Enchantment by Katherine May
Oh, this was such a beautiful, nourishing, calming read. I read it in a few short sittings, the narrative captivating me in a way nonfiction books don’t often manage to. Enchantment’s blurb describes it as ‘a balm for our times’, and that certainly matches my experience of reading it – as if something buried in these words has started healing something that I didn’t really know needed healing. The language Katherine May uses is soft and lyrical, and I found some of her sentences flowing over me and wrapping around me in much the same way a spell would.
It took maybe five minutes of reading through Jo Moseley’s lovely guide before I was on Google searching for paddleboards on sale. After a stunning evening last summer meandering around our local coast with some friends, I’ve been keen to buy my own board and gear, but in all honesty I’ve felt quite overwhelmed by trying to work out what I needed.
Thank goodness for this book! Before getting to the routes, there’s a really helpful introduction section which covers how to get started, what equipment and kit you might need, how to plan a day out and what aspects to consider to keep yourself and anyone you’re out with safe on the water. There’s a lot to cover in not much space, but the advice is accessible for anyone who’s a complete beginner like myself, and includes some handy tips for those more experienced as well. There’s also a brief history of the sport which I found fascinating; it’s astonishing to see how quickly it has grown in popularity.
The Cold Fix by Sara Barnes
I went in search of good cold water to see if it would help me find the parts of myself that went missing at some point in my life.
Sara Barnes’ Instagram account (@bumblebarnes) is full of photos of her getting into the water in all temperatures and weather, and always looking utterly joyous about it. I was looking forward to her book, hoping it would help with my own sea swimming psyche as the temperatures drop, and it certainly hasn’t disappointed. This is a compassionate and engaging account of the beauty and release of cold-water swimming. Sara shares her journey with honesty, authenticity and vulnerability.
Where There’s a Hill is the story of how Sabrina went from not considering herself ‘a natural athlete’ to becoming the first person to summit all 214 Wainwright peaks in the Lake District in under six days – an incredible achievement.
What I really loved about Where There’s a Hill is how honest and readable it is. It feels more like a relaxed chat with a friend than the autobiography of a record-breaking runner, and it’s easy to forget quite how impressive Sabrina’s accomplishments are.
I was really excited to read this; I listened to Rebecca’s seminar for the Women’s Climbing Symposium during lockdown and found it incredibly useful, so I was looking forward to more of her advice. Climb Smarter hasn’t disappointed at all. Rebecca’s clear breadth of experience and knowledge make this an invaluable resource for anyone who feels they can improve their mental approach to climbing (presumably nearly everyone?!).
Born to Climb by Zofia Reych
In Born to Climb, Zofia Reych traces the history of climbing from the 1300s right up to today. It’s a comprehensive look at how abilities, techniques and safety have progressed and how much climbing standards have improved, both on rock and in competitions. There are many historical accounts of climbing already out there (although I’m not aware of another one that covers ground right up to, and including, the 2020 Olympics), but what sets Zofia’s apart is its clear intention to be inclusive and representative. With this perspective, they manage to put a fresh spin on historical accounts that have already been covered so many times, and it’s refreshing to see a frank discussion of those who haven’t always been remembered or represented in more traditional climbing accounts.
The aim here is not to tell you what to do. I wanted to provide you with all the research and science in a palatable format so that you, as individuals, can make an informed choice about what is the best nutritional approach for you.
In More Fuel You, Renee offers a good introduction to different approaches and strategies for nutrition. In all honesty, I was a bit daunted by the prospect of reading and reviewing a nutrition book, imaging it to be quite dense and more like a textbook, but that’s not true of this book at all; it’s really accessible and readable.
This would be a great starter book for anyone interested in nutrition. It doesn’t give you a detailed breakdown of what your food intake should look like, or have any sample menus. Instead, Renee offers her informed and honest perspective on a variety of different approaches, and makes it easier for you to identify which might work best for your body and your energy needs.
A Line Above the Sky by Helen Mort
There is a line made by climbing and a line made by falling. There is the flawed line of my body. The parallel lines two bodies make. The line of someone walking into the distance. Someone else moving close. The line of want, the line of touch, of merging. Then there is the line of the pregnancy test, blue as the rope I climb with, slim and unforgettable.
Is March too early to decide on my outdoorsy book of the year for 2022? Quite probably, but with A Line Above the Sky, Helen Mort has set the bar so incredibly high that I’m pretty tempted to make the call already. It’s one of those very rare books that makes me want to write a gushing email to the author thanking them for putting this out into the world.
Imaginary Peaks by Katie Ives
Once you begin to look for imaginary peaks, you start to see them everywhere: each furrow of crag and hill has its own local myths; each square of map conceals forgotten phantom heights. Each human mind contains innumerable ranges, sparkling like starlight and like snow.
I was so excited to read this; Katie Ives’ writing is always stunning, and this book had me hooked right from the title. Imaginary Peaks is an intriguing exploration of the fascination held by empty spaces on the map, and of mountains that aren’t represented on maps.
Mountaineering has always felt otherwordly to me, lingering somehow right on the edge between reality and a vivid fantasy. There have been moments in the mountains that I’ve later struggled to explain and I’ve always been frustrated by what feels like a huge inability to re-tell my own experiences, so I felt very comforted (and validated!) by Katie’s discussion of the sheer difficulty of fully capturing our experiences in the mountains, let alone the impossibility of trying to pin down such vivid and complex terrain onto a flat piece of paper.
The Farthest Shore by Alex Roddie
Part of my soul thought that any diminution of the wildness here was a shame – that a path would forever tame the raw experience of questing through this landscape. But part of me knew that it was inevitable. No route is pathless forever – and yet perhaps in other aeons there had been paths here before, paths obliterated by the glaciers and softened by the peat. On a long enough timescale all paths are reclaimed by nature. That thought comforted me.
I really enjoyed this a lot. The Farthest Shore is the story of Alex Roddie's trek up the Cape Wrath trail in the middle of winter. In the solitude ensured on the trail, Alex also hopes to escape some of the sources of his anxiety, and hopes the break from social media will help him find clarity and calmness.
Predominantly climbing/outdoors literature, mountaineering history and nature writing.