This blog’s Books of the Year, 2021

Since my last Books of the Year review I have reviewed a further 50 books – it’s a record! Since these Books of the Year reviews are timed to come out to inform your Christmas book buying there are a few books which were published in 2020 that appear in this list but let’s still call it Books of 2021.

Reading books is a great pleasure; reviewing books is a more limited pleasure, but still a pleasure. The difference is that if one starts reading a book, and you don’t get on with it, you just put it down and maybe send it to the Oxfam shop. If you are reviewing a book then you are committed to describing and assessing it in public, although your judgement is a very personal one. But overall, having to read some books I’d rather put down is more than compensated by the joy of reading a great many books that I might not have got around to reading. Indeed, the very worst might have happened – I might have bought them and never read them – how foolish would that be?

Here are the 50 books reviewed by me on this site in the last 12 months, ordered alphabetically by author. My 10 shortlisted books for this blog’s Book of the Year are highlighted in grey backgrounds:;

Goshawk Summer by James Aldred – review

The History of the World in 100 Animals by Simon Barnes – review

Gone by Michael Blencowe – review

A Sky Full of Kites by Tom Bowser – review

Britain’s Insects by Paul D. Brock – review

Wild Winter by John D. Burns – review

The Oak Papers by James Canton – review

Human, Nature by Ian Carter – review

On Gallows Down by Nicola Chester – review

Moorland Matters by Ian Coghill – review

Beak, Tooth and Claw by Mary Colwell – review

The Implausible Rewilding of the Pyrenees by Steve Cracknell – review

Lakeland Wild by Jim Crumley – review

Restoring the Wild by Roy Dennis – review

Mistletoe Winter by Roy Dennis – review

The Glitter in the Green by Jon Dunn – review

A Curious Boy by Richard Fortey – review

The Screaming Sky by Charles Foster – review

Lost Animals by Errol Fuller – review

Swifts and Us by Sarah Gibson – review

Silent Earth by Dave Goulson – review

Rebugging the Planet by Vicki Hird – review

Bee Tiger by Philip Howse – review

Vagrancy in Birds by Alexander Lees and James Gilroy – review

Wild Mull by Stephen Littlewood and Martin Jones – review

Birds of Lincolnshire by Lincolnshire Bird Club – review

Much Ado About Mothing by James Lowen – review

More Birds than Bullets by Geoffrey McMullan – review

Shearwater by Roger Morgan-Grenville – review

The Swallow by Stephen Moss – review

Skylarks with Rosie by Stephen Moss – review

The Colour of Silence by Claire Newton – review

Women on Nature by Katharine Norbury – review

Back to Nature by Chris Packham and Megan McCubbin – review

Wild Farming by Robin Page – review

Birding in an Age of Extinction by Martin Painter – review

Regeneration by Andrew Painting – review

Light Rains Sometimes Fall by Lev Parikian – review

Biography of a Fly by Jaap Robben and Paul Faassen – review

Flight from Grace by Richard Pope – review

The Eternal Season by Stephen Rutt – review

Three Million Wheelbarrows by Kathleen Saunders – review

Out and About, Discovering British Wild Flowers by Deidre Shirreffs – review

Calls from the Wild by Alan Stewart – review

International Treaties in Nature Conservation by Stroud, D.A. et al. – review

Birds of Chew Valley Lake by Keith Vinicombe – review

Butterflies by Martin Warren  – review

The Amazing Story of Montagu’s Harrier by Elvira Werkman – review

Ecology and Natural History by David Wilkinson – review

A Spotter’s Guide to Countryside Mysteries by John Wright – review

I’ve made a habit this year of commenting on the covers of the books that I have reviewed – although I’ve been a bit lapse at doing it every time. You shouldn’t judge a book by its cover but first impressions are always important and we often encounter a book by staring at its cover. Will it draw us into the book or put us off? Will it give a true or false impression of the words inside the covers?

Looking back over these 50 books there are five covers which I gave 9/10 and having looked back at the ones that I didn’t score none of them would have achieved that score.

Those five covers are these (in no particular order):

Which of those covers would be your favourite?

And so to my book of 2021. Last year I struggled to pick one book from 40 or so and eventually weakened and chose two joint favourites (but they were both excellent). This year I have oscillated between three or four of the short-listed 10 books but have resolved to choose just one of them.

My book of the year is a self-published book by an author of whom most of you will never have heard. The author asked me whether I would like to see a copy of his (for, yes, it is a he) book and I wondered what it would be like. It’s brilliant, and deserves to be read widely even though it does not have a large publishing empire behind it. I think the book has a slightly off-putting title, and a slightly off-putting cover, but the words inside are just brilliant.

This book explores a very current subject – rewilding, and the end of rewilding which is about large scary carnivores, largely on the France/Spain border in the Pyrenees. This is a very ‘real’ book in the sense that the author explores and documents the conflicts between carnivores (mostly bears and wolves) and people (mostly those looking after grazing animals), but also the conflicts between people with different perspectives, values and interests. The people who are given voices in this book provide deep insights into human-animal and human-human conflicts. We meet people with very different views and so are taken into the subject in a very direct way. I can’t think of a similar book.

So, after much thought, and partly because I feel this book is one which will slip under many people’s radar, but largely because, amongst many others, this book made the biggest single impression on me all year, my book of the year for 2021 is The Implausible Rewilding of the Pyrenees by Steve Cracknell – review .


8 Replies to “This blog’s Books of the Year, 2021”

  1. If I were Steve Cracknell I’d be a bit miffed at Lulu. is a site for self publishers and, supposedly, you can order from them direct, as suggested in Mark’s review.
    Well I’ve just tried that and you can’t. A search by Title or author turns up nothing. A search by last 90 days brings up titles issued in 2006.
    As an author I would not be impressed.
    Unless of course it’s me.
    More money for Amazon then:(

  2. Of the short-listed book jackets my short-shortlist would be Regeneration, Women on Nature and The Screaming Sky. Hard to choose a winner amongst them but I think Regeneration just edges it for me. It would be good to know the names of the artists behind these designs (Jonathan Pomroy in the case of the swifts, I see).

  3. Reading this list my mind wandered to the amount of endeavour required to produce these books – whatever their merit.

    When the pandemic blew up Dearly Beloved Mrs Cobb worried that her work might dry up if economic activity bombed but she worried needlessly as she has never had so much work copy-editing and proof-reading or as she sometimes describes it “wiping the arses of incompetent authors” which I think is a bit harsh even if true as many peeps have something interesting or useful to say even if they can’t write it up properly innit and let’s face it if they could she wouldn’t have so much work so although this is true it annoys her when I point out that it’s them what keep her in organic walnuts and hand-carved Dorset Seasalt.

    Books don’t materialise out of the ether either even though like many other Cargo Cult items you can’t see them coming until they appear and there is a lot of awful work that goes into them so the gestation period may be rather long and my guess is that most of the current incoming pre-dates the Big Lurgy although at least one author stated the work was a precaution against brian shrinkage during lockdown. When or if it is all over I hope there will be some reliable statistics about this and that I am alive to read them even if they are comparable to those attributing the rise of suicides in Hawaii to the increase in cheese consumption in Maine which although amusing may not be causally linked. I live in hope of finding a very short book that explains in very few words how to identify a random walk in the meantime at Chrimbo I will be re-reading a couple of books by Lars Mytting.

    If a cover has to be a winner it’s “The Screaming Sky” for me.

  4. The Screaming Sky is my favourite. i truly great read.
    The cover by Jonathan Pomroy inspired me to visit his workshop and buy a very nice print which means I see swifts every day. Well on my wall at least.

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