Himālaya – John Keay

Himālaya - John Keay
Himālaya – John Keay

An excellent book covering history, geography, geology and nature, exploration, mapping and mountaineering, politics, religion and culture of the high Himalaya.

Highly recommended reading if you’re planning a trip to these mountainous regions of modern day Tibet, Xinjiang, Pakistan, India, Bhutan, Nepal, China.

Author page: Himālaya: Exploring the Roof of the World – John Keay

Tamed – Alice Roberts

Tamed - Alice Roberts
Tamed – Alice Roberts

Fascinating account of 9 species “tamed” by humans, drawing upon archaeology, history, geography and biology, in particular genetics and microbiology. We learn about wheat, dogs, horses, apples and more, culminating in humans as species No 10.

In her conclusion, Prof. Roberts expands her core theme to (re)consider genetic diversity and engineering, ecology and climate change and the pros and cons of various approaches to global development and sustainability.

Excellent, and all the better as an audiobook.

Author page: Tamed: Ten Species that Changed our World – Alice Roberts

A Rage for Rock Gardening – Nicola Shulman

A Rage for Rock Gardening - Nicola Shulman
A Rage for Rock Gardening – Nicola Shulman

A slim tome about a short-lived Edwardian plant collector with a passion for alpines that took him to the eastern Himalayas and north Burma. Reginald Farrer doesn’t sound like a particularly pleasant chap. “Of his time”.

The book was on The Guardian’s Top 10 books about the Himalayas. I’ve been working my way through the ones I bought last year, including The High Road to China by Kate Teltscher and  by Jan Morris’s wonderful Coronation Everest. For me, the Himalayan connection in A Rage for Rock Gardening is somewhat tenuous, not helped by the fact that I’ve not been to Gansu province in northwest China which is where Farrer did his mountainous plant hunting, presumably down in what is now Gannan Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture.

I would recommend the book to fans of garden history though as it covers the transition from gardens being formal to family, and Farrer and his contemporaries introduced many familiar flowering plants we know today including varieties of Viburnum, Magnolia and Peony, as well as the gorgeous Gentians that I know and love from my many treks in Nepal.

The writing style read “very posh” to me, as did the use of Mrs, Mr etc in the acknowledgements. And lo, when you look up Nicola Shulman, you realise why.

Publisher page: A Rage for Rock Gardening: The Story of Reginald Farrer, Gardener, Writer, and Plant Collector – Nicola Shulman

Underland – Robert Macfarlane

Underland - Robert Macfarlane
Underland – Robert Macfarlane

Underground places and spaces, people and history.

As I said in my weeknotes, I’d found I was reluctant to read Robert Macfarlane’s latest, taking it with me on holiday more out of a sense of “I ought to” rather than “I want to”. I’m not sure what was putting me off – perhaps the title and the theme, or the size, but as ever with Robert Macfarlane’s writing it drew me in from page 1.

Publisher page: Underland – Robert Macfarlane