Tag Archives: Autobiographies

A Priestley Primer

“J.B. Priestley – I’ve heard of him, but never read any of his books.  Where should I start?” I’m regularly asked this, so I thought I’d share my usual answers – which I imagine most Priestley enthusiasts would endorse.

Cover of Canadian edition of The Good Companions

Cover of Canadian edition of The Good Companions

With the exception of Margin Released, all these books are currently in print, published by Great Northern Books.  They are also plentiful in the second-hand book trade and often to be found in academic and large public libraries.  I’ve included links to my 100 Objects pieces about each title, which should help you decide which ones you’d like to discover.

Non-fiction

English Journey.  England in the 1930s – rural past, industrial decline and modern future, featuring Priestley’s unforgettable anger at the treatment of Great War veterans and the desolation of poverty.
Delight.  Vignettes of experiences that made Priestley happy, from smoking in the bath to playing tennis badly.
Margin Released.   Interested in Bradford history, the Great War or 20th century literature or film?  You need to read this memoir.

Fiction

Bright DayA bittersweet and reflective book looking back from the uneasy peace of 1946 to vanished 1913 Bradford.
Angel Pavement.   Priestley shows the impact of capitalism on ordinary people in the memorable setting of a vanished London.
Lost Empires.   Love and disillusionment in a vivid music-hall setting, under the shadow of The Great War.
The Good Companions.   Too sentimental for some modern tastes, but on its own terms it is incredibly effective.  Fantastic set-pieces (the football match at the beginning) and a lovely comfort read.

I hope this helps – do let us know which Priestley books you’re reading and what you think of them!  What about the plays?  That’s another story.

Read all these already?  I’ll follow up with some suggestions for the more advanced Priestley reader.

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Collection of the Month December 2008: Magic lanterns and Methodists

New on Special Collections web: the Joseph Riley Archive. Joseph Riley (1838-1926) came to our attention as the father of Willie Riley, author of “Windyridge” and other popular novels set in Yorkshire, but his archive is fascinating in its own right, full of detail about Bradford life and the Methodism that was so important to him. His career took him from poverty (he started work at seven) to great success in the stuff trade and magic lantern business, but he faced many setbacks, and ultimately bankruptcy. The global nature of the Bradford wool trade and the resulting cosmopolitan attitude of Bradford business is reflected in Riley’s account of a business trip to Constantinople.