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Looking to find out something more about the world we live in, instead of gallivanting off into the realm of fiction? Have a look at our hand-picked non-fiction choices.
Calling all outdoor adventurers who want to walk on the wild side by the light of the moon! While there’s no shortage of brilliant books to inspire and guide nature exploration in young adventurers, Chris Salisbury’s Wild Nights Out is the first nature guide to focus on night-time activities, which gives both the book and its activities a distinct and decidedly magical edge. With a foreword by Chris Packham, this is a brilliant book for grown-ups to use with 7+-year-olds who share their passion for the great outdoors. The text addresses adults, as opposed to chattily speaking to children direct, but with a background in theatre and environmental education, and currently working as professional storyteller alongside directing the Call of the Wild Foundation programme for educators-in-training, the author is well-placed to advise on how to engage young explorers. As for the activities, the book covers a blend of games, walks and sensory experiences, the latter of which form an excellent foundation from which to explore the world at night, with exercises designed to focus and enhance one’s sensory perceptions. Then there are practical activities covering the likes of learning to call for owls, detect bats and understand the night sky alongside immersive theatrical activities, such as hosting nocturnal animal performances and fireside storytelling. With black-and-white illustrations throughout and activities to last the entire summer holidays, this certainly shines an inspiring and informative light on night-time nature.
An incredibly thoughtful, eloquent, and revealing book about policing by John Sutherland. Not only is it absolutely fascinating, there are also a whole heap of lessons that can and should be learned within its pages. John spent 25 years with the Metropolitan Police, during that time working his way to Borough Commander, leading teams as they dealt with some of the most sad and incredibly damaging aspects facing our society. Now retired on medical grounds, John is a sought-after public speaker and commentator, he regularly speaks on TV and radio, and writes for major newspapers. I can highly recommend his first book, Blue: A Memoir, this new book goes a step further. John issues an invitation to walk with him and witness the scenes behind the blue and white cordon tape. He talks about ten issues we face in the modern world, from domestic violence through to terrorism. He still cares about and loves policing, he also has huge compassion, this, linked with his ability to see the reality of policing, means he can open our eyes. Accessible, considered, meaningful, shocking, inspiring… Crossing the Line has been chosen as LoveReading Star Book, Book of the Month, and a Liz Robinson Pick of the Month. It really is the most crucially important piece of writing for the whole of our society to absorb, all I can say is, read it! Read our Q&A with John Sutherland.
Ants have been walking the Earth since the age of the dinosaurs. Today there are one million ants for every one of us. The closer you get to ants, the more human they look: they build megacities, grow crops, raise livestock, tend their young and infirm, and even make vaccines. They also have a darker side: they wage war, enslave rivals and rebel against their oppressors. From fearsome army ants, who stage twelve-hour hunting raids where they devour thousands, to gentle leaf-cutters gardening in their peaceful underground kingdoms, every ant is engineered by nature to fulfil their particular role. Acclaimed biologist Susanne Foitzik has travelled the globe to study these master architects of Earth. Joined by journalist Olaf Fritsche, Foitzik invites readers deep into her world - in the field and in the lab - and will inspire new respect for ants as a global superpower. Fascinating and action-packed, Empire of Ants will open your eyes to the secret societies thriving right beneath your feet.
Diary of a Young Naturalist recounts a year in the life of an autistic and highly gifted 15 year old, struggling with school, bullies, moving house and fearing the decline of the natural world whilst rejoicing in it. Dara McAnulty is clearly an extraordinary person and a beautiful and mature writer. His descriptions of his adventures in nature are inspiring for children, but also sure to brighten the souls of many an adult too. The intensity with which nature presents itself to the author is overwhelming, and his ability to share this with the reader is enthralling. It’s a rollercoaster ride being in the head of this young man, but the book has the magic to open our eyes and ears to what beauty is around us each and every day - if only we looked! McAnulty's knowledge of wildlife and nature is simply extraordinary. His autism is a burden but also a super-power, providing him with piercing insight to a world that simply cannot be ignored with all its truth, tragedy and hope pouring out of every hedgerow, pond and dry stone wall. This is a diary which highlights our essential connection with the natural world, the landscape and our history embedded within it - but more importantly, it is also about our futures. Dara McAnulty is on a mission, and if the quality of this book is anything to go by, he will have a huge impact. For many children, this book will be the beginning of a wondrous journey. ~ Greg Hackett Greg Hackett is the Founder & Director of the London Mountain Film Festival
Conceived a year before his tragic death as “an atlas of the world through his eyes”, Anthony’s Bourdain’s World Travel is a glorious testament to the unique wit and worldview of a chef, food writer and travel documentarian who was, above all else, a brilliant storyteller. Put together by his long-time assistant Laurie Woolever, with contributions from friends, family and colleagues in place of Tony being around to write some of the planned pieces himself, this is a travel guide like no other - unsurprising given that Bourdain was a character like no other. From Argentina to Vietnam, Australia to Uruguay, this A-Z travelogue includes information you’d expect to find in a conventional guidebook (how to get there, where to eat, where to stay) but beyond these basics, it dishes up Bourdain’s distinctly personal take on the many places he’s explored. His words are always incisive; always a brutal blend of raw candour and decadent description. There are thoughts on food, history and culture, sometimes contextualised by Tony’s companions, while at other times all it takes is a straight-talking, straight-from-the-horse’s-mouth quote from the man himself, like these words of caution for first-time tasters of Brazil’s potent dendê oil: “You know, it takes some getting used to. The first time I was here, you eat it, you shit like a mink for hours afterwards. But now, no problems! Lovin’ it.” There’s passionate political commentary too, notably when he talks about Cambodia (“Once you’ve been to Cambodia, you’ll never stop wanting to beat Henry Kissinger to death with your bare hands”) and Mozambique, a beautiful nation that has, to Tony’s anger, been “relentlessly screwed by history”. Honest, insightful and salty, this is a delicious antidote to formulaic travel writing; a rejuvenating blast of anti-blandness that stirs an urge to explore the world with even a soupçon of Bourdain’s fearless, flamboyant spirit.
The powerful, inspiring story of Andria Zafirakou, 'the best teacher in the world', and what it takes to work on the frontlines of education today. Andria's story is a rallying wake-up call that shows what life is really like for schoolchildren today, and a moving insight into the extraordinary people shaping the next generation.
Published to coincide with what would have been Best’s 75th birthday, Wayne Barton’s True Genius is a must-read for football fans. What sets this apart from other Best biographies is its introduction by the Best family, rare archive images, and the author’s exhaustive research, coupled with deep insights and an affectionate, amiable style. As befits its subject, True Genius is in a league of its own. “Our George was a funny, kind, shy and intelligent boy. Then he belonged to the world, and he came to be perceived as something quite different. Sometimes the perception was quite different to the truth.” So writes the Best family in the book’s moving, open-hearted introduction, setting the tone and approach for the entire book - an approach that sees the author present the full truth about George, beginning with his Belfast childhood, when he was the only boy in his class to pass the eleven-plus. With fascinating contributions from Best’s former team-mates, managers, family and friends, this is as comprehensive as it gets when it comes to understanding George’s on-the-pitch panache and off-the-pitch struggles. As the book reminds readers, George’s last wish was that people “remember me for the football”, and this book’s in-depth coverage of his exceptional talent certainly honours that wish, alongside providing a deeper understanding of the man behind the footballer.
Our March 2021 Book Club Recommendation Click here to see our Reading Group Questions. This is such a welcoming and warming read with community spirit, traditional craft, and the environment at its heart. Author Robert J Somerville was commissioned to build an elm barn by hand in Hertfordshire. Over the course of a year volunteers gathered together to help build the barn, and this is the story. There are so many positive elements to this read. A community of volunteers come together to: “teach, practice and celebrate skilled rural craftsmanship”. And while Dutch elm disease has decimated our Elm population, there is hope for the trees survival. As Robert Somerville says: “Elm is a species that suffered a major pandemic, but its incredible determination to survive prevails. Elm is proving itself to be a tree with an enduring life force, and, to my mind, is an appropriate icon for getting closer to nature, the resurgence in making things by hand and for bringing old skills back to life”. The book contains a myriad of interesting illustrations and photos as well as the story from concept to raising of the barn. At a time when community really matters, when our environment needs love and nurturing, Barn Club echoes with all that is good. It is a wonderful read that lightened my spirits and made me smile.
A rewarding and eloquent book that focuses on our connection with nature and how it can bring us back to ourselves, to become more grounded and aware of the world around us. Dr Ruth Allen is a psychotherapist, writer, speaker, and adventurer. She is very aware that we don’t all have equal access to nature, yet she shows that access is possible and encourages us to forge relationships with our natural environment. She has: “suggestions, tools, approaches and inklings” and I found an accessible, satisfying read that really spoke to me. She introduces her own story with nature, followed with a guide on how to use the book, stating: “You don’t have to be wealthy, athletic, ‘outdoorsy’, from an adventurous family or of any particular age demographic, gender, ethnicity, nationality or sexuality: the words over the following pages are for all of you.” Beautiful photos accompany her guidance, suggestions, and activities. I feel that this is a book you can take your time with, dip in and out of, or just get on and do, be, and find what strikes a chord with you. Balanced and wise, Grounded helps us to explore our relationship with nature, and I’m pleased to recommend it as a Liz Pick of the Month.
'Mountains have given structure to my adult life. I suppose they have also given me purpose, though I still can't guess what that purpose might be. And although I have glimpsed the view from the mountaintop and I still have some memory of what direction life is meant to be going in, I usually lose sight of the wood for the trees. In other words, I, like most of us, have lived a life of structured chaos.' Structured Chaos is Victor Saunders' follow-up to Elusive Summits (winner of the Boardman Tasker Prize in 1990), No Place to Fall and Himalaya: The Tribulations of Vic & Mick. He reflects on his early childhood in Malaya and his first experiences of climbing as a student, and describes his progression from scaling canal-side walls in Camden to expeditions in the Himalaya and Karakoram. Following climbs on K2 and Nanga Parbat, he leaves his career as an architect and moves to Chamonix to become a mountain guide. He later makes the first ascent of Chamshen in the Saser Kangri massif, and reunites with old friend Mick Fowler to climb the north face of Sersank. This is not just a tale of mountaineering triumphs, but also an account of rescues, tragedies and failures. Telling his story with humour and warmth, Saunders spans the decades from youthful awkwardness to concerns about age-related forgetfulness, ranging from 'Where did I put my keys?' to 'Is this the right mountain?' Structured Chaos is a testament to the value of friendship and the things that really matter in life: being in the right place at the right time with the right people, and making the most of the view.
Honest of heart and exhilarating in spirit, Isabel Allende’s The Soul of a Woman is an inspirational account of the writer’s lifelong feminism. Interweaving autobiography with astute commentary, it presents a stunning tapestry of a life lived fighting inequality in all its forms as it seeks to light the way for a better world. “When I say that I was a feminist in kindergarten, I am not exaggerating,” Allende begins this stirring memoir, referring to seeing her father leave her mother “with two toddlers in diapers and a newborn baby” when she was three, compelling them to move to live with her grandparents. It was here that Allende’s “anger against machismo started” as a result of realising that her mother and the housemaids were subordinates without voice or resources. The contrast made between the stoniness of patriarchy (an aggressively imposed system that “grants dominion and privileges to the male gender” and “punishes those who defy it”) and feminism’s ocean-fluid nature is sublime. Feminism “moves in waves, currents, tides, and sometimes in storms. Like the ocean, feminism, never stays quiet.” An ocean metaphor might also be applied to this book - it undulates beautifully as Allende recounts her life through feminist lens. The tone is invigorating, and charmingly familiar too, with interjected “by the way” digressions, as if in the company of a wise and passionate friend. And, like the kind of friend who brings joy to any gathering, Allende ends this book with a bright beam of optimism. While aware that inequalities have never been deeper (“we can’t continue in a civilisation based on unbridled greed and violence”), she believes that this is a time for reflection, a time to ponder what kind of world we want to live in following the brutality of a global pandemic. For Allende, that’s a world in which “peace, empathy, decency, truth, and compassion prevail.”
If you’ve been anywhere near a TV, a comedy club or a radio over the last 30 years you will know of David Baddiel, comedian, columnist, novelist and – lest we forget – co-writer of the “Three Lions on a Shirt” football anthem. He is a man with hinterland, who says what he thinks and really thinks about what he says. Never was this truer than with his powerful and important “Jews Don’t Count”, by which Baddiel means “as a real minority” and he brings an abundance of examples and observations to his argument. In this short and searingly heartfelt polemic, Baddiel unpicks the original racism - anti-Semitism - and analyses why, and how, Jews are still cast in the dual roles as thieving and deceitful and at the same time powerful, rich and ultimately privileged. Seasoned with humour and leavened with Baddiel’s very personal perspective and style, his argument is made all the more persuasive with straightforward prose that makes this as eminently readable as it is hugely important. At heart he asks the question “Do you think of Jews as part of the BAME community?” By the time you’ve finished reading this, Baddiel will have convinced you that you should. The LoveReading LitFest invited David Baddiel to the festival to talk about Jews Don't Count. You can view the event by subscribing to the LitFest programme for as little as £6 per month - or you can pay per view. For just £2, go, see David in conversation with Julia Wheeler and find out why everyone should read this book. Check out a preview of the event here
Cartoonist, Robert Crumb said; “When I come up against the Real World, I just vacillate”. Well, he can happily vacillate here for a while. This section features a whole host of books covering subjects as diverse as Mankind’s place in the Universe (Human Universe by Brian Cox), the history of the human journey to work (Rush Hour by Iain Gateley) and the real business of reading books (Bookworms, Dogears and Squashy Big Armchairs by Heather Reyes). This is the ‘Human’ section in our book lovers’ journey.
If you love reading, then you’ll find something here to fascinate you. There are new and interest-piquing passages here from science, philosophy, politics, history, religion, and all of the things that occupy the lives of humans. And we mean ALL of them. The fight against Cancer, the fight for freedom, feminism, fatality, frailty and fame. It’s too big to list. Have a browse through the titles by using our monthly recommendations past and present. We guarantee you’ll be hooked in minutes!