Nonfiction November: Week 1

Week 1: (November 1-5) – Your Year in Nonfiction with Rennie at What’s Nonfiction: Take a look back at your year of nonfiction and reflect on the following questions – What was your favorite nonfiction read of the year? Do you have a particular topic you’ve been attracted to more this year? What nonfiction book have you recommended the most? What are you hoping to get out of participating in Nonfiction November?  

So far this year I’ve read 15 nonfiction books, more than in previous years, but I haven’t managed to write reviews of all of them. The links shown take you to my posts, where they do exist.

My favourite is English Pastoral: An Inheritance by James Rebanks.

I read it in February and gave it 5*. I thought then it would be one of the best books I’d read this year and I still think that. Rebanks’ farm is in the Lake District hills. It was part of an ancient agricultural landscape: a patchwork of crops and meadows, of pastures grazed with livestock, and hedgerows teeming with wildlife. And yet, by the time James inherited the farm, it was barely recognisable. The men and women had vanished from the fields; the old stone barns had crumbled; the skies had emptied of birds and their wind-blown song.

It is inspirational as well as informative and it is beautifully written. I enjoyed his account of his childhood and his nostalgia at looking back at how his grandfather farmed the land. And I was enlightened about current farming practices and the effects they have on the land, depleting the soil of nutrients.

But all is not doom and gloom as Rebanks explains what can be done to put things right, how we can achieve a balance of farmed and wild landscapes, by limiting use of some of the technological tools we’ve used over the last 50 years so that methods based on mixed farming and rotation can be re-established. By encouraging more diverse farm habitats, rotational grazing and other practices that mimic natural processes we can transform rural Britain.

I can highly recommend reading English Pastoral. I loved it and came away with much to think about and also hope for the future.


I like to vary my reading but tend to lean towards reading memoirs, biographies and history. This year I’ve also been interested in climate change, politics and in learning more about Covid-19 and how it’s been managed. Taking part in Nonfiction November in previous years has given me an incentive to read more nonfiction and I’m sure it will again this year. I’m looking forward to seeing what others have been reading!

Theses are the other 5* books:

  1. A Life on Our Planet by David Attenborough 5*
  2. Ice Bound by Jerri Nielsen 5*
  3. The Yorkshire Shepherdess by Amanda Owen 5*
  4. I Love the Bones of You by Christopher Ecclestone 5*

The remaining 10 books:

  1. For the Record by David Cameron
  2. The Salt Path by Raynor Winn
  3. The Way Home by Mark Boyle
  4. How Britain Ends by Gavin Esler
  5. And Away by Bob Mortimer
  6. Breathtaking by Rachel Clarke
  7. The Madness of Crowds by Douglas Murray
  8. Index, A History of the by Dennis Duncan
  9. Failures of State by Jonathan Calvert and George Arbuthnott
  10. Another Journey Through Britain by Mark Probert

19 thoughts on “Nonfiction November: Week 1

  1. English Pastoral is on my TBR pile, once I’m ‘finished’ with my current literary biography/companion phase, I will bump it to the top.
    Were there any Covid books you would recommend?


  2. I am almost certainly going to read English Pastoral, as the grandchild (and niece) of farmers, albeit in a very different country and therefore different conditions. But I’m also interested in the Christopher Eccleston memoir – my favourite Doctor.


  3. I’ve had English Pastoral on my radar for a while, I may even have it on my Goodreads ‘want to read’ shelf as I seem to forget what’s on there on a regular basis. I must also look up Ice Bound as I’m in an Arctic/Antarctic sort of mood at the moment after watching a BBC (maybe… actually I think it may have been ITV) doc. on a scientific research group of hundreds who spent a winter on the Arctic ice.


  4. English Pastoral sounds absolutely beautiful! What an interesting topic.

    A friend loaned me a copy of The Salt Path because she loved it so much and I’ve read such glowing reviews, but I’m really hesitating on it because the topic makes me sad just in reading the summary! Good to hear you enjoyed it so much, I need to give it a try.

    Wonderful selection you’ve had this year!


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