I'm terrible about having several books going at once. My nightstand is piled with books; sometimes the floor is, too. Savers sells them for about $1 ea., and I'm fortunate that my neighbors who donate to Savers happen to read a lot of what I like to read. To keep the support to the local Easter Seals flowing, I try to donate my books back, but sometimes I hold on to them. We're running out of bookshelf space.
I'm on the third book of the Attila series from William Napier; highly entertaining, unadorned prose with excellent battle scenes and dialogue. I'm also reading Tracy Chevalier's The Lady and The Unicorn and Veil of Lies by Jeri Westerson. And I've got Jane Austen's Emma on standby. I just finished Conqueror: Time's Tapestry Book II by Stephen Baxter. Just excellent.
It is undeniable. My writing is better when I'm also reading a lot. It is flat and unengaging when I'm spending my evenings catching up on "Modern Family" reruns with the family, followed by something crisp and dark like "Justified" after the kids have gone to bed. Not that I'm knocking watching some tv, especially when it involves belly laughs with the family. But I know I'll see and feel the difference in my writing later for it.
I've already read quite a bit of historical fiction and history from my own period, natch. Sharon Kay Penman, Elizabeth Chadwick are, for me, the two top writers for late 12th c. England. Do you have any other favorites in historical fiction from this period? I'd love to hear about them.