Peat and Whisky: The Unbreakable Bond
by Mike Billett
Peat and Whisky: The Unbreakable Bond is, as one of the best-known aficionados attests, “among the most important books about whisky ever written.” Part travelogue, part popular science, and a love letter to Scotland’s most famous artisan product, Mike Billett’s account brings together landscapes, geology, ecology, history, people and their whisky, whilst also addressing an important current environmental issue: peatlands and their role in climate change.
The story of peat and its central role in the production and flavour of whisky is engagingly related through the author’s journey around Scotland and into its past – in ancient peatlands and bogs and the places where whisky has been made for centuries. It sheds light on a country and its history, especially through an oft-misunderstood component of the production of whisky. It looks back to a golden age of peat and whisky, as well as forward to a more challenging future.
As our natural resources and landscapes are increasingly contested, this is the essential read for all whisky lovers.
REVIEWS OF Peat and Whisky: The Unbreakable Bond
“An inspirational work, wonderfully engaging, educational and thought-provoking … a compelling read for any Scotch whisky enthusiast.” Iain J McAlister, Master Distiller, Glen Scotia, Campbeltown
“A must-read for any whisky fan.” Billy Abbott, The Whisky Exchange
“A timely book, indeed, long overdue.” Brian Townsend, whisky historian
“A unique work … a journey through ancient peatlands … Billett reveals the special relationship peat has had with the Scotch whisky industry … essential reading for anyone with an interest in whisky.” Neil Wilson, whisky historian
“Compelling and entertaining … essential reading for all whisky lovers.” Gavin D Smith, whisky writer
“This is an outstanding contribution to whisky literature, indeed I believe it to be among the most important books about whisky ever written.” Charles MacLean, noted whisky writer and connoisseur
It Came From the Closet
Queer Reflections on Horror
by Joe Vallese by , Kirsty Logan
“Horror opened me up to new possibilities for survival … I saw power in freakery and transgression and wondered if it could be mine.”
The relationship between horror films and the LGBTQ+ community? It’s complicated. Haunted houses, forbidden desires and the monstrous can have striking resonance for those who’ve been marginalised. But the genre’s murky history of an alarmingly heterosexual male gaze, queer-coded villains and sometimes blatant homophobia, is impossible to overlook. There is tension here, and there are as many queer readings of horror films as there are queer people.
Edited by Joe Vallese, and with contributions by writers including Kirsty Logan and Carmen Maria Machado, the essays in It Came from the Closet bring the particulars of the writers’ own experiences, whether in relation to gender, sexuality, or both, to their unique interpretations of horror films from Jaws to Jennifer’s Body.
Exploring a multitude of queer experiences from first kisses and coming out to transition and parenthood, this is a varied and accessible collection that leans into the fun of horror while taking its cultural impact and reciprocal relationship to the LGBTQ+ community seriously.
REVIEWS OF It Came From the Closet
'In this wonderful and only somewhat disturbing book (the subject is horror, after all), queer and trans writers explore the horror films that have shaped them and most reflected their own experiences. Horror, the anthology argues, while often full of misogyny and anti-trans, homophobic tropes, is also uniquely subversive and queer.' - Shondaland
'A really terrific collection of essays by a great selection and variety of different authors—both fiction authors, poets, and essayists—about the intersection between queer studies and queer identity and horror movies.' - Gothamist
'An impressively diverse array of queer voices contributes their opinions on how and why particular horror movies made a personal and indelible impression on them.' - Bay Area Reporter
'An essential look at how spooky movies so often offer solace through subversiveness.' - Electric Literature
'A critical text on the intersections of film, queer studies, and pop culture.' Booklist (starred review)
'A brilliant display of expert criticism, wry humor, and original thinking. This is full of surprises.' - Publishers Weekly (starred review)
A Year in the Calder Valley
Rising on Lancashire’s Heald Moor, the River Calder flows through the glorious countryside of West Yorkshire until it joins the River Aire, near Castleford. Its often steep-sided valley was formed by glacial erosion of a bedrock of millstone grit and carboniferous rock, over the course of millions of years. Rich in biodiversity, the valley is home to a wonderful variety of birds, animals, trees and wildflowers. Together they form a beautiful backdrop for residents and visitors to enjoy this green sanctuary, where it’s easy to forget the world beyond.
With more than its fair share of rainfall, the valley’s rushing river was central to the industrial heyday of the Pennines, when the waterway was modified with “cuts” to form a navigable canal. The legacy of the textile industry is seen in the remaining mill and factory buildings. Today, renovated mills are popular as dwellings, and the canal is a place of leisure, where boaters, walkers and cyclists can enjoy nature’s sights and sounds.
by Julia Rampen
In an old-fashioned fishing community on windswept Morecambe Bay, change is imperceptibly slow. Treacherous tides sweep the quicksands, claiming everything in their path. As a small boy, Arthur had naturally followed in his father’s and grandfather’s footprints, learning to read the currents and shifting sands.
Now retired and widowed, though, Arthur feels tired, invisible, redundant. His daughter wants him safely tucked in a home. No one listens to his rants about the ill-prepared newcomers striking out nightly onto the bay for cockles, seemingly oblivious to the danger.
When Arthur’s path crosses Suling’s, both are almost out of options. Barely yet an adult, Suling’s hopes for a better life have given way to fear: she’s without papers or money, speaks no English, and debt collectors are hunting her down. Her only choice is to trust the old man.
Combining warmth and tension and recalling a true incident, The Bay tells a tender story about loneliness, confronting prejudice, and the comfort of friendship, however unlikely—as well as exposing one of the most pressing social ills of our age.
The Gathering Tide
by Karen Lloyd
“Evocative, muscular.” – Kathleen Jamie.
Karen Lloyd takes us on a deeply personal journey around the 60 miles of coastline that make up ‘nature’s amphitheatre’.
Embarking on a series of walks that take in beguiling landscapes and ever-changing seascapes, Karen tells the stories of the places, people, wildlife and history of Morecambe Bay. So we meet the King’s Guide to the Sands, discover forgotten caves and islands that don’t exist, and delight in the simple beauty of an oystercatcher winging its way across the ebbing tide.
As we walk with Karen, she explores her own memories of the bay, making an unwitting pilgrimage through her own past and present, as well as that of the bay. The result is a singular and moving account of one of Britain’s most alluring coastal areas.
Prizes and awards
Lakeland Book of the Year 2016, Striding Edge Prize, WINNER
- Inhabiting a landscape, walking a landscape, writing a place and time…
For Linda Cracknell, exposure to wind, rock, mist, and salt water is integral to her writing process. She follows Susan Sontag’s advice to “Love words, agonise over sentences, and pay attention to the world,” observing and writing her landscapes from the particulars of each moment.
In this varied essay collection, Linda backpacks on a small island that is connected to the mainland only at low tide. In winter snow, she hikes the wooded hillside close to her home, a place she is intimately familiar with in all seasons. And she retraces over three days the steps of a trek made by her parents seven decades earlier. She explores her inspirations, in nature and from other artists and their work, and she offers thoughtful writing prompts.
Reading this collection will take you to new places, open your eyes to the world, and suggest ways to take note and make notes as you go—to inspire your own attentive looking, journaling, and writing practice.
The Zen of Climbing
What do Zen masters, sixteenth-century Samurai, and the world’s elite climbers have in common?
– They have acquired the art of awareness.
Climbing is a sport of perception, and our level of attainment is a matter of mind as much as body.
Written by philosopher, essayist, and lifelong climber Francis Sanzaro, The Zen of Climbing explores the fundamentals of successful climbing, delving into sports psychology, neuroscience, philosophy, and Taoism. Awareness, he argues, is the foundation of climbing, allowing us to merge mental and physical attributes in one embodied whole.
Written by the author of the classic The Boulder: A Philosophy of Bouldering, this book puts the climber’s mind at the forefront of practice.
REVIEWS OF The Zen of Climbing
“Between the start and finish of every climb, big or small, is a vertical gulf we can see across but never fully chart beforehand. The Zen of Climbing provides a peerless working model of how to embrace the unknown, cross that gulf and come to know the crazy wonderful sorcery of ascent.” – John Long, author of more than forty books, storyteller, stonemaster
“The Zen of Climbing is a fascinating read. We are climbing our best by paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally to the unfolding of experience moment by moment. The book integrates different forms of practice for devel¬oping your physical, cognitive, and mental domains. Highly recommended!” – Udo Neumann, climber, coach, filmmaker, co-author of Performance Rock Climbing.
“A skillful and entertaining presentation of aspects of Zen that can make one a better climber and, at the same time, enhance one’s enjoyment of climbing. Top athletes, climbers and others, reveal how these traits improved their performance and led to deeper understanding and appreciation of their craft.” – John Gill, father of modern bouldering, author, mathematician
“If you really want to level up your climbing, want to connect with your every movement on the rock, The Zen of Climbing is essential to creating that experi¬ence. It’s a book we can all read, learn from, and then revisit time after time.” – Steve Bechtel, founder of Climb Strong and author of Logical Progression
“A skilled and experienced climber, Francis Sanzaro writes about his long-time application of Zen Buddhist mind-training techniques to overcome the difficulties of fear and enhance performance in life-challenging, climbing situations ... The lesson: we could bring this wisdom not only into climbing and other athletic pursuits but also into modern-day life in all its many aspects.” – John Baker, co-editor of Cutting through Spiritual Materialism and The Myth of Freedom
“Written by a climber, and for climbers, there is no better book to get you started climbing with the right mindset.” – Adam Ondra, first person to climb 5.15c and 5.15d, multiple World-Cup Gold Medalist.
"Outstandingly good … It may be the single most insightful book about climbing ever written." —Paul Sagar, Climber, writer, thinker.
An Exquisite Sense of What is Beautiful
The personal collides with the political in this literary tour-de-force. In the 1950s, an eminent British writer pens a novel questioning the ethics of the nuclear destruction at Hiroshima and Nagasaki—but soon he’s trying to outrun his own past.
Hakone, Japan, 2003. An eminent British writer in his seventies, Sir Edward Strathairn, returns to a resort in the Japanese mountains where, in his youth, he spent a beautiful, snowed-in winter.
It was there he wrote his best-selling novel, The Waterwheel, accusing America of being in denial about the horrific aftermath of the Tokyo firebombings and the nuclear destruction at Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
London, England, 1952. A young Edward falls in love with an avant-garde American artist, Macy. After their tumultuous relationship and breakup, he heads for Japan, where he meets someone else and becomes smitten again as he writes the novel that makes him famous.
This is as much a thrilling romance as it is a sensitive exploration of blame, power and guilt in post-war America, Japan and Britain. With a narrator whose behaviour strikes the national conscience as much as his own, An Exquisite Sense of What is Beautiful will stay with readers long after the final page is turned.
REVIEWS OF An Exquisite Sense of What is Beautiful
"An accomplished and compelling novel by a storyteller at the top of his game, An Exquisite Sense Of What Is Beautiful lives up to its ambitious title, delivering a story that is both delicate in its detail and politically robust." Chris Dolan, author of the award-winning Ascension Day, Redlegs and Aliyyah
"Highly accomplished and moving novel. It says much for Simons' skill that he can show us a [protagonist] Strathairn who for all his flaws and occasional selfishness can engage our sympathies when he finally realises the cost of his own denial." Sunday Herald
"If you're going to call your novel An Exquisite Sense of What is Beautiful then you have to be prepared to back it up. Luckily David Simons does this with style and substance. Simons pulls off one of the hardest tricks for a novelist, reflecting world events through the lives of individuals while avoiding the reader feeling like they are being given a history lesson or being preached to." Scots Whay Hae
"An Exquisite Sense of What is Beautiful moved me a great deal. But perhaps an even greater delight is the sheer beauty of Simons' descriptions: despite the engaging plot pulling me onwards, I often stopped to re-read and savour these. Really a wonderful, pleasurable, thoughtful novel." Sophie Cooke, author of The Glass House and Under the Mountain
The Last Lancer
An intimate story of a Polish family torn apart by war: of heartbreak, loss, and survival against the odds.
Julian Czerkawski was born in 1926 near Lwow, in Polish Galicia, on a farm with fertile grain fields and orchards. He was the son of a Polish lancer—one of the famous cavalrymen who carried forward the legacy of the hussar knights.
But there would be no idyllic childhood for young Julian. Soviet annexation and then, in 1941, the German occupation of Lwow changed everything. At the age of eighteen, he was sent to a labour camp. Fortunate to escape after the war with his life, eventually he made his way to the UK. Here, he married and started a family, but an ache remained for the people and places of his childhood memories, even if he spoke of them only rarely.
In 2022, Putin’s war in Ukraine and the sight of refugees passing through Lviv—the former Polish city of Lwow—added urgency to his writer daughter Catherine’s project of a lifetime, to try to uncover for herself everything that had been lost a generation before.
The Last Lancer pieces together glimpses of how the Czerkawski family lived and died in a region with a proud but turbulent history. It sheds light on their trauma, at the same time offering a deep and very personal understanding of a troubled place.
Singing Like Larks
A Celebration of Birds in Folk Songs
RSPB BOOK OF THE MONTH
Singing Like Larks opens a rare window onto the ancient song traditions of the British Isles, interweaving mesmerising lyrics, folklore and colourful nature writing to uncover the remarkable relationship between birds and traditional folk music.
Birds are beloved for their song and have featured in our own music for centuries. This charming volume takes us on a journey of discovery to explore why birds appear in so many folk songs.
Today, folk songs featuring our feathered friends are themselves something of a threatened species: their melodies are fading with the passage of time, and their lyrics are often tucked away in archives. It is more important than ever that we promote awareness of these precious songs and continue to pass them down the generations. Lifetimes of wisdom are etched into the words and music, preserving the natural rhythms of nature and our connection to times past.
An important repository and treasury of bird-related folk songs, Singing Like Larks is also an account of one young nature writer’s journey into the world of folk music, and a joyous celebration of song, the seasons, and our love of birds.
REVIEWS OF Singing Like Larks
“An accomplished work … a heartfelt celebration of both birdsong and the folk songs inspired by birds.” Countryman
"This gorgeous book leads the reader on an exploration of why birds appear in so many folk songs.” RSPB Book of the Month
"We absolutely love this book." Benji Fallow, young birder and artist
“Handling so many interwoven threads — birds, birds in song, habitats, habitat loss, restoration, people, place and personal experience — in this accomplished way is a rare thing indeed.” Caught by the River
“How beautiful is this lovely book?” Folde, Dorset
“Inspiring.” Essex Life
“Absolutely charming.” The Copper Family
“A beautiful, informative and fascinating book. In each chapter [Millham] seamlessly blends the behaviour of the bird with its place in the history of folk song, all written in a lively and engaging style … with evident passion for the subject.” Stephen Moss, bird writer and naturalist