Does your reading go in phases? I mean what sorts of books you want to read. You might already know how much of a mood reader I am. I have a time or place or story in mind and nothing will satisfy until I find a book that fits within those parameters. At the moment, my latest reading whim isn't so much a particular story or even place but I am very much in the mood to read some very good nonfiction. I'm not entirely sure what sort of nonfiction (though I have a few ideas). Biography, travel, social history? I have a pile of potential books, but rather than pick something new (strangely I do that far less of that with nonfiction than novels--where I will start novels whenever I feel like it, I generally will only have one nonfiction book on the go at once), I think it's time to get back to Ian Mortimer's The Time Traveler's Guide to Elizabethan England.
I had to look back and found that I started reading it in mid-June. Since my mystery reading extravaganza is winding down, it's time to focus my attention back onto my nightstand and the many very good in-progress books that I had been reading before I got a 'little distracted'. I've not meant to let it languish, but a combination of it being a hardcover (as nice as they are to own, they are more difficult to carry about in my bookbag--especially in the heat of summer), and a sensory overload of interesting details, made me always think "I will pick this up when I know I have a chunk of time to absorb it".
Well, better to read as much as I can in the time I can and go for continuity I think. That's what pencils are for anyway--to make little notes in the margins, underline and asterisk all the interesting bits. You might imagine how much is already marked up in my copy and I am barely a fourth of the way in.
So, what to choose to share with you today? Just as a little background, this is sort of a cross between social history (Elizabethan style?) and general history. Each chapter is one some aspect of life in 16th century England taking William Shakespeare and other notables from the period as examples. Mortimer uses all sorts of primary sources for his information: diaries, letters, books, as well as other historical documents and records. He leaves no stone unturned so covers everything from what the landscape looked like, what people wore, ate, how they lived, where they traveled even what made them ill. Books like this have the potential to be on the dry side, but I am finding it highly readable and fascinating going.
I've earmarked lots so far, but let me share something about the famed Monarch, Queen Elizabeth I (seems fitting with other exciting news about the current Royal Family in the news right now). It seems as though Elizabeth was much loved and much feared, and I expect she had to be in order to keep the wolves at bay and hold power for as long as she did.
"At a time when most people cannot even read, she can write in Latin and Greek as well as in French, English, and Italian. Late in life, when on the receiving end of a bombastic speech in Latin by the Polish ambassador, she does not call for a translator but leaves the diplomat stunned by replying--in fluent Latin. Her bravery and her coolness under pressure are striking."
Can't you just picture the man's jaw dropping to hear fluent Latin out of the mouth of a mere woman (Queen or not)?
Wouldn't this make an excellent reading pair? Maybe read alongside one of Shakespeare's plays, or a good historical novel set in the 1500s? I have a feeling I'll be wanting to read a biography of Elizabeth before all is said and done and who knows how many other books that it inspires me to pick up.
Not that I'm in the market for any other books at the moment, but are you reading any especially good nonfiction books right now? (Always thinking ahead of course).