HOPE IN THE DARK by Rebecca Solnit (2004)
Solnit expanded my sense of what writing could be. She mixes the personal, the political and the metaphorical like no-one else.
THE INVENTION OF NATURE: The Adventures of Alexander von Humboldt by Andrea Wulf (2015)
Humboldt was restless, radical, amusing. Charles Darwin called him the ‘greatest scientific traveller who ever lived’. This is a stunning biography of a stunning life. I particularly enjoyed it having once worked at a biodiversity agency in Colombia that is, like various animals and mountains, named after Humboldt.
ANIMAL LIBERATION by Peter Singer (1975)
Perhaps the most influential book on animal cruelty ever written. Singer’s commitment to clear logic and ethical living shine through.
SAPIENS: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari (2011)
The book that turned me vegetarian with just a few pages about industrial farming.
MAN AND THE NATURAL WORKD: Changing Attitudes in England 1500–1800 by Keith Thomas (1983)
The story of how England gradually peeled back ideas of human dominion and developed a respect for animals and nature, told in glorious detail. It’s a reminder of how our worldviews will one day seem implausible.
THE MOST OF NORA EPHRON by Nora Ephron (2013)
In a world where you can be anything, be kind and funny. Ephron, scriptwriter of When Harry Met Sally, was both.
THE IMPERFECTIONISTS by Tom Rachman (2010)
The best novel that I’ve read about journalism, my flawed and joyous trade.
WORKING by Robert Caro (2019)
Having failed to tackle any of Caro’s long biographies, I found inspiration instead in this short, masterful explanation of his craft (writing and research). The lessons include: don’t let yourself be interrupted while working and don’t interrupt interviewees while they’re talking.