Book Review: A Sweet, Wild Note by Richard Smyth

SWNReview posted this morning over at Considering Birds. The dawn chorus is really ramping up now, so what better season to pick up a book about birdsong?

I would highly recommend it as a thoughtful, accessible and witty introduction to the world of birdsong and defy anybody who reads this book not to resolve to pay more attention themselves.



Spring has been in the air for a remarkably long time, considering it’s not even March yet. Now spring is not just in the air but on bookshop shelves! I refer, of course, to the lovely anthology edited by Melissa Harrison and recently published by Elliot & Thompson in conjunction with the Wildlife Trusts. The Wildlife Trust’s website describes Spring thusly:

….some of the most beautiful and eclectic seasonal nature writing – from both celebrated and new authors.

I’m delighted to say that I’m one of those new authors, still getting used to the idea of having my actual name printed in an actual book. It’s a good feeling! Though I haven’t read many of the entries yet – I’m saving it up to use as piece-a-day sort of read throughout the spring months – I can vouch for the quality of those I have dipped into, and happily the book has been receiving very positive reviews. So, it is both my duty and joy to say: why not pick up a copy of Spring?

For those based relatively near to Berkshire, I’d also recommend a spring visit to Moor Copse, the BBOWT nature reserve that inspired by piece about wildflowers.

The Cricket On The Hearth

Right from the start, I have to say that The Cricket on the Hearth is not vintage Dickens. You get the sense that he was writing it with one half of his famously active mind whilst the other was reading letters, entertaining visitors or daydreaming about the theatre. An objective, somewhat cynical appraisal of Dickens’s five Christmas books would probably see them as increasingly commercial and derivative of his original festive hit, A Christmas Carol. That may not be fair – after all, I’ve only read two of his Christmas stories – but Cricket is clearly weaker than Carol in all respects and relies heavily on tropes developed in its more famous predecessor, down to the curmudgeonly, soon-to-be-reformed miser.

Frontispiece of the secondedition from 1846

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Cold Blood, Warm Hearts

“What does the lizard know? Imagine knowing that these things might happen, and letting go, closing one’s eyes, dozing off, leaving everything to hazard.”

Cold Blood by Richard Kerridge

Cold Blood is a book with a warm heart. Blending recollections of a lifetime’s obsession with reptiles and reflections on their place in today’s world, Richard Kerridge makes an original and likeable contribution to the seemingly ever-expanding (and increasingly hard to define) nature writing genre. At heart, conservation is about the meeting point between the needs of what Kerridge affectionately refers to throughout as ‘wild nature’ and the needs of those in human society who are besotted with it. As such, I’d go so far as to call this essential reading for those who want to understand contemporary nature conservation, especially in the UK.

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