#BookReview #20BooksOfSummer The Glorious Life of the Oak by John Lewis-Stempel

Book 7 of my 20 BOOKS OF SUMMER challenge has been a nice easy one from my list! At just 87 pages long (or should that be short?!) it was nice to be able to learn so much in such a short space of time!

ABOUT THE BOOK

‘The oak is the wooden tie between heaven and earth. It is the lynch pin of the British landscape.’ 

The oak is our most beloved and most common tree. It has roots that stretch back to all the old European cultures but Britain has more ancient oaks than all the other European countries put together. More than half the ancient oaks in the world are in Britain.

Many of our ancestors – the Angles, the Saxons, the Norse – came to the British Isles in longships made of oak. For centuries the oak touched every part of a Briton’s life – from cradle to coffin It was oak that made the ‘wooden walls’ of Nelson’s navy, and the navy that allowed Britain to rule the world. Even in the digital Apple age, the real oak has resonance – the word speaks of fortitude, antiquity, pastoralism.

The Glorious Life of the Oak explores our long relationship with this iconic tree; it considers the life-cycle of the oak, the flora and fauna that depend on the oak, the oak as medicine, food and drink, where Britain’s mightiest oaks can be found, and it tells of oak stories from folklore, myth and legend.

PURCHASE LINKS

Amazon UK  £6.53

hive.co.uk  £6.89

whsmith  £6.47

MY REVIEW

A glorious little book – only 87 pages long! – about the glorious Oak and it captures the essence of what makes this tree so special, especially to the people of Britain, a country that has more Ancient Oaks than all of Europe put together!

The author has done a wonderful job in cramming so much information into such a quick read, and says it was only seeing an Oak nearby at night that made him realise what a special tree it actually was. 

In this ‘ode to oaks’ he manages to sum up the wide impact that this tree has had on so much of our lives – uses in history in buildings and boats, the links to royalty and politics, and even down to the humble world of pub names! – I learnt so much from each page and it was nicely set out alongside some poetry as well with links to the oak.

It also touches on the lifecycle of the tree and the threats it faces due to disease, how it plays such a vital role in wildlife, the changes of each season and even mentions of folklore and medicine. There’s even recipes for Acorn Coffee and Oak Leaf Wine if you fancy giving those a go! I also enjoyed the list of places toward the back where you can go and see some might Oaks and I just found this potted history of the Oak to be a lovely and informative read.

★★★★★

The Running Hare by John Lewis-Stempel – book review

THE BLURB

From the Winner of the Thwaites Wainwright Prize 2015

Traditional ploughland is disappearing. Seven cornfield flowers have become extinct in the last twenty years. Once abundant, the corn bunting and the lapwing are on the Red List. The corncrake is all but extinct in England. And the hare is running for its life.

Written in exquisite prose, The Running Hare tells the story of the wild animals and plants that live in and under our ploughland, from the labouring microbes to the patrolling kestrel above the corn, from the linnet pecking at seeds to the seven-spot ladybird that eats the aphids that eat the crop. It recalls an era before open-roofed factories and silent, empty fields, recording the ongoing destruction of the unique, fragile, glorious ploughland that exists just down the village lane.

But it is also the story of ploughland through the eyes of man who took on a field and husbanded it in a natural, traditional way, restoring its fertility and wildlife, bringing back the old farmland flowers and animals. John Lewis Stempel demonstrates thta it is still possible to create a place where the hare can rest safe.

Amazon UK

MY REVIEW

This was a fascinating and delightful read of one mans’ vision and journey in reclaiming some farmland to return it to the ways of old, along with the wildlife and wildflowers that this brings along with it.

It is beautifully written with such passion that it often made me angry – not at the book but at the way mankind looks at nature nowadays, just trying to find the easiest and quickest way of producing things, without any thought to the damage that does in the long term. We seem to have forgotten to embrace nature that has sustained humanity since the year dot and then wonder why wildlife and wildflowers are disappearing at astonishingly high rates.

There’s a wide variety of wildlife featured, alongside old farming techniques and wonderful background history and information in many forms. 

It was horrifying reading at times with lists of plants lost to the British countryside thanks to different farming techniques, but also heartwarming to see how just one man full of determination proved that by going back to the old techniques he could show that it wouldn’t take much to reintroduce the balance back into fields across the country – it just takes some effort!

I’d highly recommend this as a book to read for all as it is a fascinating insight into nature and the modern world and it is a lesson that needs to be learned before it is too late!