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04 November 2022

This week’s selection: Ronald Blythe’s lifetime in the English countryside; a guide to parish life from medieval to Victorian times; and a priest’s story of ministry in Burnley

Next to Nature: A lifetime in the English countryside by Ronald Blythe (John Murray, £25 (£22.50); 978-1-39980-466-0).

“Ronald Blythe lives at the end of an overgrown farm track deep in the rolling countryside of the Stour Valley, on the border between Suffolk and Essex. His home is Bottengoms Farm, a sturdy yeoman’s house once owned by the artist John Nash. From here, Blythe has spent almost half a century observing the slow turn of the agricultural year, the church year, and village life in a series of rich, lyrical rural diaries. Beginning with the arrival of snow on New Year’s Day and ending with Christmas carols sung in the village church, Next to Nature invites us to witness a simple life richly lived. With gentle wit and keen observation Blythe meditates on his life and faith, on literature, art and history, and on our place in the landscape. It is a celebration of one of our greatest living writers, and an unforgettable ode to the English countryside.”

Old Parish Life: A guide for the curious, edited by Justin Lovill (The Bunbury Press, £20 (£18); 978-0-9562046-2-2).

“A richly detailed guide to parish life in England from medieval to Victorian times, based on a wide range of churchwardens’ accounts and other records. It describes the parish and church our ancestors knew - a world of rood lofts and Easter sepulchres, of Maypoles and Midsummer bonfires, of foundlings and frankincense. With over 300 illustrations.”

Our Daily Bread: From Argos to the altar A priest’s story by Father Alex Frost (HarperNorth, £16.99 (£14.99); 978-0-00-855652-5).

“A warmly funny, intensely moving and startlingly personal account of the lives of an urban parish priest and his parishioners. Fr Alex Frost was not always a man of the cloth. He found his calling while running an Argos store in his native Burnley, moonlighting as a stand-up comedian and die-hard fan of The Clarets and Depeche Mode. But having achieved his profession, Fr Alex quickly recognised the 17,000 inhabitants of his new parish were in dire need of help.” 

Selected by Frank Nugent, of the Church House Bookshop, which operates the Church Times Bookshop.

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