Two books you should read in 2019


robin in winter

Well, we made it. Tomorrow is the last day of 2018 (also: my birthday, blah, whatever etc) and here I sit, slightly battered but still functioning. This year has been a funny one. It’s been very money and work-centric, with many “oh shit!” moments thrown in for good measure. That’s what’s eaten up most of my brainspace  – work, juggling finances, and then basically worrying my way through the seasons, increasingly crippled by more and more hours in front of a laptop and it felt, at times, somewhat disconnected from the outside world. My anxiety has been pretty much a constant, manifesting itself as one perceived health crisis after another. I’ve muddled my way through the last two months in particular, barely taking a deep breath or moment to relax. I’m crawling my way to the very end of the year, hopeful that I’ve at least laid a lot of groundwork for good things to come.

And, breathe. I made it. Seriously… breathe Lucy, breathe!

I’m getting to the main topic of this rambling post, but first, let me offer a little background. Sometimes I feel a bit buried, and I often turn to the garden to help me collect myself, rebalance and reboot. Books can often have the same effect, and the right story or passage can lift me up and relight a little fire in my belly. Gardens and books are like medicine. And two books in particular have sparked my imagination this year, helping me to find my way out of the fog. 

The Bumblebee Flies Anyway by Kate Bradbury

The first book that I insist you must read is The Bumblebee Flies Anyway by Kate Bradbury. I read it in under 48 hours (and bear in mind, I have a very energetic mini teenager in the guise of a two year old to contend with too, so this is quite the feat), and I feel like it’s brought me back to where I needed to be, right on the cusp of this new year. Kate’s story of bringing life back to a bleak, unloved garden space made my heart sing. At times, I felt as if she had lifted webs of thought from my brain and laid them out on the page. It’s not a how-to guide or journal. It’s a real story, weaved with light and dark, tragedy and triumph. It’s a memoir, and an utter inspiration. The protagonist is nature, and the book is a bittersweet but ultimately optimistic account of its perseverance against the odds, in this little corner of Brighton. The overarching story of how Kate invited nature back into such a dead and devoid space is a microcosm for what we all could do on a grand scale, if we all just did a little bit more. 

I loved how she wondered about the history of certain spaces and locations; just like me, trying to see through history of what was before, and how we can breathe life back from under layers of brick, tarmac and decking. Through despair, she also offers hope of what could be, and how we will be rewarded if we redeem ourselves and give nature a way in.

I honestly felt like punching the air at times and shouting “me too! me too!” when she wrote of her love for the sparrows, the dawn chorus, the fascination with the smallest of creatures… how we are never really alone, when nature is alongside us. I nodded when she wrote, with great sadness, about our walling off of gardens and green spaces (I’ve made several holes in our fence to allow hedgehogs a right of passage through our little patch, and love the fact that she may have inspired others to do the same). I have made notes as she described her evolving planting schemes, from the sad, winter-bare sticks of roses that grew to thrive and flourish, to the wildlflowers and nectar-rich plants that offer a lifeline to so many pollinators. I realised that my nettle patch and my lawn littered with “weeds” and wildflowers are both so, so valuable.  I even ordered a field guide to bees after finishing her book, because I really want to learn more about the different bee species that frequent the Smallest Smallholding, and pass this information onto my daughter. 

In short, she’s helped me to fall in love again with the slice of land that I am so fortunate to be a steward of. She’s informed, inspired and motivated me to get back to my mission statement – be the change that I want to see in the world. 

Buy this book, borrow this book, get your hands on this book somehow. Just read it!

The Almanac: A seasonal guide to 2019 by Lia Leendertz

My second must-read is a beautiful find that I will carry with me throughout the next year. It’s essentially a guide to the seasons, an ode to each month and the natural rhythms and events that mark out each month from the next. Meteor showers, lunar planting schedules, recipes, songs, moon phases, flower of the month, hints and tips on what to do in the flower garden and vegetable patch. It does what it says on the tin – as a seasonal guide – but it’s so much more than that. If a book could be a comfort food, the Almanac would be the biggest, warmest hearty bowl of seasonal soup served with slice after slice of rustic, homemade bread.

It’s the little details that really make it – the utterly beautiful illustrations by former blogger at Purple Podded Peas’ Celia Hart, the little guide to native tree buds, the naming of each month, the tables of sunrise and set, and even moonrise and set… this book will gently guide you by the hand back to nature. It will urge you to stop and take not;, to look up, look down, look all around. It’ll help you reconnect and re-calibrate, enjoy the small shifts and big events in each calendar month. It’s a valuable resource that will help you to live life a little more in rhythm with the world around you. 

Just like medicine. 




  1. Thank you for sharing these books Lucy, I will look them up. Wishing you wonderful things for 2019 and plenty of time to breathe xxx

  2. Love your blog! And these are great book recommendations 🙂