Since my last Books of the Year review I have reviewed a further 50 books – it’s a record! Since these Books of the Year reviews are timed to come out to inform your Christmas book buying there are a few books which were published in 2020 that appear in this list but let’s still call it Books of 2021.
Reading books is a great pleasure; reviewing books is a more limited pleasure, but still a pleasure. The difference is that if one starts reading a book, and you don’t get on with it, you just put it down and maybe send it to the Oxfam shop. If you are reviewing a book then you are committed to describing and assessing it in public, although your judgement is a very personal one. But overall, having to read some books I’d rather put down is more than compensated by the joy of reading a great many books that I might not have got around to reading. Indeed, the very worst might have happened – I might have bought them and never read them – how foolish would that be?
Here are the 50 books reviewed by me on this site in the last 12 months, ordered alphabetically by author. My 10 shortlisted books for this blog’s Book of the Year are highlighted in grey backgrounds:;
Goshawk Summer by James Aldred – review
The History of the World in 100 Animals by Simon Barnes – review
Gone by Michael Blencowe – review
A Sky Full of Kites by Tom Bowser – review
Britain’s Insects by Paul D. Brock – review
Wild Winter by John D. Burns – review
The Oak Papers by James Canton – review
Human, Nature by Ian Carter – review
On Gallows Down by Nicola Chester – review
Moorland Matters by Ian Coghill – review
Beak, Tooth and Claw by Mary Colwell – review
The Implausible Rewilding of the Pyrenees by Steve Cracknell – review
Lakeland Wild by Jim Crumley – review
Restoring the Wild by Roy Dennis – review
Mistletoe Winter by Roy Dennis – review
The Glitter in the Green by Jon Dunn – review
A Curious Boy by Richard Fortey – review
The Screaming Sky by Charles Foster – review
Lost Animals by Errol Fuller – review
Swifts and Us by Sarah Gibson – review
Silent Earth by Dave Goulson – review
Rebugging the Planet by Vicki Hird – review
Bee Tiger by Philip Howse – review
Vagrancy in Birds by Alexander Lees and James Gilroy – review
Wild Mull by Stephen Littlewood and Martin Jones – review
Birds of Lincolnshire by Lincolnshire Bird Club – review
Much Ado About Mothing by James Lowen – review
More Birds than Bullets by Geoffrey McMullan – review
Shearwater by Roger Morgan-Grenville – review
The Swallow by Stephen Moss – review
Skylarks with Rosie by Stephen Moss – review
The Colour of Silence by Claire Newton – review
Women on Nature by Katharine Norbury – review
Back to Nature by Chris Packham and Megan McCubbin – review
Wild Farming by Robin Page – review
Birding in an Age of Extinction by Martin Painter – review
Regeneration by Andrew Painting – review
Biography of a Fly by Jaap Robben and Paul Faassen – review
Flight from Grace by Richard Pope – review
The Eternal Season by Stephen Rutt – review
Three Million Wheelbarrows by Kathleen Saunders – review
Out and About, Discovering British Wild Flowers by Deidre Shirreffs – review
Calls from the Wild by Alan Stewart – review
International Treaties in Nature Conservation by Stroud, D.A. et al. – review
Birds of Chew Valley Lake by Keith Vinicombe – review
Butterflies by Martin Warren – review
The Amazing Story of Montagu’s Harrier by Elvira Werkman – review
Ecology and Natural History by David Wilkinson – review
A Spotter’s Guide to Countryside Mysteries by John Wright – review
I’ve made a habit this year of commenting on the covers of the books that I have reviewed – although I’ve been a bit lapse at doing it every time. You shouldn’t judge a book by its cover but first impressions are always important and we often encounter a book by staring at its cover. Will it draw us into the book or put us off? Will it give a true or false impression of the words inside the covers?
Looking back over these 50 books there are five covers which I gave 9/10 and having looked back at the ones that I didn’t score none of them would have achieved that score.
Those five covers are these (in no particular order):
Which of those covers would be your favourite?
And so to my book of 2021. Last year I struggled to pick one book from 40 or so and eventually weakened and chose two joint favourites (but they were both excellent). This year I have oscillated between three or four of the short-listed 10 books but have resolved to choose just one of them.
My book of the year is a self-published book by an author of whom most of you will never have heard. The author asked me whether I would like to see a copy of his (for, yes, it is a he) book and I wondered what it would be like. It’s brilliant, and deserves to be read widely even though it does not have a large publishing empire behind it. I think the book has a slightly off-putting title, and a slightly off-putting cover, but the words inside are just brilliant.
This book explores a very current subject – rewilding, and the end of rewilding which is about large scary carnivores, largely on the France/Spain border in the Pyrenees. This is a very ‘real’ book in the sense that the author explores and documents the conflicts between carnivores (mostly bears and wolves) and people (mostly those looking after grazing animals), but also the conflicts between people with different perspectives, values and interests. The people who are given voices in this book provide deep insights into human-animal and human-human conflicts. We meet people with very different views and so are taken into the subject in a very direct way. I can’t think of a similar book.
So, after much thought, and partly because I feel this book is one which will slip under many people’s radar, but largely because, amongst many others, this book made the biggest single impression on me all year, my book of the year for 2021 is The Implausible Rewilding of the Pyrenees by Steve Cracknell – review .