Book Review – Simon Barnes – “On the Marsh” #NonFicNov


This was a book I actually finished at the weekend, so still during Nonfiction November, but didn’t get time to review, frustratingly. So now I’ve read or started everything I planned to read apart from “Homesick” – and at least “The Good Immigrant USA” will now ‘do’ for #DiverseDecember!

I’m also pleased that I’m almost caught up to being a year behind, after having slipped back horribly in getting through the books I bought the longest ago, and even when picking newer books off from time to time. It’s all good.

Simon Barnes – “On the Marsh: A Year Surrounded by Wilderness and Wet”

(02 October 2019, The Works, Penzance)

This book has contributions from Edmund Barnes and Cindy Lee Wright. Cindy is Barnes’ wife, she has done beautiful illustrations for the starts of each chapter, and Barnes also includes moving passages of appreciation for both her art and for her support of their family. Edmund – Eddie – is a young adult who has Down’s syndrome and has contributed both a his character to the book and his rather lovely poems scattered through it.

I did worry that I would find too many personal incursions into this book – not because I don’t like reading about people living with different conditions, but because I like my nature books to be about the nature. But here, the theme of Eddie’s life and the effect being on the marsh has on it, as he passes through a big year where he leaves school and starts college, learns more about nature and learns some potentially hard lessons about his beloved horse (don’t worry, though), is woven beautifully through the book, with promised excursions and repeated joys bringing a daily structure to the book which echoes the monthly and annual one. There is some polemic, and why the hell shouldn’t there be, about the odd unkind educator and the very existence of people with Down’s syndrome, but the main theme is carried through with aplomb.

There’s polemic, too, about nature conservation, about keeping wild lands joined up, and a lot of musing on what ‘wilding’ and ‘rewilding’ are and what we should do to our land – Barnes makes the excellent point a couple of times that “our land” can be anything from a massive estate to a window box, but it all matters and it all involves decisions (we’re thinking of climbers and fruit trees to plant to offset our next-door neighbour’s huge extension, for instance). He mentions Isabella Tree’s book “Wilding” a couple of times, and visits the farm where it’s set, which is making me eager to pick that one up. But the joined-up nature of wild places is the most important thing for him:

It’s part of something that covers the nation: a vast and spreading web of places where the wild things are. And every strand depends, at least to an extent, on all the others; when you break a single strand you weaken the entire web. (p. 63)

We come off the marsh in fact to visit his neighbours and friends around and see how they manage their land and what they think of his. There’s quite a lot about the local nature reserve at Minsmere, which is lovely to read about. 

He’s got a nice turn of phrase – his horses turn into dragons on a frosty morning “I found I had exchanged them for a stable of dragons, three twin jets of smoke billowing over the three half-doors” (p. 73).

In one very exciting passage, he also reveals that his grandfather lived basically half a mile from where I live now! My next but one read has featured Peckham, too, so everything really is a web of knowing and places!

Barnes’ African sojourns also feel natural to relate here, talking about the lions he loves and the naturalists he’s spent time with and, notably, seeing migratory birds on the marsh that he has also seen on that other continent, thousands of miles away. As well as Cindy’s lovely animal illustrations, there is a pleasingly drawn map at the front. I learned a lot reading this book (are baby spoonbills really called ‘teaspoons’ by birders, though?), it’s the everyday small pleasures, recognising a birdsong, seeing a new creature, seeing the same creature again and again that really stuck with me when I finished this book.


Book Review – Nikesh Shukla (ed.) – “The Good Immigrant” #NonFicNov


I’m still a little bit disappointed with the amount of reading I’ve got done this month, especially for Nonfiction November. I have now read the Ada Cambridge for Australia Reading Month and “The Secret Teacher” and this one for Nonfiction November (plus a couple of short reads not pictured here). I have started Simon Barnes’ “On the Marsh” and might finish it by the end of the month. And this is the eleventh book I’ve completed this month, which is not actually too shabby. But still, I had wanted to read at least the other two in this picture by now.

Onwards to this excellent, moving, important and shocking read, however. And at least the date I acquired it shows I’ve always read books about people who have lives different to mine!

Nikesh Shukla (ed.) – “The Good Immigrant”

(25 September 2019)

From the Editor’s Note onwards, this book speaks powerfully of the lived experience of people who have moved to the UK or been born here who have heritage that is not directly and completely from here. The purpose was, among writers who do not write exclusively about race, to provide “a document of what it means to be a person of colour now. Because we’re done justifying our place at the table”. And where did the title come from? Shukla explains that it was suggested by a comment from contributor Musa Okwonga: … the biggest burden facing people of colour in this country is that society deems us bad immigrants – job-stealers, benefit-scroungers, girlfriend-thieves, refugees – until we cross over in their consciousness, through popular culture, winning races, baking good cakes, being conscientious doctors, to become good immigrants.

The contributors come from all sorts of backgrounds, African, Asian, what we confusingly call East Asian or Southeast Asian (and this nomenclature is discussed in the book). Some are funny, some are angry, some are both. All reflect direct lived experience and offer a simple way to access people’s lived experiences while educating oneself rather than demanding stories out of people. Like reviewing a book of short stories, I’m not going to cover every piece in here but pick out a few that really stuck out.

One thing my friend Sarah warned me about, and she was right, was how shocked I’d be reading the people of East/Southeast Asian heritage’s experiences of British life. Vera Chok (who is ethnically Chinese but physically from the UK via Malaysia) talks in a matter of fact way of the stereotypes applied to her, the things that have been shouted after her. Did you know that East Asians are the third largest minority ethnic grouping in the UK yet experience the most racist incidents (yes, she backs this up with figures)? However, she was not able to find many reports on this, just as I have struggled to find more nonfiction works by East Asian authors about their experience in the UK, something I’d like to add to my reading if I can (any suggestions out there?).

Reni Eddo-Lodge pops up to remind us that most of the Black history we learn at school seems to be about America, Kieran Yates gives a brilliant description of code-switching as she goes from confident British Asian to inadequacy but loving in in her Punjabi village to mixing with the cool kids in Delhi, and Coco Khan talks movingly of her mum’s covert sympathy as she covers for her and her friend as they spread their wings a little, an opposite narrative to one we’re often presented with. Riz Ahmed writes about the similarity between film auditions and interrogations at airports, noting the match between his ethnicity and those who stop and search him again and again at Heathrow, and Salena Godden’s piece is a cleverly constructed discussion of shade and othering as she negotiates the world as a person of mixed heritage.

Worthwhile but not worthy, entertaining but thought provoking I’d encourage everyone who’s at all interested in people’s lives outside their own demographic to read this. I can’t wait to read the US version now and compare it.

Short reviews of short books: Rory Fraser – “Follies” and June Sarpong’s “The Power of Privilege” #NovNov #NonFicNov


I thought I couldn’t take part in Novellas in November as, well, I didn’t have any novellas to hand, but Bookish Beck and 746 Books include non-fiction in their challenge and I did have some short non-fiction! Of course this also acts as another post for Nonfiction November, too! So two very different books here, but I can tie them together by saying that both are crying out to be bought for other people – “Follies” as a Christmas gift and “The Power of Privilege” to help people be the change they want (or need) to be.

Rory Fraser – “Follies”

(5 October2020 – from the publisher)

Coming in at 111 pages, Rory Fraser’s debut book, “Follies”, newly published by the fairly new publisher Zuleika Publishing, fits the nonfiction novella bill perfectly.

If you’re interested in architecture, history or architectural history, you’ll enjoy this small, attractive book, with 25 watercolour illustrations, on follies.

What is a folly? Officially, it’s “an elaborate building set in a beautiful landscape that serves no purpose other than to improve the view” (p. x) but there prove to not be very many true follies like that, and indeed the first one he visits, at Walsingham, as well as a shell of a Wren church in London later, is actually part of a ruined building left to stand incongruously in its surroundings. There are also mounds, caves and that famous fibreglass shark embedded in a suburban roof, as well as the more expected classical temples or gothic frills in lovely parks.

Fraser hops enthusiastically through history, kings, landowners and peers, sharing what he learns with glee. We’re looking at folklore one moment and Empire the next, always with something new to read about. It’s also something of a garden history on the grand scale, looking at the development of the landscapes in which follies often exist, framing huge swathes of land, as at Stowe, or a view of a city, as in Bath.

A great gift idea coming out at just the right time. Thank you to Tom at Zuleika for providing me with a copy in return for an honest review. A full review will appear in Shiny New Books next week and I’ll share that here then.

June Sarpong – “The Power of Privilege: How White People can Challenge Racism”

(1 October 2020)

I’ve always read pretty diversely but I’ve been buying, reading and reviewing some more of the non-fiction that’s come out as part of the upswelling of interest and activism after the Black Lives Matter movement gained momentum across populations. I’m reading “Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race” alongside my best friend at the moment, for example. But what I was looking for was some direct ways that I could be an ally and help combat racism, and this book (and also Sophie Williams’ “Anti-Racist Ally” which I have but haven’t read in time for this review) offers that.

Sarpong is a journalist who has a senior diversity position at the BBC and is able to draw from both this and her experiences as the child of Ghanaian immigrants growing up on a council estate in London to put this useful book together. She’s recently published a longer work called “Diversity” which demonstrates the power of diversity to benefit companies and society economically as well as socially. I would imagine that talks to those in high power, as this one does: there’s an emphasis on including elite (not just privileged) white people in the conversation and a lot of the action points are for those who have power in companies and society. She also includes white people with less privilege, e.g. people of the working class and/or on a low income, people living with disabilities, people with an LGBTQ+ identity and makes it clear she understands privilege is a continuum, with well-off white male captains of industry and politicians at the most privileged end.

We get a good explanation of basic terms – racism, othering – then we’re taken through some statistics and reports about the position of Black, Asian and other Minority Ethnic people in the UK. This does have a lot of US information which I found a bit distracting from the main text. It’s also bang up to date, talking about how the disparities highlighted by the Covid-19 pandemic are impossible to ignore and how it’s time to change things.

As with my attempts to join in with general inclusivity and “better together” campaigns before, I’m a bit hamstrung in my pro-cohesiveness and anti-racism work by the fact that I’m not part of any formal groups – I’m self-employed and work alone and I’m not a member of a faith group or large volunteer organisation (apart from parkrun, and I will be taking steps to look at that). It’s not the place to list what I I I am going to do: suffice it to say that in the ten clear points Sarpong offers, from educating yourself about Black lives now and in history to standing up against racist incidents to helping your white friends think about race there is something that everyone can use to help improve society and challenge racism. Action 10: Act Now has some particularly useful summary lists of things we can all do.

Oh and one for Bookish Beck’s serendipity – like “Work” which I review in Shiny on Thursday, this book talks about moving from a “scarcity” mind-set where we’re all fighting for small pieces of a pie to broadening out to build something that’s more than the sum of its parts.


Nonfiction November Week 4 – New to my TBR #NonFicNov


Week 4: (November 23-27) – New to My TBR (Katie @ Doing Dewey): It’s been a month full of amazing nonfiction books! Which ones have made it onto your TBR? Be sure to link back to the original blogger who posted about that book!

OK, this  year, I am making sure to create this post at the start of the month, so I can add links to the posts where I found great book recommendations and make sure I thank the bloggers, after a horrible scramble and apology last year!

So these are the books I have added to my wishlist during Nonfiction November 2020 …

“American Wolf” by Nate Blakeslee – this was suggested by WhatsNonfiction in a comment on my post about Being the Expert/Becoming the expert and looks at the reintroduction of wolves to a US state park.

“Between Stone and Sky” by Whitney Brown – a memoir of a female dry-stone waller, which I saw on Laura Tisdall’s blog which wasn’t as part of Nonfiction November but is nonfic and in November …

“Born a Crime” by Trevor Noah – seen on quite a few people’s lists so I’m not going to stick to one link here.

Collectiva Sambra have put together a worldwide collection of “Pandemic Solidarity” that I spotted on Lovely Bookshelf’s leftist Be The Expert post.

Raynor Winn’s “The Salt Path” and “The Wild Silence” have cropped up through all of Nonfiction November AND in the rest of my life, Annabookbel had “The Salt Path” on her Become the Expert post and ReaderBuzz had both of them on her TBR post, I also got the note I will like them from others, but they are on my wishlist now.

That’s not many! I’m not sure why: I did read a lot of posts including exploring blogs I don’t already follow through the links added to the weekly posts. I just combed through all the Be The Expert ones. I think one thing was that a good few of the Be The Expert posts were about anti-racism, which is of course brilliant, but featured books I’m already aware of or very US-centric ones where I’m trying to read about the UK first. And then quite a few on memoir and exploration which I love but am quite picky about. Or maybe I’m just aware that I haven’t read as much as I’d have liked this month and am wary of adding on to the TBR!

Anyway … moving on:

What about last year’s list?

I thought I’d have a look at last year’s list and see how many I’ve acquired and/or read since:

Tori Bilski – Wild Horses of the Summer Sun – I’ve bought this one and it’s working its way up my TBR

Stephen Bourne – Mother Country: Britain’s Black Community on the Home Front 1939-1945

Mikita Brottman – The Maximum Security Book Club: Reading Literature in a Men’s Prison

Juno Dawson – The Gender Games – I’ve bought this one and it’s working its way up my TBR

Gretel Ehrlich – The Solace of Open Spaces

Lori Gottlieb- Maybe You Should Talk to Someone

Dan Koeppel – To See Every Bird on Earth: A Father, a Son, and a Lifelong Obsession

John Marshall – Wide-Open World

Fatima Farheen Mirza – A Place for Us

Julie Summers – Uninvited Guests: The Secret Lives of Britain’s Country Houses 1939-45

Paul Theroux – On the Plain of Snakes

Laurence Wright – God Save Texas

So two purchased and to be read. But the others remain on my wish list so I’m still interested in them!

Nonfiction November Week 3 – Be the Expert / Ask the Expert / Become the Expert #NonFicNov


Week 3: (November 16-20) – Be The Expert/Ask the Expert/Become the Expert (Rennie  @ What’s Nonfiction): Three ways to join in this week! You can either share 3 or more books on a single topic that you have read and can recommend (be the expert), you can put the call out for good nonfiction on a specific topic that you have been dying to read (ask the expert), or you can create your own list of books on a topic that you’d like to read (become the expert).

I’ve decided for this one to do a Be the Expert/Become the Expert on Rewilding! I have read a few books on this topic and have more to read on my TBR. I have gained great solace from nature during this difficult year, glad that I have manicured local parks, well kept canal towpaths with wild hedges and more liminal places in the backs of parks and greenways to enjoy as a counterpoint to sheltering safe at home. I even grew some vegetables in the garden, with varying results, this summer!

Be the expert …

I have read three books on Rewilding so far, one that looks into the background and science of it all and two personal ones.

Paul Jepson & Cain Blyth – “Rewilding: The Radical New Science of Ecological Recovery” was a recent read that looked at the theories and science as well as practices around rewilding, with their main finding being that it was reintroducing large herbivores – as opposed to charismatic carnivores – into landscapes that redressed habitat and species loss. Read my review here.

Nick Baker – “Rewild” was a book I read and reviewed back in 2017 and inspired my interest in the topic – he has loads of ideas for fun ways to reconnect yourself to nature, including going out in the proper dark with no torch and letting your eyes readjust to the moonlight and starlight. Read my review here with a link to my review on Shiny New Books.

Simon Barnes – “Rewild Yourself” I read this year with my best friend. Short and accessible chapters look at various ways you can again reconnect with nature, from learning the names of a few trees to visiting iconic nature reserves in the UK. Read my review here.

Other books which have involved reconnection with nature and rewilding oneself have included Lev Parikian’s “Into the Tangled Bank” (review here) and Nick Hayes’ “The Book of Trespass” (here), although they’re not about rewilding habitats as such.

… become the expert

I have a few books on the topic of rewilding as such or adapting oneself to one’s natural surroundings on my TBR shelf.

Simon Barnes (again) has written “On the Marsh” about his purchase of the marsh near his home to protect it from being built on. It proves a boon for his whole family as they watch it sustain itself and observe its life.

Isabella Tree’s “Wilding” is a classic in this area and treats her experiment in letting her farm go (I think) completely wild and the burgeoning of wildlife that happens. There’s also a book around called “Rebirding” that I bought my best friend for her birthday and want to pick up for myself. And “Bring Back the Beaver” by Derek Gow, which HalfManHalfBook has reviewed here.

Neither of these, as far as I know, involve introducing megafauna herbivores, but are smaller, quieter ways of doing things (although they involve purchasing or owning land). Sort of a middle way between the big projects and the very personal stuff.

And then these two are more about settling in to you natural environment and adapting yourself to it.

In “Homesick”, Catriona Davies moves semi-legally into a shed when she cannot find affordable housing. Partly about how she came into that situation and partly about how she creates a living space, it’s also about how she lives within the landscape.

Mike Parker’s “On the Red Hill” looks at two gay couples in rural Wales, one inheriting a house from the other, and on settling into the rural environment, both people and land, as they see a year round.

Most of these books are coming up on the TBR quite soon so watch out for my reviews, or I’ll report back in November 2021!

And did I become the expert I wished to in 2019?

I did also look back on my take on this topic last year. I chose four books on birdwatching that I felt were going to help me to become an expert on the sociology of the hobby, if not the hobby itself. I read all of these (or parts of them in one case) this year.

Alex Horne – “Birdwatchingwatching: One Year, Two Men, Three Rules, Ten Thousand Birds” – loved this book about going birdwatching with his dad, which had a lot of lovely detail about the process.

Joe Harkness – “Bird Therapy” – about the therapeutic nature of birdwatching, a super read, very moving and also informative.

Mark Cocker – “Birders: Tales of a Tribe” – I didn’t really take to this one as it was from the snobbier-feeling ending of birdwatching, looking down on amateurs. I did learn some terminology from the part I did read.

Stephen Moss – “A Bird in the Bush: A Social History of Birdwatching” – A detailed and exhaustive but also inclusive and supportive history and sociology of birdwatching from ancient times until now. I really enjoyed this.

I think I did become a bit expert in this area and although I’ve gone on to read some more books on birds and will continue to do so, not sure I need any more on the sociology side of it all!

Nonfiction November Week 2 – Book Pairing #NonFicNov


Week 2: (November 9-13) – Book Pairing (Julie @ Julz Reads): This week, pair up a nonfiction book with a fiction title. It can be a “If you loved this book, read this!” or just two titles that you think would go well together. Maybe it’s a historical novel and you’d like to get the real history by reading a nonfiction version of the story.

The pairing that really jumped out at me for this week’s theme was pairing Yomi Adegoke and Elizabeth Uviebinené’s “Slay in Your Lane” with Candice Carty-Williams’ “Queenie

Where “Slay in Your Lane” highlights British Black women’s experiences through a mixture of reported research, the authors’ personal experience and that of their interviewees, “Queenie” gives us a fictionalised but highly authentic portrayal of that lived experience with all its microaggressions, dating issues, cultural family patterns and, especially, mistrust of discussing mental health problems. Several things I’d read in “Queenie” popped up in “Slay in Your Lane”.

I’d highly recommend reading the two together, and they have both aided my understanding of the experience of Black British people.

Book review – Anon – “The Secret Teacher” #NonFicNov


It’s Nonfiction November and as the start of my TBR was pretty well nonfiction anyway, it was easy to pick this one off the shelves for an “upstairs” read while I plugged away at a huge review book downstairs. I acquired this in the long-ago-seeming days when my friend Gill and I used to meet at the local cafe for a coffee and drop some BookCrossing books off on their shelves – I grabbed this one when she brought it in for that purpose.

Anon – “The Secret Teacher”

(01 September 2019 – from Gill, via BookCrossing)

This book didn’t really know whether it wanted to be a jokey exposé of the life of a newly qualified English teacher (we follow him through three years of post-qualification teaching in various year-groups of a secondary school), a heartfelt plea for consistency, old-fashioned teaching and care or a personal memoir of family and loss.

There were some affecting moments, e.g. when teaching a child living on the autistic spectrum helped him to teach everyone more effectively, but also knowing the children were amalgams of his actual experience didn’t really help me engage with the book. Interesting but not vital.

Because my NetGalley percentage has dropped (shock!) I’m actually reading a bit of fiction at the moment, picking off Nic Stone’s “Dear Martin”, which I bought on Amazon, and “Dear Justyce”, the sequel, which came via NetGalley. But then I’ll get back to the non-fiction.

State of the TBR November 2020 plus incomings and the schedule for All Of Anne Tyler next year #AnneTyler2021 @DeanStPress @BL_Publishing #BLWomenWriters


Well, the standard TBR has actually gone down, although not as much as I would have wished. An actual gap, right? “Motherland” is still at the end of the front row.

I completed 13 books in October, even though I had a week off at the beginning of the month, which was a little disappointing, especially as only four of them were from this physical standard TBR (the rest being made up of Kindle, usually NetGalley, books and review books that came in, plus two off the pile of Books Where I Have Another One In The Series). I did also DNF two books from this shelf, which is why the gap is so substantial. Anyway, 13 books is not nothing and I read some great ones of course!

New in!

I’ve been very lucky in terms of review books coming in this week (mostly on one day, actually!). British Library Publishing have kindly sent me two more of their beautifully patterned and tactile Women Writers series. Mary Essex’ “Tea is So Intoxicating” has a village divided when a man suddenly decides to open up a tea-garden, and in “O, The Brave Music” by Dorothy Evelyn Smith, we have a coming of age story set just before World War One. Both of these have the usual marvellous introductions and afterwords as well as being lovely objects in themselves.

I was also offered a look through the British Library’s publishing catalogue and chose Polly Russell and Margaretta Jolly (eds.) “Unfinished Business: The Fight for Women’s Rights” which is a truly glorious book published to accompany the exhibition but a marvellous object and record in its own right:

From personal diaries, banners and protest fashion to subversive literature, film, music and art, no topic is too taboo: Unfinished Business presents how women and their allies have fought for equality with passion, imagination, humour and tenacity.

The exhibition is on at the British Library until 21 Feb if you can possibly get there (info here, lockdown will alter this of course).

Thank you so much to British Library Publishing for sending me these – “Unfinished Business” is destined for a Shiny New Books review and I will share about it here, too.

The lovely folks at Dean Street Press are publishing a lovely new tranche of books in their Furrowed Middlebrow imprint in January, concentrating on the works of Margery Sharp and Stella Gibbons, and while I was busy adding them all to my wishlist, I’ve received e-book copies of Gibbons’ “A Pink Front Door”, about a woman who can’t say no to a series of misfits who need her help, and Sharp’s first novel, eye-wateringly rare to get hold of before this publication, with a highbrow family dealing with a decidedly middlebrow sister. You can read about all the new novels on the Furrowed Middlebrow blog here and I cannot WAIT to read these!

Currently reading and coming up

When I got to the end of my last NetGalley book and got into a sort of state of being totally unable to make a decision (review book from the physical pile? NetGalley book? Angela Thirkell, oldes book, newest book?), I decide to pick off two lovely Dean Street Press books, “Mrs Tim Gets a Job and Mrs Tim Flies Home” – I finished the first earlier today and the second is the current read, along with the very interesting “Work” from Bloomsbury, which is a lovely hardback and not suitable for lounging over a pizza with. Watch this space for notification of my Shiny review of that one.

Coming up, I am taking part in two challenges this month. Australia Reading Month, run by Brona, is what it says, and I’ve been saving up Ada Cambridge’s “The Three Miss Kings”, published by Virago, for AGES so I could join in.

I doubt that’s the only novel I’ll be reading this month (see above!) but I will also be concentrating on nonfiction for NonFiction November, which I so enjoyed doing last year. I have prepared my initial post for tomorrow and laid out some books I will definitely be reading – “The Good Immigrant” UK and US editions, edited by Nikesh Shukla, with Chimene Suley for the US one, which are collected essays on the immigrant experience in the two countries, continuing my reading of direct lived immigrant experiences; “The Secret Teacher” which opens the lid of a school and a young teacher; “On the Marsh” by Simon Barnes, which follows his owning and care for some marshland with an element of rewilding; and “Homesick” by Catrina Davies, which mixes sociology and nature, exploring why she ended up living in a shed on her parents’ land in Cornwall. Some good themes there, I thought, and there will be more nonfiction, too.

All of Anne Tyler in 2021

I’ve been talking about this for ages, but I’ve finally got round to setting out a project page to support my re-reading (and some new reading) of all of Anne Tyler’s novels in order next year. Exciting! I’m going to read two per month and people are totally free to join in with as few or as many as they want to do. I need to wait for “Redhead by the Side of the Road” to come out in paperback then I’ll do a new picture. Meanwhile, see the page here for the schedule and do let me know if you’re joining in / my instructions are clear.

Whew, a busy post and a busy upcoming month. What are you getting up to in November reading-wise? Any more challenges?

Non-fiction November: New to my TBR #NonfictionNovember #NonFicNov


I’m a bit sad that Non-Fiction November is nearly over, however my bookshelf will remember it for a while. This week’s theme is New to My TBR, hosted by Rennie at What’s Nonfiction and here’s the challenge:

It’s been a month full of amazing nonfiction books! Which ones have made it onto your TBR? Be sure to link back to the original blogger who posted about that book!

And of COURSE I didn’t note down who had mentioned what while I knew this week was coming and had been carefully adding to my list and creating this post in drafts. Sorry, people – maybe you’ll recognise and claim “your” book! If you see yours, please add a comment and I do apologise!

In my case, because November to the end of January is typically a time when I don’t add to my bookshelf myself (I’m in three not so secret santas, two of them booky ones, then there’s my birthday in January and I have booky real-life friends, and I don’t want to buy something someone else might have bought me) I have added these to my wish list, most of them highlighted in bold to show I really would like them. I’ll pick up some I haven’t unwrapped during the season using any book tokens that might appear …

Thank you to everyone who’s followed this blog or taken part in NF November and posted marvellous things. I’ll definitely be back next year!

Added to my wishlist during Non-Fiction November as a direct result of someone’s blog post:

Tori Bilski – Wild Horses of the Summer Sun

Stephen Bourne – Mother Country: Britain’s Black Community on the Home Front 1939-1945

Mikita Brottman – The Maximum Security Book Club: Reading Literature in a Men’s Prison

Juno Dawson – The Gender Games

Gretel Ehrlich – The Solace of Open Spaces

Lori Gottlieb- Maybe You Should Talk to Someone

Dan Koeppel – To See Every Bird on Earth: A Father, a Son, and a Lifelong Obsession

John Marshall – Wide-Open World

Fatima Farheen Mirza – A Place for Us

Julie Summers – Uninvited Guests: The Secret Lives of Britain’s Country Houses 1939-45

Paul Theroux – On the Plain of Snakes

Laurence Wright – God Save Texas

Non-fiction November: Non-Fiction favourites #NonfictionNovember #NonFicNov


It’s a new week in Non-Fiction November and this time the theme is nonfiction Favorites which is hosted by Leann at Shelf Aware. The challenge:

We’ve talked about how you pick nonfiction books in previous years, but this week I’m excited to talk about what makes a book you’ve read one of your favorites. Is the topic pretty much all that matters? Are there particular ways a story can be told or particular writing styles that you love? Do you look for a light, humorous approach or do you prefer a more serious tone? Let us know what qualities make you add a nonfiction book to your list of favorites.

This was a hard one to think about. I have been reading non-fiction forever and I think I’ve been attracted to the same areas forever, too. My reading journals go back to 1997 (my blog only to 2007) and looking at what I read in 1997 (for yes, I am inputting them all into a spreadsheet), the non-fiction included (I’ve done this from the titles, some might have got missed out). I’m going by the fact that I finished these, therefore I enjoyed them. I didn’t love all of them I’m sure but some I’ve read again since – definitely some authors have appeared several times.

Murphy, Dervla Tales from two cities

Miedzian, Miriam             Boys will be boys

Rushkoff, Douglas            Cyberia life in the trenches of hyperspace

Tressider, Joy     Hugh Grant

Knox Johnson, Robin      Sea and ice

Lau, Evelyn         Runaway diary of a street kid

Wurtzel, Elizabeth            Prozac nation

Desai, Anita        Journey to Ithaca

Ackroyd, Peter  Blake

Crisp, Quentin   Resident alien

Lee, Hermione  The secret self

Sheldon, Dyan   On the road reluctantly

Hanff, Helene    84 Charing Cross Road

Bull, Angela        Noel Streatfeild

Davies, Ray         X-ray

Gilliatt, Mary      The decorating book

Bryson, Bill          Mother tongue

Adair, John         Effective leadership

Argyle, Michael The psychology of interpersonal behaviours

Lewis, Norman  A goddess in the stones

Theroux, Paul    The great railway bazaar

Dodwell, Christina            Travels on horseback through east Turkey

Holt , John          How children learn

Sacks, Oliver       The island of the colour blind

Sutherland, John              Can Jane Eyre be happy

Sutherland, John              Was Heathcliff a murderer

Theroux, Paul    The happy isles of Oceania

Various,                The weirdest ever Notes & Queries

So that’s basically popular culture, management and business, travel (lots of travel!), language, literature, child development, biography and memoir and psychology with a big of tech.

Fast forward to this year so far and the non-fiction has looked like this:

Tirzah Garwood Long Live Great Bardfield

Chrissie Wellington         A Life Without Limits

Bella Mackie       Jog On

Ian Thorpe          This is Me

Malala Yousafzai              I Am Malala

Ziauddin Yousafzai           Let Her Fly

Alys Fowler         Hidden Nature

Simon Parkes     Live at the Brixton Academy

Lisa Tamati          Running Hot

Elizabeth Emens               The Art of Life Admin

Sara Marcus       Girls to the Front: The True Story of the Riot Grrrl Revolution

Nancy Campbell                The Library of Ice

Mary Mackie      Cobwebs and Cream Teas

Caroline Criado Perez     Invisible Women

Simon Armitage Gig

Mark Boyle         The Way Home

David Coles         Chromatopia

Jeremy Mynott Birds in the Ancient World

Gretl Ehrlich        This Cold Heaven

Paul Newman    Lost Gods of Albion

Michael J Benton             The Dinosaurs Rediscovered

Lynne Murphy   The Prodigal Tongue

Vassos Alexander            Don’t Stop me Now

Steve Haywood Narrowboat Dreams

Stephen Rutt     The Seafarers

Harriet Harman A Woman’s Work

Verily Anderson                Spam Tomorrow

Shaun Bythell     Confessions of a Bookseller

Lara Prior-Palmer             Rough Magic

Robert Phillips   Futurekind

Louise Palfreyman           Once Upon a Time in Birmingham: Women Who Dared to Dream

Jason Fox             Battle Scars

Cy Adler               Walking the Hudson

Martin Gayford The Pursuit of Art

Susan Lacke        Running Outside the Comfort Zone

Richard Grant    Dispatches from Pluto

Gavin Knight       The Swordfish and the Star

Amrou Al-Kadhi Unicorn

Jo Brand               Born Lippy

Ros Ball and James Millar              The Gender Agenda

Clara Parkes       Knitlandia

Garth Cartwright              Going for a Song

David Leboff      No Need to Ask

Clair Wills             Lovers and Strangers

Simon Napier-Bell            Ta ra ra Boom de ay

So that’s a larger percentage of my reads, but again, (a bit less) travel, popular culture esp music, more sociology, biography and memoir, sport is a new one, more nature (and much more to come), transport, feminism, language and a bit of tech (or going tech-free). I don’t think I’ve changed much in these 22 years.

A book is good in my eyes if it makes me think and teaches me something new or how it is or was to live in a particular way/time/place. Probably popular science rather than pure science, but teaching me more about the world, sometimes springing from something I know, sometimes not.

I’ve enjoyed comparing Past Me with Present Me and seeing that what I’ve enjoyed has been pretty much the same! Have your non-fiction tastes changed over the years?

Lots of lovely non-fiction on there to come!

Older Entries