If You Like….

I’m cheating. This isn’t a real “if you like” this week.

I’d intended to do an “if you like” on romances set in the 1920s and 40s. (Thanks for the suggestion, Lora!) But then I started re-reading Melissa Nathan’s Persuading Annie. I hadn’t read it since, oh, 2004 or so. It immediately sparked a series of associations with other books I’d read and loved back then and hadn’t really read since.

So here, instead of an “if you like”, is my “best of 2003-2006” reading list, the books I was reading and loved then. It’s something of a potpourri.

— Melissa Nathan, Persuading Annie.

Everyone always adapts Pride and Prejudice— why not Persuasion for a change? This is a clever, snarky, modern take on Persuasion. (My favorite Nathan novel, though, is and continues to be The Nanny with Pride, Prejudice and Jasmin Field as runner up).

— Sarah Caudwell, Thus Was Adonis Murdered.

I used to haunt the late, lamented Wordsworth Books in Cambridge in the hopes of finding a new Sarah Caudwell on the shelves. These witty British mysteries are narrated by a law professor of indeterminate gender (probably the best unreliable narrator since Elizabeth Peters’ Amelia Peabody), chronicling the adventures of a group of young barristers, who seem to keep stumbling into… murder. And tax codes. Sadly, due to the untimely death of the author, there are only four books: Thus Was Adonis Murdered, The Shortest Way to Hades, The Sirens Sang of Murder, and The Sibyl in Her Grave. Oh, and did I mention that the covers are illustrated by Edward Gorey?

— Patricia C. Wrede, Mairelon the Magician.

I’d originally read this as a teenager, but I rediscovered it as a law student. This Regency paranormal YA (way ahead of its time!) follows the adventures of a Regency guttersnipe who finds herself apprenticed–rather accidentally– to Mairelon, a traveling magician. But is Mairelon what he seems? Anyone who likes Georgette Heyer should read the Mairelon books (the second is The Magician’s Ward). She has the same faultless sense of comic timing and Regency slang.

— Susanna Clarke, Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell.

While we’re on Regency paranormal…. I rushed home from class to read this novel for several straight hours back in 2005. The idea of an alternate England, where magicians were being used in the war against Napoleon, was utterly fascinating.

— Diana Gabaldon, Lord John and the Private Matter.

This was the first of the Outlander spin-off mystery novels, featuring Lord John, a side character in Outlander.

— Dodie Smith, I Capture the Castle.

“Noble deeds and hot baths are the best cures for depression”, writes the narrator of Dodie Smith’s I Capture the Castle. The truth of the matter is that hot baths and I Capture the Castle are the best cures for depression, something I figured out during law school. There are few things so bleak that a bit of bubble bath and I Capture the Castle can’t help.

— Alexandra Ripley, New Orleans Legacy.

This was another rediscovered book. I’d read it years before but only rediscovered it and truly fell in love with it in law school. It’s an old fashioned epic romance/ swashbuckler/ whatever-you-want-to-call-it about a young woman’s coming of age in mid nineteenth century New Orleans, complete with voodoo, evil relatives, family legends, and, of course, a dashing rogue.

Other books that shaped those law school years for me included Elizabeth George’s Lynley novels (I saw A Great Deliverance on PBS, bought the book, and that was that), Kate Ross’s Regency-set Julian Kestrel mysteries (Cut to the Quick, et al), and Charlotte MacLeod’s Sarah and Max mysteries (The Family Vault, et al), which were even more fun because they were set in Boston and so was I. I also re-read all my old Judith McNaughts that first year of law school, even if it meant going down to the B&N in Downtown Crossing and buying replacement copies. Paradise and Remember When got me through Torts without committing a tort.

Do you have books that act as time capsules for you, bringing you back to certain periods in your life?


  1. Ashley on April 2, 2012 at 9:37 am

    I have a few books like that, but the best and most special to me is “Circle of Friends” by Maeve Binchy. I found this book in high school, and I have spent the following ten years carrying it everywhere. It’s about friendships that last (and some that don’t), first love, and growing up with ties to a small town in Ireland. I found so much in this book that I could relate to at 16 years old, but I find something else meaningful every time I open it.

  2. Jessica @ Quirky Bookworm on April 2, 2012 at 10:34 am

    I’m going to have to look for the Mairelon books!

    I loved the first 800 pages of Jonathan Strange…but didn’t like the ending. I hate it when you invest so much time in a book just to be disappointed in the ending.

  3. Lauren on April 2, 2012 at 10:38 am

    Jessica, I felt the same way! It’s why I haven’t re-read it– although

  4. Lauren on April 2, 2012 at 10:38 am

    Jessica, I felt the same way! It’s why I haven’t re-read it– although I loved the first two thirds.

  5. Valerie on April 2, 2012 at 10:57 am

    Some of my old fav’s are Robin McKinley’s books. Loved them!! Also glad to see some other people that feel the same about Jonathan Strange.

  6. Sharin on April 2, 2012 at 11:52 am

    This is so weird, I was just thinking of Persuading Annie last week. I think I might go dig her up again. Ms. Nathan, like Ms. Austen, left us too soon. Just think of the fun we could have had if they had lived just a little bit longer. Still, I’m very thankful for what we have.
    Thanks for the nudge. 😉

  7. Joanne M. on April 2, 2012 at 1:44 pm

    Oh, absolutely everything in my life can be traced back to what books I was reading at a certain time. Just for fun, when I think of carefree summers on the beach during college years, romance books such as Valerie Sherwood’s Lovesong, Windsong, and Nightsong come to mind…..and also one of my all-time favorite romances, Black Swan by Day Taylor (sort of a cross between GWTW and Trade Wind).

  8. Amy N. on April 2, 2012 at 8:47 pm

    I’m not much of a re-reader but if I was to do so I’d go with Edgar Rice Burroughs, Piers Anthony, Barbara Michaels/Elizabeth Peters and the Pink Books. I devoured all but the Pink Books when I was a young adult some time ago, well, not ages ago but a while back.

  9. Céline on April 2, 2012 at 9:32 pm

    Jane Eyre always gets me back to my teens. I remember reading it over and over each and every year! There have been many other books since then, and at that time too, but this one has been my first literary obsession and I can say that I still love it as much as I did back then!

  10. SusanN on April 5, 2012 at 7:51 pm

    I’ve only read Wrede’s Frontier Magic books, but have several others of hers calling my name from the TBR mountain.

  11. JeanineC on April 6, 2012 at 2:57 am

    Caroline Stevermer’s Scholar of Magics and College of Magics. She also wrote some really fun magical regencies with Patricia Wrede.

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