A reading list for World Book Day
To celebrate both World Book Day and International Women’s Day, I’m selecting a few of my favourites from my bookshelf.
France en Velo (Hannah Reynolds and John Walsh)
Hannah Reynolds has produced (along with her writing partner John Walsh) the type of guidebook I would love to write: France en Velo is full of gorgeous photographs, tantalising titbits and inspirational passages that make you ache to ride the routes she describes so well. It’s not just a list of overnight stops with an unrealistic schedule – it definitely has the feel of a holiday, especially as so much of the book seems to be spent drinking wine. Since acquiring Hannah’s book I’ve longed to cycle across France, which is exactly what I’ll be doing this September, riding up the iconic Mont Ventoux along the way.
Sally’s Odd at Sea (Sally Kettle)
Sally Kettle and I shared a stage at a fundraiser for a team preparing for an ocean row, and I adored her straight away: a brilliant speaker, funny and self-deprecating, gorgeous too, who clearly gains a great amount of joy from doing what she does. In 2003 Sally set out to row across the Atlantic with her then boyfriend, but when he had to withdraw, she was left with no team mate – so her mother stepped in. The resulting book is an inspiring, hilarious account of their journey across the Atlantic in which you can really hear Sally’s voice in every word. She’s since become a good friend and is every bit as great in real life as she is on the page.
The Lonely Sea (Yvette Allum)
This is an odd little book, but one that has really stuck in my mind since I bought it on the recommendation of a friend. It tells the tale of spearo Sue Dockar who was swept out to sea during a national spearfishing competition and survived 48 hours of floating on her back before she was rescued, horribly dehydrated and sunburnt. Yvette Allum is the author, and weaves Sue’s story with an exploration of what went wrong that day that resulted in near tragedy. What mental strength it must have taken for Sue to resist giving up and sinking to the bottom of the ocean: ‘I still remember the dream I had the second night I was in the water and how peaceful it felt and how easy it would have been to do what the voice was telling me – just let go of my buoy and swim down to that little village.’
Wild Nights (Phoebe Smith)
Fellow Summersdale author Phoebe Smith is a well-known travel writer and adventurer whose recent challenges include walking the length of Hadrian’s Wall at Christmas to raise money and awareness for Centrepoint, the homeless charity, and wild camping in some of the least hospitable place in the UK. Her ‘Wild Nights’ challenge takes her to Britain’s extremes: lowest point, highest point, farthest east/west etc etc, though her attempt to make camp on Britain’s highest mountain, Ben Nevis, is disrupted by a discovery of so much litter that she decides to ditch the challenge in favour of clearing up – an equally worthy task.
The Carbon Cycle (Kate Rawles)
Kate Rawles is an eco-adventurer who truly walks the talk; for her most recent expedition, exploring biodiversity in the Andes, she built herself a bamboo bicycle and transported it and herself across the Atlantic ocean by cargo ship. The Carbon Cycle, Kate’s first book, tells of a previous challenge in which she cycles the spine of the Rockies from Mexico to Alaska, finding out what Americans really think of climate change. The result is a funny, charming, frustrating yet hopeful look at what we need to be doing in the battle to save humanity and all who rely on the planet for survival.
Waymaking (various authors)
Given to me by my lovely friend (and fellow author) Cathy, Waymaking is a beautiful collection of poetry and short stories by women. I really like this excerpt, from a story entitled Snow by Bernadette McDonald:
It begins to snow. Oh, how beautiful are these feather-like flakes, this qanki. The falling snow muffles every sound. It seems more silent than usual. I can’t even hear my skis. I try to wipe the images of Dad in the last days of his life from my mind. I try to replace them with memories from the trail: the long gliding descents, the purposeful climbs.
I remember hearing about an Inuit tradition where they walked off their anger in the tundra. They walk and walk until it disappears, and then return, their load lightened. Maybe, if I just continue skiing, the rhythm and the sliding and the snow and the silence will ease this pain. I’ll keep skiing until they do.
Eat Sleep Cycle (Anna Hughes)
I couldn’t write a list without including one of mine. It’s my first book, Eat Sleep Cycle, and I’m very proud of it – I always wanted to be a writer, but never thought I could be, more easily led by the critical voices than the supportive ones. In the end I decided to write a book for me, that I liked – if you try to please everyone you end up pleasing no one. I heard JK Rowling did the same.