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Song Of The Rolling Earth: A Highland Odyssey [Paperback]

Sir John Lister-Kaye
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
RRP: 9.99
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Book Description

1 April 2004 A Highland Odyssey

Conservationist and naturalist John Lister-Kaye, founder of the Aigas Field Centre, writes about his life in the glens, the wildlife that surrounds him and the primeval magical exchange that takes place between man and nature once so central to ancient civilisations. He describes finding the ruined nineteenth-century estate that is to become Aigas, taking it over and turning it into a going concern as an Educational Centre, and his own personal motivation, following the Torrey Canyon oil spillage and natural disasters in the 1960s, to become a conservationist. Interspersed within the narrative detail are engaging and enlightening descriptions of flora and fauna. John Lister-Kaye carries the reader very effectively into the minute worlds he observes and backs up keen scrutiny with facts and figures.

SONG OF THE ROLLING EARTH is a notably entertaining and enlightening addition to the canon of naturalist writing that includes Gavin Maxwell's RING OF BRIGHT WATER, Henry Williamson's TARKA THE OTTER and the works of Gerald Durrell.

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Song Of The Rolling Earth: A Highland Odyssey + Nature's Child + At the Water's Edge: A Walk in the Wild
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Product details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Abacus; New Ed edition (1 April 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0349117616
  • ISBN-13: 978-0349117614
  • Product Dimensions: 12.8 x 19.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 199,444 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

More About the Author

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Product Description


Deeply personal and perceptive...a wonderfully lyrical book surging with the sheer joy of nature, from Scotland's premier nature writer (Magnus Magnusson)

A personal, finely poetic book, an odyssey of people, places and wild things. (Christopher Smout, Historiographer Royal in Scotland)

Lister-Kaye establishes himself as one of the finest nature writers in the language (SCOTSMAN)

An environmental classic (SPECTATOR)

Book Description

* A lyrical memoir from Highland naturalist John Lister-Kaye, founder of the famous Aigas Field Centre, this is old-fashioned nature writing at its very best.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
I am slumped in a small green boat on a Highland loch. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A highland odyssey indeed 16 Jun 2003
By A Customer
This is an outstanding book - a must for any lover of nature writing that will deliver surprises and delight on every page. It's also an intriguing view of Highland life (& wildlife) and history from someone who is so obviously part of that whole environment. The book will make you both laugh and cry at times.
John Lister Kaye writes in an almost poetic fashion at times and draws you into the many experiences he has shared with the wildlife and people of the highlands....ranging from his perspectives on the Torrey Canyon disaster to absolutely breathtaking narratives on Ospreys fishing and an unforgettable tale about Wrens.
It is an absolute must-read. A gem.
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28 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Prepare for uplift 30 Oct 2003
“The Bone People” has for a long time been my all time favourite book. It must now move into second place- Song of the Rolling Earth is now No 1. “Charlottes Web” moves to No 3.
This book will connect you with the nature on your doorstep in a way which is life changing. It is a read but it is also an experience, a journey and a revelation. You will start to see and feel the nature all around you, and of which you are part, in new ways. It will, quite plain and simply, do you so much good as it is so full of hope. As a read it will have the same, exciting impact as any documentary which David Attenborough brings you from the across the globe AND, on this occasion the subjects are down your way. You just have to step outside your door or look out your window. I think that the unique gift which Sir John Lister- Kaye has is that he is deeply rooted in nature and also deeply rooted in being a human being. That, I feel is why he can communicate so well with you and me. He is a story teller and he reveals his, your world and my world, through these stories.
I have struggled to put this book down, yet not wanted to read on and on unless I was wholly attentive to what might be around the next page, ever frightened of missing something. It is also the first time that I did not want a book to come to an end and I delayed reading the final pages, as someone holding on to the last 24 hours of their holiday! Prepare also, to need space before taking up another book, once you have finished this read. It is an impossible act to follow and you need time to cherish its riches .
Everyone I know who connects and seeks a deeper connection, with nature, like my mum, our daughters' godfather,etc will receive Song of the rolling earth for Christmas and I just cannot wait to share it with them.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Amazing Story of the Highlands of Scotland 9 May 2007
By Mary
This book is a hidden gem. Before reading it I noticed that on the back of the paperback that it's categorized as a "memoir". Thank goodness I didn't let that put me off - in my experience memoirs all too easily drift into dull and pompous self-aggrandizement. The genius of this book is that John Lister-Kaye uses his own personal experiences, his breadth and depth of knowledge and his lovely writing style to bring the extraordinary story of the Highlands of Scotland to life. It's a massive and often sad story, but the minutest details of the personalities, the wildlife and even the geology of the Highlands just jump off the page. Big insights are tucked away, for example the massive influence of the Victorian landowning classes "world view" on what we now believe to be classic Highland scenery. Thanks to the certainty with which they classed all creatures either as "game" to be treasured and preserved at all costs, or "vermin" to be reviled and obliterated, they produced "deserts" of heather-clad moorland, devoid of natural diversity. The history of human endeavour in this unforgiving landscape, the massive and turbulent geological story and the fascinating creatures who've adapted themselves to live here are all explored with knowledge and panache. This is so much more than a memoir, it should be required reading for all who care about the Highlands of Scotland, its people and its wildlife.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A sense of place 8 Mar 2003
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is a beautifully crafted book about 'duthchas' - the Gaelic word for a sense of belonging to a place. It's the story of the author's passion for nature - formed in his earliest boyhood, developed through his schooldays with, at its core, an examination of his love affair with the natural environment in and around his field studies centre and home at Aigas, in the Highlands of Scotland.
The small, beautifully illustrated, book leaves you breathless at the breadth of its scope: from history and folklore to etymology & entomology; from zoology to botany to ornithology; from philosophy to neuro-physiology; from agriculture to ecology; from nature observation to humorous anecdote; from drama to moving pathos. He describes with poetic, apt imagery the nesting swifts, mating adders, badgers, otters, wood wasps, frozen wrens, the people in his Glen...the list is endless.
The author writes not only with passion but with poetry, compassion, empathy and curiosity: at its heart this book questions the 'whys' of nature - what JLK terms 'the insight conundrum'. His style is accessible, yet erudite, allusive yet original. He quotes from mentors such as Frank Fraser Darling and more humble sources such as crofter-neighbour, Bella Macrae. Weaving in and out of this autobiographical exploration of Aigas and its significance both to the author and his family and to the hundreds of people who have personally experienced Aigas programmes, is a philosophical musing on man's impact on the environment - for better and for worse.
The book is intensely satisfying, offering beautiful prose that warrants re-reading to savour fully the incredibly apt language and imagery used, alongside dramatic or intensely moving incidents and passages of scholarly erudition. The reader is left, feeling that this man has let you share not just his history and home, his business venture and family, but his very raison d'etre and soul. It is a privilege to have been invited in.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A Joy To Read
So sad when I finished reading this book. I shared every experience and loved every minute. A must read for anyone who loves Scotland's wild places.
Published 2 months ago by D. H. Smith
5.0 out of 5 stars Looks great!
Purchased 3 copies - book having been commended by one of my oldest friends - 30 years in "exile" in Australia! Read more
Published 8 months ago by Graham Sharp
5.0 out of 5 stars Nature described with love
The description of the two Scotlands in winter and the other seasons is a masterpiece. There are beautifully described passages about the scenery and wildlife which make you wish... Read more
Published 10 months ago by John Harper
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent
Song of the Rolling Earth is very uplifting and inspiring, and has really shown me to become much more observant and to see just how fascinating nature is.
Published on 24 Dec 2010 by J. schmidt
3.0 out of 5 stars An eclectic mixture of fact and feeling.
This is a bit of a strange mixture of facts and personal feelings about life in the Highlands. Whilst there are parts that I have really enjoyed there are others where John... Read more
Published on 17 May 2009 by Fin
5.0 out of 5 stars If you live on this planet, you will enjoy this book!
It is one thing to have knowledge and it is another to be able to communicate it. Lister-Kaye wins top marks for both - a profound and unusual insight matched with the skills of a... Read more
Published on 17 July 2004 by Myrtle
5.0 out of 5 stars Unputdownable.
I bought this while on a day trip from Fort William to Inverness whilst on my holiday. I loved it and could not put it down, I had heard about John Lister Kaye before being a... Read more
Published on 18 Sep 2003 by Susan.E. Rogers.
5.0 out of 5 stars Song of the Rolling Earth
This is a beautifully crafted book about 'duthchas' - the Gaelic word for a sense of belonging to a place. Read more
Published on 16 Mar 2003 by Franny C
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