First up, a book that qualifies for Bev's Mount TBR challenge, West With the Night by Beryl Markham.
First of all I must say that this is one of the most beautifully written books I've read. The writing is lyrical and poetical and I don't think I've ever seen Africa described in such stunning detail. After I'd finished reading it I looked Beryl Markham up and chanced on the suggestion that she may not have written the book at all. She was married to a writer when the book came out and apparently he might have written it. Well, I assume it's a valid point of view, but and for me it's a big 'but'... how can anyone who has not had these experiences of Africa possibly write about it so personally and intimately? Sorry, I don't buy it, but that's only my opinion. Whoever wrote it wrote something very beautiful and well worth reading.
Beryl Markham's life was amazing and this book only touches on the first 25 or so years as far as I can see. She was a brave, courageous woman who had to make a living in what was then a man's world and who chose two occupations that women simply did not partake in: race-horse training and flying. She was the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic and did it from east to west when the men had done it the other way round. She was close friends with the Blixens and Denis Finch-Hatton who were the subjects of the film, Out of Africa. There's a lot more to know so I plan to get hold of Straight on Till Morning: the Biography of Beryl Markham by Mary S. Lovell (she also wrote about the Mitford Sisters). The other thing to add is how these non-fiction books are often connected with one another, particularly when the times or settings overlap. Beryl stayed in Shepheard's Hotel in Egypt as did Agnes and Margaret from Sisters of Sinai. And when she flew to England with Bror Blixen she describes with great detail the forts the Italians built in Ethiopia after they had annexed the country in 1936... just as Sandy Curle described them in Letters from the Horn of Africa. I do like these little connections and of course they lead you on to find even *more* books that you absolutely *must* read!
I just want to add that this book was intended for the charity shop box but push came to shove and I really couldn't part with it.
The second non-fiction for this post is The Middle-aged Mountaineer by Jim Curran. About two thirds of this book is about Scotland so I think it pretty much qualifies for Peggy's Read Scotland 2014 challenge.
In some respects this book is similar to one of my favourite reads last year, One Man and His Bike by Mike Carter. Both men loved the Scottish leg and seemed to feel rather a sense of anti-climax once they'd left Scotland and were faced with cycling through England. In fact Curran stopped off at his home in Sheffield, on the way, and nearly didn't get back on the road again. It leads me to conclude that Scotland must have something which England doesn't and it can't just be fabulous scenery. Nothing for it... I'll just have to get up there and find out for myself.