Christmas 2020 – reading list

By Stephanie Young

A pile of the books mentioned in the article, most are pale blue.  In-front there is a plate with a Christmas biscuit and a mug on it.  The mug is in the shape of a penguins face.

In my recommendations for reading for the Christmas season, you’ll notice books written or edited by women are in the majority.  This list has been prompted by my book groups and the observable increase in outdoor and adventure writing by women.   Following in the footsteps of Gwen Moffat and Nan Shepherd’s legacy these books begin to redress the gender balance in outdoor literature, bringing us new perspectives and ideas.  I’ve also added a few lighter reads on my personal bookshelf for the festive season.

Antlers of Water – Writing on the Nature and Environment of Scotland, edited by Kathleen Jamie

The first ever collection of contemporary Scottish writing on nature and landscape, showcases the diversity of Scottish nature writing today.  Edited and collated by Kathleen Jamie (a powerful writer on the outdoors), this collection, takes us from walking to wild swimming, from red deer, to pigeons and wasps, from remote islands to back gardens.  With contributions from Amy Liptrot, Jim Crumley, Karine Polwart, Chitra Ramaswamy and many more.  A great book to dip into, no matter how you’re feeling you’ll find something to inspire you here.

Entangled Life – How Fungi Make Our Worlds , Change Our Minds and Shape Our Futures, Melvin Sheldrake

One of our new Trustees is an expert on fungi, so I was fortunate to hear about this book (now a bestseller) on the radio and very pleased that we would be able to chat about the ‘Wood Wide Web’ that connects plants in underground networks and is transforming the way we understand ecosystems.  This book is a mind altering (but not the psychedelic kind!) journey into a spectacular and neglected world and demonstrates that fungi provide the key to understanding both the planet on which we live and life itself.  It’s one of those rare books that will change the way you see life around you.  This is the book I learned most from in 2020.

The Fresh and the Salt: The Story of the Solway, Ann Lingard

I was brought up in a small village on the edge of the Solway Firth and this book brings back many memories of this beautiful and unpredictable place – one of the least industrialised natural estuaries in Europe. From her home in a smallholding in northwest Cumbria within sight of the Firth, Lingard explores the multi faceted life of the Solway Firth in all its forms, from mudshrimps, basking sharks and pinkfooted geese to quarriers, trawlermen, peat cutters, ships’ pilots and haff netters.  She writes an occasional blog.

Losing Eden – Why Our Minds Need the Wild, Lucy Jones

Lucy Jones brings the natural world to the very heart of the debate about what makes us well.  Meticulously researched, she lays out the overwhelming scientific evidence for nature as the nurturer for body and soul.  Travelling from Forest Schools in East London to the Svalbard Global Seed Vault via primeval woodlands, Californian laboratories and eco-therapists couches, she takes us to the cutting edge of human biology, neuroscience, psychology  and discovers new ways of understanding our increasingly dysfunctional relationship with our Earth.  Urgent and uplifting, this book will definitely chase you outside.  One of my favourite books of 2020.

A Bird A Day, Dominic Cousins

A book for nature lovers and birdwatchers everywhere – 366 fascinating and beautiful birds from around the world to enjoy every day.  This inspiring collection gives a captivating insight into the private lives of birds and the communities they inhabit.  This is a hardback book, beautifully produced, filled with full colour photographs and drawings – definitely one for the coffee table, alongside my old and battered Collins Gem guide and Ladybird Guide to British Birds.

Waymaking , An Anthology of Women’s Adventure Writings, Poetry and Art

This is a truly magical book, to dip in and out of and be enchanted and inspired in equal measure.  This collection of essays, poetry and art begins to redress the gender balance in outdoor adventure literature.  Their creativity urges us to stop and engage our senses in the outdoors, living and breathing alongside nature.  Contributors include adventurers Sara Outen and Anna McNuff, film maker Jen Randall and Alpinist editor Katie Ives. 

Beside my chair ready for a bit of relaxing reading over the festive season is growing pile of books:  Confessions of a Bookseller and Seven Kinds of People You Find in A Bookshop by Sean Bythell of The Bookshop in Wigtown, possibly the grumpiest bookseller but always makes me laugh out loud.  Val McDermid, Christmas is Murder, a short story collection from one of my favourite writers. A Large Measure of Snow, A Tale from Kinloch by Denzil Meyrick author of the DCI Daley crime series.  And finally I always choose something from the British Library of Crime Classics, edited by Martin Edwards – this year it’s A Surprise for Christmas and Other Seasonal Mysteries.

Whatever your reading over the festive season, I wish you lots of happiness and time to reconnect (‘safely’ as Professor Leitch would say) with family and friends.  We hope to see you at our 25th Anniversary celebrations in 2021.  Merry Christmas.


10 Books on the environment you should read.