My love of A Cup of Jo is well known, and the blog’s ability to get a real – and good – conversation going in the comments is next to nothing. That team isn’t smashing it. So it’s no surprise that when Ashley Ford posted there about her love of romance novels it broke the internet.

So many good suggestions! But for those of you looking for an indulgent night in, can I, firstly applaud the sheer genius of a romance novel bookshop called The Ripped Bodice (worth flying to America just for that), and secondly suggest you line up:

– Penny Reid’s Knitting in the City series

– Joanna Shupe’s Knickerbocker series

– the Nacho Figueras take on a modern Jilly Cooper

– Alyssa Cole: An extraordinary union

– Ann Calhoun’s Liberating Lacy

– anything by Suzanne Wright or Elle Kennedy

(mum, you should have stopped reading sentences ago…)

“Woman combing her hair” by Joseph DeCamp

Podcast of the week

My love of podcasts is still going strong, and the latest one to cross my radar (very much in a sequence of Backlisted and The Reading Women) is the LRB podcast.


The first pieces were very much in the nature of 20 minute reviews, so if you want to know what a Giorgione painting is or isn’t, and the chicanery is art attribution, or an investigation of if “international relations” is just “race studies”, then it’s here.


But there’s also a longer-form interview style that develops, so you can also hear the Asia editor of The Times on North Korea, discussing with an American South Korean author the common iconography of north and south Korea, or a riveting, freewheeling, incisive interview with Carmen Callil of Virago fame (“such a lot of short malnourished people with bad teeth”) on Angela Carter and why Bohemia is bad for women.

In fact that latter one was ringing in my ears as I went to the Rodin Museum recently and thought of Augustus John saying with complete seriousness what a “great pleasure” it must be for his sister Gwen to serve such a man as Rodin…

Ploughing through


Deineka – young woman reading

This is basically me right now, as the Christmas period is always a great time to get stuck into a pile of books and that drive usually continues into the new year. What I’ve taken down from the book pile already:

and what I’m currently dipping into every day:


and some of what’s on the heap after a generous amazon voucher from my dad:



Or rather devouring both these Christmas books. I must have cooked 5 different recipes from the Anna Jones within the first week of having it, and the Emily Wilson translation completes my triumvirate of Bettany Hughes and Mary Beard on my shelves.

Like keeping bees or playing chess

“Oh.” said Stephen. “Politics.”
“Yes, but you can’t say ‘politics’ in that sort of voice nowadays, can you?”
“What sort of voice did I say it in?”
“As though it was something separate, like keeping bees or playing chess.”
“And don’t you think it is something separate.”
“Well, do you, really? It seems to me it’s everything – how we mlive and behave to each other, how we bring up children, what sort of world we want to live in.”…
“Of course – my father…He’s a stout Tory.”
“That generation decently could be.”
“And our generation decently can’t?”
“I think not.”

National Provincial by Lettice Cooper, whose other excellent books include The New House and Fenny. The quote above reminds me very much of Nancy Mitford’s wry comment that politics in the 20s was an esoteric hobby until Hitler came along to liven things up. Luckily Persephone are republishing this next year, but it might be worth seeing if there are any secondhand copies out there.

Bedtime reading

I came across this great, ultra camp sounding, memoir when I was actually looking for images from Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls. I will talk about that below, but this is just too good for Christmas to pass up:


And here we are for the original theme of today’s post – 100 tales of active and inspiring women. There is a fear that this kind of buy-the-Tshirt feminism is replacing activism, but my view is that in an age when so many socially progressive policies are being rolled back, we need to reminding kids of the alternatives:


Reading outside the box

I posted a couple of months ago about the excellent Instagrammer @sophia_stories and her hashtag #readingoutsidethebox, which got me really thinking about what I tend to read: a lot of female writers, definitely, but usually white, middle-class and from the first half of the twentieth century.


Now I’m not going to abandon those authors, but they do of course present a certain world-view (see here for Kate McDonald who writes about the deliberate social conservatism of many these writers), and it’s been refreshing to start reading very different voices. Partly this is the result of being in a relationship with someone who can also roar through Waterstones like Genghis Khan on a good day, but tends to scoop up new publications, authors from the Indian subcontinent and non-fiction, so my across-the-bookshelves borrowing is getting far more varied.


Enter The Reading Women, a blog and podcast that has so far introduced me to this funny and angry book of essays (by the way, her anger at alcohol pressured on young women is fully justified although thankfully it’s not something I’ve had to deal with),


a range of memoirs including the one at the top of this article, and crime fiction including this debut about a young Muslim Canadian detective:


In the way of all algorithms, the Internet then led me to The Good Imigrant, which I devoured last week. A collection of essays that covers everything from learning to wear your “black” hair when you’re a mixed-race kid in rural Somerset who doesn’t identify as black to the different voices of home, work and friends, to the hidden racism facing Chinese and other East Asian populations in the U.K., to a series of funny and rage-inducing articles about literal type-casting of actors. I’d say this is a book to buy so I won’t post a whole load of shots from it, but these are both from a piece by Riz Ahmed. One about the restrictions of casting slots and how this interacts with national self-images, and also the continual indignity of airport checks:


The fragrant egg and b.

“Jeeves,” I said, “I am not the old merry self this morning.”
“Indeed, sir?”
“No, Jeeves. Far from it. Far from the merry old self.”
“I am sorry to hear it, sir.”
He uncovered the fragrant egg and b. and I pronged a moody forkful.

From the ever excellent PG Wodehouse whose Leave it to Psmith joined me on holiday last month as I sat pronging Devil’s Food Cake in my pyjamas. Greatly relieved it’s now the weekend after a LONG week.

Reading in heels


Slightly cheesy title, but a fun monthly box that gives you or a friend a new (often newly-published) book plus a clutch of treats for a very affordable price. Put it this way, the price of the book takes up most of the price, and postage is an affordable £2 a month. I’m not sure if I’ve got room in my house for this but it’s a fun way of getting a treat each month and reading something a bit different so I’m going to give it a go for a couple of months and the November box was a wonderful autumnal mix of some true life crime, camomile tea, chocolate treat and cinnamon-y bath oil.

Order now for December…