Books about Country Pursuits

ADRIAN DANGAR
Former MFH and
huntsman
The Poacher’s Handbook
by Ian Niall
Ian Niall’s evocative writing instilled in me a deep respect, not just for the countryside and nature, but for all its magical inhabitants, and, paradoxically, a lifelong devotion to all field sports.

MICHAEL WIGAN
Farmer; writer on rural issues; books include The Last of the Hunter Gatherers
Where Rivers Change Direction
by Mark Spragg
Mark Spragg was made a man while still a boy on a faraway dude ranch in Wyoming. This book rustles the Midwest wind in your hair, transports the smell of saddles and high pines, and the raw experience of a wild teenager with senses sizzling, all in a taut prose style borrowed from no one.

ROGER SCRUTON
Professor of philosophy; writer; books include
On Hunting
Kunegetikos (or Hunting with Hounds)
by Xenophon
Xenophon, Plato’s contemporary, was a great observer of both men and animals, and a lover of hounds and horses, who, in this practical manual, perfectly captures the nature of hunting as a way of life. Through him, we can understand the profound continuity of our civilisation, and the way that hunting is a school for courage, resourcefulness and the realistic love of animals.

MICHAEL CLAYTON
Editor of Horse & Hound from 1973 to 1996
Handley Cross
by R. S. Surtees
I was entranced by the immortal characters and fascinated that the book, first published in 1843, was set in the pre-M25 Surrey countryside where I hunted with the Old Surrey and Burstow in the early 1960s. The wit and wisdom of Handley Cross are still relevant to the modern hunting field and, best of all, Surtees emphasises that the fun of hunting is shared by all strands of rural society.

DAVID PROFUMO
Author; Country Life fishing correspondent
Days and Nights of Salmon Fishing in
the Tweed
by William Scrope
An indisputable classic of piscatorial literature, published in 1843. Scrope was a friend of Scott and the Landseers; he cared not a fig for convention, relished poaching, snuff and whisky, and advised the angler only to desist from wading once his legs had turned black from cold.

RUPERT ULOTH
Features and travel editor, Country Life
The Duke’s Children
by Anthony Trollope
Trollope has a visceral understanding of hunt-ing that could not be faked by someone who had no experience of, or affection for, following hounds across country. It is also reassuring that a book written in 1879 reminds us that the challenges in the 19th century were as intense as they are now.

RORY KNIGHT-BRUCE
Former MFH; journalist; author
The Life of John Mytton
by Nimrod (C. J. Apperley)
Mytton was not only
a Salopian MP, but
a sportsman to gun, hounds, gaming and the turf a gentleman who kept on his Welsh Marches estate a pack of harriers, a giraffe, a pet bear and a vicar. The latter was only permitted to Sunday lunch having given the bear a tankard of ale.

BARONESS MALLALIEU
President of the Country-side Alliance
The Poetry of Horses: A Collection
by Olwen Way
Most of my best days have included horses and I love poetry. This is the book I take up in the evening to trigger memories of great hunts and heart-stopping races, but also to recall shared pleasures and the true companionship that can exist between man and this most beautiful of animals when there is trust.

RICHARD LONG
Celebrated landscape
artist/sculptor
Rucksack Men
by Sebastian Snow

SIMON LESTER
Head gamekeeper at Holkham Hall
The Complete Book of Game Conservation
by Charles Coles
This book is easily read and gives good, sound and practical advice and information on all aspects of gamekeeping. I have found it invaluable during my 30 years in the job.

Books about Architecture

LUCINDA LAMBTON
Photographer; architectural writer; broadcaster
The Encyclopaedia of Cottage, Farm, and Villa Architecture
by John Claudius Loudon
Published in 1833, this book has had a vast influence on our rural buildings. As the wealth of the Industrial Revolution mounted, so Loudon set out to show the newly rich how to build sympathetically and well. Every style was embraced and every building was enchanting. Would that his influence lived on today.

GAVIN STAMP
Architectural historian/writer
First and Last Loves
by John Betjeman
One of three books that started me off on archiTecture when I was a schoolboy in south London. It’s a curious book, as I now see, but remains an inspiration.

DAVID WATKIN
Professor of the History of Architecture, University of Cambridge
On Architecture
by Vitruvius (written by about 27bc)
It’s the only architectural treatise to survive from the ancient world and is venerated by all my heroes, from Palladio to Quinlan Terry.

MARCUS BINNEY
Architecture correspondent for The Times; president of SAVE Britain’s Heritage
Architecture Without Architects
by Bernard Rudofsky
An inspirational book about buildings with a sense of place culled from some of the Earth’s most exotic destinations.

MARK GIROUARD
Architectural historian/writer
English Architecture since the Regency
by H. S. Goodhart-Rendel
A pioneering work in persuading me and others of my generation to take Victorian and Edwardian architecture seriously, instead of dismissing it as ‘hideous’, ‘pastiche’, or at best ‘amusing’.

JEREMY MUSSON
Architectural historian and broadcaster; books include How to Read a Country House
Life in the English Country House
by Mark Girouard
It helped open my eyes to the significance of country-house planning and function, and foster a sense of how people shape the architecture of the great country houses which are my special interest.

ANDREW SAINT
Former Professor of Archi-tecture at the University of Cambridge; general editor of the Survey of London
Von deutscher Baukunst (On German Architecture)
by Goethe
This essay on Strasbourg Cathedral from the 1770s is the strangest and most thrilling description of the impact of architecture ever written. It doesn’t even matter that it’s wrong in nearly every historical particular. It makes you think, it makes you look, and, above all, it evokes the power of the building with a mastery as great as the cathedral itself.

JOHN HARRIS
Architectural historian and author; books include
No Voice from the Hall
The Lost Vanguard: Russian Modernist Architecture 1922–1932
by Richard Pare
Pare is one of the greatest architectural colour photographers of our age.

DAVID WALKER
Professor Emeritus of Art History at the University of St Andrews; founder/author of the online Dictionary of Scottish Architects
Dictionary of Architecture
published by the Architectural Publication Society between 1848 and 1992
In the days before Colvin’s Dictionary of British Architects and the ‘Buildings of England’ series, this was the best information there was, to a degree that it is difficult to appreciate today.

SIR RICHARD MacCORMAC
Architect (MacCormac Jamieson Prichard); president of the RIBA 1991–3
The Poetics of Space
by Gaston Bachelard
In this astonishing and magical book, the author explores our experiences of domestic space, the imaginative intimacy of cellars and garrets, nests, shells and corners. ‘Inhabited space transcends geometric space,’ he writes. This is a profound lesson for architects.

Books about Gardening

MARK GRIFFITHS
Editor of The Royal
Horticultural Society Dictionary of Gardening
Man and the Natural World
by Sir Keith Thomas
I have returned constantly to this fascinating study of the ways in which Britons’ attitudes to Nature changed between 1500 and 1800. Prof Thomas marshalls an astonishing array of data and anecdotes some grave, others entertaining, all illuminating in a magisterial analysis that lays bare the heart of such national passions as wilderness, hunting, and, of course, gardens.

JENNY UGLOW
Author of A Little History of British Gardening
The Arcadian Friends: Inventing the English Landscape Garden
by Tim Richardson
A fascinating glimpse into the way friendship and personality,
as well as fashion and philosophical ideals, governed the creation of great landscape gardens in the 18th century. Packed with vivid characters, it celebrates the eccentricity, passion and vision of talented amateurs making the gardens they loved.

KATHRYN BRADLEY-HOLE
Gardens editor of Country Life
My Rock Garden
by Reginald Farrer
Farrer’s highly-strung essays on his plants and plant-hunting influenced the great names in garden writing through the 20th century, from E. A. Bowles and Vita Sackville-West to Margery Fish and Christopher Lloyd. Veering from expressive erudition to camp anthropomorphism, none of it is a dull read.

TIM LONGVILLE
Author of Gardens of the Lake District
The Essential Earthman
by Henry Mitchell
The first and still the best collection of the American Henry Mitchell’s gardening columns for The Washington Post. He can move effortlessly in one paragraph from practical advice to wry snatches of autobiography to brief, offbeat and often extremely funny musings on gardening as a paradigm of life.

MARY-ANNE ROBB
Garden owner, Cothay Manor
Perennials, vols. 1 and 2 by Roger Phillips and Martyn Rix
The scholarship and photography in these books, which show where the plants originate, and the conditions they require, have inspired me to grow many glorious plants.

DAVID WHEELER
Editor of Hortus
The Hillier Manual of Trees and Shrubs
edited by J. Hillier and A. Coombes
I’m addicted to this book. Although it doesn’t attempt to list every species and cultivar, it gives a very wide representation of the temperate world’s woody genera. My latest edition embraces some 10,500 plants and is consulted daily at home; the pocket edition accompanies me almost everywhere.

RODDY LLEWELLYN
Garden designer/writer
Garden Glory: from garden boy to head gardener at Aynhoe Park
by Ted Humphris
Full of recipes, anecdotes, letters and much more, this is a book to be left as a permanent fixture on the bedside table.

ROB CASSY
Author and journalist
Dr Hessayon’s entire ‘Expert’ series
Often underestimated because they’re mainstream, these books contain masses of information accessible in seconds; I challenge any great fat encyclopaedia to deliver results so fast.

TODD LONGSTAFFE-GOWAN
Garden designer and editor of The London Gardener
Ideemagazin für Liebhaber von Gärten (Receuil d’idées nouvelles pour la décoration des jardins et des parcs dans les goûts anglois, gothique, chinois)
by J. G. Grohmann and F. G. Baumgaertner (1796–1811)
The ideal and encyclopaedic source for those who possess a wildly Romantic and playfully eclectic temperament. Mad, mad, mad!

MICHAEL HESELTINE
Publisher, politician and gardener
Manual of Cultivated Trees and Shrubs
by Alfred Rehder
Only one volume, so very convenient.

Books for Children

ALEXANDER McCALL SMITH
Professor of medical law; novelist, best known for his ‘No 1 Ladies Detective Agency’ series
The Wind in the Willows
by Kenneth Grahame
Ratty and Mole are two of the greatest characters in children’s literature as is the boastful Mr Toad, of course. We all know Ratties and Moles, and there are plenty of Mr Toads in public life. This book is a gentle and lovely pastoral a celebration of friendship that leaves a warm feeling in the reader. That feeling stays with one for life.

ANTHONY HOROWITZ
Children’s writer; script writer; best known for the ‘Alex Rider’ series
Tintin and the Prisoners of the Sun
by Hergé
I loved the world of these books the bizarre characters, the extraordinary journeys, the myriad secret passages, the way myth and legend existed within a real and recognisable world. Hergé really was a genius. I didn’t just read his books, I lived in them. I wasn’t a strong reader, so the comic-strip format was perfect for me.

PAULINE BAYNES
Tolkein’s favourite illustrator, also illustrated C. S. Lewis’ ‘Narnia’ books and The Dictionary of Chivalry
Struwwelpeter
by Heinrich Hoffmann
It’s all that a book for children should be and fantastically relevant to their behaviour today it includes racism, anorexia, arson and cruelty to animals. The illustrations are perfect simple, bright, jolly and horrific, and beauti-fully married to the text because they’re by the same hand. (The original English translation, Slovenly Peter, was by Mark Twain, 1891.)

CHARLIE FLETCHER
Film/television writer; children’s novelist
Stone Heart and, newly published, Iron Hand
The Calculus Affair
by Hergé
A wild Cold War thriller with equal parts excitement a car chase with an excitable Italian driver and very funny sight gags Captain Haddock with the sticking plaster that he can never quite jettison.

MICHAEL MORPURGO
Much-loved children’s author. His novel War Horse is currently being staged as a play at the National Theatre
Just So Stories
by Rudyard Kipling
They made me laugh, and I loved the word-play and the invented words, particularly in The Elephant’s Child.

MICHAEL ROSEN
Children’s laureate; poet, author and radio presenter
Emil and the Detectives
by Erich Kastner
A book that’s 100% on the side of children, full of delightful realist touches, humour, danger and excitement.

MAIRI HEDDERWICK
Artist/children’s author; creator of the ‘Katie Morag’ books
The Sea of Adventure by Enid Blyton
This book first introduced me to the image of the Hebrides and was directly responsible for my adult obsession and final resting place on one of those islands.

SUSAN HILL
Novelist and playwright; her children’s books include Can It Be True? and (to be published
next April) The Battle for Gullywith
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Alice through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll
With Tenniel illustrations essential.

JANE NISSEN
Jane Nissen Books publishes children’s classics
Brendon Chase
by B. B.
It entranced me as an 11-year-old American girl, and the effect is as strong as ever today. Set in the 1920s, with English boys as its heroes, it might seem a surprising choice. But the excitement of running away and living in the glorious natural world of the forest still makes powerful, subversive reading.

MARY JAMES
Owner of the Aldeburgh Bookshop; founder of the Aldeburgh Literary Festival
The Once and Future King
by T. H. White
A witty and tragic retelling of the Arthurian legend in four volumes. The Disney film of the first book, The Sword in the Stone, did little justice to it.

Books about History

JOHN JULIUS NORWICH
Historian; broadcaster; books include the ‘Byzantium’ trilogy
The Byzantine Achievement
by Robert Byron
It probably changed my life, giving me my first introduction to the world of Byzantium, the Eastern Mediterranean and the Orthodox Church. It’s a young man’s book with a young man’s exaggerations, but the young man’s genius shines on every page.

Books about Travel

PHILIP MANSEL
Historian and biographer; books include Louis XVIII The Sun King
by Nancy Mitford
It helped inspire my lifelong interest in one of the most fascinating and creative institutions in the history of Europe: the court of France. Novelists make good historians.

NORMAN STONE
Director of the Russian-Turkish Centre at Bilkent University, Ankara; books include World War One:
A Short History
The Collected Essays, Journalism and Letters (four volumes)
by George Orwell
They never leave my bedside.

SIMON SEBAG MONTEFIORE
Historian/writer; books include Young Stalin
and 101 World Heroes
The Perilous Crown: France between Revolutions 1814–18
by Munro Price
The story of King Louis-Philippe of France and his sister Princess Adelaide, and how they worked together to create a constitutional monarchy in France. The research is new and refreshing, the style light and read-able, the story gripping and the characters fascinating. It’s how history should be written.

SIMON THURLEY
Architectural historian
and chief executive of English Heritage
The Opulent Eye
by Nicholas Cooper
I won this book of Bedford Lemere’s
photographs of Victorian and Edwardian interiors as a school prize in 1979. Lemere captured a way of life and a design for life that was to be obliterated by the First World War. Nicholas Cooper’s book opened my eyes to a world of great houses and their interiors.

ANDREW ROBERTS
Historian and biographer; books include A History
of the English-Speaking Peoples Since 1900
Our Island Story
by H. E. Marshall
When I read that Civitas was reissuing this book for children and sending it to every primary school, I was gripped with nostalgia, pride and delight in equal measures.

WILLIAM DALRYMPLE
Historian, television presenter, author; books include White Mughals
The Fall of Constantinople 1453
by Steven Runciman
Runciman was a scrupulous scholar, who also wrote superb prose, and his books are an endless pleasure to read. My favourite, in terms of sheer brilliance of narrative and prose, is his great elegy for the fall of Byzan-tium. I first read it at Cambridge, but have reread it frequently since, and it was the principal model for my book The Last Mughal.

PATRICK BISHOP
Foreign correspondent; author of Fighter Boys, Bomber Boys and 3 Para
The Proud Tower:
A portrait of the world before the war, 1890–1914
by Barbara Tuchman
A brilliant narrative of an age when the world stood poised on the edge of a new dawn of peace, justice and prosperity and plunged headlong into industrialised warfare. It’s a period that has been handled brilliantly by many historians and novelists but Barbara did it first and best.

MELVYN BRAGG
Writer/television presenter
War and Peace
by Leo Tolstoy
There is no other book ever written which contains such a powerful balance between the private, the political, the power-struggle and the philosophical. It is long and can be a tough read, but it has unmistakable greatness.

JASON GOODWIN
Historian; novelist; books include Lords of the Horizon: a history of the Ottoman Empire
The Mediterranean and the Mediterranean World in the Age of Philip II
by Fernand Braudel
Intricate and affectionate; this is history writing as it should be done.


PHILIP MARSDEN
Travel writer and novelist; books include The Chains of Heaven: An Ethopian Romance
In Patagonia
by Bruce Chatwin
With his first book, Bruce Chatwin showed how the account of a journey can take on a potent, mythical, dream-like quality. It is what the best travel books invariably are an apparently random celebration of all that Is wonderful or extraordinary in the world, and the footloose quest to hunt it down.

JAMES DAUNT
Owner of Daunt Books, the London bookshops that specialise in travel writing
Portrait of a Turkish Family
by Irfan Orga
An extraordinary tale of one prosperous Ottoman-era family’s descent into hardship during the First World War, told through the clear eyes of its son. Mr Orga’s portrayal is affectionate, humorous and extremely moving. And his delectable descriptive prose adds a glimmer to each page. It’s a book that is very close to my heart, and one I shall continue to press into the hands of any inquisitive reader.

RANULPH FIENNES
Explorer/traveller; writer
The Worst Journey
in the World
by Apsley Cherry Garrard
When I read this amazing polar travel story many years ago, I began to realise how humans involved in geographical challenges can limit their suffering by meticulous attention to planning, training and equipment preparation.

COLIN THUBRON
Travel writer and novelist; his latest book is Shadow of the Silk Road
Traveller’s Prelude:
Autobiography
1893–1927
by Freya Stark
A uniquely intimate and moving account of how a creative traveller’s life could emerge from the richness and troubles of a complex background. At the start of my own travelling life, it at once enchanted me. Freya Stark had travelled deeply in the Middle Eastern lands that were my first obsession, and this vivid and characterful book was the prelude to a friendship with its author that lasted until her death.

BARNABY ROGERSON
Travel writer, historian, biographer of the Prophet Mohammad and owner of the publishing company Eland
Lords of the Atlas
by Gavin Maxwell
This book did it for me. The ruined mountain-top kasbahs, the scent of corruption beneath the well-ordered constitutional charade, the messy deals behind the political banners that are only occasionally disturbed by a handful of principled humans: I can’t get enough of it, and I wish his wild, romantic spirit was still with us.

ROBIN HANBURY-TENISON
Explorer; travel writer; conservationist
Brazilian Adventure
by Peter Fleming
It epitomises the best of British self-deprecation in travel writing. It’s also very funny.

RORY STEWART
Former soldier and diplomat; author of Occu-pational Hazards and The Places in Between; runs the Turquoise Mountain Foundation in Kabul
Clear Waters Rising: A Mountain Walk Across Europe
by Nicholas Crane
Modest, tough, self-reliant, and generous, Crane walked for almost two years along the main mountain ranges of Europe from west to east. This is contemporary travel that unlocks the surviving beauty and remoteness of Europe’s high places without false heroism.

TIM MACKINTOSH-SMITH
Arabist, traveller and writer; resident of San’a, Yemen
Rihla (or Travels)
by Ibn Battutah
This book didn’t just inspire me, it virtually enslaved me. Battutah was a native of Morocco who spent 30 years of the 14th century travelling to China and back by the loopiest route imaginable. I’ve spent the past 12 years following him, writing about him. The journey goes on. Next stop: Chitta-gong in Bangladesh.

MARTIN RANDALL
Founder of leading cultural tour operator Martin Randall Travel
The Story of Art
by Ernst Gombrich
A childhood encounter with this book (I can remember the smell of the china-clay-coated pages to this day) was a big part of the mix that led to my becoming an art historian. The sense of wonder it aroused, the desire for understanding and the aesthetic delight it inculcated, turned me into an inveterate traveller. There are only two valid justifications for leisure travel: to look at great art and architecture, and to commune with nature.

DERVLA MURPHY
Travel writer; books include Through Siberia
by Accident and Full Tilt
Travels in the Interior of Africa
by Mungo Park
Half a century ago, I fell in love with Mungo Park, to whom I have remained faithful. Although Travels in the Interior of Africa was first published in 1799, we have not read its like again.

Books about Food

CLARISSA DICKSON WRIGHT
Cook; television presenter; food writer; countryside campaigner
The Art of Cookery
by Hannah Glasse (1747)
I use it the whole time; it’s as fresh today as it was when it was written, with as interesting a set of flavours. And the recipes work flawlessly.

HENRIETTA GREEN
Food writer; founder of FoodLoversBritain.com
Salads The Year Round
by Joy Larkcom
I discovered it in the 1970s, and it introduced me to the absolute joy and richness of salads—all the leaves, roots, seed heads, shoots, pods and other extraordinary things you can put in salads.

WILLIAM KENDALL
Green entrepreneur and organic farmer; ran the New Covent Garden Soup Company and Green & Black’s; Chairman of Moyses Stevens
English Bread and Yeast Cookery
by Elizabeth David
Elizabeth David recorded the vital elements of the English diet just in case we should ever value them again. That time may just have come, and we should honour her extraordinary vision and research.

TOM AIKENS
Michelin-starred chef; restaurateur; columnist
The End of the Line
by Charles Clover
It looks at all the huge problems and issues that the sea and fishing industry have on a global scale. I found it a very powerful book, which inspired me to look at fish in a very different way, particularly for my fish-and-chip shop, Tom’s Place.

LESLIE GEDDES-BROWN
Journalist; writer; Country Life food columnist; her latest book, just published, is The Walled Garden
Appetite
by Nigel Slater
Intelligent, funny and makes you think for yourself. Every dish works, too.

MARY CONTINI
Writer; director of Valvona & Crolla, the famous Italian delicatessen in Edinburgh
Honey from a Weed
by Patience Gray
An inspiring journey of feasting and fasting around the Mediterranean…a font of information, recipes and evocative thoughts of a slower life. Always by my bed.

SIMON HOPKINSON
Restaurateur; chef; writer; his Roast Chicken and Other Stories was voted best cookery book ever
The French Menu Cookbook
by Richard Olney
More than any other book, this one moved me to cook more thoughtfully.

RAYMOND BLANC
Chef; food writer; owner of Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons
Cooking in 10 Minutes
by Edouard de Pomiane

CLAUDIA RODEN
Food writer specialising in Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cookery
A Book of Mediterranean Food by Elizabeth David

RICK STEIN
Food hero; restaurateur; chef specialising in fish
A Book of Mediterranean Food by Elizabeth David

Biographies

CHARLES MOORE
Daily Telegraph and Spec-tator columnist; writing the authorised biography of Margaret Thatcher
The Life of Samuel Johnson
by James Boswell
It combines a full, factual account with a unique capacity to bring Johnson to life. It seems to understand the workings of his mind and reproduce the patterns of his speech. It is very admiring, but also truthful. A work of art that only British culture could have produced.

MAGGIE FERGUSSON
Biographer of George Mackay Brown; secretary of the Royal Society
of Literature
Stuart: A Life Backwards
by Alexander Masters
Jointly conceived by the author and the subject, this is the true story of Stuart Shorter, troubled, gifted, homeless, humorous, sensitive psycho and thief. The years are peeled back until one reaches the precise point at which 12-year-old Stuart’s mind spun inexorably out of control. This grave-to-cradle tale is a technical masterpiece, and much more. Through Stuart Shorter’s brief life, one glimpses all the beauty, and all the brokenness, of the human heart.

MICHAEL HOLROYD
Biographer; subjects include Lytton Strachey and Bernard Shaw
Frank Harris
by Hugh Kingsmill
I first read it 50 years ago, and it has been a lasting influence on my writing. Harris’s legendary reputation as a radical thinker, powerful political editor, great writer and brave man of action was des-troyed by this masterpiece of lyrical irony. Kingsmill adroitly tracks down the spoor of probable fact and reveals the fantasy of Harris’s career, its pathos, humour and eventual tragedy. It is a devastating and in places endearing transformation.

A. N. WILSON
Novelist; biographer; journalist/critic
Life of Thomas Carlyle (four volumes)
by J. A. Froude
Thomas Carlyle isn’t read much these days, but to the Victorians, he was the Great Sage. He nominated J. A. Froude as his biographer and the result scandalised many of Carlyle’s admirers for here was the great man, warts and all, which is what Carlyle had intended. It’s one of the great masterpieces of the biographer’s art.

FIONA MacCARTHY
Biographer and historian; subjects include Eric Gill, William Morris and Byron
Lytton Strachey
by Michael Holroyd
This book turned me into a biographer. For many young writers of my generation, it came as a revelation of what biography could be in its honesty and clarity in telling the life whole. The interaction of sex and creativity particularly interested me.

JAMES KNOX
Biographer of Robert Byron and (in progress) Osbert Lancaster; managing direc-tor of The Art Newspaper
Eminent Victorians
by Lytton Strachey
A masterpiece that radicalised the art of biography. Strachey taught biographers to reveal the emotional truth behind their subjects. Few, however, have matched his brilliant literary style.

JOHN MURRAY
Former proprietor of the publisher John Murray
George Mackay Brown: The Life
by Maggie Fergusson
This beautifully written biography of the Orcadian poet and storyteller delves below the surface to reveal a complex and private man and the Orkney that inspired him.

ANDREW MOTION
Writer; Poet Laureate Gilbert White
by Richard Mabey
Although hampered by a relative lack of personal documen-tation, and by the with-drawnness of his subject, Mabey manages to pro-duce a portrait of great distinction. It’s a quietly intense book, telling us a great deal about the life of the times as well as of White himself, and also mapping the development of distinctly modern natural history.

CARMEN CALLIL
Critic and writer; founder of Virago Press
Bernard Shaw
by Michael Holroyd
I was raised on Bernard Shaw. He taught me to think for myself, to respect no mindless authority, to laugh and to write. Here, he is perfectly matched by a biographer with similar qualities.

DENIS HEALEY
Former Chancellor of the Exchequer; author of acclaimed political auto-biography The Time
of My Life
Ernest Bevin
by Alan Bullock
A penetrating insight into the personality of Britain’s greatest Foreign Secretary of the 20th century. It’s particularly good on his family background and early career.

Books on a Rural Theme

ROBERT MACFARLANE
Author of Mountains of the Mind and The Wild Places
The Peregrine
by J. A. Baker
The story of a man compelled to follow the falcons that hunt over Maldon and the Dengie peninsula. An auto-biography of sorts, it’s also a prose-poem or hymn to the wildness of the falcons and the bleak beauties of the Essex landscape. I love it because it makes much maligned, over-farmed Essex seem as wild and strange as the Pamirs or the Arctic. I’ve learnt a great deal from the book’s fierce style.

ALEX JAMES
Former Blur bass player, who now lives in the Cotswolds
Cider with Rosie
by Laurie Lee
A wonderful pastoral prose-poem of simple life.

JOHN GUMMER
MP, environmental writer; Secretary of State for the Environment, 1993–97
The Blue Field
by John Moore
A lovely portrait of Elmbury and Brensham village, this book also tells of rural revolt against the over-weaning officiousness of civil servants. Even though it was written about war-time restrictions, it has such contemporary significance that it should be compulsory reading for everyone in Defra.

JONATHAN PORRIT
Director of Friends of the Earth, 1984–1990
So Shall We Reap
by Colin Tudge
It conducts a magisterial sweep over the past 10,000 years of farming, with a particular focus on what has happened since the mid-20th century. The author is deeply hostile to modern intensive agriculture and focuses on the damage it is doing to the environment as well as to farmers and communities.

DAVID FURSDON
President of the CLA, 2005–07
On the Black Hill
by Bruce Chatwin
It conjures up so well the rhythm of the seasons in agriculture, the comparatively small world within which farming families operate, the risks of the business, the ruggedness of the life and the scenery, and the way in which the rewards are not material so much as psychological.

MAX EGREMONT
Author; lives at Petworth House
As It Was, World Without End and Time and Again
by Helen Thomas
This trilogy of memoirs by the wife of the poet Edward Thomas is a wonderful mixture of good writing about landscape and an unforgettable evocation of young love in the pre-1914 world, when much of southern England was still remote and wild.

ZAC GOLDSMITH
Editor of The Ecologist
The Decline of an English Village
by Robin Page
A beautifully written, moving tale of rural England before the rise of the superstore and its transformation through industrial agriculture.

CHARLES CLOVER
Journalist; author of
The End of the Line The Making of the English Landscape
by W. G. Hoskins
The seminal book on the history of the countryside, which in England is largely manmade. Hoskins’ great insight is that everything in the landscape is older than we think it is. His mournful observation is that every development in the landscape since 1945, with the exception of the Midlands reservoirs, has made it uglier. This should be required reading for developers, road-builders and architects.

ADAM NICOLSON
Journalist, historian and writer; books include Sea Room
The Woodlanders
by Thomas Hardy
It’s about three great things: love, grief and the noble heart of Giles Winterbourne, all of them made to seem like reflections of the Dorset landscape, which has never been more beautifully described.

JILLY COOPER
Best-selling writer/romantic novelist
Dorothy Wordsworth’s Journals
She had the most wonderful eye for nature; she could turn a moonlit walk into a poem.

Top Reference Books

Gardening The Royal Horticultural Society Dictionary of Gardening (4 vols, 1992) ed. Mark Griffiths, Anthony Huxley & Margot Levy

Architecture ‘The Buildings of England’ by Pevsner, and later additions to the series, including ‘The Buildings of Scotland’, ‘Wales’ and ‘Ireland’

Children The Oxford Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes ed. Iona Opie

Natural History Fauna Britannica by Stefan Buczacki

Country pursuits The Great Salmon Rivers of Scotland by John Ashley-Cooper

Food The Oxford Companion to Food by Alan Davidson

Rural The AA Book of the British Countryside 1973 edition

Travel Encyclopedia of Travel Literature by Christopher K. Brown

Biography Dictionary of National Biography History The Penguin Atlas of World History (2 vols) by Hermann Kinder and Werner Hilgemann