Fancy a walk in the countryside?
The English love a long walk through the rainy countryside– much like Seattleites! We here in Seattle tend to like our countryside a bit wilder, and not so much molded by human hands, but there are plenty of rugged and untamed landscapes in England as well. The other thing we in Seattle and our friends in England have in common is our connection to our weather; misty and mysterious or sunny and sociable, we appreciate its ups and downs and the way it supports growth of all kinds.
For those of you participating in Book Bingo this summer, an armchair walk in rural England, in any weather, might be just the way to fill in that non-fiction square. Here are some titles which delve into how weather and history and landscape combine to create beauty, in the life and in the literature of Great Britain (England and beyond!).
The Road to Little Dribbling by Bill Bryson: Why not ease into the list with some gentle humor, mixed with slyly deft observation? Those are the hallmarks of celebrated travel writer Bill Bryson, who is known for living both in England and the United States and reflecting, through a sharp cultural lens, the joys and foibles of each. In this book he does a second tour around England’s back roads (his Notes from a Small Island related the first), and loves its inimitable byways just as much after the 20-year hiatus.
Jane Austen’s Country Life by Deirdre Le Faye: Jane Austen is more than just the delectable Colin Firth in a dripping shirt. While she lived a mostly rural existence herself, she read widely and was psychologically astute on a deep and enduring level; this extends to her portrayals of what life was like in the countryside in Regency England. This book gives us modern-folk the background to understand it all—the farming, the estates, the dances, the churches, and weather, and more.
Walking Home: A Poet’s Journey by Simon Armitage: Many guidebooks will tell you, if you want to get to know the geography of an area, walk it. And books like Cheryl Strayed’s Wild have made the walking memoir into a fine art. Armitage’s version, which journals his walk along the Pennine Way (not an afternoon’s light entertainment), adds another element, which is that each night he trades his poetry for a place to stay. It’s not a perky book, but it’s atmospheric.
The Shepherd’s Life: Modern Dispatches from an Ancient Landscape by James Rebanks: Rebanks’ family has lived in the same area of the Lake District for generations; it’s hard to overstate how deeply its contours are imprinted on them. They are caretakers for generations to come, rather than owners. This book outlines one year in the life of the family on the land—a land which has been romanticized, but which in truth includes harsh realities. As someone with both an Oxford University education and a lifetime on the land, Rebanks is the perfect translator for us.
If you want more reading ideas along these lines, take a look at even more titles from the list here; and, happy bingo!
— Posted by Ann G.