A Wilder Vein by various authors
A nature writing collection almost exclusively from Ireland and Britain's Celtic fringes. Given I've recently moved to Scotland it was nice to read evocations of place and belonging in a landscape that's still very new to me (I'm a massive natural history nerd and spend my spare time recording all kinds of wildlife including small and obscure things like beetles and bryophytes). I've gone from the warm weather, dry ground, broad estuaries, coppices, ancient woodlands and chalk downlands of south-east England to Scotland's cold winds, bogs, fast-flowing burns, big open moors, uplands and dune systems. The general lack of at least semi-natural woodland is getting me down a bit but some of what's in this book is helping me re-appreciate the wild land here.
Roads to Ruin by E.S. Turner
I'd been looking out for this for a while and I'm still a chapter away from the end but it's an amazing book. At first it sounds terrible: a 65-year old history of social reform from 1800 to 1950. But it's about reforms that either obviously needed to be done to stop a real problem or were totally harmless and it's specifically about the opposition to these reforms. These are people who were screaming that the UK would descend into a pit of immorality and wife-murdering should we allow men to marry their deceased wife's sister; or that being banned from overloading a ship and endangering the crew was an affront to British liberty. It's simultaneously horrifying and hilarious. Take the chapter on spring guns for example:
Back in the 1800s after the gentry went and enclosed the common land, they blocked off a vital source of sustenance for the local poor people and filled those woods with pheasants to shoot for sport. The obvious happened and the locals would sneak in at night and poach the pheasants for their own pots. The aristocrats responded by leaving guns with wire triggers hidden throughout the woods to shoot trespassers. More often than not, these hit completely innocent people or their own employees. There are tales of people taking two steps into a wood to collect a wind-blown hat and getting blown away, gameskeepers getting shot in the leg and having it amputated and so on. And then you have some MPs or Lords, gentry themselves, complaining that all the country's aristos would just up and leave if they couldn't shoot trespassers. Or that it was better to shoot a poacher than to send him to jail as jail would expose him to "immoral types" and send him on a journey of crime resulting in him swinging from the gallows. Merely peppering his leg with pellets was therefore a mercy!
Bobbobthebob aka His Royal Bobness and Grand High Bob of Bobland