The James Cropper Wainwright Prize Longlist – Nature Writing

Dear Readers, this is probably my favourite writing prize of the year, and this year’s longlisted books look like a fine, varied selection. They are:

Belonging’ by Amanda Thompson – described as ‘a personal memoir about what it is to have and make a home. It is a love letter to nature, especially the northern landscapes of Scotland and the Scots pinewoods of Abernethy.’ I love this part of Scotland, and will be interested to read Thompson’s book.

‘Ten Birds that Changed the World’ by Stephen Moss – Moss is a prolific and accomplished nature writer, and birds are his particular passion.

‘The Swimmer – The Wild Life of Roger Deakin’ by Patrick Barkham – This biography of one of my favourite nature writers is a real must-read for me.

‘The Flow – Rivers, Water and Wildness ‘ by Amy-Jane Beer – I very much enjoy Beer’s regular column in British Wildlife, she is always thoughtful and well-informed, so this is well up my list.

Where the Wildflowers Grow – My Botanical Journey Through Britain and Ireland’ by Leif Bersweden – I do love a good journey, and it will be interesting to compare this to Mike Dilger’s ‘botanical journey’, A Thousand Shades of Green.

‘Twelve Words for Moss’ by Elizabeth-Jane Burnett – This sounds intriguing. Moss is ubiquitous but overlooked, and Burnett is a poet and academic as well as a non-fiction writer. The book is also part memoir following the loss of Burnett’s father, so this resonates on a personal level.

‘Cacophony of Bone’ by Kerri Ni Dochartaigh – Ni Dochartaigh’s first book, ‘Thin Places’ was Highly Commended in the 2021 Wainwright Prize, and this book too, set in the heart of Ireland during the pandemic, sounds as if it is very specific about place, but universal in its themes of home, what changes and what doesn’t, and hope. I can’t wait to get my reader’s teeth into this one.

‘Sea Bean’ by Sally Huband – Set in Shetland, this is Huband’s first book, but she is an ecologist and naturalist, and her story, of how beachcombing during a difficult pregnancy enables her to explore not just natural but human history, sounds like a very interesting read. Plus, how I long to go to Shetland! Maybe one day.

‘A Line in the World – A Year on the North Sea Coast’ by Dorthe Nors, translated by Caroline Waight – Now, this is something a bit different. Nors was born in Jutland, and her fictional work ‘Mirror, Shoulder, Signal’ was shortlisted for the Man Booker International Prize. In this book she examines the wild coastline from Northern Denmark down to the Netherlands. It’s interesting to have a book in translation on the list (I’m not sure I can remember it happening before) and it’s an area that I don’t know, so I’m looking forward to it.

‘Landlines’ by Raynor Winn – Many people were entranced by Winn’s first memoir, ‘The Salt Path’ about being made homeless and walking the South-West Coast Path with her ailing husband, Moth. In this book, they set out to walk from North West Scotland back to the south west. I found the first book very moving, so it will be interesting to see how this one compares.

‘Why Women Grow – Stories of Soil, Sisterhood and Survival’  by Alice Vincent – In this book, Vincent writes about women and their relationship with gardening and the earth. She speaks of a ‘deeply rooted desire to share the stories of women who are silenced and overlooked.’ I am looking forward to reading it very much.

And finally….

‘The Golden Mole’ by Katherine Rundell, with illustrations by Talya Baldwin – I have been looking at this book every time I spotted a copy in a bookshop. It really is beautiful, and I very much enjoy Rundell’s writing – she manages to find something fresh and new even in topics that I think I know lots about. She also wrote a book with what must be the best title of recent years – Why You Should Read Children’s Books, Even Though You Are So Old And Wise. That puts me in my place, for sure.

So, Dear Readers, have you read any of these yet? What do you fancy for the shortlist? And if you do want to read them (like me) you need to get a move on, as the shortlist is announced on 10th August, and the final prize on 14th September. There are another 12 books on the Conservation Longlist, and yet another 12 on the Children’s Longlist, (you can see all the titles here) but I think realistically the Nature Writing Longlist is about all I can cope with this year. For the first time ever, all three longlists are dominated by female writers, so maybe the age of the ‘lone enraptured male’ is giving way to a range of voices, which can only make things more interesting.


8 thoughts on “The James Cropper Wainwright Prize Longlist – Nature Writing

  1. Anne Guy

    Have you also read Raynor Winns second book The Wild Silence…this picks up where the Salt Path ends?

  2. Liz Norbury

    I’m very much looking forward to reading Landlines, which I bought last week when I went to see Raynor Winn at Penzance Literary Festival, where she was in conversation with local author Tim Hannigan (his new book The Granite Kingdom – A Cornish Journey sounds interesting). I thought she was lovely – modest, calm, wise and gently humorous. I had a brief chat with her afterwards about walking in Cornwall and Scotland, and later I realised with regret that I had forgotten to tell her how much I loved her first two books.

    1. Bug Woman Post author

      I haven’t read the second book, maybe I should add it to my (ever increasing) list. She is a remarkable woman, for sure, and I was very moved by her first book.

  3. Andrea Stephenson

    I’ve read Landlines, which I enjoyed – I didn’t think the second one was quite as good, it seemed a bit like filler. There’s quite a few on this list that sound good.

  4. Kathleen

    I have Sea Bean on my bookshelf waiting to be read and very much enjoyed Leif Bersweden’s earlier book about hunting for British orchids so I’m keen to read his new book. I’m very tempted by ‘Twelve words for moss’ as well. So many books, so little time! But thank you for the list.

    1. Bug Woman Post author

      I know! I’m powering through the one about the Danish coast at the moment, and if they’re all as good as this one the judges are in for a treat…


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