- Photo Essays
I always find it staggering that someone can write an entire book about a single, simple topic and make is absolutely fascinating.
The skill is not in filling 300 odd pages about one subject (most of the literate amongst us could probably do that if we put our mind to it), but that they have actually made it interesting.
Charlie English does this in his book The Snow Tourist and he does it so beautifully, so elegantly, that I had trouble putting it down.
“On the way to bed that night I stood by the upstairs window watching the snow fall.
Flakes burst briefly into the street lamp’s sodium light, to be hustled this way and that by the wind before disappearing into the dark. How many crystals lay down there on the whitening patch of road between our houses?
A few million, I guessed. Billions in the rest of the street, and that was a tiny fraction of the number falling from the snow storm that crossed South-east England. Someone once estimated that a million billion snow crystals were created around the earth every second, in a jumble of shapes and sizes, from simple hexagonal prisms to flat plates and many-fronded stars.
How, I wondered, had they calculated that?”
Yes, it’s about snow. And snow alone. Well, sort of.
Part memoir, part travelogue, English ventures from his home in London to the far-off places of his research and hence, some of the snowiest places on earth.
His journeys take him to Baffin Island in the far north of Canada, Mt Rainer in the Cascade mountains in the US, the Haute Route in the French and Swiss Alps and several other of the world’s snowiest landscapes.
I think what makes this book so ‘unputdownable’ is that while exploring these places English blends science and statistics with romanticism, personal insight and visual imagery in a way that brings the locations and subject matter alive.
I literally felt chilly and reached for a blanket several times whilst reading this book, the feeling of the snow streaked landscapes was so real.
If you are even remotely interested in snow and winter, or even if you’re not, you will love this book.