A common man marvels at uncommon things. A wise man marvels at the commonplace. CONFUCIUS

Sunday, 27 November 2011

The Books In My Life (3)

Here are some of my books on walking, climbing, travel and the countryside. I've lots more books on these subjects - but the ones I love the most are displayed on these three shelves. The categorisation is loose, but they are arranged alphabetically by author. Once a librarian, always a librarian! I'll highlight a few authors and titles which are indispensable to me...

In this pic you can see on the left a few general 'outdoor' books - books on hiking, backpacking, navigation and mountains, including a book with one of the most memorable titles ever: How To Shit In The Woods by Kathleen Meyer. An A-F sequence follows, with books by Edward Abbey, Tom Brown Jr. and Colin Fletcher, three of my favourite American backcountry, wilderness writers. There are two absolute travel writing classics: Robert Byron's The Road To Oxiana and Bruce Chatwin's In Patagonia. There's a collection of travel essays called Hills And The Sea by the Anglo-French Catholic writer Hilaire Belloc, whose eccentric but captivating memoir The Path To Rome was one of the first books to inspire me to go on long-distance treks. There are several volumes by the wonderfully opinionated George Borrow, who wandered extensively throughout Europe, often in the company of gypsies and other nomads. And there's Gerald Brenan's South From Granada - one of the best books about Spain I have ever read.

On the second shelf (G - M!) you may be able to spot Goethe's Italian Journey; four books by Patrick Leigh Fermor, probably my favourite travel writer of all; a couple by Richard Mabey, one of the UK's finest writers on natural history; two books by the exciting, genre-busting, contemporary writer Robert Macfarlane, a master of deep, resonant, poetic prose; several by Jan/James Morris, queen of our present-day travel authors; Peter Matthiessen's classic The Snow Leopard; Arctic Dreams, that richly conceived, ground-breaking book about the Arctic by Barry Lopez; a few books from the mystically inclined English nature writer Richard Jefferies (read his spiritual autobiography The Story Of My Heart for an extraordinary description of mystical illumination on the Wiltshire downs).

On the bottom shelf (M - Z! You would have expected this) there's John Muir's Nature WritingsEric Newby's Love And War In The Apennines; a couple of Jonathan Raban's; WG Sebald's incomparable The Rings Of Saturn; two books by Rebecca Solnit (including her brilliant Wanderlust); and two by Edward Thomas, the troubled English poet, essayist, journalist and walker (and friend of Robert Frost), who died in the first world war. 


GOAT said...

Some great books there, SW, and several ideas for further (literary) exploration for yours truly.

Have you read Newby's 'Stranger in the Forest' about Borneo? It's one of the best 'travel' - and WALKING - books I've read. It left me conflicted - I sort of wanted to go there after reading it, but also no longer felt I had to.

Mark Alvarez said...

Great stuff. I've got a few similar shelves, but you've given me a few titles to check. Many thanks.

Rachel Fox said...

My Mum had every book about E Thomas - she loved a tragic poetry tale (though couldn't be bothered with poetry!).

Ruth said...

These are serious shelves for a serious walker.

I've left poor Fermor just inside Germany for the Christmas season. I'm trying to get into the spirit with Dickens' Christmas tales. Reading "Chimes" now. I'll get back on the road with Leigh post haste.

The Solitary Walker said...

I suppose they are a bit serious. Trouble is, those light-hearted Bill Bryson-ish travel memoirs (with titles like 'How I Circumnavigated Iceland In A Morris Minor With A Pet Baboon') - well, I can't stand them!

Fermor is just fantastic, though he does show off at times. I had to keep a dictionary close by me when reading "A Time Of Gifts' and its sequel.

Ah, Dickens! Wonderful.

Anonymous said...

thanks so much for sharing this. It's wonderful to enjoy books I've read and to anticipate those I haven't.

Readying myself to read The South Country


Susan Scheid said...

I was only recently introduced to Leigh Fermor's books, by Friko. His ability to describe, to set you right in the frame, was astounding to me. The passage in A Time of Gifts where he's about to cross a bridge into Hungary was pure magic. Set me off on writing a post about description (not to burden your post, but it can be found here, if of interest).

One book I don't see on your shelves is Claudio Magris's Danube. Spectacular book, which I recently re-read and was bowled over all over again. Here's a quote I loved (one among thousands):

A journey is always a rescue operation, the documentation and harvesting of something that is becoming extinct and will soon disappear, the last landing on an island that is sinking beneath the waves.

Wrote about that too, here.

Apologies for not just one, but two links, but, see what your bookshelf did? Got me racing back to mine! There is nothing better than a book, is there?

The Solitary Walker said...

Thanks so much for you comment, Susan. Your linked post looks really interesting - I'll return to read it in depth and at my leisure.

George said...

Though a bit late getting here, I enjoyed this little romp through your travel and walking books. There are several of these volumes—Fermor's, for example—which hope to purchase and read in the coming months. So many books, so little time.

Grizz………… said...

I enjoyed this look at some of your walking books. I have maybe twenty-five percent of them on my own shelves, and have a read a few others. The rest are unfamiliar, and I look forward to making new acquaintances. Good books on specific walks are not as common as you might think, but I love reading one when I find a new volume.

I also liked your library/workroom post a few posts back, and apologize for not commenting. You and George are enviable examples when it comes to lack of clutter, compared to my own room. I keep adding shelves, and boxing up books for storage elsewhere, but neither seems to make an appreciable dent in the overflow.

Mark said...

Ah - nosing through other peoples bookshelves (or record/CD collections) is one of lives unacknowledged pleasures. As with other respondents, there are many things here which I already know and love, some that I haven't read but have being wanting to, and some which are new for me to seek out. I'm interested in your view of 'Wild Places'. I enjoyed the writing but didn't trust the trajectory of the book. Could an intelligent fellow like McFarlane really have such a naive conception of wilderness as the one he professes at the start of the book? Mabey's 'Unofficial Countryside' is referenced in the bibliography but never acknowledged in the text. I thought that MacFarlane was being disingenuous in not referring to the nuanced understanding of wilderness in that book, and I couldn't believe, given his interests, that he hadn't read the book before embarking on his own.
Oops - that's turned into a bit of a rant, sorry.
Happy New Year, BTW.