Saltwater and Wildness: A September Read

Book "Dip" by Andrew Fusek Peters on the beach

Ever since Michelle reminded me of the delights of an ocean dip earlier this year, I’ve been seeking out saltwater whenever possible. In celebration, Tom gave me this beautiful book for my birthday.

Peters shares stories of his various wild swims through each month of the year, interspersed with his thoughts on recovering from depression and the healing powers of water. He is clearly a water rat: searching out the hidden swimming holes on even the most unlikely of trips, and diving in with little regard for inclement weather. The photos are beautiful and the clear passion he shares for this pastime had even me, the most fair weather of wild swimmers, braving the depths this autumn.

Rusty walking along the beach at Freshwater Bay, Isle of Wight

Freshwater Bay is the perfect grown-up swimming hole: a steep shore that plunges quickly into deep water, with pebbles that leave the water crystal clear and encourage noisy families to head off to sandier bays.

The harbour is sheltered and there’s a small contingent of lifers: hardy old swimmers who are out here every day, their presence reassuring you that diving in is not completely bonkers.

Photo collage of swimming at Freshwater Bay

I’m starting to see how addictive this wild swimming business can be. The ice cold shock of the first plunge pulls you in to a single moment, before the edge of the chill subsides and you’re left rolling about in the buoyant water like a giggling fish.

This is pure and simple joy, with added tingly-fresh skin, and the promise of coffee and cookies on the beach. Can’t get much better than that. It’s a revelation to me that this adventure needn’t be the sole preserve of the summer holiday.

Dip was a book that soaked in to my blood and gave me the courage to take a quick paddle even in this autumn chill. And I doubt I’ll be able to stop at one.

Book "Dip" by Fusek Peters on the beach at Freshwater Bay, Isle of Wight

An August Read: Fire Season

Fire Season book amongst flowers

I love those books that present themselves to you quite by accident. I found this one when killing time before a meeting, and leafing through the sales shelf.  Connors writes of his time as a fire lookout in the wilds of New Mexico.

Tom and I visited one of these fire lookout towers several years ago in California. The long journey out to the tower, and the intimidating scale up the ladder to get to the top, all made it feel so distanced from the everyday.

The guy was super friendly and his tower was kitted out with a few quirky creature comforts, including on old Nintendo system.  He spoke of what a desirable job this was, but one that only appealed to a certain character. Days hanging out in the wild, staring at the huge vista all around you sounds pretty appealing to me.

Connors’ writing drew me straight in. He has a natural way of writing about the big country and his tiny part in it, weaving history, conservation and politics in to the individual anecdotes of his months looking out for wildfires in the Gila National Forest.

It’s clear that Connors never felt bored during his time alone, and his book never drags. I relished the descriptions of wild country, and his perspective on our place in it. The very best kind of nature writing.

Foxes and Bombers: June Reads

Life after Life book on table

It’s been another busy month of distractions, but I’ve been saved by two good reads that have kept my mind occupied.  I never knew a Kate Atkinson that I didn’t love, and Life After Life exceeded all promise. Ursula is a wonderful character, and I was amazed at the seamless way Atkinson weaved together lives that are different but the same.  Go and read it; it really does live up to the hype, and chances are someone you know will have a copy.

I’m currently reading The Passage. Very different from Atkinson (what with the vampires and futuristic viruses) but equally captivating.  It’s well-written pulp fiction that reads like a movie.  I’m obviously not the first person to think this as it’ll be coming out it in celluloid before long.

One of my favourite things about reading is wandering round the house and gathering a pile of books that a might read next.  I’m still far too engrossed in Cronin’s California adventure to choose my next book.  No doubt I’ll get some inspiration from Laura’s linkup on #theyearinbooks.

All the Books I Didn’t Read: May

Ghana Must Go book

When I sat down to write May’s Year in Books post I realised I have only read one book this month. In fact, I started that one book back in April so that’s almost cheating..

I’ve had reading ruts before, when I just can’t settle on a book, but this month I’m blaming it on work. Not too much of it, but just the uncertainty and stress of it as my team faces serious cuts.

I zone out mid-page to start thinking about who said what in that meeting, or how I should frame that response in a more diplomatic fashion. When really I just want to shout ‘Don’t do this!’ It feels like a great loss, of the work we all feel so passionate about.

Close up of boat cover

Tom and I are both talking big changes next year. Plans are afoot to strike out on our own and fill more of our days with the creative endeavours we love so much. Of course, Radio 4 features heavily in this idyllic vision of the future..)

I’m trying hard to balance sensible ‘pay-the-bills’ thoughts with wild and ambitious ‘nothing-can-stop-me’ ideas. My morning ferry commute flashes by without me opening a book at all.

California poppies

So, I appreciate Laura’s achievable target: just one book a month! This might be less than I usually read, but it’s something.

Ghana Must Go was a beautifully written and colourful read. It moved between narrators and across time in a way that took some adjusting to. I think it’s a good book; too good to be fully appreciated by my distracted mind. I’m taking refuge in some Kate Atkinson this month: Life After Life. I’m sure I can concentrate on that…

Muddy Shoes and Messy Gardens: April Reads

Muddy running shoes and book

The secret that all runners keep is that they don’t do it for their bodies, but for their minds.  Slim legs can get boring, but a clear mind never does.

April was the month for purchasing new running shoes and spending a week running around in Pembrokeshire.  So it seemed the obvious time to read a little bit about my new favourite thing.   ‘Hemmo‘ writes in a charmingly realistic way about her hobby- from her devastatingly difficult first run to her marathon habit.  Filled with practical advice and surprisingly emotional moments, this is a race-through-in-a-day read that I’d recommend to anyone who likes to leave the couch occasionally..

I also read The Sea, a perfect book to savour in a quiet week by the sea. Banville is an author I think I’ll be returning to.  Last but not least, I read a beautiful little book that Tom gave me: A Gentle Plea for Chaos.  Osler takes a meandering trip through her own garden, via a little history, philosphy and geography.  Her premise that we should embrace the wild edges and stop trying to neaten nature really rang true.

With the sun breaking through at this time of year, my reading has turned to warmer climes and for May I’m reading Ghana Must Go.  I chose this book for its cover (the indulgence of a non-kindle reader!) but the pages inside are proving pretty fantastic so far. Check out what other people are reading for the year in books over at Circle of Pines.