Five best books about the Lakes

Here’s a list of the best books to start a debate in  book clubs and reading groups. The dramatic and romantic landscape of the Lakes has always inspired writers as well as artists, and we would be keen to hear what are YOUR favourites.

We’ve welcomed several authors to stay with us here at Elterwater over the past few years, many of them setting their stories, or their research, right here.

They include novelists and historians, an expert on Roman Britain, and an actress with impeccable and detailed insights into the work of Arthur Ransome.

What each of them appreciates is the rise in numbers of book clubs, where people get together to share thoughts, recommendations and literary criticism – and often a glass of wine and a bit of gossip at the same time.

Book clubs don’t just encourage reading, they encourage readers to step outside of their comfort zones, says a novelist friend of ours. “People are much more likely to try a new author, or a new genre, on the recommendation of friends, rather than just Amazon review,” she said.

In Cumbria there are village book clubs in places like Ambleside, Grasmere and Keswick, and regional groups in the Eden valley and beyond, as well as the annual literary festival in Keswick, Words on the Water

They meet in each other’s homes, in village halls, in cafes, and one group we know has an occasional night away, staying in the heart of our inspirational landscape. So if that might be of interest to YOUR book club, do get in touch.

You’d be welcome to have an overnight stay (or two) when we have the space, mid-week, low-season. Have dinner cooked by our own chef before starting your discussions in the sitting room, or opt for self catering. We have some good wines to offer; cosy, small shared bedrooms, and a splendid cooked breakfast if you wish. Let us know when you’d like to come.

And meanwhile, here’s OUR top five. It won’t be the same as yours, so tell us what are YOUR favourites.

Pigeon Post: Arthur Ransome. One of the Swallows and Amazons series and considered by many to be his best. It won the Carnegie prize for children’s literature when published in 1936. Set in the Coniston fells near the Coppermines valley, as an adventure story it remains as gripping as ever, and has the most wonderful, surprising and funny finale.

The Plague Dogs: Richard Adams. The third novel by the author of Watership Down, this is an unusual tale, narrated by Rowf and Snitter, two dogs who have escaped from a government research station which has an animal testing facility. There are location maps drawn by the guidebook writer Alfred Wainwright, and a cameo appearance by the world famous naturalist Sir Peter Scott. The fictional research station was set near Grizedale Forest.

Silent Traveller in Lakeland: Chiang Yee. Exiled from China in 1933 ,Chiang Yee spent more than 40 years away from his homeland. Adopting the name the Silent Traveller, he threw himself into writing, painting and poetry, and produced some evocative and enduring travel books. The Silent Traveller series began with this imaginative book on the Lake District, which was an immediate success on its first publication in the 1930s, selling out several reprints in a matter of months. It also caught the critics’ attention, praised for providing an entirely new angle on the Lake scenery.

Scratch and Co – The Great Cat Expedition: Molly Lefebure. Molly, who had a house at Low High Snab, in the Newlands Valley, is another writer whose work was illustrated by Wainwright. This witty story is an account of the first ascent of the H.K.P., the Highest Known Peak in the Kingdom of Catland, originally published in 1968. It’s written in the tradition of classic mountaineering stories and over the years since its first appearance it has built-up an enthusiastic readership among the mountaineering fraternity. It’s a glorious send-up of a mountaineering book – complete with “Alpine Club” type characters, hair-breadth rescues and all the tensions of a Himalayan expedition.

Rogue Herries: Hugh Walpole. Out of fashion at the moment, but described by John Buchan as the finest English novel since Jude the Obscure, this is the story of the larger than life Francis Herries – the rogue of the title – who uproots his family from Yorkshire and brings them to live in Borrowdale where their life is as dramatic as the landscape surrounding them. Herries is a violent and impetuous man, a faithless husband and a capricious father, but the Borrowdale valley (his home for 40 years) and his unrequited love for gypsy Mirabell Starr are the two forces which drive him. It’s the first in a series of four books in this family saga. Deeply atmospheric.