This year I gave myself the task of reading all of the books I own which I have not yet read. This was becoming urgent as I was constantly buying new books despite having rather a lot at home which I have had for years but not got around to reading yet. So over the last eight months I have been whittling down the list and in doing so have discovered some really rather excellent books which happen to be among the best I have ever read. I previously did a post on my 15 favourite books, but rather than do an updated one I thought I would just share the new ones.
By far the most numerous of books I had neglected to read was non-fiction books on wildlife – probably because they take longer to read than fiction. The books listed below are all sterling works and I wholeheartedly recommend them to you to read if you are at all interested in nature.
- The life of the Robin (David Lack) – a comprehensive monograph on everyone’s favourite garden bird, includes everything you would ever want to know about this feisty thrush and reveals some startling facts – a lot of work went into this book yet it manages to be quite readable despite the scientific content.
- A Buzz in the Meadow (Dave Goulson) – a follow up to his fascinating book on bumblebees (A sting in the tale), this is an instant classic and must-read for anyone concerned about the state of nature today, Goulson looks at the lives of many insects and how they are being affected by our actions – very well written and carries an important message.
- The British Oak (Archie Miles) – I recently reviewed this book so check that out for my thoughts but in short it is an excellent celebration of our most important and iconic tree.
- What has nature ever done for us? (Tony Juniper) – does exactly what it says on the tin and more, I have posted a full review of this book already so please do read that to get the low-down on this vital work.
Next are the fiction books I have read this year, I am only including the ones I thought were truly brilliant and worth spreading the word around for.
- The Wierdstone of Brisingamen (Alan Garner) – this is the book that started my newly found appreciation of Alan Garner, I read his book ‘Elidor’ some time ago but it was this book that opened my eyes. I love children’s fantasy novels and Garner’s are the creme de la creme, full of marvelous imagination, cracking adventure, fantastical beings and with an underlying basis of ancient Norse and British legends that give them gritty depth.
- The 39 Steps (John Buchan) – A well-loved classic, I only wish I had read it sooner! A witty, fast-paced, thrilling novel full of spies, murders, international danger, nasty foreigners and plenty of good old fashioned British derring-do! I immediately read the sequel ‘Greenmantle’ which is just as good.
- Three men in a boat (Jerome K. Jerome) – This one is in joint first place with Alan Partridge’s autobiography as funniest book I have ever read, I regularly laughed out loud whilst reading this classic (an unusual occurrence); the humor is very British and understated with a lot of sly witticisms – it is also a quite interesting travel journal too.
- Down the bright stream (BB) – Sequel to the Carnegie-medal winning ‘The little grey men’ this children’s classic once again follows the lives of four gnomes (the last in England) as they journey to Ireland in order to escape the pollution and destruction of man – a subject still relevant today. As well as the environmental messages this book excels in its depiction of wildlife; being from the gnomes point of view, at the level of most wildlife, BB describes the animals and plants beautifully.
- Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell (Susanna Clarke) – I was a bit young when this first came out to notice its existence but upon finishing this hefty novel of magical goings-on in 19th century England I wished someone had suggested this book sooner. To put it simply this is one of the best books I have ever had the privilege to read, easily in the top 5, it is a marvel of a story. Unusually I actually saw the BBC’s screen adaptation before reading the book and I think that it is a very well done and realised adaptation – worth watching.