I love talking about books I’m reading–whether they’re my strap hanger sensational reads of the week or, in the proud Risky tradition in this last week of the year, when we talk about what books we enjoyed. We spend quite a lot of time talking about our own releases and we also interview other writers, but I like the idea of talking about books that aren’t anything to do with our usual blog fare.

I didn’t read a lot of fiction in 2009 and I wish I had. Fortunately I had an amazon wish list to inspire my nearest and dearest for xmas (no, I love these slippers with the big stain from boiling cranberry sauce. Buy me books) and a B&N gift card so I’m going to attempt to catch up.

First, a couple of research books I enjoyed and/or found useful this year. I finally tracked down this book hoping it would answer the question What did they DO all day? Answer: I still don’t know. But some great stuff in here, including her accounts of travel when she enjoyed the company of people she wouldn’t usually consort with.

This was a fascinating account of England’s fear of a Napoleonic invasion with lots of great cartoons and original source material and I got it, like many of my books, from bookdepository.com which has free shipping worldwide and lots of books not distributed in the US.

I even read a book about writing–something I usually avoid for fear of terror or superiority–but this one was awesome, and rightly so since it’s recommended by the very smart and well-read Pam Rosenthal–On Writing by Samuel Delany. He’s an academic who also writes mass-market fiction, and has a great, balanced view. I also anticipate reading two other books, both novels, The Magician by Lev Grossman and Lorrie Moore’s A Gate at the Stairs, also recommended by Pam.

A book I loved by an author who’s a friend, and who also writes for Little Black Dress and by a weird coincidence lives in my home town in England–Julie Cohen‘s Girl from Mars which was the best romance I’ve read in years. It has a fabulous adorable geek heroine and a wonderful cast of geeky secondary characters (note to my daughter if you read this: where is this book?)

Like Amanda, I also loved The Age of Wonder by Richard Holmes (note to my husband if you read this: where is this book?) and The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters. Hmm… lots of English books here.

And now, what Santa bought me and what I’m anticipating in 2010 … I’m reading Hilary Mantel’s amazing Wolf Hall about Thomas Cromwell, which has the most gorgeous sparse yet rich prose. I’m also reading, although not quite at the same time, or rather re-reading, since I now own a copy, Anna Maxted’s A Tale of Two Sisters. I think Maxted is possibly the closest we have to Jane Austen in the 21st century. She’s sharp, fearless, satiric, and takes on Big Issues–this book is about fidelity, sisterhood, and fertility. And, yes, it’s funny.

And–great big fangirl squeal–two books are coming out this year by Jude Morgan! The Taste of Sorrow, about the Brontes, which came out in hardback in 2009, is being released as a paperback, and he has another Regency, A Little Folly, coming out on my birthday. How considerate. (And what a great cover.) I’ve pre-ordered both.

I intend to spend New Year’s Eve reading. How will you celebrate?

Happy new year and happy new year reading!