Apologies for being a bit late with this and being very quiet on the blog recently, almost immediately into April we went on holiday, so now have a pile of reviews to catch up with, but here is what I read in March. I managed 17 books in the end. Not as many as I had hoped for, other stuff kept getting in the way!
There is a total mix of books this month, hopefully, something for everyone so here we go:
I have been a huge fan of David Crystal for years, he has a knack of teasing out those etymology gems from our rich and varied language. What he has also done is to teach himself and other the best way of speaking to others, be it a small group in an office to a packed lecture theatre. This was one of the books and authors that was involved with Jewish Book Week and they were kind enough to send me a copy to review
Eland have been my publisher of the month in the profiles that I have been doing and you can read all about them here. Warrior Herdmen is one of the books that they have kindly sent me to review. This is the stories that Elizabeth marshall collected from her time spent with the Dodoth people who inhabited the northern fringe of Uganda. More anthropology than travel but fascinating none the less.
Another one of the books and authors that was involved with Jewish Book Week and they were kind enough to send me a copy of this to review too. At the young age of fourteen, Laura Freeman was diagnosed with anorexia.While she let very little pass her lips in the form of nourishment, she still devoured books, and it was literature that was to hold the key to her recovery. Laura and her list of childhood favourite books has played a crucial role in her accepting that food is not something to avoid and can be enjoyed.
The final Jewish Book Week book that I was sent was The Ascent of Gravity by Marcus Chown. Gravity affects everything on this planet, but it was first understood only 400 years ago by Newton. Other have since broadened and deepened our understanding of this tiny, but significant force and Choswn takes us through the history and the most recent discoveries.
Undercover Muslim is about the troubled country of Yemen. Theo Padnos takes us into the coffee shops and backstreets where disillusioned young muslim men of the west seek some sort of spiritual aspiration in this society. One for my #WorldFromMyArmchair challenge too.
Surfing is a tough sport, so attempting it when you’ve had a hip replaced is beyond most people’s comprehension. Iain Gately is one surfer who has never ridden a tube, and it is one thing that he wants to do before he can’t surf any more. I really enjoyed this and it was nice to have a book written by a local Dorset author too.
Sometimes it is who you know, rather than what you know, that opens doors and opportunities and Clare had a friend had a contact in the Finnish Embassy. A message came via this link asking: We are celebrating a hundred years since independence this year: how would you like to travel on a government icebreaker? Horatio Clare jumped at the chance to spend 10 days on a modern Icebreaker in the Arctic Ocean. I love the evocative way that he writes about the sharpness of the ice, the clarity of the light and the noise as the frozen sea succumbs to the power of the ship Another good read from Clare and can highly recommend.
There are an awful lot of wild swimming books out there now, and I have read a lot of them. The classic Waterlog is still the one to beat though, but I still like to pick the others up and see where their aquatic adventures take them. It has a personal side as do a lot of natural history books these days, but then we are as much of this planet as the wildlife is. Thers is a deep melancholy and eloquence to Peter’s writing as even though he was better when he wrote the book, the spectre of depression is still a shadow in the background
In the urban sprawl, it is sometimes hard to see the natural world, but most people don’t realise that after an hour or so in the car from their front door they’d be able to see some of best examples of wildlife, woodlands and our finest natural landscapes. There is something in here for everyone, moorlands, coastal and wetlands, woodlands and even derelict industrial areas. Keep one in the glovebox of the car.
Lewis -Stempel is described as one of the best nature-writers of his generation, and he is very good, though I would argue that there are others that can carry that bough too. This is another sublime book from Lewis-Stempel to add to his raft of award-winning books. I really liked the diary format and the way that it is interspersed with folklore, poems, history, recipes and personal thoughts. Read it and you will want to own your own wood too.
Nestling in the foothills of the Himalayas in Yunnan Province lies the capital city of the almost forgotten Nakhi Kingdom, Likiang. This city was the home of the Nakhi. It was here that Peter Goullart went to live and work as a Chinese Industrial Cooperatives representative just before the beginning of World War 2. He paints a fascinating portrait of the people there uncovering the details that make the stories that he tells so compelling to read. Superb book
In Ground Work, Tim Dee has collated the thoughts and observations of thirty-one of the finest landscape and natural history writers around. This poetic and literary collection is the response to the threat that is being posed by the ‘soft-skinned, warm-blooded, short-lived, pedestrian species’ that has turned our present day into a new epoch; the Anthropocene. This new era is already causing chaotic changes to our weather systems, there is the steady creep upwards in average temperature across the globe as well as significant and it some cases catastrophic changes to our environments.
The Gathering Tide is Karen Lloyd’s journey around and across the dynamic sea and landscape of Morecombe Bay. Her evocative writing weaves together the physical journey on and around the sands, across the dunes and out to the islands and one kingdom, that poke their heads above the 10m tides. There are glimpses back into her past, fond memories of growing up in the area and meeting up with people whose livelihood depends on this coastline.
Where would you be without the internet? It is now one of life’s essentials along with power and water, and if you have teenagers then you know for them it is their lifeblood. The book covers the men who started the websites that now rule our lives and have permeated our existence in so many ways and we now rely on them. It is an interesting read, but he really doesn’t go anyway to address what needs to be done to curtail their power.
The first instance of the name Hamtunscir appeared in the 8th century, but there has been a human presence in the county of Hampshire since around 12,000 BC. People were communicating in a different way back then, but in this Langlands has scoured books and manuscripts to bring the very best of Hampshire writers and writing. There are the people that you’d expect, Jane Austen and Gilbert White as well as a raft of others including Wodehouse, Doyle and even Hardy who had ventured out of Dorset. Nice collection of literature.
A Black Fox Running is a re-published edition with a stunning cover with a beautiful introduction by Melissa Harrison on how it inspired her to become a writer. It tells the story of Wulfgar, the dark-furred fox who roams far and wide over the wilds of Dartmoor and his battles with Scoble, an ex-veteran from the war with a drinking problem. It is not a children’s book, there are no compromises on death in this book, rather the writing is firmly grounded in the granite bedrock of Dartmoor bringing the natural world alive to the reader.
Jules Pretty walked along the shoreline of East Anglia in southeastern England over the course of a year, exploring four hundred miles on foot and another hundred miles by boat. It is a coast and a culture that is about to be lost not yet, perhaps, but soon to rising tides and industrial sprawl. It is a part of the world that has my roots in, as my paternal grandmother’s family come from Paglesham, though I have never visited it yet. I loved the photos in this book and the writing was considered without being too academic.