The first of a series of posts on the Cornflower Blues, my books of the year - the best of those read, but not necessarily published, in 2011 - looks at non-fiction. This is the easiest category to cover as there is less to choose from to start with, but with or without huge competition the five which have made the cut have truly stood out. Of course, this is all subjective, but I'm choosing books whose scholarship and writing have impressed me, where the breadth and depth of the subject matter has opened up worlds to me, and whose style and spirit have entertained me.
In no particular order other than as pictured from the left, Romantic Moderns: English Writers, Artists and the Imagination from Virginia Woolf to John Piper by Alexandra Harris - a long title for a vibrant, accessible book, stimulating and exciting, and covering a rich assortment of people, places, ideas and more (there's a post on it here).
Next comes Amanda Vickery's Behind Closed Doors: At Home in Georgian England (post here), a very engaging look at domestic life in the period, full of fascinating detail which shows the Georgians as real people, not museum mannequins.
My third book is undoubtedly the best known as it has been featuring on the bestseller charts and winning prizes, so you won't be surprised to hear that it is Edmund de Waal's The Hare with Amber Eyes (there's a new illustrated edition). A family memoir, original in style, beautifully executed (there's more on it here).
Molly Peacock's The Paper Garden: Mrs. Delany begins Her Life's Work at 72 is a lovely, warm account of the life of a lady who achieved what we might call celebrity status, but at an advanced age. Mary Delany produced a vast and remarkable collection of botanically accurate paper collages, her work beginning by pure chance - read more about it here.