charles rangeley-wilson – writing about fishing, travel, rivers, conservation

Top Ten River Books

An interesting page in The Guardian today: Katherine Norbury, who has just published The Fish Ladder, has compiled her top ten books about rivers.

I have to agree with her about Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, of course … because it’s almost the best book ever written, apart from Moby Dick.

And Alice Oswald is a no brainer, though I think Dart wins my vote over A Sleepwalk on the Severn.

The Wind in the Willows features a river and is of course a fabulous book. But I think Katherine missed a few. So here’s the seven others I would have added … with apologies to those bumped off (okay, there’s a slight bias towards those written by anglers … but anglers spend more time than most in rivers and their observations tend to be more pleasingly visceral as a result):

A River Runs Through It by Norman Maclean. Anyone who has read this book would include it, surely?

River by Ted Hughes. A fabulous, mesmerising collection of poems and photos (by Peter Keene).

Danube by Claudio Magris. Enormous.

The Habit of Rivers by Ted Leeson. Like Cain’s Book, but a softer waterborne addiction. Cain’s Book could almost be in here too. It’s set on a river, though it’s not quite about one.

Big Two-Hearted River by Ernest Hemingway. A two-part short story, but a kind of necessary inclusion.

The Golden River by J W Hills. An underrated writer, except by Virginia Woolf, who thought him rather good.

Down the River by HE Bates. I’ve just written an intro for the new Little Toller edition of this. And it’s not by an angler.

Of the above the Maclean, the Leeson, the Hughes and the Hemingway are solid entries. As were Conrad and Oswald. I’d be interested to hear of, be reminded of or read other candidates.

3 Responses to “Top Ten River Books”

  1. Sebastian Hope

    Hi there,

    Very interesting list of river books, but have you ever read A River Sutra by Gita Mehta? It made me want to visit India again, instantly, and walk the Narmada River before they built the dam.

    All best

    Sebastian Hope


  2. rangeley

    Hi Sebastian, no I haven’t. But I will now. Had this one via twitter: Hesse’s Siddhartha. Best. C.

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