What’s on my bookshelf – January

Yes, it’s that time of the month when we chat about books and reading and, well, books.

In book club, we’re currently reading Shirley – the last in our deep dive into all things Bronte. So far we’re 3/4 of the way through ( we read in sections and meet to discuss each) and I’m thoroughly enjoying this one. In fact, and this is a big call, Shirley might just be my favourite Bronte character. I’ll sum up our Bronte adventure next month.

This whole adventure into Bronte country, literaryily (is that even a word? If not, it is now) speaking began because in one of our discussions I mentioned how Wuthering Heights was a book that had a massive impact on me. It hit me for six (for US readers, that’s a cricketing analogy) when I first read it at the very impressionable age of sixteen. And, dear reader, I was a very impressionable sixteen (come to think on it, I’m quite an impressionable almost 55…). I can’t say that I enjoyed it, but it had enough of an impact that I read it again and then again and then again – each time I was a little older and a little wiser and (thank goodness) a little less impressionable, but an impression it still made. Even now it stirs me, but for completely different reasons to how it once did.

It got me thinking though about those other classics that have left their mark on me – for varying reasons. Here are my top five:

  • The Buccaneers, by Edith Wharton. This is (probably) my favourite book ever. I last read it in 2020 and it had lost none of its power over me.
  • Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen. While this isn’t my favourite Austen – that accolade goes to either Sense and Sensibility or Persuasion – this is the book that began my love affair with the classics.
  • A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens. It’s years since I last read this, but when I did I dreamed the story night after night – and those dreams weren’t pleasant. Let’s just say they involved Madame Guillotine and the knitting ladies with their baskets. I wasn’t, however, able to put it down. Another Dickens is also up there – Our Mutual Friend, a very underated story.
  • The Forsyte Saga, by John Galsworthy. This was originally published as a series of three novels and two interludes (short stories) and chronicles the lives of three generations of the Forsyte family. It’s social history, change, life, love, revenge, hate, and more and I love it. Another that I last read in 2020.
  • Finally, we come to Brideshead Revisited, by Evelyn Waugh. The movie doesn’t do this justice, although the 1981 BBC series starring Jeremy Irons and Anthony Andrews does. If you don’t read this, at least listen to it. Audible has a fantastic version read by Jeremy Irons.

What was on my bookshelf in January?

First up though, what I read in January… Let’s just say 2022 is going to be a pretty special year reading-wise if January is anything to go by.

Diddly Squat, by Jeremy Clarkson

Coming into a new year I had no idea what I wanted to read. Tbh my TBR pile was overwhelming. I wasn’t in the mood for my usual favourite genres of women’s fiction with a side serve of romance and a good happy ending. Nor was I in the mood for crime (cozy or otherwise) or even a good dose of historical fiction.

Then I came across this one.

Clarkson’s Farm (on Prime) was one of my favourite TV shows from last year and while I mightn’t agree with everything that comes out of Clarkson’s mouth (and think he would be disappointed if that weren’t the case) I love his writing.

It was, in hindsight, the very best way to begin the reading year.

A Girl Walks Into A Book, by Miranda K Pennington

We’ve been reading our way through the Bronte sister’s novels in book club and I had, I must admit, been floundering after Villette and The Professor. With just Shirley left to read (spoiler alert – I love it!), had I lost my faith? Then I picked this up. What an absolute delight. Someone who said the things I wanted to say – about Gilbert, St. John and M.Paul and so much more. Someone who loves and appreciates the Brontes, who also would have fallen for Rochester (when young) despite (I know, I know…) his often appalling behaviour, and who still asks herself – what would Jane do?

The best kind of rabbit hole to wander down.

The Last Garden In England, by Julia Kelly

One garden, three time periods, and the women who love it.

For anyone who loves historical fiction, gardens, strong female characters and a flipping good story.

This, by the teeniest of margins, was my favourite read of January.

The Shelly Bay Ladies Swimming Circle, by Sophie Green

My mother was given this book for Christmas and I must confess to borrowing it before she had a chance to read it. My need, however, was greater. I had trains and a flight home to catch. Besides, I couldn’t be expected to put it down once I’d started, could I? Set in the early 1980s, the timeframe is immaterial, the friendship circle, however, is everything and reminds me very much of our book club.

This one was very close to being my favourite read in January…

Your turn…

DebDonnaSue and I would love you to share what you’ve been reading. If you have a favourite classic, I’d love to hear about that too. Feel free to grab and use the graphic below and the linky is below – and it’s open until Monday evening (AEST).

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!

Click here to enter


Author: Jo

Author, baker, sunrise chaser

48 thoughts

  1. Hi Jo another month of great reading and like you I am loving Shirley. I’m so pleased we didn’t stop at The Professor or Villette! I adored Thursdays at Orange Blossom House and have since read a couple more of Sophie Green’s books. Thanks for sharing your month of reading and also being a fabulous co-host for What’s On Your Bookshelf? x

    1. I now need to go back and read the first of Sophie Green’s books. In fact, will log onto my library app while I think of it.

  2. Hi, Jo – Thank you for these awesome reviews. I am off to our local library (online) to borrow Ladies Swimming Circle. If our library system does not own a copy (or copies), I’m going to be very cranky! 😀

  3. Hi Jo, what another great post from our author co-host of WOYBS!! It’s full of interesting books, your reasons for reading or not as the case may be and I’m sharing your love of The Ladies swimming Circle and Thursdays at Orange Blossom House (which I’m currently half way through). I also loved the Last Garden in England which I listened to via Audible, the different lead characters came alive. I have the Girl Walked into a Book to read next! I haven’t heard anything from Jeremy Clarkson for ages so this was interesting one to see and to know there was a TV show as well. happy reading Jo and yes Shirley is my favourite Bronte character so far too 🙂

  4. Those so sounds like great reads this month! I haven’t read any of those Classics that you mention (except perhaps A Tale of Two Cities but I know I didn’t really understand it at the time). I should read it again…

  5. Always glad to see what everyone is reading. Have pinned all of these for future consideration. The last 2 sound like something I would like. I am listening to The Paris Bookseller. It is more like literature than I am used to reading. Glad I am listening because there is some much French in it that I would get stuck just look at those foreign words and not knowing how to pronounce them.

    1. I really think you would enjoy those two. It’s my favourite part of this link-up – seeing what everyone else is reading…

  6. Great post! I loved A Tale of Two Cities and most of the other Dickens novels I’ve read. I may have to revisit a few—it’s been quite a few years.

  7. Hi Jo it’s great to catch up again with what you’ve been reading. I haven’t read any of the books you’ve read lately but I’m definitely going to put Ladies Swimming Circle on my pile. It sounds great. I read Shirley many years ago and Loved it. I really I should read it again now I’m older. I think Persuasion is my favourite. But it’s so hard to choose

    1. I’m glad I’m reading them now at my age (or re-reading, in the case of Wuthering Heights). We’ll be starting Jane Austen soon & it will be interesting to reread these with the group. I last read Persuasion in 2020, but for the others it’s been a tad longer.

  8. I loved ‘Brideshead Revisited’ when I first read it at the age of 20 or so. I see ‘Ladies Swimming Circle’ has popped up a few times this month – will have to add it to my list.

  9. A great collection of books!
    Wuthering heights has been on my to-read list since I watched the movie last year, cannot wait to read it.

  10. Jo, you always manage to cost me money at least once a month. That’s okay though because your recommendations are spot on. I just ordered The Last Garden In England. It sounds like a book I’d enjoy. I look forward to your wrap-up of the Bronte series.

  11. Thanks for the easy spot to Linz in. I sent along my post. I am also looking up The Last Garden in England — sounds like my kind of book. Bernie

  12. Jo, It’s great to hear what you’ve been reading. So many good books to read and so little time. My library has The Last Garden in England, hurray! Thank you for your #weekendcoffeeshare.

  13. I’m glad you like the Sophie Green. I used to work with her in a previous life. I was so excited when I saw her books were best sellers! Will try to get something for the link up asap!

  14. I loved Clarkson’s Farm — it was so good and I’m not a car enthusiast. My family on both sides come from farming backgrounds so I am aware with low return-in-investment farming brings.

    1. I’, not a car enthusiast too, but I do love his writing. I read somewhere that he’s done more to further the cause of farmer issues than anything else – and that’s a good thing.

  15. Hi Jo, thanks for sharing your books for this month. That’s four more to go on my wish list. I loved watching Clarkson’s Farm, so will go check out his book. There is a second series scheduled I believe. As you say, so many books, so little time!

  16. I love much about this post Jo, and it does seem, as in food, sometimes our appetite wants something different in our reading too. I am still very much into my non-fiction and I continue to learn about what makes us humans tick and also about ageing. I am nothing if not someone who likes to have info at hand. Love it. Listened to Trent tell the Love Stories on the way to Sydney this week. An author reading their words, nothing better for me! Thank you for linking up to Life This Week at Denyse Whelan Blogs.
    Next Monday, on the last day of February, I have a special announcement of interest to all who link up their blog posts with my blog’s link up party.

    I look forward to catching up with you then.


  17. You’ve given me some great ideas for my reading for next month. Question, do you do your book club online as well as by zoom. I have a friend who wants to start an online book club and was wondering how she might start it.

    1. Not really, although we do talk about it a bit online. Leslie Clingan runs a Facebook based online bookclub – and does it really well. It’s called Come Read With Me.

      1. I’ll tell her. We were thinking she might get a free WP account and let all of the members be administrators. But I hadn’t thought of FB.

      2. a private facebook group works really well. You can use it to vote on books, share impressions, have a thread for conversations etc.

      3. Thank you, Jo. I sent an email to my friend with the link. I looked at it briefly but kept it open so I can go back and check it out.

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