Books for Christmas

Nothing beats a good book (well, preferably two or three) at Christmas – here are a few of the best titles I’ve read this year with environmental, landscape and wildlife themes. All are beautifully crafted pieces of work and reflect habitats as varied as woodlands, rivers, meadows, mountains and seashores. They all, in their own way, examine ‘spirit of place’ – the idea that a locality (whatever its status or story) can possess a personality – Kineton, for example, makes me think of blue lias, Hornton stone, old osier beds, springtime cherry blossom and the annual exodus of baby toads that march across our garden!
So, in no particular order:
1. Wildwood: A Journey Through Trees by Roger Deakin – This year I finally got round to reading this famous eulogy to all things woodland, first published back in 2007. It’s probably best just to quote from a few national reviews – “A masterpiece”, “Among the best ever”, “Enchanting”… with even Will Self (ugh!) admitting it was “Enthralling”. Read it!
2. Silt Road: The Story of a Lost River by Charles Rangeley-Wilson – The story of a lost tributary of the Thames (in deepest High Wycombe!) that combines the melancholy of landscape writing with vivid insights into bygone ways of life. The author’s research and his quest for today’s river, now culverted beneath the streets, takes him as far afield as Tasmania!
3. Strands: A Year of Discoveries on the Beach by Jean Sprackland – The author spent a year beachcombing on the flat expanses of sand a few miles north of Liverpool and presents a lyrical tribute to the cast-offs washed up by the sea, including various marine wildlife such as sea potatoes, lugworms and mermaid’s purses. It’s a book that reinforces the idea that we can connect (or reconnect) with any type of landscape, wherever it might be. And the bit about Mesolithic footprints, now being revealed by the natural processes of erosion, will probably leave a great impression (if you don’t mind the pun). Brilliant.
4. The Old Ways: A Journey on Foot by Robert Macfarlane – Tracking a number of ancient routes, including one by sea and a couple overseas, the author paints a picture that reveals how travellers have influenced and been influenced by the landscapes and cultures they have passed through. His third bestseller – you could almost call him both a poet and a naturalist – and, just like Jean Stickland, he ends up searching for the remarkable ancient footprints that were planted in the mud near Formby more than 5,000 years ago.
I’ve borrowed all four titles from local libraries… hope you enjoy them as much as I did!


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