Category: Book Musings (page 1 of 11)

My Books of 2019

There are only sixteen books this year that made five stars for me, and they are my books of the year below.

In my reading intentions, I had promised to read the remainder of the Discworld books that I hadn’t ever rear. Whilst I haven’t finished them all, I did make progress this year. The Last Hero was the first from that list and in true Terry Pratchett for it did not disappoint. Very funny and a tiny parody of life on our world too.

The Wild Remedy was my book of the month back in March. It is a thing of beauty and needs to be read by those that have emerged from the Winter and are still feeling the effects of depression. It is very personal too as Emma recounts points when she was at her very lowest ebb.

Earth from Space is very much a coffee table book and the phots in here are as sumptuous as they are amazing.

I have a fascination about lighthouses and Seashaken Houses by Tom Nancollas  is a brilliantly written history of these  structures around the UK.

Roger Deakin was the founder of the modern revival in nature writing and this book by his son, Rufus Deakin, and the man, Titus Rowlandson, who currently lives in his house is a wonderful persoanl history of a home.

Robert Macfarlane is a magnificent writer, and his latest book, Underland continues that trend. Instead of being in the wild open spaces and the mountains, he heads underground to discover the places where people do not often venture.

The link between mental health and the benefits that the natural world can bring has been proved many times now. In Bird Therapy,  Joe Harkness tells a personal story of his fightback from a suicide attempt and how being out bird watching helped him in every stage of recovery.

All Together Now is a brilliant state of our nation book, as Mike Carter walks the same journey his father did three decades before and listens to the people along his route.

Hoping that having his own plot of land and space for his family to grow would be the inspiration that he needed for his writing, didn’t quite work out for Paul Kingsnorth. In Savage Gods he talks about how the writing process has changed him.

Another Discworld book, The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents is one of the children’s books in the series. It is still written with his razor-sharp wit and take on the aspects of life that affect us all.

I will admit that Andy Goldsworthy is my favourite artist and found Enclosure in my local library. Brilliant art as ever.

Until Eland kindly sent me the Jonathan Raban books that they were republishing I had never read any of his books. They were all very good, but he writes about America so very well as you can find in Old Glory and this one, Hunting Mister Heartbreak. Great writer and great book.

Mark Cocker is one of the many modern nature writers who I admire. I actually met him at the Wainwright shortlist announcement and had a good chat, and his last book, A Claxton Diary is as well written as all his others.

A writer who is forging his own paths in nature writing is Tom Cox. 21st Century Yokel was brilliant and the sort of sequel, Ring the Hill maintains that same  standard.

Robert Macfarlane is best known for non-fiction, but this collaboration with Stanley Donwood is his first foray into poetry and fiction. Sharp, eerie and devastating. This is Ness.

And my book of the year is Surfacing by Kathleen Jamie. Any of her writing is a treat and this does not disappoint in any way at all.


January 2020 TBR

A New Year and a new decade too. Lots to read this month the start of the annual Good Reads reading challenge. I have set mine at 190  again, and just need to crack on with it.

I also run a group on Good Reads where I design and set an annual challenge for the members. This year it is Dusty Shelf Bingo and the bingo grid for books to select for this is below. Just selecting the book that I want to read for this list is great fun. Will post about this more in a week or so.

Anyway onto my TBR for this month. I am hoping to make these a little more focused based on my reading intentions here.

Edward Stanford Adventure Travel Shortlist

I am judging this shortlist in early February, but want to get them read ASAP

From The Lion’s Mouth: A Journey Along the Indus – Iain Campbell

The Impossible Climb: Alex Honnold, El Capitan and the Climbing Life – Mark Synnott

Where There’s A Will – Emily Chappell

Journeys in the Wild: The Secret Life of a Cameraman – Gavin Thurston

There are two more on the list but I have already read them:

Outpost – Dan Richards

Rough Magic: Riding the World’s Wildest Horse Race – Lara Prior-Palmer


Review Copies

American Dirt – Jeanie Cummins

A Good Neighbourhood -Therese Anne Fowler

Vickery’s Folk Flora – Roy Vickery

The Many Lives of Carbon – Dag Olav Hessen, Tr. Kerri Pierce

Spinning Silver – Naomi Novrik

Red Thread: On Mazes and Labyrinths – Charlotte Higgins

Stealing With The Eyes – Will Buckingham

The Saddest Pleasure: A Journey on Two Rivers by Moritz Thomsen

The Book of Puka-Puka: A Lone Trader in the South Pacific by Robert Dean Frisbie

Irreplaceable: The Fight To Save Our Wild Places by Julian Hoffman

Incandescent – Ann Levin

The House of Islam – Ed Husain

Blue Mind – Wallace J. Nichols

When the Rivers Run Dry – Fred Pearce

The Glass Woman – Caroline Lea

Sunfall by Jim Al-Khalili


Library Books

This Golden Fleece: A Journey Through Britain’s Knitted History – Esther Rutter

The Edge Of The World: A Cultural History Of The North Sea And The Transformation Of Europe – Michael Pye

The Ice House – Tim Clare

Pie Fidelity: In Defence Of British Food – Pete Brown

Defender – G X Todd

On The Marsh: A Year Surrounded By Wildness And Wet – Simon Barnes


Challenge Books

The Wee Free Men – Terry Pratchett



Memorial: An Excavation of the Iliad – Alice Oswald

Threads – Nathan Evans


Science Fiction

Before Mars – Emma Newman


I think that will do!

2020 Reading Intentions

I have been reviewing what I wrote for my 2019 reading intentions and seeing how many I failed at!  Did manage a lot of them, but not all. I have written about that in my year in review here. That said I still like to have some broad goals that I can aim for, or most likely shuffle broadly in the direction of. And here they are:


My Own Books

Sarah has said again that I have too many books piled up (Tsundoko) around the house. (Note to self, try not to buy so many books). Did manage to read 25 of my own books, but that isn’t enough. That said,  I am allowed to get some more bookshelves!  So that is a new year project to sort that all of that out and unhaul some books. I am looking forward to having all my Little Toller and Eland books together in one place too!


Review Copies

According to my spreadsheet, I have 124 outstanding review copies to read. Even though there is a lot of books on the two shelves that I have for them,  I’m not sure if this is right as I counted way less than that on the shelf!!! I am grateful for every book I receive through the post from publishers, so thank you to you all. I fully intend to read and review as many of those as possible as soon as I can, but also see the blogging post below.


Library Books

As I said last year, these places are a precious resource. Sadly, our present government seems hell-bent on eradicating them from our cities, towns and villages. I still have too many library books out, and will still keep getting them out too. The author gets a small amount every time a book of theirs is borrowed and for the reader, most books are free or have a nominal reservation fee. I am fortunate that I have two library cards, and I am going to try not to max each one out…


Female and BAME Authors

In 2018, 35% of my reading was by female authors. Had intended to raise that for 2019, but have dropped back to 33%. So will be aiming for 40% in 2020. I want around 5% of my reading to be  BAME authors too.



Last year I managed to read a poetry book each and every month and sometimes read more than one. I like poetry, even though I don’t always get it, so am going to try to read around two books a month in 2020.


Literary Awards

Will be aiming to read all of these again (Next year I might get to the Baillie Gifford list as I didn’t this year)

Edward Stanford Travel Writing Awards (I am judging the Adventure Travel next year)


Royal Society

Baillie Gifford

Arthur C Clarke


The World From My Armchair Challenge

Managed to read 13 more books for this long term challenge bringing my total read so far to 44. I have been acquiring books for it though, and have a further 41 books on various bookshelves scattered around the house to read for other countries. I am still looking for travel books (or non-fiction) that are set in or pass through these countries, below. So if you know any, please do let me know.

Antigua and Barbuda
Brunei Darussalam
Capo Verde
Central African Republic
Persian Gulf
Saint Kitts and Nevis
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
Sao Tome and Principe
Trinidad and Tobago
Balearic Sea
Ligurian Sea
Alboran Sea



Managed two more from the Discworld series, but these are still to go:

The Wee Free Men
A Hat Full of Sky
Unseen Academicals
I Shall Wear Midnight
Raising Steam
The Shepherd’s Crown

Please feel free to pester me to remind me that need to keep reading them.


Science Fiction

Only read two (yes two) science fiction books this year which I am ashamed of really as I had high hopes of getting more than that read. Aiming to read at least one a month.



I have always been a reader first and foremost and I get immense pleasure from reading and talking about books. It was reading that introduced me to NB magazine and the blog came off the back of that. After a lot of thought, I have decided that I am going to change the way that I am blogging. I am going to still be reading and reviewing on here and Good Reads and so on, but will be drastically reducing the number of review copies that I request as I can’t keep up.  I am still happy to receive a book if a publisher or publicist still wishes to send them to me, but will not guarantee when I will get to read it. Instead, I have decided that I will either get the newly released books in 2020 from the library or buy them myself to read as and when I can. I will still take part in Blog Tours, but only a maximum of once a month as I don’t always like reading to a deadline.


So there we have it, some changes and evolution from last years intentions as my priorities have changed.

What are your reading intentions?

My Take on Book Lists

A couple of times a year a list of books appears that someone else thinks that you need to have read to have become a complete reader or person or something else. The latest one was on the BBC a few weeks ago and was called The 100 Novels That Shaped Our World. The link is here for those that want to go and see how many they have read.

The premise behind this latest one was to have a list of novels that have in some way affected or had some impact on that particular group of readers that compiled the list. I thought it was an interesting selection, but as with a lot of the others that are published, it did feel like a list of books that others feel you ought to read rather than books that someone else genuinely loved. So I thought, how difficult is this to do?

It turns out actually more difficult than I thought. Mostly because narrowing it down to 100 is hard. Really hard.

I thought long and hard about which authors to include and then which of their books were my favourites. I have tried to include one each of their books in each of the categories that I selected, but so easily could have of included more (ok, in some cases all of them).

So why these books?

Well, there are a variety of reasons that I have chosen these titles. There are books in this list that I loved when I first read them, there are books that helped me discover a particular genre or subject. Some have been transformational in their own way, opening my eyes to a new way of thinking, but most are here because I think that they are brilliant works written by some of the best authors.

I am not going to suggest that you must read these. I am very much of the mind that anyone should impose their reading tastes on anyone else. What I would like you to do, though is give a few of these a go, or use this list to find out about these and other authors whose writing might spark your interest or curiosity.



A Time of Gifts – Patrick Leigh Fermor

To a Mountain in Tibet – Colin Thubron

A Year in Provence – Peter Mayle

Tequila Oil – Hugh Thomson

French Revolutions: Cycling the Tour de France – Tim Moore

Wild Coast: Travels on South America’s Untamed Edge – John Gimlette

A Dip in the Ocean: Rowing Solo Across the Indian Ocean – Sarah Outen

An Unexpected Light: Travels in Afghanistan – Jason Elliot

Old Glory: An American Voyage – Jonathan Raban

This Cold Heaven: Seven Seasons in Greenland – Gretel Ehrlich

Revolutionary Ride: On the Road in Search of the Real Iran – Lois Pryce

Around India in 80 Trains – Monisha Rajesh

Bearback: The World Overland – Pat Garrod


Natural History

Sightlines – Kathleen Jamie

Waterlog – Roger Deakin

Landmarks – Robert Macfarlane

The Last Wilderness – Neil Ansell

Crow Country – Mark Cocker

21st Century Yokel – Tom Cox

Turning – Jessica J. Lee

Nightwalk: A Journey to the Heart of Nature – Chris Yates

The Running Hare: The Secret Life of Farmland – John Lewis-Stempel

The Running Sky: A Bird-Watching Life – Tim Dee

Bird Therapy – Joe Harkness

Flora Britannica – Richard Mabey



Edgelands – Paul Farley & Michael Symmons Roberts

Strands: A Year of Discoveries on the Beach – Jean Sprackland

Under the Rock: The Poetry of a Place – Benjamin Myers

Four Fields – Tim Dee

On the Marshes – Carol Donaldson

Limestone Country – Fiona Sampson

This Luminous Coast – Jules Pretty



Stig of the Dump – Clive King

Swallowdale – Arthur Ransome

The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole aged 13 3/4 – Sue Townsend

Volcano Adventure – Willard Price

Asterix – René Goscinny and illustrated by Albert Uderzo

Comet in Moonminland – Tove Jansson



Patrick Leigh Fermor – Artemis Cooper

Steve Jobs – Walter Isaacson

The Fry Chronicles – Stephen Fry

Gavin Maxwell: A Life – Douglas Botting

Life at Walnut Tree Farm – Rufus Deakin & Titus Rowlandson

Stargazing – Peter Hill



The Wasp Factory – Iain Banks

At Hawthorn Time – Melissa Harrison

The Girl on the Landing – Paul Torday

The Blind Assassin – Margaret Atwood

The Shadow of the Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafón

The Spy Who Came in from the Cold – John le Carré

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas – John Boyne

Reamde – Neal Stephenson

The Gallows Pole – Benjamin Myers

Lanny – Max Porter

Elmet – Fiona Mozley


Science Fiction

Consider Phlebas – Iain M Banks

Eon – Greg Bear

The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams

The City & the City – China Miéville

Pattern Recognition – William Gibson

Redrobe – Jon Courtenay Grimwood

Embers of War – Gareth L Powell


Books & Bookshops

Robin Ince’s Bad Book Club – Robin Ince

Stuff I’ve Been Reading – Nick Hornby

The Bookshop Book – Jen Campbell

The Bookshop That Floated Away – Sarah Henshaw

The Year of Reading Dangerously: How Fifty Great Books Saved My Life – Andy Miller

Books, Baguettes and Bedbugs: The Left Bank World of Shakespeare and Co – Jeremy Mercer

84 Charing Cross Road – Helene Hanff

Where I’m Reading From: The Changing World of Books – Tim Parks

The Gifts of Reading – Robert Macfarlane

The Book Smugglers Of Timbuktu : The Race To Reach The Fabled City And The Fantastic Effort To Save Its Past – Charlie English

The Diary Of A Bookseller – Shaun Bythell

Jacob’s Room Is Full Of Books: A Year Of Reading – Susan Hill



SBS: The Inside Story of the Special Boat Service – John Parker

Agent Zigzag: The True Wartime Story of Eddie Chapman: The Most Notorious Double Agent of World War II – Ben Macintyre

East West Street: On the Origins of Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity – Philippe Sands

Vesuvius: The Most Famous Volcano in the World – Gillian Darley

Colour: Travels Through the Paintbox – Victoria Finlay

Map of a Nation: A Biography of the Ordnance Survey – Rachel Hewitt

Longitude: The True Story of a Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of his Time – Dava Sobel

Where Poppies Blow: The British Soldier, Nature, The Great War – John Lewis-Stempel

The Story of England – Michael Wood



Bad Science – Ben Goldacre

Alex’s Adventures in Numberland: Dispatches from the Wonderful World of Mathematics – Alex Bellos

Trick or Treatment?: Alternative Medicine on Trial – Simon Singh

Ocean of Life. How Our Seas are Changing? – Callum Roberts

An Ocean Of Air: A Natural History Of The Atmosphere – Gabrielle Walker

Six Degrees: Our Future on a Hotter Planet – Mark Lynas

Bright Earth: The Invention of Colour – Philip Ball

Chasing the Sun: The Epic Story of the Star That Gives Us Life – Richard Cohen



Neverwhere – Neil Gaiman

Guards, Guards – Terry Pratchett

Game of Thrones – George R.R. Martin

Spring – William Horwood

Rivers of London – Ben Aaronovitch

Uprooted – Naomi Novik

Perdido Street Station – China Miéville

Magician – Raymond E. Fiest



Mother Tongues: Travels Through Tribal Europe – Helena Drysdale

The Horologicon: A Day’s Jaunt Through the Lost Words of the English Language – Mark Forsyth

Who Touched Base in My Thought Shower?: A Treasury of Unbearable Office Jargon – Steven Poole

The Cabinet of Linguistic Curiosities: A Yearbook of Forgotten Words – Paul Anthony Jones

The Gift Of The Gab: How Eloquence Works – David Crystal

Mother Tongue: The Story of the English Language – Bill Bryson


Other Books

Passage – Andy Goldsworthy

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking – Susan Cain

Just My Type – Simon Garfield

Paper: An Elegy – Ian Sanson

Stanza Stones – Simon Armitage

Envisioning Information – Edward Tufte

Are You Dave Gorman? – Dave Gorman

Everything Bad is Good For You – Steven Johnson


So to answer the question, that I often get asked: what is your favourite book? It is probably one of these above, or it could be another that I haven’t quite remembered as you have put me on the spot.

The sharp-eyed of you that have made it to the bottom of the list and not nodded off, will notice that there isn’t exactly 100 books in here. And that is the point really, constraining yourself to a particular number for no apparent reason isn’t that helpful in the end. It doesn’t matter if your list of favourite books has 5 or 25 or 125 books on it, the important thing is that they are your favourites and have some personal significance to you.

What do you think of these lists of books?

Would any of these appear on your list?

Let me know what you think below.

2019 Book Stats

This past year has been my best ever for reading and I finished 204 books. This was 4 more than last year. and 14 ahead of my Good Reads Target. So here are my stats for the last years reading.

My pages read was 51495 in total, and my monthly average of books was 17, just ahead of last years, 16.7. This broke down into these monthly totals:

January – 20

February – 17

March – 16

April – 17

May – 21

June – 17

July – 17

August – 16

September – 17

October – 16

November – 17

December – 13

The split of books read

Male Authors – 136

Female Authors – 68 i.e. 33%

This was 2% down on last year’s reading

Review Copies  – 90 (last year was 109)

Library Books – 89 (last year was 73)

Own Books– 25 (last year was 18) I still really need to read more of my own books that I have bought.


Non-Fiction – 160 – 78%

Fiction – 29 – 14.5%

Poetry – 15 – 7.5%


Stars Awarded:

5 Stars – 16 Books
4.5 Stars – 20 Books
4 Stars – 71 Books
3.5 stars – 51 Books
3 stars – 34 Books
2.5 Stars – 9 Books
2 Stars – 3 Books
1.5 stars 0 Books
1 stars – 0 Books



I use a spreadsheet to keep a note of the types and genres of books that I read. There are detailed below:

Genre Number Read
Travel 40
Fiction 22
Natural History 21
Memoir 16
Poetry 16
Science 15
Miscellaneous 8
Landscape 7
Fantasy 5
History 4
Britain 4
Woodlands 4
Politics 4
Books 3
Humour 3
Biography 3
True Crime 2
Gardening 2
Science Fiction 2
Psychology 2
Photography 2
Food 2
Mental Health 2
Cycling 1
Engineering 1
Weather 1
Economics 1
Language 1
Architecture 1
Art 1
Navigation 1
Technology 1
Information Society 1
Maths 1
Sport 1
Behavioural Economics 1
Spying 1
Families 1



These are the number of books read by each publisher. Bloomsbury were top last year too.

Publisher Number of books
Bloomsbury 11
Faber & Faber 10
Unbound 10
Jonathan Cape 9
Eland 9
Little Toller 7
Penguin 7
Elliott & Thompson 6
Canongate 5
AA Publishing 5
William Collins 5
Riverrun 4
Summersdale 3
Sandstone Press 3
Ebury Press 3
4th Estate 3
Gollancz 3
Simon & Schuster 3
Granta 3
W&N 3
Nicholas Brealey 3
Saraband 3
John Murray 2
Viking 2
Chatto & Windus 2
Transworld 2
Michael O’Mara Books 2
Ladybird 2
Corgi 2
Hodder & Stoughton 2
Oneworld 2
The Text Publishing Company 2
Hamish Hamilton 2
Bantam Press 2
Profile 2
Vintage 2
Harvill Secker 2
Head of Zeus 2
Atlantic 2
Picador 2
Fly on The Wall Press 1
Biteback Publishing 1
Quadrille 1
Octopus Books 1
Titan Books 1
Bradt Travel Guides 1
William Heinemann 1
Particular Books 1
Pan Macmillan 1
Harper Perenial 1
Eye Books 1
Penned in the Margins 1
Allen Lane 1
Abacus 1
Mayfly Press 1
Windmill 1
Chatto & Windas 1
Batsford 1
Square Peg 1
Brewers 1
Cajun Mutt Press 1
Profile Books 1
The Selkie Press 1
Quercus 1
Tinder Press 1
Random House 1
Arena 1
Alard Coles 1
Little Brown 1
Routledge 1
W.W. Norton 1
Headline 1
CB Editions 1
Bloodaxe Books 1
Yale 1
Sceptre Books 1
Eland 1
Hornet Books 1
Patrician Press 1
Sort of Books 1
Influx Press 1
Icon Books 1
Trapeze 1
Text Publishing 1
SilverWood Books 1
Thames & Hudson 1
The Bodley Head 1
Scribner 1
Platypus Press 1
Preface Publishing 1

Favourite Book Covers of 2019

These are my favourite covers of the books that I have read over the course of 2019. They are in no particular order, but the one at the bottom is my cover of the year. The way I see it, the cover of book has one job only and that is to be catching or attractive enough to make me want to pause, pick them up and then make me want to read it. In my opinion, all of these covers do that.

And my cover of the year has to be Underland. Like all of Stanley Donwood’s images it is just staggering

My Anticipated Books of 2020

I have been through all of the 2020 publishers catalogues that could lay my hands on and have extracted all the books that I really like the look of. Most are non-fiction, as you have probably come to expect by now, but there are a smattering of fiction and sci-fi in there.


Allen Lane

The Future of Food: How Digital Technology Will Change the Way We Feed the Planet by Caleb Harper

Rivers of Power: How a Natural Force Raised Kingdoms, Destroyed Civilizations, and Shapes Our World by Laurence C. Smith

Losing Eden: Why Our Minds Need the Wild by Lucy Jones

The Children of Ash and Elm: A History of the Vikings by Neil Price

English Pastoral An Inheritance by James Rebanks

The Sirens of Mars: Searching for Life on Another World  by Sarah Stewart Johnson



Threads by William Henry Searle



Secondhand: Travels in the New Global Garage Sale by Adam Minter

Dark, Salt, Clear: Life in a Cornish Fishing Village by Lamorna Ash

Nothing Ordinary: A Still Life by Josie George

Fewer, Better Things: The Hidden Wisdom of Objects by Glenn Adamson

Last Train to Hilversum: A journey in search of the magic of radio by Charlie Connelly

The Anarchy: The Relentless Rise of the East India Company by William Dalrymple

A Savage Dreamland: Journeys in Burma by David Eimer

Tangier: From the Romans to The Rolling Stones by Richard Hamilton

Wanderland by Jini Reddy

On the Trail of Wolves by Philippa Forrester

His Imperial Majesty: A Natural History of the Purple Emperor Butterfly by Matthew Oates

Tracking The Highland Tiger: In Search of Scottish Wildcats by Marianne Taylor

Turned On: Science, Sex and Robots by Kate Devlin



Rootbound: Rewilding a Life by Alice Vincent

Department of Mind-Blowing Theories by Tom Gauld

Island Dreams: The Mapping of an Obsession by Gavin Francis


Elliott & Thompson

Cabinet of Calm: Soothing Words for Troubled Times by Paul Anthony Jones

We’re Living Through The Breakdown: And Here’s What We Can Do About It by Tatton Spiller

It’s the End of the World: But What Are We Really Afraid Of? by Adam Roberts

Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About the Universe by Andrew Newsam

Under the Stars: A Journey into Light by Matt Gaw

Cauld Blasts and Clishmaclavers: A Treasury of 1,000 Scottish Words by Robin A. Crawford


Faber & Faber

The Accidental Countryside by Stephen Moss

Thinking Again by Jan Morris

The Magicians by Marcus Chown

The Remarkable Life of Numbers by Derrick Niederman



Bone Silence by Alastair Reynolds


Hamish Hamilton

Bad Island by Stanley Donwood


Harvill Secker

Italian Life by Tim Parks


Head of Zeus

We, Robots by Simon Ings (ed.)

Trains, Planes, Ships and Automobiles: The Golden Age 1919–1939 by James Hamilton-Paterson

Money for Nothing: The South Sea Bubble and the Invention of Modern Capitalism by Thomas Levenson

Democracy on Leave: How Dark Money, Lobbying and Data Are Destroying Politics by Peter Geoghegan

The Colour of Sky After Rain: China in My Time by Tessa Keswick

The Book Of Kells by Victoria Whitworth



A Good Neighbourhood by Therese Anne Fowler


John Murray

The Stonemason: A History of Building Britain by Andrew Ziminski

Rag and Bone: A Family History of What We’ve Thrown Away by Lisa Woollett

The Last Whalers: The Life of an Endangered Tribe in a Land Left Behind by Doug Bock Clark


Jonathan Cape

Greenery by Tim Dee

The Martian’s Regress by J. O. Morgan

Tongues of Fire by Seán Hewitt

Last Harvest: The Fight to Save the World’s Most Endangered Foods by Dan Saladino


Little Toller

Diary of a Young Naturalist by Dara McAnulty


Michael Joseph

A History of Britain In 12 Maps by Philip Parker

Wild Silence by Raynor Winn



The Wild Laughter by Caoilinn Hughes

How to Predict Everything: The Formula Transforming What We Know About Life and the Universe by William Poundstone

Salmon: A Fish, the Earth, and the History of a Common Fate by Mark Kurlansky



Lev’s Violin: An Italian Adventure  by Helena Attlee



Agency by William Gibson

Kraftwerk: Future Music from Germany by Uwe Schütte

Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer

Licence to be Bad: How Economics Corrupted Us by Jonathan Aldred



The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel

The Economists’ Hour: How the False Prophets of Free Markets Fractured Our Society by Binyamin Appelbaum

A Place For Everything: The Story of Alphabetical Order by Judith Flanders

Wayfinding: The Art and Science of How We Find and Lose Our Way by Michael Bond



Something Doesn’t Add Up: Surviving Statistics in a Post-Truth World by Paul Goodwin

More: The 10,000 Year Rise of the World Economy by Philip Coggan

The Rules of Contagion: Why Things Spread – and Why They Stop by Adam Kucharski

Preserved Railways: Journeys Along the Resurrected Lines by Andrew Martin

Rummage: A History of the Things We Have Reused, Recycled and Refused to Let Go by Emily Cockayne

I Saw the Dog: How Language Works by Alexandra Aikhenvald

X+Y: A Mathematician’s Manifesto for Rethinking Gender by Eugenia Cheng


Pushkin Press

Those Who Forget by Geraldine Schwarz



Wintering: How I Learned To Flourish When Life Became Frozen by Katherine May


Sandstone Press

Marram: Memories of Sea and Spider Silk by Leonie Charlton

Along the Amber Route: St Petersburg to Venice by C.J. Schuller


Tinder Press

American Dirt by Jeanie Cummins



Invisible Sun by Charles Stross



Taking on Gravity: A Guide to Inventing the Impossible by Richard Browning

I Am An Island by Tamsin Calidas


Two Roads

Tall Tales and Wee Stories by Billy Connolly



Walking the Great North Line: From Stonehenge to Lindisfarne to Discover the Mysteries of Our Ancient Past  by Robert Twigger

Pluses and Minuses: How Maths Makes Practical Problems Simpler by Stefan Buijsman


Any that you’ve heard of?

What takes your fancy?

More importantly, are there any that I might have missed?

November 2019 Review

I am sure it was only last Tuesday that I did my October review. But another month has gone by and my daughter is playing Christmas music and there is one month left of 2019… I join in with the Good Reads challenge each year and set it to the same amount each time, 190. I normally finish with a day or so to spare. This year I finished a month, yes a whole month early. So I am taking December off. Only joking, still way too much to read, but I should crack the 200 books read barrier for the first time. Anyway, I am here to tell you about the books I read in November. I read 17 books by the end of the month and had some really great reads too.


Three bookish delight to begin with. First up is the latest from the owner of The Bookshop in Wigtown, Shaun Bythell. In Confessions Of A Bookseller we have another year of his tale of battling against staff, Amazon and customers. I have a lot of books at home, and Tom Mole is another book addict. So much so that he actually teaches about it. The Secret Life of Books: Why They Mean More Than Words is his eulogy to these slices of tree that some of us are addicted to. The final one is another book addict, but about 18 Bookshops in the UK and America.  Anne Scott has written a beautiful book on her favourite shops.

Sharing food with friends and other is one of those things that you can do that will remain in people memories for a long time. Priya Basil asks questions about hospitality and its opposite, hostility in Be My Guest and how we need to focus on helping and providing for others.

Arthur Smith has one of those voices that sticks with you and I could hear it as I read his new book, 100 Things I Meant To Tell You. Often very funny and occasionally sad, this is a book full of wisdom and insight. Some of which you might even be able to use…

Maxim Griffin is worth following on Twitter. He has a unique way of creating art and I love his pictures. He came together with Gary Budden to produce The White Heron Beneath the Reactor, which is a slim psychogeography book about the spit of land off Dungeness.

Spending a year immersing yourself in the countryside and collecting herbs is not everyone’s idea of fun, but in Copsford, Walter Murray tells of the year that he spent doing just that, whilst living in an almost derelict house. Some wonderful moments in here.



I have had a review copy of Chasing the Ghost by Peter Marren for far too long. This is his story of searching for all the Wild Flowers of Britain and he had 50 left to see including the rare, Ghost Orchid. Well written as I have come to expect from Peter Marren and well worth reading. Kind of a natural history book as well as an adventure book, the new book by Tiffany Francis, Dark Skies: A Journey Into The Wild Night is a series of stories about venturing out when it is dark and not taking the torch.


Two poetry books this month, the first was the latest Alice Oswald, called Nobody and is a book length poem inspired by a minor character in the Odyssey. The second was called, Miles of Sky Above Us, Miles of Earth Below and is a take on modern life by Steve Denehan.

Fake news, trolling, denial of service attacks and bot farms are all things that we didn’t know about a decade ago. And now they are here, disrupting our democracy and causing all sorts of problems. Most of them are based in Russia or have strong Russian links, and Peter Pomerantsev is very well placed to write about what is happening in  This Is Not Propaganda. Genuinely terrifying stuff.

I have been fascinated by the night sky for a long time now and more so since my daughter took it as a GCSE. The Art Of Urban Astronomy is a beautifully produced beginners guide to the night sky.

I really enjoyed the first in this series, so was delighted to receive Peter F. Hamilton’s new book, Salvation Lost from the publisher. In this, it is discovered that the worst threat ever to face mankind from the supposedly benign Olyix. They plan to harvest humanity, carry us to their god at the end of the universe. I liked it but thought it was a bit slower-paced than the first one.


I only read Cider with Rosie a few years ago and rapidly went on to read the sequels, including As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning. Loved them, so when I was offered a copy of the travel adventurer, Alastair Humphreys’ book I thought I’d did one off the shelf that I won a few years ago, As I Walked Out Through Spain In Search Of Laurie Lee. They are both very different journeys and in their own way eulogies to the original book.

My book of the month though was, Ness. This dystopian future is unlike anything I have ever read before. I won’t say any more than that. Amazing book from Robert Macfarlane and stunning artwork from Stanley Donwood all the way through.

December 2019 TBR

As we hurtle towards the end of the year, I look back at all the books that I’d thought I’d get to and largely failed to do so. So many book but so little time. This month is a case of catching up on a couple of challenges that I have been doing and still have books to read for and trying to work my way through what is an ever-increasing review TBR!


Award Winner Challenge

The idea behind this was to choose books that were winners or long and shortlisted for a variety of types of literary prizes. The ones that I have left to read by the end of the year are:

On Beauty – Zadie Smith

Our Endless Numbered Days – Clare Fuller

The Underground Railroad – Colson Whitehead

In the Days of Rain – Rebecca Stott

Blood on the Page – Thomas Harding



Two left to go on this, (still!!!), even British it is almost winter…

Blue Mind: How Water Makes You Happier, More Connected and Better at What You Do by Wallace J. Nichols

When the Rivers Run Dry: Water – The Defining Crisis of the Twenty-first Century by Fred Pearce


Library Books

Messy – Tim Harford

The Gentle Art of Tramping – Stephen Graham

Superheavy: Making And Breaking The Periodic Table – Kit Chapman

The Edge Of The World: A Cultural History Of The North Sea And The Transformation Of Europe – Michael Pye


Winter Themed

The Library of Ice – Nancy Campbell

The Nature Of Winter – Jim Crumley

Father Christmas’s Fake Beard – Terry Pratchett


Review Books

Time and Place – Alexandra Harris

The Many Lives of Carbon – Dag Olav Hessen, Tr. Kerri Pierce

Spinning Silver – Naomi Novrik

Stealing With The Eyes – Will Buckingham

The Saddest Pleasure: A Journey on Two Rivers by Moritz Thomsen

The Book of Puka-Puka: A Lone Trader in the South Pacific by Robert Dean Frisbie

Irreplaceable: The Fight To Save Our Wild Places by Julian Hoffman

Incandescent – Ann Levin

The House of Islam – Ed Husain

Blue Mind – Wallace J. Nichols

When the Rivers Run Dry – Fred Pearce

Wintering – Stephen Rutt

The Glass Woman – Caroline Lea

Vickery’s Folk Flora – Roy Vickery

Sunfall by Jim Al-Khalili


Own Books / Wishful thinking

The Art of Life Admin – Elizabeth Emens (To be read after Messy!)

The Wee Free Men – Terry Pratchett


Any there that you have read, or perhaps take your fancy (I know that some have been on previous TBRs!)

October 2019 Review

Another month passes, and there are a few more books read from Mount TBR. Only sixteen this month, which I was a little disappointed with, to be honest. Ho hum, this is a hobby at the end of the day and I primarily read for pleasure. I did read some really good books though, and here they are:


Who Owns England? is a loaded question, and it is a question that Guy Shrubsole has been trying to answer for years. Believe it or not, not one really know exactly who owns what for around 15 – 20 % of the land, but modern technology is starting to address this blank space. It is a polemic on how the elite and landed gentry have had it their own way for far too long and I would say it is an essential read for anyone interested in landscape.


I read two excellent fiction books this month, first up was Cynan Jones’ near future book set in the UK. It is suffering from freshwater shortages. Razor-sharp writing and almost poetic in its style. You can’t go wrong with a Benjamin Myers book, and the Offing continued that. Set just after World War II it is the story of a sixteen-year-old boy who doesn’t want to work in the pit and sets of from Durham to the Yorkshire Coast. It is there he meets Dulcie and she sees his potential and they form an unlikely friendship.

Effing Birds was one of my blog tour books, and you need to be pretty broad-minded to read this as it is a bit (sorry, a lot) sweary. Aaron Reynolds does not hold back and it is hilarious though.

This was one of the Royal Society Shortlisted book and it is a maths book. Some of you will run with horror from the room at the thought of maths, but I like reading them. In Infinite Powers, Steven Strogatz has written just how much the understanding of Calculus affects us in modern society.


I read three very different memoirs this month. First up is Lowborn by Kerry Hudson. This is a story of her childhood in poverty and at the very fringes of society and of returning to those places and memories. Well worth reading. The very slender book, Of Walking in Ice, is the story of Werner Herzog’s walk to Paris to see a friend who was very ill. Surreal at times, but I can see why it is a classic. Danie Couchman is one of the many who could not afford to buy a property in London, but she did make a home in a small boat on the London canal system and Afloat is her memoir about life there.

I was sent a copy of Tempest by Patrician Press. This is an anthology of short fiction, essays and poems about our present political ‘tempestuous’ times.


I read one book on The Making Of Poetry by the great Adam Nicolson. this book is about the short period of time that Coleridge and the Wordsworths were together in the West country and the creative force that this unleased. My poetry book this month was the acclaimed Hannah Sullivan’s Three Poems. Very different from other poetry books that I have read, this year.

In case anyone hasn’t noticed, there is quite a lot of politics going on at the moment. The root of what is going on though is very concisely summed up in The Three Dimensions of Freedom by Billy Bragg. Bit short, but still an interesting discourse.


Ross Barnet’s book, The Missing Lynx, is about the lost megafauna of the British Isles and contemplates the possibilities of bringing some of the larger predators back as part of a rewilding programme. Clearing The Air by Tim Smedley is the full story about what’s happened to the air we breathe.  the pollution and particulate matter and more importantly what we can do to bring back better quality air.

From the author of The Way of the World, Nicolas Bouvier, Eland has pulled together a collection of travel writings translated here for the first time into English. From the Aran isles in mid-winter to Xian, Korea to lowland Scotland, these essays are a flavour of a travel writer of the highest quality.

My book of the month was the fantastic Ring the Hill by Tom Cox. Loosely about hills, it is as wide-ranging as you’d expect from Tom as he writes about maps, hares and even ventures as far as the beach. Of course, we have a visit from his LOUD DAD too. Highly recommended. Read it soon.

Any of these that you have read? Or now want to read? Tell me in the comments below.


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