11 December 2012

day 11: a good book

Recently I asked a friend, a serious writer and reviewer of books, to recommend some nature writing to me. Stuck in a reading rut where I'd had difficulty finding anything at all* that I wanted to read,  I thought I might try something entirely new to me, some "nature writing".  He kindly sent round a pile of books and mentioned one or two others that I  might like.  Nearly all written by men.  I gave them a try but really struggled.  For the most part I found them unnecessarily wordy, overly romantic, and frequently self indulgent.  Mabey, Deakin, Lister-Kaye.  (Oh my Lord, can these men go on - where are the women? ) I couldn't get on with any of them, though I'm told I should try again with Waterlog,  I loved the first and last chapters of Luke Jennings' Blood Knots, a memoir which told me more than I ever knew about fishing, but it still didn't quite satisfy something I was looking for but could not name.  

It seemed that I was at a metaphorical crossroads in a wordy forest ready to give up when  I had a joyous discovery.  The wondrous Kathleen Jamie.  Insightful, quirky, sharp and gentle at the same time.  She writes about birds, bones, stones, the sea, the past, the present with such perception and, exceptionally, without a trace of false sentiment.  Her description of a sighting, two sightings, of killer whales off the Islands actually gave me goose bumps and her observation on bones, especially whales, is captivating.   I cannot recommend her book too highly.  

If you are interested in having a copy of Sightlines** and you've left a comment on the any of the Advent Calendar posts by Christmas Eve, I'll put your name in a hat and send the winner a copy.  You don't have to do any thing else unless you don't want your name included, though any recommendations for uplifting books are most welcome.  Obviously the winner won't receive Sightlines until the end of the year, but what a treat to look 
forward to.

* I fear this may be partly a result of my eyesight!  I've started to wear reading glasses, though even they are a pain.

** Liz - this is the book you asked about in the photo of the cats


Kate said...

I love Jamie. Her writing is wonderful. Did you hear about her Bannockburn poem being chosen for the new memorial? You can read it here: http://dancingbeastie.wordpress.com/

Kitty said...

I love Kathleen Jamie, her poetry and her prose - Findings is similar to Sightlines and as precise in its descriptions. She also wrote a book called Among Muslims, again with descriptions that stay with you long after you've finished reading. So glad you've found her!

littlemancat said...

I admit that I've never read Kathleen Jamie - a new name to me.
I will be looking into reserving her book at our library. I wonder if you've ever read any of Sue Hubbell's nature books - " A Country Year" comes to mind. Or Cathy Johnson's "The Nocturnal Naturalist" is a wonderful read.
Thanks for the information about Ms.Jamie.
PS - I do love "Waterlog" and his other book "A Journey Through Trees" [I think}. Try it again,maybe this time it will work.

Annie Cholewa said...

Another Kathleen Jamie fan here, so glad you found her :)

Findings, her earlier book in the same vein, is equally wonderful.

(I have the book so don't worry about including me in the giveaway.)

Joanna said...

Ooh yes, Kathleen Jamie very much on my reading list atm. Did you try Robert Macfarlane? Love his books. I think they count as nature writing, although they definitely range more widely than that.

Anonymous said...

Hardly an original suggestion - it seems like everyone is reading it. But I am part way through Sarah Moss's 'Names for the Sea' about her year in Iceland with her family and really enjoying it.

With the eyesight thing I find that a Kindle is a huge help. Having had to get bifocals last year I have found that being able to adjust the text size on the Kindle means that I can read at night time in a way that I hadn't been able to for some years. I do find I spend a lot more on books this way though - particularly as my daughter uses it too and is always badgering me for the next in the series of some pre teen saga that she is reading. Its all too easy to press the button and buy the next one!


Lizzie T said...

Hello. I've heard so much about this and would love a copy.

Unknown said...

As you know I've been on the look out for new books to read, so this would be great :)

Looking back at my 2012 reading list I'm not sure I've read anything exactly 'uplifting' - oh dear! Although I did love Trout Fishing in America which is quite naturey - I definitely remember it making me want to escape from society and live free in the woods briefly! A short book too, probably only one sitting for a quick reader.

Liz said...

Ah, I was wondering. I haven't read any of KJs books and your enthusiasm for her writing has piqued my interest. The Guardian review of Sightlines was equally positive but the reviewer admitting to skipping pages about cancer and lymph nodes (I wouldn't want to read those either, too close to home) has put me off somewhat. So I probably shouldn't enter the giveaway and give everyone else a greater chance of winning.

Knit Nurse said...

You recommended this book on my post about Mellon Udrigle, and I was going to buy it on your recommendation. But the last time I went home, I discovered my mum has the book and have borrowed it from her - she loved it too!

I agree that you should try again with Waterlog, the book had a huge impression on me, so much so that I nearly always think about it when I swim in fresh water.

colleen said...

KN - It was another swimmer who told me to try it out, Janet, who you know I think.

I was at Broadway Market today to buy the book, and had a conversation with a lady on the bookstall there and she felt exactly the same about Kathleen Jamie and how laboriously wordy most of the male writers were compared to her, but she said too said I should give Waterlog a try. So I will.

VP said...

I'm enjoying Sightlines too - I love her visits (or not) to St Kilda :)