I'm a great fan of the increasingly popular genre of ‘nature writing’, with recent favourites including Robert Macfarlane’s The Wild Places and Philip Connors’ Fire Season. However, although it is not a genre that tends to produce terrible books, it can tend towards mediocrity; good descriptive writing abounds but truly exceptional work is rare. That’s why I was delighted to discover this marvellous book of essays – and sad that I hadn’t come across Kathleen Jamie’s work earlier. (Findings, her first collection, has shot right to the top of my to-read list).
In other news: I was thrilled to see Ann Patchett's State of Wonder on the Orange shortlist, as it was the best book I'd read on the longlist, and one of my top ten books for 2011. Madeline Miller's The Song of Achilles has also been on my to-read list for some time, so this is an extra nudge to actually read it! I was less thrilled to see The Forgotten Waltz by Anne Enright (because I hated The Gathering, and not sure I want to try any more of her work!) and Half Blood Blues by Esi Edugyan (because after trying and failing to read it for the Booker shortlist, I've concluded it's Just Not My Thing). As for the other two titles, I can take them or leave them, but I've ordered both from the library. A good shortlist on the whole, I thought, with the only notable omission for me being Jane Harris's Gillespie and I - this novel really hasn't had the attention it deserves.