Florence Wilkinson, author of Wild City: Encounters With Urban Wildlife recommends some excellent books! Before jumping into the interview, please check out Florence's book:
Q. Do you have a favourite smart thinking book (and why that book)?
This is a really tricky one, so you'll have to forgive me because I'm not sure I could narrow it down to just one book – I read a lot of non-fiction. (Smart thinking isn't confined to non-fiction, of course, but if I include fiction too that will make it even harder!)
There are a few titles, though, that have truly influenced my view of the world. These include This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate by Naomi Klein on what we're doing to the planet, The Spirit Level by Kate Pickett and Richard G. Wilkinson on why inequality harms us all, and The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History by Elizabeth Kolbert, which argues that humans are in the process of causing a sixth extinction event. (Sorry for picking such serious topics, but this is the world in which we find ourselves right now.)
Q. What's the most recent smart thinking book you've read (and how would you rate it)?
I recently read Isabella Tree's Wilding – a beautifully written story of hope about how she and her husband returned their farm to nature. They left 1,400 hectares of land at the Knepp estate to grow into a spectacular living, breathing, evolving 'mess', bursting with life – both common, like yellow-flowered ragwort, and rare, like the nightingales and turtle doves that have flocked to Knepp despite their populations crashing elsewhere. I'd urge anyone who cares about wildlife and conservation to read it!
Q. Do you have a favourite childhood book?
Again, it's really hard to single out one book. As a child, when it came to reading I was into the whimsical, fantastical, and at times downright bizarre. An Australian children's book called The Magic Pudding springs to mind, or to name its full title, The Magic Pudding: Being The Adventures of Bunyip Bluegum and his friends Bill Barnacle and Sam Sawnoff. Naturally, it's about a magic talking pudding called Albert who regenerates every time he's eaten...
Q. Do you prefer reading on paper, Kindle or listening to an audiobook?
Paper. It may sound a bit cliche, but there's something about holding a book, the crack of the spine, the smell of the paper – I'm so grateful to my publisher Orion and my illustrator Andrew Davis for turning my book into such a beautiful object – it was an incredible feeling when I received the first box of copies.
Having said that, I do also own a Kindle and it's very handy for holidays, reading big, heavy books on the move and making those books fully searchable. I've yet to listen to many audiobooks, but I'm definitely into podcasts, and since I've recently had a baby (which makes conventional reading a bit harder) now might be a good time to start.
Q. Do you have a favourite bookshop (and why that shop)?
Can I have two? Please? Firstly, The Owl Bookshop in Kentish Town. It's been there since my mother (to whom Wild City is dedicated) visited as a student at North London Poly in the 1970s. Every time I visit I always manage to come out with at least one book, usually more.
Secondly, the Camden Garden Centre cafe – Pritchard & Ure – which may sound like an unusual choice, but it's such a lovely setting and has a wonderful selection of titles – mostly natural history, which is always a winner with me!
Many thanks to Florence for recommending some important books! Please don't forget to check out Florence's book A History of Delusions: The Glass King, a Substitute Husband and a Walking Corpse.
Image Copyrights: Orion Publishing Co (Wild City), Penguin Books Ltd (This Changes Everything), Penguin Books Ltd (The Spirit Level), Bloomsbury Publishing PLC (The Sixth Extinction), Pan Macmillan (Wilding), Martino Fine Books (The Magic Pudding).