Somewhere in the dim and distant past of late July/early August, we managed to get away for three whole glorious weeks in Tenby. After a hectic few months editing 3 books and doing 2 exams while trying to hold down a full time job, it was a total joy to sit and do nothing much except read. I’ve been meaning to write up the results ever since but the minute I got back it feels like I’ve not stopped till this weekend. So, time to make the most of the rare moment of calm and let you know my thoughts on my non-fiction choices…
I will put it out there straightaway, that Hugh is a good friend of mine, so of course I always want his books to do well. But I will also say that I absolutely love his passion for the environment (particularly all things hedgehog) and he is a brilliant writer. I’m a former student of Biology, and Hugh’s work not only shows me what my life might have been like if I’d been any good as a scientist, but it always rekindles my enthusiasm for the subject.
‘Linescapes’ is no exception. This is a gorgeous book, celebrating the beauty of our British landscape and lamenting the threats it is under. Hugh’s approach, to investigate the lines (or ‘linescapes’) that criss-cross our land, is a fresh and innovative one. He takes the reader on a fascinating journey along hedges, walls, hollow ways, canals, railways and motors, as he walks with local environmentalists who explain how human lines can both hinder and help wildlife. While it is a plea to halt the ongoing fragmentation of our natural habitat, it also offers a great deal of hope. To know that wildlife can be found even in the most challenging circumstances (demonstrated by the discovery of otter spraint in an urban canal under a busy A road) and that the highways and railways have teams of passionate naturalists working hard to manage their estates, is very heartening indeed. A book guaranteed to make you want to search out your local linescapes to ferret out and protect the wildlife you find there.
I started following Jenny Landreth on twitter a few years ago, when I found out about her blog Swimming Round London. Since then we’ve had many interesting conversations on a wide range of topics, but I’ve always remained interested in her swimming stories, so, of course, ‘Swell’ was on my birthday present list. And what a ‘swell’ present it was.
The minute I saw the exuberant cover of women jumping into a lido, I knew I’d enjoy this. And I did. Landreth is a witty and warm writer, who weaves her own personal transformation from unsporty child to grown up open air water swimmer, with the history of women’s swimming in Britain. As someone who was also put off sport as a teenager, I totally identified with her personal journey, and remain in awe of her achievements as a long distance swimmer. She has also pulled together a fascinating account of how women were gradually allowed a place in the water, and pieced together the stories of the awesome pioneers who demonstrated their ability to be just as good as the men. Like ‘Linescapes’ this is a joyous, uplifting book which will have you diving into the water the minute you put it down.
A Short History of England was one of my husband’s book choices, and since the sections he kept reading out loud were interesting, I picked it up the minute he was done. I’ve got a good grasp of British history, but had forgotten a lot, so this well written and informative book was helpful in filling up the gaps. The only quibble I had was that it was so short, it did rather race through bits that I’d have liked to linger on. Nonetheless, if you want to brush up on your English history this is a good start.
Next up, old favourites…