Welcome to 2015! This edition of favorites includes my usual recommendations along with some unvetted suggestions that have been lingering on my “explore these soon” list for too long. What better time than the new year – and winter – to replenish our sources of inspiration? Let’s begin with Deborah Mitford:
Goodbye 2014, or, How to Make an Exit
This is how it’s done. The flower adorned willow casket of Deborah Mitford Cavendish, Dowager Duchess of Devonshire is exactly right for this renowned nature lover, preservationist, and entrepreneur. The only way this picture could be improved upon for me is if the casket were trailed by a pack of Lurchers and a gaggle of the Duchess’s favorite hens. Stylish to the very end.
Do you know about Debo? The Mitford sisters? Chatsworth? Voila, a brief reading list:
Obituary for Deborah Mitford Cavendish
Wait for Me!: Memoirs (by Deborah Mitford)
The Sisters: The Saga of the Mitford Family (by Mary S. Lovell)
Chatsworth: The House
Georgiana: The Duchess of Devonshire (by Amanda Foreman)
Love in Cold Climate / The Pursuit of Love (by Nancy Mitford)
And, of course, resources for finding your own willow casket. Too soon? Well, read on for livelier pursuits.
The Annotation Tuesday! series from Neiman Storyboard gives a fascinating look at how journalists construct the stories we all read. Each installment includes a previously published article, annotated by the author to highlight key plot and decision points. One of my favorites is Susan Orlean’s annotation of her cover article “The American Man, Age 10” for Esquire (which is not about Macauley Caulkin, by the way). Read the entire series here.
I’d love to see “What the Garbageman Knows” by Peter Hessler in Annotation Tuesdays! one day. Hessler’s writing is so vivid and his storytelling so encompassing. In the immediate story of the trash picker, Sayyid, we are also learning a small part of the story of modern life in Cairo. Here is the author, briefly, on how he approached the story and on the fact checking conducted by the New Yorker.
A few more to consider:
If you’ve read Unbroken and Seabiscuit, you are already familiar with author Laura Hillenbrand’s talents; I think your esteem will only increase when you read about the obstacles she has overcome in order to research and write these wonderful books.
“The Lives of Ronald Pinn”, by Andrew O’Hagan, outlines the author’s experiment and investigation into creating a false identity and its online afterlife; a must read for anyone with an online presence.
Next up on my list: Empire of Cotton, “deeply researched and eminently readable, [this book] gives new insight into the relentless expansion of global capitalism.”
And finally, who doesn’t love a smart listicle? 21 Phrases You Use Without Realizing You’re Quoting Shakespeare.
The Americans, an FX series, returns for a 3rd season on January 28th. The drama centers on two Russian spies raising their American born children and engaging in spy craft at the height of the Cold War in 1980’s Washington, D.C. History buffs and Le Carré fans will love this. Prepare for its return by binge watching the first two seasons, now available on Netflix.
At this point, I may be the only person who hasn’t listened to the Serial podcast. But that’s changing this week – I want to make sure to hear all twelve episodes before reading too much more about the case online. In addition to keeping up to with favorites like This American Life, this list of new-to-me podcasts is well worth exploring too. Don’t Backstory and Death, Sex and Money sound interesting?
Finally, consider the Perpetual Disappointments Diary for staying organized in 2015. Among its offerings are a weekly planner with “a list of notable deaths, a blank section called “Notes Toward an Abandoned Screenplay,” a place for the addresses of people who never call and useful phrases in five languages (including “I am on the wrong plane” and “Do you have any very cheap wine?”).” In other words, a must-buy.
Happy New Year to all – here’s to a great year ahead!
Credit for Fireworks image: via @ashleyhicks1970 on Instagram with the following caption, “Print showing Servandoni’s 1749 firework machine in action, as hoped, at least, with 10,000 fireworks set off after Handel’s Musick for the Royal Fireworks. On the drizzly night itself, everything went sadly wrong, with confusion between British and Italian masters of explosives (including a swordfight) and one of the pavilions blowing up entirely.”