Elizabeth Stokoe, author of Talk : The Science of Conversation, recommends some great books this week! Before jumping into the interview, please check out Elizabeth's new book:
Q. Do you have a favourite smart thinking book (and why that book)?
This is probably a terrible start to an interview for a smart thinking book website, but … I don’t actually read much non-fiction. Maybe it is because, as an academic, I read scientific papers and books as part of the day job – and retreat to fiction for relaxation. However, I really loved Lizzy Stewart’s Walking Distance. It is a reflection on walking and thinking, in the form of graphic novel. It starts with Stewart’s impetus for writing it – "I love shots of women walking in films" – as well as "completely ordinary walking". Beautifully illustrated, it ranges through topics that resonate for me – aging, the state of the world (including "What will happen to the libraries?"") and, of course, the melancholy and meditative pleasure of walking.
Q. What's the most recent smart thinking book you've read (and how would you rate it)?
I have spent a lot of lockdown walking in our lovely local Leicestershire countryside, returning to favourite spots and discovering new ones. The perfect accompaniment to this is The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben. I couldn’t resist a book that has, among its 36 short chapters, one on "The language of trees". It’s a very evocative read, and I’d recommend it to anyone who wants to feel that sense of woodland and can’t get to such spaces at the moment. Did you know that the oldest tree on Earth is a 9,500-year-old spruce in Sweden and that trees communicate via scent?!
Q. Do you have a favourite childhood book?
I used to live and work in Hay-on-Wye, the famous town of books on the Welsh border, and one of the shops I work in specialized in children’s books. So, I have a lot of favourites. During lockdown, I think like many others, I’ve felt the pull of nostalgia and the safety of childhood and have re-read a lot of kids’ books. It’s hard to pick a favourite, but I’m going to choose Honor Arundel’s The High House. It’s the first in a trilogy about a girl called Emma who, when orphaned, moves from London suburbia to live with her 'eccentric artist' aunt in Edinburgh. Honor Arundel is a brilliant writer and, when I finally visited Edinburgh for the first time (many years after reading this book), it was exactly how I’d imagined from her descriptions.
Q. Do you prefer reading on paper, Kindle or listening to an audiobook?
I’ve grown to appreciate all formats. I usually travel a lot with work, so Kindle is great when you’re on the go – and I also love that they’re easy to prop up in cafes and restaurants if I’m travelling solo. I am a very recent convert to audiobooks, but I only listen to books I’ve already read, for comfort and because they help me sleep. But, for me, you still can’t really beat the texture, smell, and design of paper books.
Q. Do you have a favourite bookshop (and why that shop)?
The answer to this question changes from time to time, but Golden Hare Books in Edinburgh is lovely. Not only is it in one of my favourite cities, and in a beautiful 'New Town' street, the selection of books is so well curated, with very friendly staff. And they also sell great chocolate.
Image Copyrights: Little, Brown Book Group (Talk), Avery Hill Publishing Limited (Walking Distance), HarperCollins Publishers (The Hidden Life of Trees), Pan Books (The High House)