As it’s World Book Day and I love books, I thought I’d have a look through my messy bookshelves and pick out some of my favourite books – the ones I’ve carted with me around the UK and across the North Sea, the ones that I love just looking at because they’re beautiful works of art, and the ones I’ve read to death.
1. Walden by Henry David Thoreau
I first read Walden when I was 17 and I blame Thoreau for the fact that I’m a nature writer. I picked this copy up in a great little bookshop in Manchester, the Didbsury Village Bookshop. I bought it just before I visited my partner in New England for the first time because I wanted to re-read it before I visited the actual Walden Pond.
It’s a work of art, with beautiful illustrations throughout.
2. The Unofficial Countryside by Richard Mabey
This is probably my favourite urban nature book. I love Mabey’s sense of humour and honesty both about himself and about the state of nature in our cities.
3. Wild Nights by Anne Matthews
This is my second favourite urban nature book. It’s about nature in New York City and about the author’s changing relationship with nature. It’s just brilliant and if you haven’t read it and you’re interested in urban nature then give it a read now!
4. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
The Hobbit is one of my most read books. I’ve read it so many times I’ve lost count. I’m not a big fan of Lord of the Rings (I’ve only ever made it half way through the second book – twice!) but The Hobbit is pure, escapist joy.
I’ve had a few editions over the years, but I love this one with the original illustrations.
5. Rapture by Carol Ann Duffy
Rapture is a collection of poems about the many sides of love. It was an 18th birthday present and I pored over it, experiencing romantic love vicariously through the poems. It doesn’t get much attention these days, which is probably a good thing, but it is definitely a book I will always treasure and that will always find a home on my shelves.
You know a book is well loved when the pages start to fall out.
6. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
I bought this copy of A Christmas Carol years ago in a charity shop in St Andrews. It has the original illustrations and this is my favourite one, the ghost of Christmas present.
Just looking at it makes me miss the smell of pine needles and brandy!
7. On Liberty by John Stuart Mill
This is the copy I bought when I studied Mill in Sixth Form. At 16, Mill was my hero and probably the reason I studied Philosophy at university. That and my Sixth Form philosophy teacher, whose name eludes me, but who used to continually remind us that it was Mill not Mills and then proceed to refer to him as Mills. I haven’t read On Liberty in years, but it goes with me everywhere.
The pages are covered in notes and highlighting.
8. The Aran Islands by J.M. Synge
I bought this copy of The Aran Islands one sunny afternoon in Galway, shortly before sailing over to the Aran Islands. I fell in love with Aran and I can’t look at this book without feeling a twinge of longing for those islands.
This is another book with beautiful illustrations, by Jack B. Yeats.
9. The Peregrine by J.A. Baker
And of course, I couldn’t leave this one out. This is probably the one book I’d pick if I could keep just one of my books.
You can tell I like it because it’s covered in scribblings and highlighting.
Happy World Book Day!