Books

Reading List #9: Gardening, Philosophy, Poetry, And The Book of Dust

PHILIP PULLMAN RELEASED A NEW BOOK and this made me so excited that of course I had to go and buy it straight away.

The Book of Dust by Philip Pullman

Predictably, it was excellent.

The book, which is the first part of a new series called La Belle Sauvage, is a prequel to the His Dark Materials  series, which was basically my Harry Potter.

As a teenager I wasn’t allowed to read Harry Potter because it was banned by my mother’s cult, but they hadn’t heard of Philip Pullman so I could read his books without being hounded by religious maniacs.

I devoured them, and when this one came out I hoped it’d be just as good even though I hadn’t read anything by Pullman for years, and even though it’s a prequel, which tend to be quite hit-and-miss.

The story follows Malcolm, a philosophical youngster whose parents run an Oxford inn. One day his path crosses the baby Lyra’s, and after that nothing is quite the same. When he meets a fascinating woman who’s researching some of life’s most enticing mysteries, Malcolm is hooked: he knows he’s becoming part of something that’s much bigger than himself. And when Lyra’s life is put in danger, Malcolm realises he would do anything to protect her.

Philip Pullman has lost none of his magic, and the book was as gripping to me as the His Dark Materials series was when I was younger. I also realised while reading it that His Dark Materials was where my interest in physics came from: before that, it’d been a boring school subject that seemed to have something to do with levers? (sorry, Mr. Beaumont) After reading His Dark Materials, though, physics was transformed into something mysterious, beautiful and dark.

Arthur C. Clarke told us “Magic is just science we don’t understand yet.” Well, His Dark Materials taught me that science can be magical, and that things people believe are magical can be explained using science, and it probably wouldn’t be much of an exaggeration to say this realisation set me on my life’s path of philosophical and psychological exploration into these subjects.


Window-Box Allotment by Penelope Bennett

From one science/magic crossover to another – perhaps the most obvious of all – nature.

I don’t miss my previous house, which had terrible neighbours and was in the arse end of nowhere, making it difficult to get… well, anywhere. But I do miss having a garden. Now I live in a flat in London, which I love but I’d like to make it a bit more planty. (Shut up, that’s a word.)

So I bought a few books written for people who have very limited space – I have several window-boxes, a tiny balcony thing, and a bit of wall out the front behind which I could probably stick some pots – and I read them this week.

Window-Box Allotment is a lovely book and definitely the one I’ll be using the most, because it’s set out in month-by-month chapters which makes it really easy for reference. It also has exerpts from the author’s diaries, which are almost Victorian in their pretty simplicity: if you’ve read and enjoyed Anne of Green Gables, I think you’ll like this too.


The Edible Balcony by Alex Mitchell

Another gardening book I’ll be referring to frequently, The Edible Balcony is a handy book to have around if you’re looking to garden without a garden.

Talking through the easiest crops to plant, including where to plant them (sun/shade, wind/calm etc) and when to tend to them, it’s a very useful book that makes for a quick and easy read. It also contains examples of balcony and roof gardens around the world to inspire you, and shows you how to make some of the pots and containers in case you’re feeling DIY-ey.


Grow All You Can Eat In Three Square Feet by Naomi Schillinger

This book probably has some useful stuff in it, but I couldn’t read it for long because the formatting was so annoying. So many words in every sentence were bold, seemingly at random, and the pages felt very bitty in how they were put together.

All became clearer when I got to the end and read the author’s profile: Naomi Schillinger was a blogger first and foremost, and indeed the book reads like a series of blog posts. The thing is, what works online is very different from what works in actual physical books, which don’t lend themselves to so much randomly formatted TEXT.


Robert Frost’s Collected Poems

I’d been looking for this book for ages, and I finally found it in the wonderful Daunt Books in Holland Park. Go there, it’s good.

Robert Frost is one of my favourite poets, and I thoroughly enjoyed working my way through this, cup of tea in one hand and legs hanging over the side of the armchair. Poetry works best when I’m in a relaxed frame of mind, I find.

If you like Robert Frost, you’ll probably enjoy this, obviously. If you’ve only read his most popular stuff, there are some real gems in here which you’ll also love.


The Hegel Bulletin

I get this quarterly, and as the name suggests it’s a journal devoted to Hegelian philosophy. This particular issue, which focused on Hegel and critical theory, wasn’t really my cup of tea, but past issues have had my brain happily chewing for days.

If you’re into Hegelian philosophy, this is a must. Subscription to the journal is £25 per year and is automatic when you join the Hegel Society of Great Britain.


Philosophy of Logics by Susan Haack

Haack is a leading authority on logical philosophy, and this book is a great example of why. Talking through some of the knottiest of logical concepts, Haack defines many of the terms native to logical philosophy, also looking at the difference between philosophical logics and other logics (hence the titular plural).

For students of logic, this book is a must-read.


Missing, Presumed by Susie Steiner

When Edith, the daughter of a prominent couple who have connections to the higher echelons of British politics, disappears one day leaving a trail of blood and broken glass behind her, Detective Sergeant Manon Bradshaw knows this isn’t going to be a straightforward case.

As the investigation unfolds, more and more of Edith’s secrets come out, shedding suspicion on many different parties – but who is really guilty? Is Edith dead, or has she been kidnapped? Could she have run away?

This is a book that tries hard to be gripping and filled with plot twists, but just doesn’t quite live up to the mark. I couldn’t bring myself to care about the storyline or the characters, who all seemed a bit one-dimensional.


What have you read recently? Leave me some recommendations in the comments below!


 

1 thought on “Reading List #9: Gardening, Philosophy, Poetry, And The Book of Dust”

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