So what did I read last year that was old and true? I found three collections of Pauline Kael’s film reviews in my local bookshop, Hooked, Reeling, and Movie Love and boy she could write. I bought a book about gulls but I suspect you won’t be very interested in that. I enjoyed browsing several of the Best Birdwatching Sites books published by Buckingham Press and if you are going to, or live near, the Scottish Highlands, Yorkshire, or North-East England (and actually like birds of course) you should definitely get your hands on one of those. (They do other places too, but those are the ones I have used). I reread some Nigel Slater, and remembered why I fell in love with him in the first place. At the risk of sounding mean, I think he works better on the page than the screen. He’s a brilliant writer, is what I should say.
I also re-read Marie Kondo, a bit, and tidied up, a bit. Say what you like about her attitude toward books and how that makes you feel emotionally, but the way she folds socks will change your life.
Actually, it was in the news the other day that charity shops have seen an increase in book donations since Marie Kondo’s Netflix series. This means that all those people on Twitter who got upset at the idea of throwing away any books at all will now have access to even more books, and all because of Marie Kondo. Mixed feelings all round, I suppose.
But the (pre-2018) non-fiction book that I most enjoyed last year was The Crofter and The Laird by John McPhee. This was something of an impulse buy. I picked it up at Landmark Forest Adventure Park, drawn to its beautiful cover. I know people say you can’t judge a book by its cover but you can a little bit. Daunt Books did such a nice job of the reissue it would be churlish not to have a little positive judge. And, when part of the cover consists of the words John McPhee, judge away. It will be brilliant.
And so it proved. Originally published in 1970, it is a book about Colonsay, and the people who lived there at the time. McPhee moved his family to the island and lived there, temporarily becoming part of the community. McPhee has a great eye for story and a near peerless prose style. I read the whole book the same day that I bought it. In fact, he is so good that if you think about it for too long it makes you feel a bit sick. Why does he get all the good sentences, eh? Stupid brilliant writers writing all their books, all brilliant and that. It’s just stupid.