While pondering my 2017 reading goals the other evening I happened to look up at my bookcase to see the lovely row of dove grey Persephones and the colorful spines of the Persephone Classics that I have shelved together. I’ve been collecting Persephone titles for about 7 or 8 years now and, as happens to the best of us, the collecting has far exceeded the reading of these wonderful books. I recall Nicola Beauman saying in an interview I read (I can’t find the quote) that she hoped that people weren’t just collecting the books but reading them too. In this Guardian interview she says, “That’s all I care about, really, you see: the text, the text, the text.”, when asked about the design she chose for the novels she republishes. And I realized that maybe I have been collecting them just to have them – just out of a sense of pride in owning them, because I haven’t read nearly enough of them to justify their expense!
So – I came to the obvious conclusion that reading the Persephones I currently own should be my goal for 2017. I went to the Persephone website and found the master list of all the titles they’ve published, made a list of all the ones I own and haven’t read and stuck it up at the top of the page (under Operation Read Persephone) to serve as a constant reminder of this goal. Shockingly, I own 26 of the grey darlings that I have not read! The shame! But I will try to remedy that this year.
I decided that I will start with A Very Great Profession by Ms. Beauman herself as it describes her interest in and love for the books she’s chosen to republish. I’m looking forward to not just looking at and enjoying the beauty of these books but to actually honoring their authors by reading what is between the iconic covers.
Do you have a favorite Persephone? What are your reading goals for 2017?


  1. piningforthewest

    There are lots of books there that I would like to read, the only one I have read is To Bed with Grand Music and I really enjoyed it despite it not having any really likeable characters. I hope you get on well with your Persephones. Years ago I collected Viragos and then admired them for years without getting around to reading them, but I’m glad to say I’ve rectified that now.
    It’s so silly but that name Mollie Panter Downes always makes me smile!

    • Haha! Panter Downes – it is pretty funny. I really like Marghanita Laski so will probably read To Bed with Grand Music soon. Her books are all so different but so good.

  2. An excellent and admirable goal! And A Very Great Profession is the perfect place to start – though, fair warning, it is going to add a lot of titles to your to-be-read list. Definitely one of those books where you want to have a notepad near by to write down all books she references. Of the others on your lists, London War Notes and Hostages to Fortune are both favourites of mine. Happy reading!

    • I’m about 70 pages in to A Very Great Profession and already have a list going of books I want to add to the stacks! I have to admit I started London War Notes and really liked it but just never finished . Soon though!

  3. What a wonderful plan! I think Miss Pettigrew is always going to be my favourite Persephone, but there are so many joys in their collection.

    • I don’t own Miss Pettigrew but the friend I went to London with bought it when we were there. I’ll have to borrow it when I run out of my own Persephones to read. 🙂

  4. Reading Persephones is a joy. So it sounds like a great project. I have 89 Persephone books 6 unread. So I certainly read mine. I wrote a blog post a few days ago about my top ten Persephone books. Though it could easily have been 20.

    • You are an inspiration to me, Ali! I need to take your example and read most of mine as well. Loved your post on your top 10 Persephones – hopefully I’ll be able to do one of my own at the end of this year.

  5. Good luck and happy reading with your goal to read your Persephone collection. I am hoping to make more time for re-reads and new reads of favourite authors this year 🙂

  6. Oh, I simply could not own a Persephone and not read it!

  7. Anything by Dorothy Whipple should be on top of your pile. I do own A Very Great Profession but stopped reading it because I was afraid there would be spoilers for all the unread Persephones I still have!

    • I do love Dorothy Whipple. I’ve read Greenbanks, They Were Sisters, Because of the Lockwoods and The Priory – all so wonderful. I think I haven’t read her others yet because I don’t want to run out of them! I have already run into one huge spoiler for a Persephone book in A Very Great Profession – not one I own and now I probably won’t buy it!

  8. I read A Very Great Profession a couple of years ago, and it is great. Not only that, it is an important text in the development of Middlebrow Studies as a field of literary criticism, so well worth the read! To my immense regret, I actually sold my pile of unread Persephone books on eBay last year – I was a very very broke student and desperate for the money, but I do so miss them now ?

    • I’m finding A Very Great Profession so well written and informative – I wish I would have read it years ago! I’m so sorry you had to sell your Persephone collection and I hope you can build it up again in the future.

  9. I’ve actually only read one Persephone, I don’t know why. Seeing all of yours I feel rather jealous and that I should buy more 😀

    Good luck with your challenge to read more 🙂

  10. This looks like a wonderful reading project! I don’t have a ton of specific goals for my 2017 reading, but I’m hoping to read more comics in general and get some progress managed on my project to read one good history of every African country.

    • This is my only goal and I made it pretty easy because I much prefer reading by whim. So I think your vagueish goals are so much less stressful than very specific ones!

  11. I found A Very Great Profession very useful when I did my dissertation on Rebecca West. I don’t own many Persephone Books though. My reading direction has changed a bit in the last five years or so.

  12. i like that distinction between being a collector and a reader. I have a feeling in the past few years I have been more of the former – hence my plan for the first half of this year is to read only what i already own. So far its been relatively easy to avoid the temptations to buy more – but my sister scuppered my plan by donating 4 books to me


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