Four books that I loved reading!
Waterlog by Roger Deakin
Inspired by John Cheever’s memorable classic short story The Swimmer, Roger Deakin decided that he would undertake his own adventure and swim across Britain. Waterlog, is Deakin’s lyrical and evocative account of this journey as seeks out tarns high in the hills of north Wales, swims with salmon in Somerset and eels in the Fens. The British Isles are blessed with a whole variety of waterways often encompassed within beautiful valleys, rolling hills, green fields and rugged coast lines.
He describes the nature he sees around him from his unusual perspective inches above water level. This is a sight of Britain that only a frog will have experienced. His love of swimming away from the confines of a swimming pool comes through strongly in his writing. Wild swimming is an unusual hobby in modern society as we are constantly told how our rivers and lakes have become polluted by large industries disposing of waste via waterways and chemical fertilisers washing off farmers fields into out rivers. Well if the diversity of wildlife is any indication where I swim regularly, I would say that the days of river pollution are behind us. What more powerful way of connecting to the natural countryside around you could there be, as you slip into the earth’s ecstatic skin and immerse yourself in the gentle current? The softness of the water on your skin will take your breath away – either that or the temperature will! A wonderful read.
Soil and Soul Alastair McIntosh
A must read, that I believe is as important for our generation as Silent Spring was to our parents. Alastair McIntosh reckons that this book is his masterpiece and it is hard to disagree with him. On the surface, it tells such stories as growing up in Lewis, land reform on Eigg and the spirited campaign that stopped the Harris superquarry.
But the real message of the book, and the reason why it has sold into five figures, is much deeper and wider. He uses factual campaign stories as a carrier to express the deeper stories of our times – the struggle of the human spirit to shine, the imperative of making community, the recovery of a credible spirituality. It’s an entirely factual book and yet much of its poetic impact derives from real-life magical realism. Alastair touches some of our deepest hopes and possibilities. His beard is quite impressive too.
Pandaemonium by Humphrey Jennings Pandemonium – The Coming of the Machine Age as Seen by Contemporary Observers
This is an anthology that I turn to time and again to help me put the rapid development of current technologies into historical perspective. It is an extraordinarily moving anthology of how the human imagination experienced the full might of the Industrial Revolution. The texts, dating from 1660 – 1886, are drawn from letters, diaries, old journals, reports, newspaper cuttings and novels to create a seamless narrative as the age of the machine unfolds. Jennings (also an outstanding film-maker) had an exceptional combination of intellectual curiosity and a deep humanity that helped him draw inspiration from the most unlikely of sources.
Dirt – The Ecstatic Skin of the Earth Dirt William Bryant Logan
A Christmas present from my dear sister. This is a beautiful and lyrical collection of short essays and meditations on Dirt, which as Logan writes in the book ‘ Dirt is a good word. It goes straight back to the Anglo-Saxon and the Norse. Like “love,” “house,” “hearth,”, “earth,” “sky,” “wrath,” and “word ” it is short and strong . Therefore even before you know what it means you want to get a hold of it and chew it.’
Logan gets hold of dirt, with both hands, and dives deep into the humus and layers of geological strata to astonish our creative imaginations about this extraordinary substance. The chapters headings alone sound like lines from a rooty fruity poem: Stardust, Sweet and Sour Soils, The Foundations of Cathedrals, Perception in Earthworms, The Theory and Practice of Manuring, The Dung Beetle, The Compost Man, Moonquakes, The Theory of Silt, Old Quarries and the Pharmacy of Molds.
A book to treasure. It will make you realise that your garden soil is as alive and as riveting as a Victorian novel.