Sally Coulthard, author of A Short History of the World According to Sheep recommends an interesting group of books! Before jumping into the interview, please check out Sally's book:
Q. Do you have a favourite smart thinking book (and why that book)?
The best books are like friendships - they often come along at key points in your life when you need them the most, whether that’s going through grief, finding love, having kids, work difficulties, mid-research etc - they speak to you at different times. I come across plenty of wonderfully obscure non-fiction books in my research - they’re often forgotten gems or books that speak from a different era. I’m reading one at the moment called The Classic Slum: Salford Life in the First Quarter of the Century - it’s a first hand account of life in one of the poorest towns in northern England and brilliantly written - it’s so direct. What’s amazing about that book is that it’s written about a time that wasn’t that long ago - the early twentieth century - and yet people’s lives were immeasurably more difficult. We often forget how far we’ve come. Whatever I’m reading at the time is usually my favourite until it gets usurped...
Q. What's the most recent smart thinking book you've read (and how would you rate it)?
This is going to make you laugh but I found an old book from my university days called The Bog Man and the Archaeology of People by Don Brothwell. I hadn’t picked it up for years but re-reading it instantly transported me back to my degree in Archaeology and Anthropology and that sense of possibility. Reading that book the first time made me realise just how much knowledge there was to explore and how I couldn’t wait to get started. I’ve always been interested in archaeology and history, but this book took me to another place, of macabre, long-lost rituals and beliefs. That really switched me on to just how fascinating and unusual history can be.
Q. Do you have a favourite childhood book?
I devoured the Judy Blume books - she was the only person who really knew how to talk to children about growing up, feelings, relationships. Non-fiction, I loved my parents’ Book of the Human Body - it had lots of exciting pictures in it and I’d pour through it looking for rude bits. Nothing’s changed.
Q. Do you prefer reading on paper, Kindle or listening to an audiobook?
Kindle for night-time, otherwise husband can’t get to sleep and I have to read for half an hour otherwise I won’t. For book research, either. For inspiration, art, interiors, craft, photos - it’s got to be paper. Audio I rarely listen to - I find the sound of someone reading out loud so soothing it sends me straight to sleep.
Q. Do you have a favourite bookshop (and why that shop)?
Kemps in Malton, North Yorkshire - fantastic selection, brilliantly erudite owner, friendly staff. I often put lots of thought into the cover, texture of the paper and illustrations in my books and that’s largely lost when you buy online. Nothing beats browsing in person - that’s where the happy accidents happen.
Image Copyrights: Head of Zeus (A Short History of the World According to Sheep), Penguin Books Ltd (The Classic Slum), British Museum Publications (The Bog Man and the Archaeology of People), Usborne Publishing Ltd (The Usborne Complete Book of the Human Body).