they take the waters in other countries.

There is no example of any one that has died in it; you may believe I am very well satisfied of the safety of this experiment, since I intend to try it on my dear little son. I am patriot enough to take pains to bring this useful invention into fashion in England and I should not fail to write to some of our doctors very particularly about it.

If I knew any one of them that I though had virtue enough to destroy such a considerable branch of their revenue for the good of mankind. If I live to return, I may,  however have courage to go to war with them. Upon this occasion admire the heroism in the heart of your friend”.

Khalil Gibran, the prophet himself

Lady Mary Montagu caused a sensation when she published her own letters from Turkey, which are still a classic.

So are the Letters of Horace Walpole, which are quite outstanding. A wonderful publication this year relating to his interesting life was about his house Strawberry Hill.

Two of the most precious books I own in content are however secondhand, and quite antique. It is a first edition copy Marie Antoinette by her maid, Mme Campan.

To search for it you will have to go to a shop like Novel Lines at Brisbane or phone Anne Jolly (07) 3367 8927

My all time favourite piece of prose is The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran now the subject of an exhibition at the Sydney Art Gallery.

Words are certainly how the world works and Lady Mary was right, no pleasure is so long lasting as reading.  Happy holidays.

Carolyn McDowall, December 2010

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