My favourite Non Fiction books of the year fall into one of these four categories. I often find that history & biography are hard to seperate as I read very little contemporary biography so the biographies I do read tend to be of historical figures. Letters & diaries are either from a historical period I’m interested in or written by an author whose work I enjoy.
Decca, the letters of Jessica Mitford, was one of the many books by the Mitford sisters I read this year. Jessica is the most likeable & sympathetic of the sisters to me & I loved reading her letters.
Nella Last is now one of the best-known diarists of WWII. She wrote her diaries for Mass Observation & kept writing after the War almost until her death. I read her WWII diaries a few years ago & this year read two more volumes, Nella Last’s Peace & Nella Last in the 1950s.
Alice Dudeney was one of my discoveries this year. A browse through an anthology of diarists led me to A Lewes Diary by Mrs Henry Dudeney. A famous novelist in her day, Alice is now completely forgotten. Her diary was rescued from the archives of a local Archaeological Society. I was completely absorbed in her life & tortured marriage.
I’ll list my favourite history & biography chronologically. Eleanor Butler is one of those shadowy medieval women who often slip through the cracks except when their story impinges on great events like the accession of Richard III. John Ashdown-Hill’s biography, Eleanor, the Secret Queen, rescues her from that obscurity.
The Days of Duchess Anne by Rosalind K Marshall was a book I’d had on the tbr shelves for years. I loved reading about the household of the Duchess of Hamilton & life in Scotland in the late 17th century.
Effie : A Victorian Scandal by Merryn Williams is the story of a marriage that went spectacularly wrong.
Black Diamonds by Catherine Bailey is the story of the Fitzwilliam family of Wentworth House & the coal mines that created their fortune. A wonderful example of social history taking in the Fitzwilliams & their workers.
Well, there’s my list of best books of the year. I can’t wait to read your comments & visit my favourite blogs & read about everyone else’s favourites. Here’s to another great year of reading in 2011.