October 2023 Review

October flew by. Not help by being really busy at work and in life in general. But I did get 16 books read, went to London for the first time in ages and went to the Launch even for Life a Full Tilt in the actual John Murray building. So here is what I read and bought this month:


Books Read

Wintering Out – Seamus Heaney – 3 Stars

Rocks and Rain, Reason and Romance – David Howe – 3 Stars

Off the Shelf: A Celebration of Bookshops in Verse – Carol Ann Duffy – 3.5 Stars

Natures Wonders – Jane V. Adams – 3.5 Stars

The Girl Who Forgets How To Walk – Kate Davis – 3.5 Stars

Am I Normal?: The 200-Year Search For Normal People (And Why They Don’t Exist) – Sarah Chaney – 3.5 Stars

The Bridleway: How Horses Shaped The British Landscape – Tiffany Francis-Baker – 3.5 Stars

Swan: Portrait of a Majestic Bird, from Mythical Meanings to the Modern Day – Dan Keel – 3.5 Stars

Botanical Folk Tales of Britain and Ireland – Lisa Schneidau – 3.5 Stars

Call of the Kingfisher: Bright Sights and Birdsong in a Year by the River – Nick Penny – 4 Stars

In The Pines – Paul Scraton – 4 Stars


Book(s) Of The Month

High Caucasus: A Mountain Quest In Russia’s Haunted Hinterland – Tom Parfitt – 4.5 Stars

Rural: The Lives Of The Working Class Countryside – Rebecca Smith – 4.5 Stars

Grounded: A Journey Into The Landscapes Of Our Ancestors – James Canton – 4.5 Stars

Life At Full Tilt: The Selected Writings of Dervla Murphy – Dervla Murphy, Ed. Ethel Crowley – 4.5 Stars

The Granite Kingdom: A Cornish Journey – Tim Hannigan – 4.5 Stars


Top Genres

Fiction 27

Natural History 21

Travel 21

Poetry 16

Memoir 11

History 7

Science Fiction 6

Fantasy 6

Art 4

Environmental 4


Top Publishers

Faber & Faber 12

Penguin 6

Little Toller 6

Bloomsbury 6

Simon & Schuster 5

Headline 4

Jonathan Cape 4

William Collins 4

Picador 3

Eland 3


Review Copies Received

Dead Drunk: Tales of Intoxication and Demon Drinks – Ed. Pam Lock

The House on the Borderland William – Hope Hodgson

Following Miss Bell: Travels Around Turkey in the Footsteps of Gertrude Bell – Pat Yale

Now is the Time to Know Everything – Simon Moreton

All Around The Year – Michael Morpurgo

Black Ghosts – Noo Saro-Wiwi


Library Books Checked Out

Prophet – Helen Macdonald

The Holly King – Mark Stay

Windswept: Life, Nature and Deep Time in the Scottish Highlands – Annie Worsley

Secret Britain: Unearthing Our Mysterious Past – Mary-Ann Ochota

Books Bought

The Almond Blossom Appreciation Society – Chris Stewart (Signed)

The Hills of Adonis: A Journey in Lebanon – Colin Thubron (Signed)

Fever Trees of Borneo – Mark Eveleigh

On The Red Hill – Mike Parker

Life Lessons From the Amazon: A Guide to Life From One Epic Jungle Adventure – Pip Stewart

Returning Light: 30 Years of Life on Skellig – Michael Robert L. Harris

Green Was the Earth on the Seventh Day – Thor Heyerdahl

The Island That Dared: Journeys in Cuba – Dervla Murphy

The Shining Levels – John Wyatt

An Empire of The East – Norman Lewis

A Winter Book – Tove Jansson

Very British Problems: The Most Awkward One Yet – Rob Temple

As It Was And World Without End – Helen Thomas

Weird Walk: Wanderings and Wonderings through the British Ritual Year – Weird Walk

The Honoured Society: The Sicilian Mafia Observed – Norman Lewis

Crossed Of The Map – Shafik Meghji (Signed)

French Lessons in Africa: Travels With My Briefcase in French Africa – Peter Biddlecombe

Untrodden Peaks and Unfrequented Valleys: A Midsummer Ramble in the Dolomites – Amelia B. Edwards

My Midsummer Morning: Rediscovering a Life of Adventure – Alastair Humphreys

The Landscape Of Thomas Hardy – Donald Maxwell

Are there that take your fancy, or that you have read and loved? Let me know in the comments below


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  1. Liz Dexter

    It’s hard to tell with your marks as you rarely give a 5, and I don’t think I’ve seen a review yet? was The Bridle Way good or not? It’s on my list but my list is BIG at the moment … ! You have some great incomings there, well done!

    • Paul

      I liked it. She has written a fascinating history of how man and horse have shaped the landscape. I may not review it as I have a lot on at the moment.

  2. Andrew W Morris

    Worsley’s Windswept is my favourite new book this year. Nicely organised into 36 sections based on the Japanese idea of micro seasons and good descriptions of seasonal colours and epic Highland weather.
    I recently picked up a signed hardback copy of Thubron’s Hills of Adonis from Oxfam Poole and a hardback copy of In Siberia from Black Pug Books. Would like to have all his travel books; currently looking for Shadow of the Silk Road in hbk.
    Have the Wyatt Shining Levels in the first edition and I think Little Toller have republished in their Nature Classics. Maxwell Landscape of Thomas Hardy is on my wish list; a year ago I bought a copy of his Unknown Dorset with a decent DJ from Oxfam Poole.
    Two travel books that I have recently read and can recommend are Carla Grissmann Dinner of Herbs (Acadia Books and since republished by Eland I think) and Christine Ritter A Woman in the Polar Night (Pushkin Press, with intro by Sara Wheeler).

    Did you get a chance to have a few words with Colin Thubron at the London book launch.

    • Paul

      Hi Andrew.
      I have followed her on social media for a long time and she has an artist’s eye. I am very much looking forward to reading it.
      That is a great find. Victoria in Black Pug is lovely and always helpful when I pop in. I have a vague recollection of seeing a hardback of Shadow of the Silk Road in West Moors Bookshop.
      I bought the Little Toller edition from there. It is so rare to see their books in charity shops and Elands for that matter. I have Unknown Dorset but with out the dust jacket sadly.

      Thank you for the recommendations, Dinner of Herbs is now with Eland, so will have to pick that up at some point. A Woman in the Polar Night is already on my massive TBR, but I haven’t got a copy yet. I met Sara Wheeler at the Eland event and she was kind enough to sign some books I had taken up with me. I did speak to Colin again, and her remembered me from last time too. I now have a full set of his travel books signed.

      You must live very close to me. You are more than welcome to pop by and have a look at my bookshelves one day

  3. Andrew W Morris

    Hi Paul

    I live in Oakdale in Poole. I worked for a large bookseller in Cambridge for 30 years (Heffers, now part of Waterstones) before recently retiring to Dorset.
    After you tip off, I visited West Moors Bookshop and purchased a couple of Thubron titles, Among the Russians and Behind the Wall. The bookshop was rather chaotic with piles of books everywhere.
    I’ve already seen your bookshelves as you posted photographs in September.
    I think there is quite an overlap with my own collection. Plenty of Mabey, Ewart Evans, Mark Cocker, Melissa Harrison, Alexandra Harris, Robert Macfarlane (have met him and spoken to him about the Dorset holloways) Neil Ansell, Sean Lysaght and Dovecote and Little Toller books.
    I’m currently collecting Dorset books, usually Dovecote, including the Discover Dorset series. Also recently bought The Lost Orchards and the two books by Louise Hodgson (Secret Places) have inspired some visits to sites off the beaten track in West Dorset). Hope you find time to reorganise your Dorset books onto a single bookcase. Am always interested to see your photos of recent purchases. I don’t quite understand how you find the time to read them all.

    • Paul

      Just down the road from me. I am in Merley.
      Glad you visited there. It is a bit chaotic, and really needs some of the books taking off the floor, but they do have some gems occasionally. Have you been to The Crooked Book in Boscombe? They have a reasonable second hand travel section. The other worth visiting is Julia’s house in Creekmoor, they have a great selection of books.
      Glad you have seen my shelves. I am still cataloguing them at the moment, just to get a grip of just what I have. About 1/3 of the way through at the moment. Then I will start tiding. The intention is to have all the Dorset books together on one of the shelves along with the growing collection of prehistory books.
      It does sound like we have similar reading interests. I have met Rob too at one of the travel writing awards. I have been collecting Dovecote books for a while now. David Burnett is father of Gracie at Little Toller.
      I do make time to read above other things, like TV. I guess you follow me on social media, but couldn’t find you on the ones that I inhabit.

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