Firebrand Books

My Reading and Book Review Blog

Reading Review: February 2015

journal-by-curt-fleenor-photography

February’s reading has rather been overshadowed by the planning of my 101 goals list, although I read nine books they were all either short or inter-cut with lots of images, sometimes both! I’m looking forward to sinking my teeth into more lengthy or immersive books in March.

February’s Books

I read genetic history meets archaeology, some architecture, art history and two books on crafting history for a arts-heavy mix of non-fiction. Not a single finished novel or short story collection this month though. I did try to lose myself in some fiction but just couldn’t drift into its rhythm, I think it was all the planning I was doing for the 101 goals, I can only really enjoy so much daydreaming and plotting at one time. With all the castles-in-the-air in my real life, there wasn’t mental space for them in my reading. Now the list is finalized though I can settle back down into a more mixed selection of fiction and non-fiction. 🙂

The Read Books

8) John Ashdown-Hill – The Last Days of Richard III and the Fate of his DNA (Non-Fic) (2013)
9) Alexandra Johnson – A Brief History of Diaries: From Pepys to Blogs (Non-Fic) (2011)
10) Juhani Pallasmaa- The Eyes of the Skin: Architecture and the Senses (Non-Fic) (2005)
11) Ruth Kenny, Jeff McMillan and Martin Myrone – British Folk Art (Non-Fic) (2014)
12) Thomasina Beck – The Embroiderer’s Story (Non-Fic) (1995)
13) Gary Schwartz & Marten Jan Bok – Pieter Saenredam: The Painter and His Time (Non-Fic) (1990)
14) Jonathan Conlin – The Nation’s Mantelpiece: A History of the National Gallery (Non-Fic) (2006)
15) Margaret Jourdain – The History of English Secular Embroidery (Non-Fic) (1910)
16) Rowan Moore – Why We Build (Non-Fic) (2007)

Books read: 9 /Books ‘Surfed’: 2 / Books marked Did Not Finish: 3
Fiction: 6 / Non-Fiction: 3
Female authors: 3 / Male authors: 4 / Multiple authors: 2

February’s Highlights: I didn’t love anything I read this month but I think that’s the nature of what I was reading, none of these books are the kind to make you a ‘fan’ of them, they’re good for dipping in and out of and absorbing interesting fact and images from. If I had to pick a favourite though I’d opt for the book on the Netherlandish artist Pieter Jansz. Saenredam. I’ll be reviewing it or at least sharing a couple of images from it because Saenredam has long been a favourite artist of mine. He’s not so well known but he did these amazing architectural paintings in the 17th century:

Pieter Jansz Saenredam – The Interior of St. Bavo’s Church, Haarlem – 1648

So many of Saenredam’s images look unbelievably modern and looking through the book, comparing different versions of various interiors, how his style developed though his subject stayed similar and drawings with finished works, was a great pleasure this month.

February’s Low Points: I suppose the flip-side of reading books you aren’t expected to fall in love with is not having much to dislike either! I wished the Conlin book on the National Gallery had a stronger sense of the author’s style (it had that dry, ‘correct’ tone of a spun-out thesis which I gather it was) and that the images of the gallery’s finest works weren’t all so unbearably dark in their reproductions. And Ashdown-Hill’s book on Richard III was simply messy, trying to do several things at once and not juggling them seamlessly. But it wasn’t really a ‘low point’ of my reading either, I still found the book interesting to skim through.

Reading Challenges

I am about to start another 101 goals in 1001 days adventure (01MAR2015-25NOV2017). I promise not to bore you to tears with non-bookish goals but you need to be aware that I’ll be working on these particularly bookish goals over the next couple of years:

6) Alternate male/female authors in my reading.
8) Have no more books in boxes by Day 1001.
19) Read a 19th Century of Books.
20) Read a 20th Century of Books.
23) Become an active autodidact.
38) Read all 38 of Shakespeare’s plays.
39) See as many of Shakespeare’s plays performed as I can.
47) Get my Commonplace Book v2.0 up to date by Day 1001.
48) Rejoin and stay with the Leeds Library.
58) Go for a bibliotherapy session.
59) Put up An Introduction to Commonplacing on my blog.
60) Build a library of books I love but don’t currently own.
75) Use my Book Jar once a month.
93) Read a book a day for a month.

I obviously won’t be trying to do all of these at once in the next month but expect to see a steady stream of ‘Century of Books’ related posts, regular selections from the book jar and so on over the course of the adventure. 🙂

Plans for March

I have a couple of books I definitely want to read this month. Danny Dorling’s All That is Solid has been patiently waiting my attention by my bed for a couple of months and I have Siri Hustvedt’s collection of art related essays here too, Mysteries of the Rectangle. Oh, and the Slaves of Golconda (a very informal online reading group I enjoy taking part in) has chosen Honoré de Balzac’s Eugénie Grandet as this month’s read and I have tracked down a copy. Mostly though I am looking forward to using my book jar for the first time in ages, making sure I read more fiction (maybe something big and Victorian to get lost in?) and seeing how my first month of alternating books by author gender works for me…

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