Memoir by TV’s Chris Packham wins nature writing vote

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TV presenter Chris Packham’s memoir Fingers In The Sparkle Jar has been voted the UK’s favourite nature book in an online poll.

The autobiography by the naturalist and wildlife campaigner, which describes growing up with Asperger’s syndrome, a form of autism, and his obsession with nature, came top in the vote on a shortlist of 10 books on nature.

Some 7,300 people took part in the online poll organised by the Arts and Humanities Research Council to help launch Land Lines, a two-year research project on the history of modern nature writing since the 18th century.

In second place was Henry Williamson’s classic, Tarka The Otter, and in third was Common Ground by Rob Cowen.

They beat other shortlisted books ranging from John Clare’s Poems to The Wind In The Willows by Kenneth Grahame and The Natural History Of Selborne by Gilbert White, published in 1789.

The shortlist was chosen by an expert panel from more than 270 titles nominated by the public last year.

“Fingers In The Sparkle Jar is an outstanding book: raw and brave, and written with an astonishing vividness of perception and recall.

“With this memoir, Chris has succeeded in attracting readers who would perhaps not usually pick up a ‘nature book’.

“Informative and heartbreaking in equal measure, and graced with a punk sensibility and wry sense of humour, Fingers In The Sparkle Jar is a work of great originality which pushes at the boundaries of the nature writing genre.”

Fingers In The Sparkle Jar charts Packham’s life between the ages of six and 16 through the Sixties and Seventies, following how he, as an awkward and unusual little boy, discovered and became obsessed with wildlife.

Public comments about the book included describing it as “the most powerful, honest account I’ve ever read about how nature can shape a person” and “brutal and hard to read at times but ultimately brilliant”.

The Land Lines project by Leeds, St Andrews and Sussex universities is looking at how nature writing in the UK has changed over the last 200 years and what it reveals about our relationship with the natural world.

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