Chris Packham memoir voted UK's favourite nature book

Chris Packham’s book Fingers in the Sparkle Jar has been voted Britain's favourite piece of nature writing in an online poll organised by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), as part of a project led by the Universities of Sussex, Leeds and St Andrews.

The result was announced on BBC Two’s ‘Winterwatch’ on Wednesday 31 January.

In total, 7,300 votes were cast in a national online poll featuring 10 shortlisted books. In second place was the classic Tarka the Otter by Henry Williamson and third was Common Ground by Rob Cowen.

Also on the final shortlist (in authors’ alphabetical order) were:

  • The Peregrine by JA Baker
  • Poems by John Clare
  • The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame
  • Findings by Kathleen Jamie
  • The Lost Words by Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris
  • The Living Mountain by Nan Shepherd
  • The Natural History of Selborne by Gilbert White

These were selected by a panel of experts from 278 titles nominated by the public last year.

The campaign to find the UK’s favourite book about the natural world was used to help launch Land Lines, a two-year research project, funded by the AHRC.

The project, a collaboration between Dr Will Abberley at the University of Sussex and academic colleagues from Leeds and St Andrews, will take a deep look at the history of modern nature writing from 1789, when Gilbert White’s The Natural History of Selborne was first published, to the present day.

Dr Pippa Marland from the University of Leeds, Research Fellow on the Land Lines project, said:The Land Lines team would like to congratulate Chris Packham wholeheartedly on his well-deserved win. Fingers in the Sparkle Jar is an outstanding book: raw and brave, and written with an astonishing vividness of perception and recall.

“With this memoir Chris has succeeded in attracting readers who would perhaps not usually pick up a ‘nature book’. Informative and heart-breaking in equal measure, and graced with a punk sensibility and wry sense of humour, Fingers in the Sparkle Jar is a work of great originality which pushes at the boundaries of the nature writing genre.”

Public comments about Fingers in the Sparkle Jar included:

  • “It's the most powerful, honest account I've ever read about how nature can shape a person and how interactions with wildlife can stay with someone for ever. It's beautifully written and the messages and story stayed with me long after I turned the last page.”
  • Fingers in the Sparkle Jar is a truly beautiful, honest account of growing up with Asperger’s and in love with nature, when everyone around you wasn't. It's brutal and hard to read at times but ultimately brilliant. And very well written! I couldn't put it down.”

Gary Grubb, Associate Director of Programmes at the Arts and Humanities Research Council, said: “The AHRC funds a wide range of research that contributes to our cultural understanding of the natural world and of our environmental values, experiences and behaviours, as well as the ways that nature inspires and contributes to human creativity and cultures.

“Research on the ways the environment is represented through art media and literature, including the Land Lines project, is helping us to better understand the cultural value of the natural environment, the role that it plays in societal wellbeing and how communities are engaging with narratives about environmental change.”

The panel members who selected the final 10 titles were: Mike Collins, Arts and Humanities Research Council; Miriam Darlington, nature writer and lecturer at the University of Plymouth; Naomi Fuller from Avon Wildlife Trust; Ben Hoare, Features Editor at BBC Wildlife Magazine; and Professor Graham Huggan, University of Leeds.


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Posted on behalf of: School of English
Last updated: Thursday, 1 February 2018