Books

THE LONGEST STORY

The history of humanity’s relationship with other species is baffling. Without animals there would be no us. We are all fellow travellers on the same evolutionary journey. By charting the love-hate story of people and animals, from their first acquaintance in deep prehistory to the present and beyond, The Longest Story reveals how and where our attitudes towards animals began – and how they have persisted, been warped and become magnified ever since. The book tells of the cumulative influence of theologians, writers, artists, warriors, philosophers, farmers, activists and scientists across the centuries, now locking us into debates on farming, extinction, animal rights, pets, experiments and religion.

Published in UK on 1 June, 2021, and in the US on 12 October, 2021, by Oneworld.

Published in Germany as Der Mensch und Das Biest by Rowohlt on 14 September, 2021.

‘In this lucid, informed and persuasive book, Richard Girling sets out the case for the prosecution against man's treatment of the living creatures with which we share our planet. By the end, you wonder why the animals have put up with us… remarkable.’

JULIAN GLOVEREvening Standard

 

‘Thought-provoking... It’s clear he’s on the side of the animals... but he’s careful to argue his case in a measured tone, avoiding over-simplifications.’

MARK MASONDaily Mail

 

THE MAN WHO ATE THE ZOO: Frank Buckland, forgotten hero of natural history

Frank Buckland was an extraordinary man – surgeon, naturalist, veterinarian, popular lecturer, bestselling writer, museum curator, and a conservationist before the concept even existed. Eccentric, revolutionary, prolific, he was one of the 19th century’s most improbable geniuses. His lifelong passion was to discover new ways to feed the hungry. Rhinoceros, crocodile, puppy-dog, giraffe, kangaroo, bear and panther all had their chance to impress. But what finally – and, eventually, fatally – obsessed him was fish. Forgotten now, he was one of the most original, far-sighted and influential natural scientists of his time, held as high in public esteem as his great philosophical enemy, Charles Darwin.

‘An irresistibly engaging account of the life of the David Attenborough of the Victorian era.’

JOHN CAREY, Sunday Times

‘A rollicking ride through eccentric Victorian England. Frank Buckland is the most engaging of subjects.’

The Times

‘It is a joy to be transported back to an era when inquiry was pursued for its own sake, and to see the world through the wide-open eyes and the fertile brain of one of the most inquisitive human beings of modern times.’

TONY RENNELL, Daily Mail

‘This brilliantly entertaining biography argues persuasively why his memory... is worthy of conservation.’

The Economist

‘Big bushy beard: check. Bizarre childhood: check. House stuffed with exotic and sometimes scary animals (not all stuffed): check. In the roll call of Victorian eccentrics, a man who dissects his dad, dines on fried viper and roast giraffe and tries to become a salmon must rank somewhere near the top. Thanks to Richard Girling’s biography, my current favourite nutty naturalist is Frank Buckland: surgeon, zoologist, pioneering fish farmer. What gives him the edge is that for all his wacky ways, he was tireless in his search for knowledge about the natural world and for the best of reasons.’

STEPHANIE PAIN, New Scientist

‘A rollicking biography... It was a surreal Victorian scene from which few got out alive’

National Geographic Traveller

‘Girling has written the hilarious and sometimes unbelievable story of the ludicrous programme of exploits that filled the life of someone who, though little remembered today, was once as esteemed as Charles Darwin.’

The Ecologist

THE HUNT FOR THE GOLDEN MOLE: All creatures great and small, and why they matter

The Somali golden mole was first described in 1964. It is mentioned in a number of textbooks, but the sole evidence for its existence is a tiny fragment of jawbone found in an owl pellet. Intrigued by this elusive creature, and what it can tell us about extinction and survival, Richard Girling embarks on a hunt to find the animal and its discoverer – an Italian professor who he thinks might still be alive. His journey comes at a time when one species – our own – is having to reconsider its relationship with every other. It is also a quest for knowledge. He delves into the history of exploration and the tall tales of the great hunters, explores the science of collecting and naming specimens, traces the development of the conservation movement and addresses the central issues of extinction and biodiversity.

‘A wonderful book... A tour de force.’

JONATHAN DIMBLEBY

‘This is a book that bursts into life from the very first page. Part memoir, and part survey of a bewildering variety of animal species, Richard Girling’s rousing, fascinating study takes the reader on a romp down the corridors of museums and zoos, into previous centuries and back again, and in and out of the lives of extraordinary and flamboyant characters: hunters, trappers, scientists and circusmen.’

CAMILLA CAVENDISH, Sunday Times

‘Natural history at its funniest, most curious, enlightening and heartfelt. Like going on safari with Gerald Durrell, Rachel Carson and Redmond O’Hanlon.’

NICHOLAS CRANE

‘The Somali golden mole is the proxy, a talismanic ambassador, for every small, under-reported and under-researched species that is not charismatic, photogenic or otherwise funding or camera worthy. As Girling soon shows us, there are an awful lot of them.’

New Scientist

‘A gloriously readable, boundlessly fascinating shaggy dog story... The Hunt for the Golden Mole ends sedately with Girling finally getting to peer at the actual jawbone of the extinct mole under a microscope and doing exactly what makes this book so wonderful: using his eye for detail, turning the ordinary into the extraordinary, teaching you to care about the little things.’

JAMES DELINGPOLE, Mail on Sunday

‘Our purposeless devastation of our fellow earthlings has been staggering and it is to Girling’s credit that he lets neither anger nor self-righteousness mar his prose.’

The Observer

‘Elegiac and personal... Highly recommended.’

BBC Wildlife

‘A delight to read, even if the chapter devoted to the hunting of elephants and rhinoceroses is heartbreaking.’

Independent on Sunday

‘A rare delight. Not a hint of preaching, not a whiff of worthiness. A great story written not by an idealist but by a pragmatist with a clear-eyed view of the world.’

SIR TIM SMIT, founder of The Eden Project

GREED: Why we can’t help ourselves

Greed is both a deadly sin and a primal instinct, driving everything from a baby’s cry to the credit crunch. It affects every aspect of our lives – the way we eat, make and form friendships and alliances, our sporting allegiances and our shopping lists. It is a vital subtext in our language, religion, art, architecture, politics and economics. Greed is what drew our earliest ancestors from the cave and propelled them towards the greatest masterpieces of art, philosophy and invention. It is the feeding tube of genius as well as the engine of corruption.

‘In the course of his wide-ranging and brilliantly written polemic, which succeeds in throwing new light on subjects as diverse as the obesity epidemic, footballers’ wages, looming demographic crises in Europe, the manipulative powers of the International Monetary Fund and the human cost of cheap bananas, Girling demonstrates just why we need to keep the monster firmly on the leash.’

Sunday Times

‘There’s stuff to make your jaw hit the floor.’

Daily Mail

SEA CHANGE: Britain’s Coastal Catastrophe

The sea drives our economy, our lifestyle and our politics. It affects what we eat, how we travel, our use of the land and how we relate to our continental neighbours. Our love affair with our coastline inspires myth and legend, and influences our literature, our music and our art. Yet we abuse and despoil our native waters as if we imagine they are resourceful and forgiving. Our once-grand seaside resorts now embrace some of the poorest neighbourhoods in Europe, while our management of our seaports is so inept that we bring chaos to our roads. And all the time our reckless consumption of fossil fuels pumps out greenhouse gases that accelerate climate change and guarantee a future of ever more violent storms, rising seas and destruction.

‘Scarcely pausing for one slow and adoring gaze across the Norfolk coast he loves, Richard Girling plunges off from the first page into the most brilliant and devastating attack yet written on bungling political weakness, incompetence and sheer slowness of those who are meant to be in charge of the seas around our shores.’

ADAM NICOLSON, Evening Standard

‘This is a vivid and devastating account of the decline and fall of the precious waters lapping our coasts... Girling is an extremely good writer. He manages to weave a wonderfully dry humour into the long and sorry catalogue of generations of neglect and short-sightedness... This is a book that makes you think.’

DAVID SHUKMAN, Daily Mail

‘A passionate and blackly witty exposé of the problems that face us.’

Sunday Times

RUBBISH! Dirt on Our Hands and Crisis Ahead

We can no longer cope with our waste. Every hour in the UK we throw away enough rubbish to fill the Albert Hall – a statistic quoted so often that perhaps we’ve stopped imagining what it means. And every year the flow accelerates. Yet our systems for disposal remain as crude as ever. Plan A: chuck it in a hole. Plan B: dump it on someone else’s doorstep. The story of our rubbish – a mucky saga of carelessness, greed and opportunism, wasted opportunity and official bungling – is at the heart of this book. But Rubbish! Is also a plea for us to reconsider other kinds of waste: our trashing of the landscape; our defilement of towns and cities with tawdry architecture and thoughtless planning; our obliteration of wildlife; the unstoppable floods of junk that clog our mailboxes, litter the skies and foul the airwaves.

‘Passionate and combative... With a subject that ranges from the noxious to the infernal, it is a wonder that Girling’s book manages to be compulsively readable and often hilarious as well as important. He has a winning weakness for statistics. Every day, he reveals, Britons get through 13m rolls of lavatory paper which, unrolled and laid end to end, would circle the earth 10 times.’

JOHN CAREY, Sunday Times

‘A sorry tale of how greed, laziness and staggering government incompetence are ruining towns, landscapes and watercourses’.

JEREMY PAXMAN, Daily Telegraph

‘Girling’s account of junk extends far beyond what goes into your wheelie bin. The idiocies of the common agricultural and fisheries policies, ugly and dysfunctional town centres spawned by lame planners in thrall to big business, and run-down railways are just some of the more obvious examples of the rubbish he sees blighting our existence. The complete picture also includes everything from ‘the demeaning of political language with its ludicrous lexicon of of holistic stakeholders and sustainable delivery, to the “smug god-awfulness of television”.’

Independent on Sunday

‘One of the most important books of the year.’

The Bookseller

THE VIEW FROM THE TOP

A collaboration with the photographer Paul Barker, including panoramic photographs and intimate life histories of fifteen of the best loved and most fascinating landscapes in England, Scotland and Wales. All fifteen viewpoints, from the Highlands of Scotland to the Cornish coast, are accessible to the public. Maps pinpoint the sites, and each of Paul Barker’s stunning photographs is annotated to enable viewers to understand what they are seeing, while Richard Girling tells the story of how each landscape originated and evolved through time.

‘If you’re stuck for a good walk or a fine view of the countryside overEaster, this is the book for you, especially if you can’t face leaving the house.’

The Observer

‘From the Scottish Highlands to the chalk hills of Oxfordshire’s Ridgeway, it gives a natural history of Britain’s landscape and an opportunity to appreciate the beautiful scenery without even leaving your armchair.’

Royal Geographical Society Magazine

‘Richard Girling’s words prevent the reader from melting completely into a dreamy session of sighing and cooing. He puts the photographs in a historical and geological context and reaffirms the importance of protecting our fortunate legacy... Nothing is as good as the real thing but this book comes close.’

Country Life

SPRIGG’S WAR

A novel of the English Civil War in which the forces of good and evil compete for the hearts and minds of the central characters much as the armies of Parliament and the King struggle for possession of the land. Linking and separating the lives of the characters is the war itself. From the battlefield of Naseby to the battlements of Bristol we see, through the eyes of the young Captain Oxenham, the misery and splendour of the conflict that tore 17th-century England apart: the bloodshed and bigotry, the courage and cowardice, the exhilaration of victory, the agony of defeat.

‘Corpses at Naseby, candlelight in dark chambers, damp on the West Country hills, the clunk of pewter on wood, the scrape of quill on paper, foul breath from toothless mouths, the perils of the 17th-century bowel movement – Girling can do the lot.... This is a Civil War of damnation, witchcraft, Puritan paranoia and military butchery...’

RICHARD DEVESON, New Statesman

‘Mr Girling’s prose, supple and precise, makes the army’s suffering and cruelty almost unbearable. Relief comes in dozens of exquisite descriptions of birds, some of them symbols and omens – from a kestrel “hanging on its wingbeats like a mounted lancer, scanning the fields for meat” to some doves alighting on a barn roof and “plumping in the gentle breeze like mottled rags”.’

New Yorker

IELFSTAN’S PLACE

Ielfstan was a Saxon lord who gave his name to what is now the West Country village of Ilsington, perched on the edge of Dartmoor in the shadow of the massive Haytor rocks. The book charts the long history of this rural hamlet in a series of harsh and haunting vignettes, beginning in 15,000 BC with the first known human visitors to the region and ending in 1919 with a memorial to the dead of the First World War. Ielfstan’s Place was published in America, and in paperback, as The Forest on the Hill.

‘Something different... an exceptional imagination harnessed to history... Every piece of the mosaic is alive with invention and beautifully visual...like lichen on granite, the character of the hamlet takes hold.’

The Guardian

‘Here is a book to brood over, and with... Nerve, literary skill and scrupulous research pay off: it is a riveting book.’

Financial Times

‘A haunting fusion of time and locality.’

Observer

‘Versatile, well-crafted and surprisingly convincing.’

Sunday Times

‘Wonderfully evocative... Girling’s eye for character is as sharp as his view of the landscape, and the portraits in The Forest on the Hill are miniatures perfect down to the last detail.’

Houston Chronicle

‘What Girling describes is written almost in poetry, making sights and sounds and smells of the millennia of English life come alive... Some of the pieces are almost Chaucerian in tone... a particularly worthy successor the The Canterbury Tales.’

Duluth Herald

‘A vivid and altogether exceptional achievement... The reader is plunged into a succession of rural ages, each uniquely strange, haunting and disturbing. It is quite an experience.’

RONALD BLYTHE, author of Akenfield and The View in Winter

© 2021 Richard Girling
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