The temperature at the moment is 9°C where I am, in Epsom, Surrey, but I’m deep in Snow (Little Toller), a lovely little book by Marcus Sedgwick — who grew up in Kent but now lives in the French Alps — about the science, art and literature of snow, and about the way in which crystals of ice can transform the mundane into the magical. Snow was Book of the Week on Radio 4 last week, read by Jonathan Firth, and can still be heard on the BBC iPlayer.
Snow is one of the latest offerings from Little Toller, an independent publisher based in Dorset and dedicated to the best in nature writing. Another of its recent titles — which I’ve only had time to dip into but I’m sure I’m going to enjoy — is Arboreal, an anthology of new writing from woodlands across the British Isles, published in memory of the ecologist Oliver Rackham and with royalties going to the charity Common Ground. Dipping into it at random, I read a tremendous contribution by Paul Evans about winter trees as seen from the 7.46 from Shrewsbury to Crewe. It’s the kind of piece that makes you feel, on the one hand, that your own powers of observation are extremely limited and, on the other, that you should spend less time in 2017 jabbing at the keys of a mobile and more time looking out train windows.