The Wainwright Golden Beer Book Prize 2018 Shortlisted books
The Last Wilderness by Neil Ansell (Tinder Press)
Neil sets the experience of being in nature alone within the context of a series of walks that he takes into the most remote parts of Britain, the rough bounds in the Scottish Highlands. He illustrates the impact of being alone as part of nature, rather than outside it, and as he penetrates deeper into remote hills and shorelines, he finds himself having to face unforeseen challenges. This is a book that will make you question your place on the earth, and make you want to grab your walking boots and head for the hills.
“Neil Ansell describes his year exploring the wild coasts of north west Scotland with a passionate simplicity. Landscapes summon their own majestic descriptions. Wildlife whispers its presence. The author’s task is to avoid being interloper and Ansell is the perfect companion – reformed adventurer and reluctant poet. As we turn the pages of his book he disappears among the letters to leave us alone in the last wilderness.” Eric Robson
Neil Ansell was an award winning television journalist with the BBC and a long standing writer for the broadsheets. He is the author of two previous books, Deep Country and Deer Island, and has contributed to nature programmes and wildlife documentaries. He lives in Brighton.
Hidden Nature by Alys Fowler (Hodder & Stoughton)
Alys writes about a journey exploring the one hundred miles of navigable canals around Birmingham where she lives by boat. Paddling a network which is 200 years old, past the crumbling facades of Victorian factories and through deserted waterways, Alys discovered an unexpected wilderness in hidden parts of the city. But at the same time Alys was on an emotional journey of her own.
“A beautiful & brave memoir, which follows Fowler’s exploration into the heart, plants and the wildlife of the waterways. Her honest writing exposes not just the nature around her but the nature of her sexuality. Entwining the lessons from the two into a heady mix of nostalgia & inspiration.” Megan Hine
Alys Fowler is an award-winning journalist and passionate gardener. She has been Head Gardener of the BBC garden at Berryfields in Stratford-upon-Avon and a regular presenter on BBC Gardeners’ World. She writes regularly for newspapers and magazines and has a weekly column in The Guardian. Her BBC series, The Edible Garden aired on BBC2 in April 2010. BBC Books published The Edible Garden to accompany the series. In 2013 she presented an episode of Great British Garden Revival. She is the author of five books. Alys lives in Birmingham. @alysfowler
Outskirts by John Grindrod (Sceptre)
The green belt: a mystery of modern life. It doesn’t appear on maps, it is not signposted, and it is hard to know where it lies. It also stirs up fiery emotions. Here John Grindrod tells the story of the creation of these mysterious tracts of land: the people who dreamt up the idea; how and when they came into operation; and what people get up to in them. Outskirts is also deeply personal. As well as telling the story of the vision of the green belt, the complex and divisive position in which it now resides, caught between two worlds, it is also the story of growing up there.
“John Grindrod deftly blends memoir, social history and nature writing in this heartfelt tribute to the often overlooked slice of our country where city and countryside collide. A touching portrait of family life, and a friendly invitation to take another look at one’s own doorstep and appreciate the history and beauty of the everyday.” Bea Carvalho
John Grindrod worked as a bookseller and publisher for twenty-five years. His first book, the critically acclaimed Concretopia, told the tale of the rebuilding of Britain after the war. It was described by Alain de Botton as “charming”, by the 20th Century Society as “witty and informative” and by Leo Hollis as “powerful and personal”. John lives in London and has spent much time discovering where the green belts actually are. @Grindrod
The Dun Cow Rib by John Lister-Kaye (Canongate)
John Lister-Kaye has spent a lifetime exploring, protecting and celebrating the British landscape and its wildlife. His joyous childhood holidays – spent scrambling through hedges and ditches after birds and small beasts, keeping pigeons in the loft and tracking foxes around the edge of the garden – were the perfect apprenticeship for his two lifelong passions: exploring the wonders of nature, and writing about them. Warm, wise and full of wonder, The Dun Cow Rib is a captivating coming of age tale by one of the founding fathers of nature writing.
“This could have been written by Laurie Lee. It has all the lyrical passion and pace of that most consummate of writers. However autobiographical the story it is tempered richly with insights into nature and how his relationship with the great outdoors moulded the man and gave his life a rich purpose. Ever present are his parents and the way the memory of his mother motivated him to pursue his ultimate career and how his father attempted to dissuade him. The moment near the end in the boat with his aging father when the trout curved to the fly and the osprey claimed its prey and his father said ‘I don’t know why I’ve been fooling about in industry all my life’ that alone justifies this book’s shortlisting!” Peter Waine
Sir John Lister-Kaye is one of Britain’s best-known naturalists and conservationists. He is the author of ten books on wildlife and the environment and has lectured all over the world. He has served prominently in the RSPB, the Nature Conservancy Council, Scottish Natural Heritage and the Scottish Wildlife Trust. In 2002 he was awarded an OBE for services to nature conservation. In 2016 he was awarded the Royal Scottish Geographical Society’s Geddes Medal for services to the environment. He lives with his wife and family among the mountains of the Scottish Highlands, where he runs the world-famous Aigas Field Centre. His book Gods of the Morning won the inaugural Richard Jefferies Prize.
The Lost Words by Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris (Hamish Hamilton)
The Lost Words is a spell book that seeks to conjure the near-lost magic, beauty and strangeness of the nature that surrounds us, for readers both young and old. Taking the form of twenty ‘lost’ words, collected alphabetically from ‘Acorn’ to ‘Wren’ each word becomes a spell– written by Macfarlane, which is intended to be read aloud. The images – painted by Morris, capture first the absence of the plant or creature within its habitat and then its return. The spell summons the image and the word back into being, making this a book of enchantment in more than one sense.
“The Lost Words is a stunning book beautifully written by Robert Macfarlane and illustrated by Jackie Morris that represents a lost lexicon of nature. It seems impossible, laughable, that words like acorn, bluebell, fern, newt, otter and wren have been omitted from certain dictionaries because they are no longer relevant to modern-day childhood, but it is sadly true. This book brings to life words that should never be forgotten and should always be remembered. It’s a children’s book apparently – but don’t let that deter you.” Julia Bradbury
Robert Macfarlane is the author of a number of bestselling and prize-winning books including The Wild Places, The Old Ways, Holloway and Landmarks. His work has been translated into many languages and widely adapted for film, television and radio, and his essays have appeared in the New Yorker, Gran- ta and the Guardian. Most recently, the American Academy of Arts and Letters awarded him the EM Forster Award for Literature 2017. Robert Macfarlane is a Fellow of Emmanuel College, Cambridge, and is presently completing Underland, about underworlds real and imagined. @RobGMacfarlane
Jackie Morris grew up in the Vale of Evesham and studied at Hereford College of Arts and at Bath Academy. She has illustrated for the New Statesman, Independent and Guardian, has collaborated with Ted Hughes, and has written & illustrated over forty children’s books including beloved classics such as Song of the Golden Hare, Tell Me A Dragon, East of the Sun, West of the Moon and The Wild Swans. Jackie Morris lives in a cottage on the cliffs of Pembrokeshire. @JackieMorrisArt
The Seabird’s Cry by Adam Nicolson (William Collins, HarperCollins)
Seabirds are master navigators, thriving in the most demanding environment on earth. In this book, drawing on all the most recent research, Adam Nicolson follows them to the coasts and islands of Scotland, Ireland, Iceland, Norway, and the Americas. Beautifully illustrated by Kate Boxer, The Seabird’s Cry is a celebration of the wonders of the only creatures at home in the air, on land and on the sea. It also carries a warning: the number of seabirds has dropped by two-thirds since 1950. Extinction stalks the ocean and there is a danger that the grand cry of a seabird colony will this century become little but a memory.
“There is a sadness in the seabirds’ calls, a warning cry from far out to sea, from the crest of the waves and from the craggy cliffs, one that we should take note of but the author does not lecture nor does he paint a sombre picture but rather asks us to celebrate and enjoy and be aware that we have a responsibility to ensure that this great show will continue to be performed for millennia.” Peter Waine
Adam Nicolson is a prize-winning writer of many books on history, nature and the countryside including Sea Room, God’s Secretaries, The Gentry and the acclaimed The Mighty Dead. He is winner of the Royal Society of Literature’s Ondaatje Prize, the Somerset Maugham Award, the W. H. Heinemann Award and the British Topography Prize. He has written and presented many television series and lives on a farm in Sussex. @anicolson
The Salt Path by Raynor Winn (Michael Joseph)
In one devastating week, Raynor and her husband Moth lost their home of 20 years, just as a terminal diagnosis threatened to take away their future together. With nowhere else to go, they decided to walk the South West Coast Path: a 630-mile sea-swept trail from Somerset to Dorset, via Devon and Cornwall. The Salt Path is a piece of nature writing in the form of a memoir. Born out of extraordinary circumstances, this book gives insight to one woman’s journey that spans not only the entire South West Coast Path but also an emotional journey of redemption. In The Salt Path Raynor Winn allows us to discover the healing powers found in nature and the simple act of walking forward.
“The Salt Path is an extraordinarily visceral story of courage and endurance, pain, hope, acceptance and joy. Searingly honest, it portrays the full gamut of human emotion in extremis with a compelling narrative drive taking the reader every step of the way along the South West path with Ray and Moth. The people, nature, wildlife and weather they encounter on their epic journey are beautifully realised. What a wonderful book.” Katie Bond
Since completing the South West Coast Path, Raynor Winn has become a regular long-distance walker and writes about nature, homelessness and wild camping. She lives in Cornwall with her husband Moth and their dog, Monty, still on the South West Coast Path. This is her first book. @raynor_winn