I’ve struggled to pick my books of the year this year. Not because it hasn’t been a year full of brilliant books, but it’s been a bit overshadowed by my own book and discovering a few older books. I adored ‘Gathering Moss’ by Robin Wall Kimmerer, that’s from 2021, but I only read it this year. It’s a good read and a fascinating subject.
I think my favourite book from 2023 has probably got to be David Elias’s ‘Shaping the Land’. We’ve been waiting for a Welsh book in the vein of ‘English Pastoral’, ‘Wild Fell’ and ‘Regeneration’ (all excellent) and here is it. It is a fantastic tale of the land, how the land is worked and how that can fit in with conservation. David is a naturalist, but he tells the story through one particular Eryri valley, and he introduces the key players; those who farm there. It’s very readable and you’ll learn a lot from this one.
Runner up is dead easy. ‘Traffication’ by Paul F. Donald. This is a real eye opener. I had no idea that the impact of roads and traffic were quite as significant as they are; few people do. We know that agriculture uses 72% of our land but, get this, traffication also adversely affects 72% of our land. And this is because the effect of a road is felt not just on the road, but at distance from it. That distance varies with species, but the tipping point for the majority is about 750 metres. Roads also create islands so that nature struggles to move, this harms breeding strengths. We now know that building new roads does not solve traffic problems (though it’s taking a little too long for a lot of people to catch on to that!), but how many of us understand the true impact of traffic on nature. This book takes lots of scientific studies and encapsulates them into a very readable tome. Recommended.
I do need to mention also…
‘We Can’t Run Away From This’ by Damian Hall is a book I’d been avoiding. I have read it this year and it has influenced me greatly. He’s done a superb job of what is essentially a desperate story of making our impact on the climate into an accessible readable book. If you don’t want to try and do something better after reading this, I’ll be surprised. It is full of facts and anecdotes. It offers ways to help the planet, but it does conclude that we might actually need to take any direct action that we feel we can, tricky stuff.
Mark Avery published ‘Reflections’ this year and it’s another book that is a call to arms. We are not doing enough to protect nature and our politicians are doing less, I think that was the message. It is, as ever, with Marks’ books passionate and well written, you won’t be disappointed if you sit down with this for a while.
I’ve got two other books here that I thought I’d read this year, but they were published last year so I’m not sure. I guess you’re all over Guy Shrubsole’s ‘The LostRainforests of Britain’, another important and very readable book.
One of my surprise reads this year has been ‘52 Ways to Walk’ by Annabel Street. It really does bring the science to the common sense that walking is good for us. What’s more, walking up hills, walking carrying a rucksack, walking in the rain, the dark, along rivers, in trees etc.etc. are all beneficial to our physical and mental health. It’s an easy read and can be taken in 52 bite sized chunks, well worth a look.
What have your top picks been?
Seasons greeting, Mike.