I have to say, 2018 has been a fruitful year for me as far as books have been concerned. I like to think that my interests are fairly varied, although I admit that fiction is not a strong want in me. So, this leaves non-fiction in the main. I make no secret of my predilection for biographies, or history books, and in many cases both can be found in one tome. A very recent book I reviewed was entitled Who Killed Sir Walter Ralegh? by Richard Dale. This was just perfect for me, it introduced me to so much that I had no idea about, plus, as far as can be ascertained, the entire book is truthful, and that appeals to me greatly. Hence my dislike of fiction. I do not abhor it naturally, but I find no use for it.

I tend to favour books on a singular subject at the same time, like a glut of information relative to the subject matter. This can become what appears to be almost an obsession, but I find that cross-referencing through reading so many books this way helps to build a constructive image of the subject, normally a life, in my mental reference banks.

For example, for many years I have been interested in Ancient Egypt, nothing strange about being keen on such a fascinating subject. I find the 18th Dynasty a trifle more deeper than usual. I have read lots of books on the subject, but a day well spent in the City of Norwich, trawling through many charity shops, and s/h bookshops gleaned a stack of newish and oldish books for little monies. Thus began  several reviews, all the while wondering if my taste might not become boring to Nudge acolytes? One book that stood out for me was entitled The Lost Tomb by Kent Weeks. He rediscovered the lost tomb KV5 in the Valley of the Kings. This is an exciting book that takes you on a voyage of discovery that will move anyone to find out more.

These voyages of discovery also raised another title, The Shipwreck Hunter by David L Mearns. Within the pages, one follows an acknowledged deep sea explorer as he traces many shipwrecks, both recent and old. A completely different tack from Ancient Egypt, yet the familiar excitement as details are revealed to the reader’s gaze, plus the pathos as the people left behind when the ships were lost are sought out. An excellent book that sticks in the mind.

Another book that sits on my psyche is Emily Winterburn’s The Quiet Revolution of Caroline Herschel. Again, this falls in line with another abiding interest of mine, that of astronomy. Caroline Herschel, born in the 1700s, became a famous Heroine of Astronomy due to her amazing life in a time well before women’s emancipation. Using her brother’s access to The Royal Society of London, she published her findings with regards to her discovered comets and other heavenly bodies. This book is compiled mainly from her diaries, but a few are missing, and the question as to why is raised by the author of the book. An absorbing read throughout, and the historical fact is amazing.

We all know of Admiral Nelson of course, his naval history is unsurpassed, but what of an award given to him by the Sultan of Turkey? This present was a much revered Chelengk, a sort of brooch/spray, heavily be-jewelled, incredibly rich in every way. Nelson wore this in his hat, as depicted in paintings. This book by Martyn Downer, entitled Nelson’s Lost Jewel, is both a historical treatise of Nelson and others, and a detective story about where the jewel vanished to.

Then of course, we come to another, perhaps a mite macabre, area of interest: books regarding autopsies, death and burials, right down to doctors informing the reader about a variety of anecdotal illnesses or having a swipe at governing factions. I enjoy this sort of book immensely. I have several of the ilk, and every one is a gem of information that helps with better understanding what we actually are, as earth bound animals, and carcasses.

I firmly believe that truth is stranger than fiction, some of the things I have read about far surpass anything manufactured. Each to their own of course. This is a simple account of a few of the many books I have read within 2018. Many other books are not reviewed, but read notwithstanding, some are retained for future perusal, as quite often another ‘obsession’ manifests itself, and off I go seeking books on that subject. I suppose I could be likened to a ‘Bibliophilic Flipper Machine’, a certain theme, but randomly bouncing around it.

Currently, I am engaged in a fruitful study of the lives of Mary Shelley, the author of Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus, her mother Mary Wollstonecraft, and her father William Godwin. All hail from the 1700s again. Along with this study, I also have an abiding interest in the ‘Demi Monde’ or ‘Courtesans’ of the 1700s, and the 1800s. This involves all sorts of factual evidence concerning life in those austere days of yesteryear. I simply gorge myself on all this history, every day, books are a fabulous educational tool that too many people seem to ignore to their peril, in my eyes anyway.

Reg Seward
December 2018