A new season is here and that means that it’s time for a new reading list. I think summer is a good time for reading some light fiction and nature-related non-fiction, although personally I’ve found that I’ve been reading much more non-fiction than fiction lately. Some of my favourite and most notable books that I’ve read lately include:
- To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis – I think this could easily be the perfect summer novel. It’s a relatively light read, with some humour, featuring Victorian England, boating on the Thames, jumble sales, time lag, eccentric professors, angry swans, and literary references, to say nothing of the dog. And, of course, a very cat-like cat. This should probably be considered science fiction, since it does involve a bit of time travel, but I think it would appeal to many readers. And it’s very different in tone from the Willis books I mentioned in my last reading list, Blackout and All Clear.
- An Enchantment of Birds: Memories from a Birder’s Life by Richard Cannings – Cannings is one of my new favourite authors. He’s an ornithologist who lives in the southern interior of British Columbia, Canada (so for me he’s a local author), and both he and his two brothers have written many books on BC’s natural history. An Enchantment of Birds is probably one of his most accessible books for the general reader. In it, he recounts his personal experiences with birds and shares interesting (non-technical) information about them. I especially enjoyed this book as many of the species are ones I’m familiar with, but I think that anyone, anywhere, who likes birds would enjoy it. (And if you live in BC, I would also recommend that you check out his British Columbia: A Natural History as well.)
- The Long Earth by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter – Terry Pratchett is an author I wish I had discovered much earlier than I did. I wasn’t too impressed with the first of his books that I read, but his books have grown on me, and the more I read, the more I love them. Luckily, he has written a lot of books (I haven’t yet read through all of Discworld), so I still have a lot of reading ahead of me. The Long Earth is co-authored with Stephen Baxter, and is a science fiction set on near-future Earth (actually, Earths). I had high expectations of this book, and sadly I was disappointed in it. The characters (with one exception) felt rather flat and not much seemed to really happen. Still, the basic idea was an interesting “what if?”, and I’ll be curious to see where Pratchett and Baxter take it in the following books. If you’re new to Terry Pratchett, start with Discworld, not this book. (I haven’t read anything else by Baxter, so I can’t say how this compares to any of his other books.)
- Standing by Words: Essays by Wendell Berry – I’ve read some of Berry’s poetry, but this was the first of his non-fiction prose for me. This is a relatively short collection of essays in which he discusses the connections between language, nature, and poetry. It was a bit beyond me at times as I haven’t read all of the works he referred to, but it was a good read nonetheless. I’ll need to re-read this one before I can properly review or discuss it.
- Persuasion by Jane Austen – Anything by Austen is worth reading. This was a re-read for me, and it stands out for me because the main character (Anne Elliot) is older than Austen’s other protagonists. Anne is not as instantly charismatic as, say, Elizabeth Bennet, but she always keeps a clear head and does the right thing even when those around her are being thoughtlessly selfish.
- The Geese of Beaver Bog by Bernd Heinrich – This, along with a few other books, is what I’m currently reading. In it, Heinrich observes the Canada geese that live in the bog near his home, including one goose he raised as a chick and who later returned with her mate. Canada geese are so common that I tend to take them for granted and not think of much of them, but here Heinrich shows that they are interesting individuals with complex social relationships. Another good book if you like birds.
What are you reading now? Have you read any of these books or authors?