Best Nonfiction of 2007

December 17, 2007 at 2:52 pm (Best of 2007, books, To Britain and back, September '07, Travel)

engraver2.jpg Nature’s Engraver by Jenny Uglow. I feel indebted to Uglow for introducing me to the life and art of Thomas Bewick. In the process, she gives us a meticulous re-creation of life in the Tyneside region of England in the late 1700’s and early 1800’s. I am always grateful to authors who transport me in this way to another time and place; in this world, this is the only form of time travel vouchsafed to us .

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[Thomas Bewick, and two of his engravings]


On our trip in September, we passed through Tyneside on our way to Edinburgh. We stopped briefly in the lovely village of Warkworth in Northumberland warkworth_village_and_church.jpg , where we had the pleasure of once again meeting with Ann Cleeves. Finally, we stopped briefly on the windswept coast, then boarded the bus once again. We raced past two places I would dearly loved to have explored: Bamburgh Castle and the amazing Angel of the North

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. There is much to see along the A1, which closely follows the historic Great North Road, described so memorably by Reginald Hill in Recalled To Life.

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Ass you can see, a storm was bearing down us. Shortly after we boarded the bus, the heavens opened up – real Wuthering Heights weather!


Now, back to the books:

salem2.jpg Salem Witch Judge by Eve LaPlante. Not only a rich, illuminating biography of Samuel Sewall, but also a provocative meditation on this country’s Puritan heritage.

indian-summer2.jpg Indian Summer by Alex von Tunzelmann. The story of England’s grand adventure – and at times, misadventure – on the subcontinent. The author’s account is peopled with an enormous cast of characters, many of whom prove capable of astonishingly bizarre and perverse behavior. In particular, for those of us who were raised to venerate Winston Churchill and Mahatma Ghandi, there are some disconcerting revelations here.

uncommon.jpg And finally – the nonfiction book that was the most just plain fun to read, providing as it did great dollops of delicious literary gossip: Uncommon Arrangements by Katie Roiphe.


  1. Jim said,

    Pedantic point, but Warkworth is in Northumberland – no such place as Northumbria any more.

  2. Roberta Rood said,

    Thanks for the correction. I keep confusing the two names.

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