For the last two Augusts I’ve been lucky enough to find myself at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, but sadly I wasn’t able to make it this year. The best thing about the Fringe is that it coincides with the Edinburgh Book Festival, and although I’m also missing that spectacular event, it has prompted me to write a list of the books I have read, am reading or planning to read this summer!
These are a few books I’ve bought or kindly been sent for review, and I’m enjoying them immensely!
Lost Animals: Extinction & the Photographic Record by Errol Fuller
Since reading The Sixth Extinction by Elizabeth Kolbert, I’ve fostered a morbid obsession with extinction and the damage caused by the human race. A kind Twitter pal from Bloomsbury offered to send me this fantastic book filled with rare photos of animals which have since become extinct. These include the Thylacine (Tasmanian Tiger), Yangtze River Dolphin and the Laughing Owl. When you think of extinction, it’s usually the Dodo or something from a seventeenth century etching, so it’s amazing to remind myself that extinction is a modern problem and to read the stories behind the photos.
Tweet of the Day by Brett Westwood & Stephen Moss
I’m a huge fan of the Radio 4 series Tweet of the Day, so I was very excited when they released a book to accompany it! If you’re not familiar, it’s a short programme each morning with soundclips of a different British bird and a little information about it. Stephen Moss is one of my fave naturalists, and the book is beautifully illustrated and ordered into each month so you can listen out for different birds at different times of year. It’s also a great bird guidebook if you don’t own one, as I think all people should.. You can listen to all the Tweets of the Day on Radio 4 here!
101 Reykjavik by Hallgrímur Helgason
I’m a bit obsessed with Damon Albarn and everything he’s ever done, and when I was browsing his discography on Spotify I saw he had composed the music for the film 101 Reykjavik. I’d never heard of the film but in true English student style, I bought the original novel out of curiosity. It’s a strange Icelandic story from the 90s about a guy called Hlynur who still lives with his mother and develops feelings for her lesbian lover. It’s sort of a contemporary stream-of-consciousness novel with some really bizarre sections, but it’s funny and I’m still not sure whether or not I like the protagonist. I definitely recommend it for a pleasantly uncomfortable read.
Silent Spring by Rachel Carson
I’ve wanted to read this for a looong time, and I’m hoping to somehow tie it into my MA thesis when I eventually get there.. It’s one of those books that people say ‘changed the course of history’, and I’m really enjoying it so far. Rachel Carson was an American marine biologist and conservationist who was one of the first people to realise how catastrophically damaging synthetic pesticides are to both natural wildlife and human health. It’s a pretty scientific book and isn’t exactly a joyful read, but it’s incredibly disturbing and has already made me switch to buying organic whenever I can. Aside from that, it’s also really interesting to see how things have changed in the 50 years since it was written.
Meadowland by John Lewis-Stempel
After reading a review of this online, I was lucky enough to have my own copy sent to me by Doubleday and I’m so excited to read it! I’ve always wanted to be a writer in some way, and I’ve only recently realised that I’d like to specialise in nature writing and naturalism. John Lewis-Stempel is an exceptional naturalist and having read the first few chapters I am loving this piece of writing about the life of an English meadow and its inhabitants over the seasons. It’s great to have some inspiration for my own work, especially as this edition has some beautiful illustrations to accompany it. A great book for anyone who loves the intricate workings of the English countryside.
Virginia Woolf’s Garden by Caroline Zoob
I remember cycling very close to Virginia Woolf’s house in Lewes when my friend and I cycled the South Downs Way, and I’ve always wanted to go back and see it properly. Now I live in London, everything is just a stone’s throw away so I have been flicking through this book for inspiration. I love Virginia Woolf’s political literature, and I also love National Trust houses and beautiful gardens, so this really is my cup of tea. It’s a fascinating insight into her life when she lived there, and the quirky illustrated maps even point out the River Ouse, where she filled her pockets with stones and drowned herself. It’s a great coffee-table book!