Monday, November 17, 2014


"I have never known any distress that an hour's reading did not relieve"
-- Charles de Montesquieu

I love books and continue to prefer them over electronic devices even though they sometimes threaten to take over my house! In fact, my very first blog post four years ago was about the beauty of books. In my opinion, nothing makes a room warmer than a personal collection of books. I love how they bring color, pattern and texture to a room. And they tell us so much about the collector. Recently, after returning from a trip to England and new books arriving daily, I realized it was time to edit the books in my study to make room for the new ones. The goal was to be able to put my hand on whatever title I needed without too much trouble. My system of organization was pretty relaxed with the only rule being to group all books by the same author together. Other than that, I hoped to arrange them in an attractive way to highlight the beauty of the books. Since every book "counts" in this room (no forgettable books here), I should be able to find what I want easily. The topic of this collection would be favorite authors, as well as some new ones from the trip to England. This room would contain literary novels and biographies, mostly English, and very much my "old friends."

 Virginia Woolf and Bloomsbury would be front and center. These are the diaries I found in London. I have been reading Virginia Woolf's books for many years and finding these beautiful editions of her diaries was a highlight of my trip. Seeing her lighthouse in St. Ives was also pretty special!

 Books on her as well as her circle of friends take up a few shelves

 I have been collecting books on the Bloomsbury Group for about 35 years now!

Next were some groupings of favorite authors. I loved getting the Nancy Mitfords and Katherine Mansfields together.

As well as books by E.M. Forster, Elizabeth Von Arnim, and E.M. Delafield. Though it seems that I have many editions of just one title by Delafield, The Diary of a Provincial Lady. This charming book about the life of an ordinary woman living in an English village during the 1930's is laugh-out-loud funny. Go here to read more. I discovered this gem a few years ago and apparently can't resist buying attractive editions.

My beloved Barbara Pym --  I think I've read every one of these

And some lovely Persephone editions -- oh, there's another "Diary of a Provincial Lady"!

Elizabeth Bowen is next to books on reading and writing. This accidental combination makes sense since Bowen's writing is some of the most beautiful and memorable writing you'll ever read. Go here to read more.

My Jane Austen books

Next were the books purchased in London, Cornwall, Devon and the Cotswolds. The goal was to keep all those together so I could have them at my fingertips to remind me of my trip. I have been slowly making my way through them.

So far I have read A Cornish Affair and Ross Poldark. They are both fun, escapist books and they took me back to Cornwall. Ross Poldark is an old-fashioned, swashbuckling tale that I loved and would put under the category of "guilty pleasure."

Some highlights --

This one came highly recommended by one of my readers and I can't wait to read it!

Summer in February is about an Edwardian artistic community set in Cornwall. I am reading this  now and enjoying it. It was made into a film starring Dan Stevens which I may now have to rent.

This one is about a young woman who flees her wedding and hides out in Cornwall doing research on a grand old home and garden. Naturally she is seduced by the beauty of the place as well as the scion of the family who owns the house. A good old-fashioned love story.

I learned about Cider With Rosie while in the Cotswolds. A best-selling (six million copies) nostalgic memoir of finding love during a summer in the Cotswolds, it was published 100 years ago.

Another laugh-out-loud classic of English comedy, also set in the Cotswolds

A collection of recipes from Cornwall and Devon that I found in a bookstore in St. Ives

The third installment of the Old Filth trilogy by Jane Gardam. Go here to read an excellent article about her in the New Yorker magazine.

I found three books by Angela Thirkell -- they are impossible to find here -- at a little book store in the Cotswolds village of Stow-on-the-Wold.

And this book on Beatrix Potter's gardening life, found at Kew Gardens bookstore, was hard to resist.


A room filled with books is such an inviting sight. I am looking forward to spending some happy hours this winter in my study curled up with a favorite book and a cup of tea!


  1. I'm in Napa Valley with a book I don't like much, but having a great time anyway. Should have asked you for a recommendation before I left, as all of these look perfect. I'm so impressed with your organization as well, something we've been planning to do since we moved over two years ago. This post might just be the push I needed. I think a book club limited to English novels would be heaven.

  2. What a fabulous post! I loved having this tour of your gorgeous bookshelves. I recognise many I love too! I'm curious to try Jane Gardam's books now.


  3. Oh, thank you! How fun it is not only to read about the books but to see their covers and how you've arranged them. And like Kathy, I'd love an English Novels book club! You've definitely inspired me to search for some Angela Thirkell novels, something I've been wanting to do for a while.

  4. How you inspire! Love all your posts.

  5. Sunday, I could not agree with you more. My books bring me comfort and they feel like friends. I love to look at them and remember where in my travels I acquired them or who I was with.

    Your collection is quite impressive! I love buying books in the UK, might I suggest the next time that you are there you visit the OXFAM stores, which is a little thrift store, they sell lots of books and always have some wonderful old ones that are hard to find. More often than not all I find myself bringing back for souvenirs is books.

    Thanks for sharing your beautiful collection.

  6. I am so proud of you. I have been wanting to organize my books for years and have not done it! It is a major undertaking, but what wonderful books you have.
    (I am going to rent Summer in February) Thank you for the tip!

  7. Do you know of a resource for the books you show from the USA? I seem to find them only on Amazon UK? Thank you.

  8. I've just started watching the new BBC adaptation of Mapp and Lucia - Miranda Richardson and Anna Chancellor, who are actually very good although it seems strange not to be seeing Prunella Scales/Geraldine McEwan. It's so long since I've read the books - they're normally associated with Rye. Or does it all start in the Cotswolds?

    1. Oh I hope the new adaptation makes it here! I checked my book and Lucia starts out in Riseholme which I've always thought was supposed to be in the Cotswolds. Then she moves to Tilling, which is probably supposed to be Rye. The old TV adaptation with Prunella Scales and Geraldine McEwan is a classic. I will have to watch that one again.

  9. We love so many of the same books! You should consider coming to the Barbara Pym Society annual meetings!

    Donna from alovelyinconsequence.blogspot

    1. Thank you, Donna for letting me know about them. I will look it up right now!

  10. I would love to be a fly on the wall, no, on your bookshelves, Sunday. What a feast of books you have and so artfully arranged. Lovely.

    You were in Stow on the Wold? I'm jealous. Have you read Paul Collins' book, Sixpence House: Lost in a Town of Books? He's an interesting writer, bringing history alive in his tone and his humor. This one is about his experiences living in a very old house there and his many adventures. You might enjoy it.

    1. Penny, no, I haven't heard of this book. Here's another one I will have to add to my ever growing collection of books to be read. I am off to look it up right now!

  11. We have very similar taste in literature! I'm curious about your copies of Diary of a Provincial Lady. I ordered this recently from one of the used book dealers through Barnes & Noble, and the book that arrived is very slim; hardly more than a pamphlet. I was so disappointed, and your copies look much thicker than mine. I'm wondering if they sent me an abridged version, or just one volume of several that were bound together later.

  12. Sunday, what a treat to view some of your favorite books. So many wonderful titles. I spied a few of my favorites. I am envious of your organization. I am afraid I have books strewn and stacked everywhere. Thank you for sharing your beautiful study.

  13. With these beautiful books you have created an atmosphere in your room that is truely a haven. And an inspiration! Thank you very much for sharing.

    KInd regards,

  14. I love that finding your Woolf diaries was a highlight of your trip. That's how I feel and will bring back books in my carry-on rather than risk losing them in a checked bag. Every single one is precious!
    I watched Summer in February last's a must see, Sunday. It wasn't until the end that I caught the last name of Harold and Laura (Knight) and realized she is THE Laura Knight, as in the war artist.

  15. There is a wonderful video (2 discs, 2006) of "The Camomile Lawn" starring Jennifer Ehle, Tara Fitzgerald, and Felicity Kendall, which you can purchase on Amazon. I own my own copy, which I return to often.

    I am impressed with your library's organization.

  16. This post was such a pleasure to read and to see! Your bookshelves are beautiful and I enjoy so many of the same authors you do so I loved seeing their books - especially your Barbara Pyms. I recently reorganized my books as well and it was such fun. Is that Dominic Cooper I see in 'Summer in February'? I adore him so will have to check that out.

  17. I love the Camomile Lawn, brilliant book with a Cornish setting. Hope you enjoy it!