Hello friends! It’s me again after another hiatus… to talk about some non fiction books I have been reading lately! I am not typically a non-fiction reader and find it much slower going than fiction but in a vague attempt at keeping to the sciency-theme of this blog I will go through some here. My aim in general is to get through 52 books this year (and if you have any recommendations, please let me know!!), with a fair few non fictions chucked in for good measure. If you were interested at all, you can check out my goodreads (Annie Lev), or some of the fiction and non-fiction I got through last year here . So without further ado, let’s get into the books!
A life on Our Planet by David Attenborough
The much talked-about, much loved new David Attenborough book. He’s a great dude, isn’t he? This book was very engaging and of a nice length, seamlessly combining Mr Attenborough’s life experiences and adventures with the changes that our planet has undergone in the last 90 or so years. He gives a sweeping overview of what we as a species have done to our planet’s land and soils, skies, oceans and everything in between – it is a brilliant overview of most of the important stuff, which was engaging and kept the reader interested. It also had pictures, which is always appreciated, especially when they are of animals, forests and other such things.
Despite the cracking start, I felt that the concluding chunk of this book was a bit flakey and lacked impact. Maybe it was because Mr Attenborough, quite rightly, was making his point to the general, non-scientific audience, but I personally felt it was building up to a brilliant conclusion worth remembering, which missed the mark somewhat. But then again, what could David had said as a one-size fits all solution to the mess we have made anyway? Overall I would recommend this book to anyone – it’s vital information presented in a hesitantly optimistic way, and doesn’t have any unexplained scientific jargon either to confuse you. Or if you don’t like reading, there is a Netflix version of it, though I admittedly haven’t seen it (do I want to cry? I don’t think so).
“It is the story of how we came to make this, our greatest mistake – and how, if we act now, we can yet put it right.” – Sir David Attenborough, A Life on Our Planet
The Book of Trespass by Nick Hayes
This book completely blew my socks off!
What a beautifully written biography of England’s countryside through the centuries. I anticipated this book to be an interesting, left-wing hippie-style wander (excuse the pun) around why we should have the right to roam around our country uninhabited, swim naked in all of the rivers and eat bark from whatever tree we so choose.
This book was even better – a tour both geographically and temporally around Britain’s parks, great estates, rivers, forests, roads and just about everywhere else. Hayes’ writing combines his own personal ramblings through time and space, encounters with others (from wary wardens and pompous politicians to refugees in Calais) and personal thoughts with a deep understanding of how the ideas of possession, ownership and freedom developed over time. Throughout the book are also individual stories about certain cases or examples which just highlight the different points of each chapter.
“The vast majority of our country is entirely unknown to us because we are banned from setting foot on it. By law of trespass, we are excluded from 92 per cent of the land and 97 per cent of its waterways, blocked by walls whose legitimacy is rarely questioned. But behind them lies a story of enclosure, exploitation and dispossession of public rights whose effects last to this day.” – Nick Hayes, The Book of Trespass
I thoroughly enjoyed this book and gathered so much more than just some extra understanding of the countryside – from institutionalised racism, the deep theoretical stuff, British politics, corruption and freedom. I would highly recommend this book to anyone with an interest in how society came to be the way it currently is – there’s something in this for everyone.
The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben
Yikes I did not like this book at all. So much so that I didn’t even finish it. This book is about trees (spoiler alert) and how they have adapted to survive over time, according to the different environments in which they live. There might have been more to it than that, but to be honest I became so bored after the first 60 pages I left it there.
I found the overly anthropomorphised take on trees very patronising and over-simplistic – It seemed to me that the author felt the only way to make us care about nature was to make it relatable. For example, by tugging on the heartstrings of what he must assume to be a very careless, self-absorbed reader by using words like “love” and “family” to describe trees. As if we couldn’t appreciate them for what they are. Trees.
I also wasn’t a fan of the structure – the chapters were so short that as soon as Wohlleben started digging his teeth into a juicy new topic, he pulled them out again before having even a taste of the good stuff therein. Maybe I missed the point of this one, but I just really didn’t like it, and I certainly wouldn’t recommend it to anyone with a science background or a sciencey mind – it’s a bit too airy fairy for me!
In an attempt to further chug through some non fiction, I am now working through the audiobook of Bringing back the Beaver by Derek Gow. But after that, I have no plans – please send any recommendations my way on all things natural history, ecology and environment!