Today, 7 March, is World Book Day! The day is a celebration of reading, originally established by UNESCO, that is designed to get people interested in books. It’s primarily aimed at children and young people, but it’s an opportunity for everyone to celebrate the joy of reading – and perhaps find something new to read! In this blog post, I’ve put together a sample of four books, selected from what I am currently reading (or re-reading, as the case may be).
Selection #1: Jonathan Potter, Discourses of Vision in Nineteenth-Century Britain: Seeing, Thinking, Writing (London: Palgrave, 2018).
Potter’s book explores how the Victorians thought about, wrote about, and responded to, visual experience and the new visual technologies available in the nineteenth century. It draws upon books by well-known authors such as George Eliot and Charles Dickens, as well as pieces from nineteenth century newspapers, journals, and the broader periodical press, to look at the ways the Victorians re-thought the notion of ‘vision’. I’ve been reading this book as part of the research for my PhD thesis, which focuses on stereoscopic photography, and my inner stereo-nerd has been really enjoying it.
Selection #2: Anna Pavord, Landskipping (London: Bloomsbury, 2017).
Alongside my PhD and museum work, I’ve become really interested in the representation of the British countryside (and wilderness). I picked up Anna Pavord’s Landskipping after spotting it in a local bookshop. Beginning with eighteenth century depictions of English scenery, including the Lakes, Landskipping investigates how artists and writers have responded to the landscape. Pavord’s book uses two different groups of artists and writers – the agricultural improvers and the landscape tourists – as starting points for her investigation.
Selection #3: Nan Shepherd, The Living Mountain (Edinburgh: Canongate, 2011).
I began reading The Living Mountain just before I watched Robert MacFarlane’s beautiful BBC programme, The Living Mountain: A Cairngorms Journey. Here, MacFarlane pairs the words of Nan Shepherd with footage of the Cairngorms landscape that inspired her. The Living Mountain is a love letter to the Cairngorms, one of the last wilderness areas left in Britain. Shepherd does not climb the Cairngorms, she goes in to the Cairngorms, exploring its flora and fauna, and immersing herself (and the reader) in the natural world around her. The Living Mountain was more recently featured on the BBC’s Winterwatch, where Chris Packham spoke about the book. It’s one of the books that has profoundly affected me, and clearly, this was the case on Winterwatch too. Shepherd’s book is a ‘word of mouth’ classic, usually recommended by friends, family or colleagues.
Selection #4: Fiona Reynolds, The Fight for Beauty (London: Oneworld Publications, 2016).
Periodically, I re-read Reynolds’ The Fight for Beauty, a call to arms to protect our heritage – and make space for our future. In The Fight for Beauty, Reynolds writes about – amongst other topics – the history of the National Trust, the Rambling movement, and the development of British National Parks. The National Park movement has interested me for a number of years – I live in the South Downs National Park, was in planning for most of my childhood, and became fully operational as a National Park on 1 April 2011. A fascinating read.
What are you reading at the moment? Are there any books that had a particularly profound effect on you? Let me know in the comments.