Thursday, 7 December 2017
Monthly Muse – November
November was a busy month, with lots going on at home, and fighting the last of the woodchip off the walls of the lounge, but I still managed to squeeze in 14 books. Somehow. It is now all painted and looks really good. And here they are:
Following on a recommendation from Kim French and others on Twitter, I got two of Gillian Clarke’s poetry books from the library Five Fields and Zoology. I read very little poetry normally, preferring to wade through various non fiction tomes, but these were quite delightful. She has a mastery of the language that I envy and whilst I didn’t get all of them, the poems felt deeply rooted in her country and personal experiences. I am a huge fan of Robert Macfarlane’s writing and splashed out of a copy of The Lost Words that he has created with the artist Jackie Morris. It is a children’s book, but a finely crafted and richly drawn and imagined one as they seek to re-introduce children to the delights and wonder of the natural world. Peter Davidson’s book The Last of the Light: About Twilight looks at the artistic and literary response to the period of gloaming that happens every day. It is a finely produced book from Reaktion with high-quality reproductions of the art that he is discussing. I had reserved Ben Aaronovitch’s latest book from the library and was quite surprised when it came through really quickly. The Furthest Station find Peter Grant back in London trying to find out what has spooked the regular ghosts on the Metropolitan Line. Another cracker in the Rivers of London series and was just too short really!
It was #NonFictionNovember too, a social media tag run by Olive and Gemma. Most of my reading is non-fiction and in total, read a further nine non- fiction books. I had the last two or three to read on the shortlist for the Baillie Gifford Prize, and I am still wading my way through the largest, Belonging. I struggled a little with The Islamic Enlightenment by Christopher de Bellaigue which was a history of the way that Islamic countries have ebbed and flowed between having a strong faith and social change, Whilst there were elements that were interesting, it didn’t come across as a book for the general no fiction reader. Much, much better though was Kapka Kassabova shortlisted book, Border: A Journey to The Edge of Europe. In this she travels back to her home country to see what the border is like at the very edge of Europe. She has a wonderful considered prose and manages to tease the stories out of the people that live in this area.
Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo was a very good book about the people of the slums in Mumbai and how they are eking a living out finding scrap materials that they can get a few rupees for, it was a well-written book about what could be a harrowing subject. Bonita Norris’s memoir, The Girl Who Climbed Everest, is as much about her expeditions climbing some of the highest mountains in the world as it is about the lessons that she learnt and made her the person she is today. The Anticipatory Organization by Daniel Burrus was a reasonable business book with an interesting premise about teaching us how to look for trends in the wider world and making the most of them.
Managed to read four natural history books too, the first was a wonderful book about the Orca, called Of Orcas and Men. In this David Neiwert tells us some the history and what we understand about their habits, the shameful act of keeping these magnificent creatures and describes his encounters with them when kayaking. Sooyong Park has spent two decades of his life tracking and studying the elusive Siberian tiger. He has written a book about it too, Great Soul of Siberia, which is as much about his obsession as it is about this huge feline. Last were two books on woodlands, A Wood of One's Own is the tale of Ruth Pavey and the wood that she owns, quite a lovely book, and I have serious envy! Oak and Ash and Thorn is really lovely too, Peter Fiennes takes us round the country visiting some of our finest woodlands and ends it with a call to arms to save a rejuvenate our tree cover in the UK.
Didn’t have one book of the month this time but two, The Furthest Station and Border. Buy them and read them as soon as you can.