Gathered thoughts on the best books I’ve stumbled upon, shared for you to retreat into too. Join my mailing list to get my book of the month in your inbox. A quick note that this page contains affiliate links.
December: A Line in the World: A Year on the North Sea Coast by Dorthe Nors
Me, my notebook and my love of the wild and desolate. I wanted to do the opposite of what was expected of me. It’s a recurring pattern in my life. An instinct.
I wasn’t sure if I was in the right mood to read A Line in the World. It seemed heavy going, and I wanted something light and hopeful in the lead up to Christmas.
I decided to give the first few pages a chance – largely because I now live in Denmark, I know very little about Jutland, and I love nature writing. Maybe it would be a good fit for next year, I thought. But I soon realised that I had to keep going.
A Line in the World is a stunning memoir; graceful and lyrical, but with a powerful roar in there too.
Read it if you loved The Salt Path by Raynor Winn, or any other quietly powerful and introspective memoirs rooted in wild nature.
November: The Island of Missing Trees by Elif Shafak
I’m reading The Island of Missing Trees this November and it’s so gorgeously written. This must be the first book I’ve ever read that features the perspective of a fig tree, and it’s just so delicately and thoughtfully crafted.
It’s 1974 on the island of Cyprus, and two teenagers from opposite sides of a divided land meet at a tavern in the city they call home. In the centre of the tavern, growing towards the light in a cavity in the roof, is a fig tree that witnesses everything.
Decades later in north London, sixteen-year-old Ada Kazantzakis has never visited the island where her parents were born. But as she seeks to detangle years of secrets, she does have one connection to the land of her ancestors: a Ficus Carica growing in the back garden of their home.
Like The Overstory, this stunning book from 2021 by Elif Shafak makes it difficult to look at the trees around you in the same way.
October: Lucy by the Sea by Elizabeth Strout
This is so real, I immediately thought when I started reading Elizabeth Strout’s last book, Oh William! (and kept thinking, throughout the novel). There’s something so quietly vulnerable, humble, and honest about Strout’s Lucy Barton books.
I’ve stayed away from books about the pandemic until now; I wanted reading to be my escape from it, not a reason to think more about it. But I feel like there’s now been sufficient distance for me to read books like this one. And Lucy by the Sea just felt so… therapeutic.
In this third book of Strout’s Amgash series, which you can read as a standalone or start with My Name is Lucy Barton, it’s March 2020 and Lucy’s ex-husband William pleads with her to leave New York and escape to a coastal house he has rented in Maine. Lucy reluctantly agrees, leaving the washing-up in the sink and expecting to be back in a week or so. As weeks turn into months, Lucy and William spend their long, quiet days thinking about their complex past together and the connections that sustain us in the hardest moments.
Author Rachel Joyce says of the book: “Lucy by the Sea might be my favourite Elizabeth Strout novel yet. Such grace, such empathy, such exquisite and sharp observation – and yet so very much itself too. No one else writes like Elizabeth Strout.”
I hope you enjoy it too.
September: The Bear by Andrew Krivak
Since reading The Bear, I’ve recommended it as one of the most calming books I’ve read for a long time, perfect bedtime reading, as well as a fantastic choice if you’re looking for books set in wild nature.
That’s maybe a little unusual, considering it’s ultimately a book about the end of humankind. It’s the story of the last two people on Earth, a father and daughter living self-sufficiently close to nature in an Edenic future. They hunt deer, fish for trout, forage pine needles for tea, and walk for weeks to get salt from the sea.
The Bear is a tale of loss, but it’s also quietly moving, exquisitely beautiful, and overwhelmingly tender.