Bookshelf Travelling for Insane Times

Bookshelf Travelling for Insane Times which is hosted by Judith, Reader in the Wilderness is supposed to be on a Friday – I’m late – or early whichever way you want to take it!

The books I’ve chosen to highlight this week are all as yet unread by me and are from a small bookcase in our guest bedroom. I’m not sure if any guests would want to read these ones, but it also houses a lot of Patricia Wentworth books so it’s an eclectic mix.

Everyman's Castle cover

I’m interested in houses, homes and architecture in general and when I saw this book called Everyman’s Castle with a dream of an art deco house on the cover, Crittal windows and all, I had to buy it. This book must have been donated to an Oxfam bookshop almost as soon as it was published, it cost me all of £2.99 although the publisher’s price was £20. Despite pouncing on it in the shop – it has remained unread by me for the last five years. The author is Philippa Lewis and it looks like it contains a lot of social history as well as references to different sorts of homes, actual and fictional. I really must get around to reading it.

The Pursuit of Paradise cover

The Pursuit of Paradise by Jane Brown is subtitled A Social History of Gardens and Gardening. This is a fairly hefty tome which could be why I haven’t got around to reading it, but flicking through now I can see why I bought it. It’s an interesting collection of all things gardening related, featuring just about every type of garden you can think of and including a ‘military garden’ which is a type that I’ve never heard of before. Apart from that there are lots of illustrations such as a plan of the gardens of the 1951 Festival of Britain, some colour plates of art works and gardens, and lots of history.

Women Who Read Are Dangerous cover

Lastly Women Who Read Are Dangerous by Karen Joy Fowler (author of The Jane Austen Book Club) is according to the New York Times Book Review…. A Treasure Trove of Visual Riches. The blurb says: Artists through the ages have been fascinated by the challenge of capturing in their work the intimacy and tranquility of reading. There was a time however when female literacy was a controversial idea, and it took many centuries before women were entirely free to chose what they read, whether for instruction or pleasure.

This is a lovely book full of paintings, drawings and photographs of women reading, including artworks from Vermeer, Manet, Whistler, Hopper, Fragonard, Larsson and many more, each accompanied by a short article on the image and the artist.

I’m really enjoying doing these posts as they’re re-acquainting me with books that I expected to read soon after buying them, but never did. Already I’ve read a few of the ones that I highlighted in previous ‘Insane’ blogposts. Thanks Judith.

The Pursuit of Paradise by Jane Brown

The Pursuit of Paradise cover

I think it must be a few years since I bought The Pursuit of Paradise – A Social History of Gardens and Gardening by Jane Brown. I wasn’t really too sure what to expect of it. Sometimes gardening books are a bit like ‘teaching granny to suck eggs’, not that I think I know everything about the subject, but as I’ve been gardening since I was a wee girl, over fifty years!! – it’s inevitable that you pick up a lot of information one way and another.

But this book was informative, it has eleven chapters:
1. The Purest of Human Pleasure
2. The Secret Garden
3. The Military Garden
4. Emancipated Gardeners
5. The Rise of the Small Garden
6. Acquiring Eden
7. Science Lends a Hand
8. It’s Clever, but is it Art?
9. Labour of Love
10. The Formative Garden
11. Future Gardens

I found The Military Garden most interesting as it hadn’t dawned on me that so many gardening terms come from the arts of warfare – cordon, earthing-up, trench, bastion, palisade, covered way and more. It seems that when generals were at a loose end after wars were won, they went home and started to plan gardens where they could keep everything under control, just as they had commanded their men. All that topiary stood in for regiments of men!

This one is definitely worth reading if you enjoy social history and gardening.