In The Country Magazine
kate humble
Farming In The Country Lifestyle

Seasonal Reads with Kate Humble

As if Kate Humble wasn’t busy enough running her own rural skills centre; Humble By Nature on her working farm in Monmouth, with courses ranging from smallholding management to animal husbandry, Kate also presents her new Channel 5 programme; Escape To The Farm where she has invited camera crews onto her very own farm to share for the first time, what goes on behind the scenes. You may recognise Kate from BBC Two’s Lambing Live which she co-presented with Adam Henson, in addition to all of this, Kate is also a published author, having written five books including, Thinking on Her Feet and her most recent, A Year of Living SimplyMy Journey From Complexity to Contentment. *Feature image is credited to Clare Richardson

A Year of Living Simply by Kate Humble

If there is one thing that most of us aspire to, it is, simply, to be happy. And yet attaining happiness has become, it appears, anything but simple. Having stuff – The Latest, The Newest, The Best Yet – is all too often peddled as the sure fire route to happiness. Kate comments, “Writing this book was a hugely enjoyable journey of discovery that helped me realise that convenience is something we often confuse with simplicity, but it robs us of things – skills, small achievements – that bring deep and lasting contentment.”

RRP: £20 order via Amazon.co.uk

Cider with Rosie by Laurie Lee

This was the book I reached for when the first lockdown was announced. I hadn’t read it for years, but in my mind it was a book of comfort, full of tenderly recalled observations of rural life on a small scale: one dictated by the fact that the only way almost everyone in the village could travel was on foot or by bicycle. It seemed to me to be perfect lockdown reading, and indeed it was. Laurie Lee conjures up the Gloucestershire valley and the small village where he grew up during the early part of the 20th century. Its charm comes, not from unrealistic recollections of a bucolic idyll – it is much more pragmatic than that – but from the writing, which is honest, lively, poetic and just hugely pleasurable to read.

RRP: £9.99 order via Amazon.co.uk

Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell

This story took my breath away. How does Maggie O’Farrell do it? In what seems to be such a deceptively simple way, she weaves words into a web that draws the reader in, deeper and deeper, until you are there, walking the paths, the streets, with her characters. You are in the corner of the room looking on, hearing their voices. You can smell and taste the world she has created and emotionally you become so invested in it, that when tragedy strikes, it is the reader’s tragedy too. The feelings of loss are mutual and shared and the long, painful, road to redemption is travelled together, the reader experiencing every emotion, every twist of confusion, grief, hurt, abandonment. All of which makes this sound like a dark and desperate read, but it is anything but. It left me emotionally wrung out but also wonderfully uplifted, in the way only a beautifully told story can.

*Winner of the Women’s Prize for Fiction 2020
RRP: £20 order via Amazon.co.uk

English Pastoral by James Rebanks

James Rebanks had a tough act to follow after the extraordinary success of A Shepherds Life, but English Pastoral is a book I’ve been recommending to everyone. First and foremost, it is a beautiful book to read – I found myself unable to put it down. It is a book of lessons learnt in nature and from people whose lives were guided, dictated and immersed in the natural world. But the relationship was – and is – not always harmonious, and Rebanks writes with admirable candour about the battles both his family and their neighbours fought with nature to try and make a living from farming. And what he learns: the value of working with nature, not against it, is timely and important. It makes us all think, helps us all understand that the most fundamental choices we make about what we eat have a direct impact on our world, our health and well-being, wherever we live and whatever our circumstances. It doesn’t lecture or heckle, nor is it in anyway doom-mongering. It is a beautifully articulate, reasoned account of experiences gained from a life on the land that leaves the reader feeling optimistic, hopeful and empowered.

RRP: £20 order via Amazon.co.uk

The Testaments – Margaret Attwood

Before the much-anticipated release of Margaret Attwood’s The Testaments, I re-read my copy of The Handmaids Tale – bought the year it came out and still vivid in my mind. The society she created in the pages of that book, that astonishing dystopia, felt so real, so horribly possible, even over thirty years after it was published, its impact was every bit as jolting and discomforting as when I first read it. But it’s a story that felt so complete, so finite, so perfectly executed that any sort of sequel or follow-up seemed, to me, entirely unnecessary and unjustified. And had I said that to Margaret Attwood, and had she listened, I would have deprived us all of this remarkable book, which is neither sequel nor follow-up, but the story told from a different perspective. It is a narrative that gets under your skin and lodges deep in your head and takes you over. It is horrifying, mesmerising, captivating, dark, redemptive and utterly, utterly marvellous.

RRP: £8.99 order via Amazon.co.uk

The Almanac – a Seasonal Guide to 2021 by Lia Leendertz

When I was a child, no Christmas was complete without getting an annual – The Beano, Rupert Bear, Blue Peter, the Guinness Book of Records. Now Christmas doesn’t seem complete without the latest Almanac by Lia Leendertz. Since her first in 2018 I have built
up the entire collection of them and I keep the latest with me in my bag and by my bed to dip joyfully into. There are recipes, songs, nature notes. You can discover what to do in your garden according to the phases of the moon. There are sea temperatures and tide tables. Seasonal foraging tips, folklore, beautiful illustrations. This year’s Almanac has a theme of movement, migration and pilgrimage and we learn when toads are on the move, and humpback whales and pipistrelle bats. We discover the Romani names for the months and how they are intrinsically linked to what will be happening in the natural world at that time. In short, this latest Almanac, like its predecessors, is a little gem which informs and surprises in the most delightful of ways.

RRP: £10.99 order via Amazon.co.uk

What’s Editor-in-Chief, Hollie-Ella reading?

Clanlands: Whisky, Warfare, and a Scottish Adventure Like No Other by Sam Heughan and Graham McTavish

After having been captivated by Outlander on Amazon Prime during the first lockdown, and following my recent road-trip around the North Coast 500 route of the Scottish Highlands, I knew when Sam and Graham’s book launched it would be one that I would race to pick up. To not only discover part of my own heritage that is Scotland, but also to marvel (and laugh) at their experiences as the pair loaded up a camper and hit the road.

I can also highly recommend Sam’s Sassenach Whisky, maybe to accompany the book?

RRP: £20 order via Amazon.co.uk

What are you reading this season?

We’d love to hear from you, if you’re looking for book ideas, we hope this short piece has given you a few to think about but, head over to Amanda Owen’s recommendations which she kindly shared with us last Spring: The Yorkshire Shepherdess’ Seasonal Reads.

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