I started October with a trip to the library, which yielded a few nature-themed books, and November saw our trip to Scarborough which, as with all our holidays, found me rummaging through charity shop bookshelves and buying things I probably wouldn't normally buy.
It's been a few weeks of easy reading - nothing particularly challenging, not like last month. There have been some thought provoking moments though, and I'd recommend quite a few of the books I've read this time round.
So, here goes...
The perfumier and the stinkhorn (Richard Mabey)
This is a short book, a collection of essays about the senses and the natural world. I'd not come across Richard Mabey before, but it turns out he's actually pretty well known as a nature writer, and famed for blending scientific knowledge and a romantic appreciation of the natural world. I do love a collection of essays, and I was really rather taken with this one.
A brush with nature: 25 years of personal reflections on the natural world (Richard Mabey)
I picked this up in the library at the same time as the one above, and it's equally charming, although much longer. It's a collection of selected newspaper articles spanning 25 years (another format I'm fond of), and I really like the way it blends descriptions of the natural world with how they relate to world events and smaller things happening in the writer's personal life. I've not actually finished reading it yet.
How to be free (Tom Hodgkinson)
This is the third book I've read by Tom Hodgkinson, and I think my least favourite. How to be idle (you can access it from the link above) was much more charming, and was more of a ramble through literary accounts of idleness and how marvellous it is. How to be free seems like more of a personal rant, and I spent much of the time I was reading it feeling like I was being told off. Having said that, I suspect a few years ago I would have loved it, and that right now I'm just being a bit defensive because I'm working full time and about to take out a mortgage to buy a bigger house - all things that Tom says you shouldn't be doing if you want to be truly free (I confess I do agree with him in part, but I'm going to do them anyway...). Most thought-provoking, and a reminder of how we often DO have options, even if we've forgotten about them.
A shepherd's life: a tale of the lake district (James Rebanks)
I loved this. I've followed this guy on Twitter for years, and always enjoyed his pictures of his sheep. This is an account of his life as an upland farmer in the lake district, and covers all manner of things from farming traditions to family, including a surprise stint in Oxford getting a degree in history. I'm quite a fan of detailed accounts of people's lives, and this was no exception. It's really quite beautiful and I'd highly recommend it.
Elizabeth is missing (Emma Healey)
This is one of those books that I'd ignored because so many other people were reading it, but I spotted it in a charity shop and it's actually quite moving. It's a novel, a touching account told from the perspective of a woman with dementia, but told in such a way that you can see the impact it's having on her daughter too. She's searching for her friend, but nobody will take her seriously. I confess I enjoyed this far more than I was expecting (although I'm not sure 'enjoyed' is quite the right word). It was nice to see a lot of detail about experiences of people with dementia too. Another one I'd recommend.
Tuesdays with Morrie (Mitch Albom)
I had a vague feeling reading this that I'd read it before. I wasn't that sure about it. It's about a man who finds out his old college professor is dying, and they rekindle their relationship. The chapters are organised as a series of conversations about different aspects of life, and woven through is also the professor's experience of losing various bodily functions and becoming increasingly reliant on others to care for him. That part of it is interesting, but I'm afraid the rest felt a bit trite for me. It seems it was made into a film, but I can't say I'll be rushing out to watch it.
So there we have it - another motley assortment of books. I'm enjoying keeping track of them here. My library books had to go back (some of them, not mentioned here, I hadn't even started), but I've got a few holiday charity shop purchases waiting in a pile.
I'd love to know what you've been reading - anything you'd recommend?