World Book Day: Country classics

Brilliant books inspired by the countryside

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In no particular order…

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Brendon Chase (1944)

by ‘BB’

Puffin

Classic children’s tale of three brothers who flee to live wild in the woods, fending for themselves. A tad dated but completely absorbing. Written and brilliantly illustrated by Denys Watkins-Pitchford under his pseudonym BB. JP.

The Living Mountain (1977)

by Nan Shepherd

Canons

This richly beautiful elegy to the high plateau of the Cairngorms was written during the Second World War, but languished unpublished in a drawer until the 70s when it became an instant classic. JP.

Tarka the Otter (1927)

by Henry Williamson

Puffin Books

Nature red in tooth and claw: the epic story of the life of a Devon otter, with all its harsh challenges, told in achingly elegant prose. Make sure you get an edition with the brilliant original illustrations by CF Tunnicliffe. JP.

Sea Room (2002) by Adam Nicolson

Harper Collins

The story of the author’s relationship with three remote Hebridean islands. Spending much of his time alone, Nicolson’s observations are untainted by distractions. His descriptions of the hundreds of thousands of seabirds that visit the islands, of the violent ocean storms and the 500ft basalt cliffs so evocative that you feel you are there. DG.

Kidnapped (1886)

by Robert Louis Stevenson

Penguin Classics

Thrilling adventure set in 18th century Scotland, which culminates in an exhilarating romp through the Highlands. JP.

The Snow Goose  (1940)

by Paul Gallico

Penguin

Powerful novella that tells the tale of an artist living on the Essex marshes, his friendship with a local girl, and the wounded snow goose who they nurse back to health. Intense, atmospheric and moving. JP.

The Death of Grass (1956)

by John Christopher

Penguin Books

When a virus wipes out the world’s staple crops, civilisation collapses and engineer John Custance flees with his family to the countryside, desperate to survive the catastrophe. Gripping, harsh and horribly believable. JP.

Danny Champion of the World (1975)

by Roald Dahl

Puffin Books

A young boy learns the dark arts of poaching in one of the finest children’s stories ever written. Funny, moving and intensely exciting. JP.

H is for Hawk (2014)

by Helen Macdonald

Jonathan Cape

Grieving for her father, the author – an experienced falconer – procures a goshawk, and spends the next year training this wild and beautiful creature while wrangling with the pain of her loss. A sometimes demanding but always compelling read that became a huge critical and commercial success – and established a new kind of nature writing. JP.

The Outrun (2016)

by Amy Liptrot

Canongate Books

Part a memoir of alcoholism, part an ode to the landscape and wildlife of Orkney. Breathtakingly honest, lavishly beautiful. JP.

The Cloudspotter’s Guide (2006)

By Gavin Pretor-Pinney 

Sceptre

A breathtaking layman’s guide to the many ways in which tiny droplets of water and ice crystals can clump together in the sky to form cotton wool, flying saucers, crashing waves and even udders. RW

The Plot: a biography of my father’s English acre (2009)

By Madeleine Bunting

Granta Books

The Guardian columnist explores her complex relationship with her late father by digging deep into the story of his lifelong obsession, a small parcel of land on the edge of his North Yorkshire Moors. RW

Swallows & Amazons (1930)

By Arthur Ransome

Vintage Children’s Classics

Chunky childhood classic about messing about in boats in the Lake District. The self-efficient Walker children (the Swallows) and their wild friends (the Amazons) sail away to Wild Cat Island, sleep under canvas, hunt for treasure and eat a lot of canned beef. RW

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By BBC Countryfile Magazine writers  Ruth Wood, Daniel Graham and Joe Pontin