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10 December 2010

Holiday Wish List: Books, Books and More Books


'Tis the season: things are slowing down at my day job and I finally have the chance (I hope) to catch up on my reading! Nothing beats sitting by the fireplace late at night, reading by the low lights and glow of holiday decorations---my wish list is naturally longer than "War and Peace" but my preference for a good historical tale, romance or otherwise, comes shining through. Here are my top picks this year:

1. Cleopatra, A Life, by Pulitzer Prize winning author, Stacy Schiff. Everything I've heard about this book is spectacular. Move over Philippa Gregory, from the excerpts I've read and the reviews, Ms. Schiff has done for ancient Egypt what Ms. Gregory did for Tudor England. Here's a bit from the New York Times review: "Ms. Schiff waves onto the stage Cleopatra’s Alexandria in all its splendor and beauty: its gleaming marble edifices, the oversize sphinxes and falcons that lined the paths to the city’s Greek temples, the Doric tombs decorated with crocodile gods in Roman dress. She enables the reader to see Cleopatra’s court — her elaborate retinue of tasters, scribes, lamplighters, royal harpists, masseurs, pages, doorkeepers, notaries, silver stewards, oil keepers and pearl sorters — and to picture her fleet of royal barges, equipped with gyms, libraries, shrines to Dionysus and Aphrodite, gardens, grottos, lecture halls, spiral staircases, copper baths, stables and aquariums." Ms Schiff portray her Cleopatra as the ultimate heroine: "Her death , an honorable death, a dignified death, an exemplary death,” over which she presided herself, “proud and unbroken to the end” — even won over her detractors, Ms. Schiff observes: “by the Roman definition she had at last done something right; finally it was to her credit that she had defied the expectations of her sex.”

I can't wait to read this book. And BTW, check out the beautiful cover. When I first saw it, I thought this was some kind of Regency-Cleopatra-Story. But I saw the author in an interview (on the Daily Show, no less) who said as soon as she was seated, "The cover is historically accurate. A Queen in ancient Egypt would have worn pearl earrings and pearls threaded through her hair." After that, I got this sort of "you had me at hello" feeling.


2.Lady of Hay by Barbara Erskine, a kind of time-travel history. The heroine is hypnotized to regress to the twelfth century in Wales where she re-lives her previous life as Matilda, hanged for treason. Guaranteed to please the lover of Gabaldon's books, as quoted from Geraldine Ketchum on suite101.com. This book has just been re-released.

3. Sarum by Edward Rutherfurd tells the history of a family and a village in England from prehistory to modern times. Somehow, I missed this book. Good thing it seems to be perpetually in print!

What's on your wish-list this season? Any new books that have grabbed your attention? Romance, historical fiction or other?

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7 Comments:

Blogger Mystica said...

A good giveaway to enter!

I am having a giveaway on my blog - a gift card sponsored by CSN Stores. Please come over and enter!

6:34 PM  
Blogger Diane Whiteside said...

Kathrynn - I too want to read Cleopatra by Stacy Schiff. I also want to try some non-fiction history as ebooks. A friend recommended The great Fire of London by Neil Hanson, since he's a fan of Christopher Wren.

I'd also like to try some historical seer mysteries. India Black by Carol Carr caught my eye, since it's a Victorian with a Madame as the sleuth. (yes I do like off-beat but accurate characters!)

8:04 PM  
Blogger Leslie Carroll said...

I want to read "Cleopatra" as well, Kathrynn. Schiff wrote a very clever and funny political piece for the NY Times last week using Cleopatra's political actions as a template for modern day politicians. It was very clever. I have a feeling that the tone of her Cleopatra bio isn't quite as humorous, but the piece for the times was so engaging that I wanted to read more of her writing.

I bought the Mark Twain bio as a holiday gift to myself, but I have so much research and writing to do that pleasure reading over the holidays isn't going to happen this year.

8:34 PM  
Blogger Kathrynn Dennis said...

Thanks, Diane for the tip...I love a good Victorian, with a Madame as a sleuth to boot! India Black is another on my Kindle gift list!

I've been thinking about delving into the Mark Twain bio, Leslie. I heard the academic press that printed it only printed about 6000 copies on the first run and had no idea, and was totally unprepared to go into reprint for 100,000! Devil of a problem to have, no?

8:39 PM  
Blogger Elizabeth Kerri Mahon said...

Kathrynn, I had the pleasure of hearing Stacy speak on Friday a the Leonard Levy center for biography here in New York. She was wonderfully witty, so of course I had to buy the book. I also have Carol's book, and hopefully she will be doing a guest post for Scandalous Women. Also on the hop, I have the new biography of Catherine of Aragon I'm dying to read. And I confess I will be buying at least one of the many William and Kate books. I'm a sucker for a Royal Wedding.

10:58 AM  
Blogger Kathrynn Dennis said...

Thanks for posting Elizabeth...I'm a sucker for a royal wedding too. ;-)

9:26 PM  
Blogger Tracy Grant said...

Great list of books, Kathrynn! I'm sneaking reading breaks with Elizabeth George's "This Body of Death" when I'm not writing and reading Waterloo letters, memoirs, and histories.

1:01 PM  

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