Nonfiction November #NonFicNov23 – Week Two, Choosing Nonfiction

I am excited to be hosting Week 2 of Nonfiction November this week.  The other hosts for Nonfiction November are fellow bloggers Liz (Adventures in reading, running and working from home), , Heather (Based on a True Story), and Lisa (Hopewell’s Public Library of Life), and Rebekah (She Seeks Nonfiction).

  • Week 2Dates: 11/6-11/10
    • Host: That would be me, Frances
    • Title: Choosing Nonfiction
    • Description: What are you looking for when you pick up a nonfiction book? Do you have a particular topic you’re attracted to? Do you have a particular writing style that works best? When you look at a nonfiction book, does the title or cover influence you? If so, share a title or cover which you find striking.

Do you find yourself wandering around bookshops – that is if  you are lucky enough to have access to a real bookshop these days – thinking that you fancy reading something ‘different’ but you’ve no idea what it is?  I used to often feel this way.

We are peddled a relentless diet of best-sellers and known names, books which may or may not answer a need, and nowhere is that feeling stronger than in a high street bookstore.  Where is the opportunity for that quirky discovery with the battered binding?

Since I have discovered the blogosphere and all my bookish friends online, I don’t really have a problem in finding books to read any more, quite the opposite.  But I do miss just wandering around the shelves and picking up a book here or there just to see.

When browsing, I avoid footballers, celebrities and disgruntled royals.   I look for good biography, memoir, art, art history.  I mentioned in my post last week the occasional guilt complex at not reading more widely in other categories.  Probably in 2024 I will try and address that.

In terms of a favoured cover I’m pretty sold on this one which is from my current read, Jackie Wullschlager’s Biography, Monet: The Restless Vision:


I love colour.

I think human beings are attracted to bright colours.  Maybe Monet thought so too.  Here is some colour courtesy of the net.

Geordanna Cordero on Unsplash

I’m also a fan of the new nature writing, usually a blend of authoritative essay style writing on the natural world, combined with autobiographical details from the life of the author

Little Toller Books have an excellent if a somewhat pricey array of these books. Here are three that have caught my eye.

.  My

An allotment is a utopia. It is a green place where anyone can occupy a piece of land, and grow with freedom of expression.

I don’t know whether people that use allotments would agree with that idea, or how you grow with freedom of expression – or without freedom of expression unless you’re entering for Chelsea.  I’m not really a gardener in any way shape or form but my brother in law has worked an allotment plus a garden for decades.  I never quite understood how anyone manages all that work!  I suspect he may not wish to read about the history of them though, so passing swiftly on.

Richard Mabey was maybe one of the first writers to write about mental health and natural world issues combined in his book Nature Cure which I have read.  In my review I wrote:

Mabey’s book is an enlightening read, erudite without being dry, honest to the point of bleakness in parts, without being depressing. It was one of the first in the style which came to be known as the new nature writing, along with naturalist and friend Mark Cocker. These are books which entwine stories of the natural world with the writer’s own biographical tales.

Taking far longer than usual to move out of the house in which he grew up, and aided and abetted by a severe bout of depression, Mabey makes his belated escape to the Norfolk fens where he writes about sheets of water, the Wailing Wood, owls, birds, fens, the yellow star-of-bethlehem and orchids in an ‘ethereal shade of rose’. But his particular interest, like the poet John Clare

Mabey has written many, many books including a biography of the naturalist and author Gilbert White whom wiki credits with ‘shaping the modern attitude of respect for nature’ which seems a rather extraordinary claim.  I didn’t realise there was a modern attitude of respect for nature judging by the ecology crisis we have on our hands.  But I think I will put this one on my TBR.


Does anyone else find themselves drawn to a particular theme or topic?  Style of writing? Titles? Covers? They say you can’t tell a book by one, but hey, a good cover certainly helps.

If you are taking part in Nonfiction November Week 2,  don’t forget to add your link below.  I’ve been so happy to help host this challenge but the only thing I’ve been panicking about is the link party.  Despite the kindness of Rebekah at (She Seeks Nonfiction) and others showing me what to do, my link party looks worryingly unlike anyone else’s.  Therefore please if you have any problems, just leave the link to your post in the comments below.



You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!

Click here to enter





The Wild Silence is the second book by Raynor Winn, author, naturalist, homelessness expert

#The Wild Silence. A Review of Raynor Winn’s sequel to #The Salt Path

First of all a big shout out to Son of Rune (the elder) for the amazing transformation of the design of this blog.  Thank you.

The Wild Silence is Raynor Winn’s second book which covers the time from her and her husband Moth’s return home (where is home?) to the writing of the book and trying in middle age to establish a new life for themselves.  When Winn wrote her first book The Salt Path, she thought she was writing a personal account of a personal event.   But this memoire of homelessness, with its unassuming displays of courage and endurance touched a universal nerve.   The Salt Path became a runaway best seller in 2018.  Being infinitely well qualified to write on these issues, Raynor Winn and her husband Moth were made homeless – aged in their  ‘fifties. Moth also received a terminal diagnosis more or less in the same week.   It seemed that the only way was up

After Winn and her husband complete the massive undertaking of walking the 650 mile South West Coast Path (in the UK) finding a new normal isn’t easy.   The Wild Silence moves both backward and forward in time – backward as Winn remembers her rural childhood and the meeting of Moth; how she overcame her mother’s disapproval of the man she chose for her life partner.  Then forward to the beginnings of writing The Salt Path and to a proposed tenancy of an old farm and apple orchard in great need of care and renewal.  It is hard to avoid the analogy between watching new green shoots of a return to life for an arid and over farmed corner of land, and a parallel return for the protagonists who have to decide who they can ever trust again, if anyone.

Raynor Winn writes so beautifully that sometimes her books seem less of a story and more of an ode – to a vanishing landscape, to a lost childhood of (relative) rural peace when there were still meadows and insects, but mostly to Winn’s life’s consuming passion, her husband Moth and the mountains, both literal and metaphorical, that they have climbed together.     But there is not much that is wistful and certainly no sentiment in these pages. Winn is too  practical, too strong and far sighted.  Rather than wasting time mourning what has been lost, Raynor Winn sits down with a notebook and pen and plans what the heck she can do about it.


No time to stand and stare.


W.H. Davies, poet and author of Autobiography of a Supertramp once wrote:

What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

No time to stand beneath the boughs
And stare as long as sheep or cows.

No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.

No time to see, in broad day light,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night.

No time to turn at beauty’s glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance.

No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began.

A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

‘Leisure’ From: Songs of Joy and Others (1911)

Davies was born in Newport, South Wales (my hometown) and knew real poverty.  As the title of his autobiography suggests, he became a drifter.  His poetic gifts, whether or not related to his peripatetic lifestyle, were born out of his deep understanding of the human connection to the natural world.  To me, Raynor Winn’s writing is also redolent of those connections.  Here she describes a walking holiday they once took in Scotland:

“Days later, among the rocks at the summit of Ben More, the highest point on Mull, the island spread beneath us in an undulation of hills and glistening lochs.  On every side, a sheet of lush green draped over an ancient volcanic land, falling softly  to the sea.  And there in an upswell of air, lifting without moving wing or feather, the huge, terrifying, magnificent shape of a golden eagle.  Glowing rust in the afternoon sun…”

However, while from the safety of historical perspective, we all wallow in the romance of the supertramp, the reality is somewhat different. Society’s current ethos on these matters of wandering and penury – unless you are Simon Armitage (with whom Moth was confused at one stage on their walk and asked for a recitation) – can be summed up by     ‘if you don’t have a job and a house you must be a criminal, or mad, or both.’

But Raynor and Moth  are just themselves, having to learn to avoid using the ‘H’ word while walking.   So instead they find a story they can tell,  about selling up the house and retraining to teach, which people could accept.   Better to be thought of as a bit eccentric than homeless.

In her first book Winn wrote:

“ If you ask someone to describe a homeless person, the majority will give you a description of a rough sleeper, unrolling a mat and bedding down in a street, perhaps with a dog, invariably begging for money for drugs or alcohol.  A stereotype that evokes a range of emotions from the feet that pass them as they sleep in doorways, from mildly uncomfortable to aggressively violent.”

Homeless folk are associated by others in society with potential trouble, mental health issues, drugs.   Often local Councils deal with anyone they consider ‘suspicious’ by compassionately engaging the police to employ the nineteenth century Vagrancy Act to move them on, or arrest them.    But anyone can be homeless. Jobs are becoming a rarity and the cost of property continues to spiral.    Safety nets are getting threadbare and more full of holes and at the time when Winn and Moth were walking and at the time she began these books the pandemic hadn’t even started.  Criminalising poverty is not going to make it go away.  Post pandemic, these issues are only going to require even more urgent action, and funding.  Achieving this level of awareness is one of Winn’s aims having experienced the sharp end of homelessness herself.  With these lyrical books she has found the perfect medium for her voice.