Posts tagged Reading
Books Inspired by the Natural World

Though not necessarily classed as 'nature writing', these six books take inspiration from the natural world in different and captivating ways. If you can carve out a little time in your busy day, reading a few pages is always a pleasure, so pick one and get started!

  1. If (like me) you're about to start a family, Common Ground, by Rob Cowen, will definitely appeal. It weaves the story of a father expecting his first child with exploration of a small strip of land on the edge of a town. Unobtrusive and lifeless though it may appear, this wasteland provides the backdrop for a journey through the local landscape, with lyrical investigations of plants, animals, insects and humans.
  2. I've long admired the writing of Sara Maitland, and the magical Gossip from the Forest: The Tangled Roots of our Forests and Fairytales certainly doesn't disappoint. She argues that forests are twofold, both beautiful and terrifying, and that it is this combination that creates the backdrop to fairytales. Filled with re-imaginings and seasonal wanderings, it is a book of many guises that celebrates these ancient and primal landscapes, and muses on their significance.
  3. If I were to choose books simply by their covers, Holloway, a collaboration between Robert Macfarlane, Stanley Donwood and Dan Richards, would be top of the list. This short book explores a landscape of shadows, spectres and great strangeness, and coupled with ghostly illustrations, provides the perfect way to spend half an hour or so.
  4. Travel back fifty years to the Scottish Highlands, and you'll reach the moment Katharine Stewart moved with her family to A Croft in the Hills. This powerful memoir evokes nostalgia for a lost era, but also highlights the hardships many would have experienced. Expect bitter Scottish winters, the trials of looking after livestock, and the simple pleasures of a back-to-basics lifestyle.
  5. A little different from my usual style, Findings, by Kathleen Jamie, is a curation of moments plucked straight from the author's travels. It doesn't follow a narrative as such, but instead opts for short prose essays on topics such as peregrines, the winter solstice and the carcass of a whale. A totally different approach that is nevertheless intriguing and, at times, surprising.
  6. If you don't even have time for the half an hour it takes to read Holloway, try John Lewis-Stempel's The Wood in Winter. Published by Candlestick Press as an alternative to sending a card, this pamphlet follows a nature walk into a wood in midwinter, tying in old festivals and traditions, and reminding us of our own deep connection to the earth.

Reading books inspired by the outdoors is an easy way to reconnect with the natural world. Check out last week's post - Nature & Culture: Finding a Common Ground - if you'd like more tips on how to achieve this in other ways.

A Seasonal Year: Winter

If you're a subscriber, you'll have already received the first edition of the newsletter - A Seasonal Year - but if you're not don't worry, because today's post offers a compact version to inspire you to live slowly and seasonally throughout the winter months. Don't want to miss next month's newsletter?

Winter Rituals

  • Prepare the house for colder weather: light candles; get a stack of logs ready for the fire; choose rich, jewel colours for your accessories; choose a reading spot; and festoon your home with greenery.
  • Embrace daylight whenever possible: get outside for a walk at least once a day; position yourself near to a window when working; try and watch the sunrise and sunset as often as possible.
  • Plan for the year ahead: choose a word (or two) to focus on and set long-term goals; order seeds for the vegetable patch / allotment / kitchen windowsill, and plan out your summer harvest.


Three Seasonal Recipes

  1. Pheasant casserole with celeriac mash
  2. Bubble and squeak
  3. Chestnut and chocolate torte


Three Seasonal Reads

L-R:  Burial Rites  by Hannah Kent;  Village Christmas  by Laurie Lee;  A Christmas Carol  by Charles Dickens.

L-R: Burial Rites by Hannah Kent; Village Christmas by Laurie Lee; A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens.



Final Thoughts...

Winter is the time for comfort, for good food and warmth, for the touch of a friendly hand and for a talk beside the fire: it is the time for home.
Edith Sitwell
The Year in Books: July

If I'm honest, I wasn't sure I was going to beat June's The Year in Books reviewBurial Rites was spectacular and I was wary of reading another book lest it be a complete let-down, but Joanne Harris' collection of short stories - A Cat, a Hat and a Piece of String - really stepped up to the mark.

year in books july

The stories are woven around themes that drift through the book as an underlying presence; the idea that Christmas stays all year round, for example, or that two feisty ladies in a nursing home can run rings around the staff, and more poignantly why they are forced to. The characters are lively and interesting and you really feel yourself rooting for some of them, despite the fact you meet them for only a few pages. The writing is humorous, saddening, even outrageous at times. But more than anything, the selling point of this book is the vast variety of short stories housed within its pages; I have read numerous collections of short stories but this one was different in that you could select a story to read depending on your mood or the time of year, and there would also be one that would fit. This, for me, is what reading is all about, and I will definitely be delving back into these stories again.

July's choice is something I picked up a while ago on a whim and I'm still not entirely sure what to expect, but I wanted to give something a little bit different a try. Shatter Me With Dawn by Sally Russell focuses on a celebration of country life in Georgia and revisits her years in a remote farm. I've not read much about the American countryside, so I'm looking forward to discovering what it's like over the pond.

Have you got any recommendations that you'd like to share that also focus on country life?