April’s reading list……..

Nick by Michael Farris Smith, £12.99 in hardback.

Before Nick Carraway moved to West Egg and into Gatsby’s world, he was at the centre of a very different story – one taking place along the trenches and deep within the tunnels of World War I. An epic portrait of a truly singular era and a sweeping, romantic story of self-discovery, this rich and imaginative novel breathes new life into a character that many know only from the periphery. Charged with enough alcohol, heartbreak, and profound yearning to transfix even the heartiest of golden age scribes, Nick reveals the man behind the narrator who has captivated readers for decades. At times this felt like a Western, which was very odd, but on the whole an interesting idea.

The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith, £8.99 paperback.

When a troubled model falls to her death from a snow-covered Mayfair balcony, it’s assumed that she’s committed suicide. However, her brother has doubts, and calls in private investigator, Cormoran Strike, to look into the case. Strike – a war veteran wounded both physically and psychologically – has his life in disarray. The case gives him a financial lifeline, but it comes at a personal cost: the more he delves into the young model’s complex world, the darker things get – and the closer he gets to terrible danger . . . A thoroughly enjoyable read with fantastically drawn characters. A big hit with our book club.

Date with Danger by Julia Chapman, £8.99 in paperback.

Number 5 in the Dales Detective series, Date With Danger sees our intrepid leads, Samson and Delilah, on the trail of a sheep rustler turned killer. In the heart of Yorkshire, the Dales Detective Agency is about to face its biggest challenge. A fatal accident at Bruncliffe’s livestock auction mart leads auctioneer Harry Furness to call in the detective duo, but what starts out as a simple health-and-safety investigation soon takes a sinister turn – they discover evidence that suggests murder. With their enquiries ongoing, Clive Knowles approaches them for help – his sheep are being threatened by the gang of rustlers that is plaguing the Dales. Meanwhile, Poacher Pete Ferris has also decided to play his hand, setting in motion a blackmail plot which will ensure Samson is pulled back into trouble with his nemesis Rick Procter. With all three cases converging, Samson and Delilah will find that their latest investigation is fraught with danger; a danger that will leave them fighting for their lives. Thoroughly gripping from start to finish, it’s a proper whirlwind of danger and excitement.

Date with Deceit by Julia Chapman, £8.99 in paperback.

Book number 6 sees Delilah going undercover at a shoot involving dangerous criminals. A woman in tears in the Dales Detective Agency is never the best way to start the week. But when that woman is the wife of Bernard Taylor, town mayor and eminent businessman, there is even more cause for alarm. So when Nancy Taylor asks the detectives to investigate whether her husband is having an affair, Samson O’Brien and Delilah Metcalfe know they will have to tread carefully. The case, however, proves to be more complex than even they had imagined. While Delilah is undercover at a local shoot to better keep tabs on the errant husband, she is on the scene for a fatal incident that sends the town into turmoil. Soon the detective duo are embroiled in a far more serious investigation than mere infidelity as they discover that deceit is rife in Bruncliffe. And it may well prove deadly . . . As usual, fantastically constructed plotlines boil away, and well known characters weave in and out of the limelight, creating havoc and intrigue. Compelling and enjoyable as ever. We CANT’T WAIT for book number 7!

Edge of the Grave by Robbie Morrison, £14.99 in hardback.

1932, Glasgow. When the son-in-law of one of the city’s wealthiest shipbuilders is found floating in the River Clyde with his throat cut, it falls to Inspector Jimmy Dreghorn to lead the murder case – despite sharing a troubled history with the victim’s widow, Isla Lockhart. From the flying fists and flashing blades of Glasgow’s gangland underworld, to the backstabbing upper echelons of government and big business, Dreghorn and his partner ‘Bonnie’ Archie McDaid will have to dig deep into Glasgow society to find out who wanted the man dead and why. All the while, a sadistic murderer stalks the post-war city leaving a trail of dead bodies in their wake. As the case deepens, will Dreghorn find the killer – or lose his own life in the process? A dark historical crime novel set in a city still recovering from the Great War; split by religious division and swarming with razor gangs. Captures the essence of the time period really well and makes you root for Dreghorn in a huge way. Completely absorbing.

What we’ve read in March……

Mother for Dinner by Shalom Auslander, £16.99 Hardback

Seventh Seltzer has done everything he can to break from the traditions of the past, but in his overbearing, narcissistic mother’s last moments, she whispers in his ear the two words he always knew she would: ‘Eat me’. This is not unusual, as the Seltzers are Cannibal-Americans, a once proud and thriving ethnic group, but for Seventh, it raises some serious questions. Of practical concern, she’s six-foot-two and weighs over thirty stone – even divided up between Seventh and his eleven brothers, that’s a lot of red meat. Plus, Second keeps kosher, Ninth is vegan and Sixth is dead. To make matters worse, even if he can wrangle his brothers together for a feast, the Can-Am people have assimilated, and the only living Cannibal who knows how to perform the ancient ritual is their Uncle Ishmael, a far from reliable guide. Beyond the practical, Seventh struggles with the sense of guilt and responsibility he feels – to his mother, to his people and to his unique cultural heritage. A bizarrely enjoyable read, with lots of dark humour. It highlights how we all judge other people for being ‘not like me’, and rarely take the time to understand other cultures in detail. It also raises a lot of questions about how we all relate to death and grief.

Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro, £20, hardback

From her place in the store, Klara, an Artificial Friend with outstanding observational qualities, watches carefully the behaviour of those who come in to browse, and of those who pass in the street outside. She remains hopeful a customer will soon choose her. When the possibility emerges that her circumstances may change for ever, Klara is warned not to invest too much in the promises of humans. In Klara and the Sun, his first novel since winning the Nobel Prize in Literature, Kazuo Ishiguro looks at our rapidly-changing modern world through the eyes of an unforgettable narrator to explore a fundamental question: what does it mean to love?

Animal Farm by George Orwell, £8.99 paperback

Mr Jones of Manor Farm is so lazy and drunken that one day he forgets to feed his livestock. The ensuing rebellion under the leadership of the pigs Napoleon and Snowball leads to the animals taking over the farm. Vowing to eliminate the terrible inequities of the farmyard, the renamed Animal Farm is organised to benefit all who walk on four legs. But as time passes, the ideals of the rebellion are corrupted, then forgotten. And something new and unexpected emerges. First published in 1945, Animal Farm – the history of a revolution that went wrong – is George Orwell’s brilliant satire on the corrupting influence of power. I first read this at school and was shocked to realise just how powerful it still is to me. The propaganda sections were hugely so, and still incredibly scary. So glad I read it again.

The Library of the Dead by T L Huchu, £14.99 hardback

Ropa dropped out of school to become a ghostalker – and now she speaks to Edinburgh’s dead, carrying messages to the living. A girl’s gotta earn a living, and it seems harmless enough. Until, that is, the dead whisper that someone’s bewitching children – leaving them husks, empty of joy and life. It’s on Ropa’s patch, so she feels honour bound to investigate. But what she learns will change her world. She’ll dice with death as she calls on Zimbabwean magic and Scottish pragmatism to hunt down clues. In the process, discovering an occult library and some unexpected allies. A really enjoyable read that navigates it dark turns well. Looking forward to the second in the series.

Greenwich Park by Katherine Faulkner, £12.99 hardback

Helen has it all. Daniel is the perfect husband. Rory is the perfect brother. Serena is the perfect sister-in-law. And Rachel? Rachel is the perfect nightmare. When Helen, finally pregnant after years of tragedy, attends her first antenatal class, she is expecting her loving architect husband to arrive soon after, along with her confident, charming brother Rory and his pregnant wife, the effortlessly beautiful Serena. What she is not expecting is Rachel – brash, unsettling, single mother-to-be who wants to be Helen’s friend. Who wants to get know Helen and her friends and her family. Who wants to know everything about them. A masterfully plotted thriller that is hugely addictive, I thoroughly enjoyed it.

The Pull of the Stars by by Emma Donoghue, £8.99 paperback

Dublin, 1918. In a country ravaged by war and disease, Nurse Julia Power works at an understaffed hospital in the city centre, where expectant mothers who have come down with an unfamiliar flu are quarantined together. Into Julia’s regimented world step two outsiders: Doctor Kathleen Lynn, on the run from the police, and a young volunteer helper, Bridie Sweeney. In the darkness and intensity of this tiny ward, over the course of three days, these women change each other’s lives in unexpected ways. They lose patients to this baffling pandemic, but they also shepherd new life into a fearful world. With tireless tenderness and humanity, carers and mothers alike somehow do their impossible work. Again, an addictive read that has real pace and excitement. However, it is quite a tough read. NOT recommended for anyone who is due to have a baby as it’s extremely graphic about the process of childbirth!

You can find all of these books for order on our bookshop.org page: https://uk.bookshop.org/lists/some-books-on-our-blog

OR, you can order from the shop via email and telephone – tanya@limestonebooks.co.uk 01729 268180

What we read in February

Charlotte Gray by Sebastian Faulks

In 1942, Charlotte Gray, a young Scottish woman, heads for occupied France on a dual mission – officially, to run a simple errand for a British special operations group and unofficially, to search for her lover, an English airman missing in action. She travels to the village of Lavaurette, dyeing her hair and changing her name to conceal her identity. As the people in the small town prepare to meet their terrible destiny, Charlotte comes face-to-face with the harrowing truth of what took place in Europe’s darkest years, and confronts a terrifying secret that threatens to cast its shadow over the remainder of her days. A great story-line that takes you right into the war- showing just how dangerous life was. It rekindled our fury at the fact that the holocaust took place.

A Burning by Megha Majumdar

 A girl walks through the slums of Kolkata holding an armful of books. She returns home smelling of smoke, and checks her most prized possession: a brand-new smartphone, purchased in instalments. On Facebook, there is only one conversation: #KolabaganTrainAttack On the small, glowing screen, she types a dangerous thing… ‘If the police didn’t help ordinary people like you and me, if the police watched them die, doesn’t that mean that the government is also a terrorist?’ Set in contemporary India, A Burning is the story of three unforgettable characters, all dreaming of a better future, whose lives are changed forever when they become caught up in the devastating aftermath of a terrorist attack. A fierce condemnation of modern India – the corruption, racism, misogyny, the feverish obsession with celebrity. The inevitability of the ending is very powerful and heartbreaking.

The Second Sleep by Robert Harris

Dusk is gathering as a young priest, Christopher Fairfax, rides across a silent land. It’s a crime to be out after dark, and Fairfax knows he must arrive at his destination – a remote village in the wilds of Exmoor – before night falls and curfew is imposed. He’s lost and he’s becoming anxious as he slowly picks his way across a countryside strewn with the ancient artefacts of a civilisation that seems to have ended in cataclysm. What Fairfax cannot know is that, in the days and weeks to come, everything he believes in will be tested to destruction, as he uncovers a secret that is as dangerous as it is terrifying. Fantastically exciting to read – the pages couldn’t turn quick enough – however, the ending – with it’s limited answers – made us VERY angry!!!

Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982 by Choo Nam-Joo

Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982 is the life story of one young woman born in South Korea at the end of the twentieth century. It raises questions about endemic misogyny and institutional oppression that are relevant to us all. Riveting, original and uncompromising. A very powerful book that re-opened our eyes to gender inequality and reminded us that these issues are still going strong today. Everyone should read this book. It’s important.

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest is a novel that epitomises the spirit of the sixties. Tyrannical Nurse Ratched rules her ward in an Oregon State mental hospital with a strict and unbending routine, unopposed by her patients, who remain cowed by mind-numbing medication and the threat of electroshock therapy. Her regime is disrupted by the arrival of McMurphy – the swaggering, fun-loving trickster with a devilish grin who resolves to oppose her rules on behalf of his fellow inmates. His struggle is seen through the eyes of Chief Bromden, a seemingly mute half-Indian patient who understands McMurphy’s heroic attempt to do battle with the powers that keep them imprisoned. It’s an exuberant, ribald, and devastatingly honest portrayal of the boundaries between sanity and madness. Skilfully written, fantastically well observed, and beautifully tragic. Every single word counts.

The Smallest Man by Frances Quinn

The story of Nat Davy, who in 1625, is sold by his father for being of no use. He’s taken off to London, where he’s hidden in a pie, and then given as a gift to the new queen of England. They called him the queen’s dwarf, but he was more than that. A book about being brave enough to take a chance, even if the odds aren’t good. And about how, when everything else is falling apart, true friendship holds people together. A lighthearted yarn that rattles along pleasantly enough but perhaps a little too simplistic for our taste.

Nighthawking by Russ Thomas, will be published 29th of April.

Sheffield’s beautiful Botanical Gardens – an oasis of peace in a world filled with sorrow, confusion and pain. One morning, a body is found there; a young woman, dead from a stab wound, buried in a quiet corner. Police quickly determine that the body’s been there for months. It would have gone undiscovered for years – but someone just sneaked into the Gardens and dug it up. Who is the victim? Who killed her and hid her body? Who dug her up? And who left a macabre marker on the body? In his quest to find her murderer, DS Adam Tyler will find himself drawn into the secretive world of nighthawkers: treasure-hunters who operate under cover of darkness, seeking the lost and valuable and willing to kill to keep what they find. A gripping story-line with lots of back-story and great characterisation. However, it sometimes feels a bit muddled due to the fact that there are so many characters and people involved. A very enjoyable read none-the-less.

YOU CAN BUY BOOKS FROM THIS BLOG BY VISITING OUR ONLINE SHOP HERE: https://uk.bookshop.org/lists/some-books-on-our-blog

What we’ve read this January……

Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams

Queenie is a twenty-five-year-old Black woman living in south London, straddling Jamaican and British culture whilst slotting neatly into neither. She works at a national newspaper where she’s constantly forced to compare herself to her white, middle-class peers, and to beg to write about Black Lives Matter. After a messy break up from her long-term white boyfriend, Queenie finds herself seeking comfort in all the wrong places. As she veers from one bad decision to another, she finds herself wondering who she wants to be – the question that every woman today must face. A disarmingly honest, boldly political and truly inclusive tale that will speak to anyone who has gone looking for love and acceptance and found something very different instead. A real insight into the casual racism that Black people suffer every single day.

Middlemarch by George Eliot

A masterly evocation of connected lives, changing fortunes and human frailties in a provincial community. Peopling its landscape are Dorothea Brooke, a young idealist whose search for intellectual fulfilment leads her into a disastrous marriage to the pedantic scholar Casaubon; Dr Lydgate, whose pioneering medical methods, combined with an imprudent marriage to the spendthrift beauty Rosamond, threaten to undermine his career; and the religious hypocrite Bulstrode, hiding scandalous crimes from his past. I found this particularly fascinating in terms of the development of medicine.

Waterland by Graham Swift

in 1943, lock-keeper Henry Crick finds the drowned body of a sixteen-year-old boy. Nearly forty years later, his son Tom, a history teacher, is driven by a marital crisis and the provocation of one of his students to forsake the formal teaching of history to start telling stories. Waterland is a classic of modern fiction: a vision of England seen through its mysterious, amphibious Fen country; a tale of two families, startling in its twists and turns and universal in its reach. Compulsively readable, it mixes human and natural history and explores the tragic forces that take us both forwards and back. Set where we grew up, we loved the ‘landscape as character’ more than anything in this fantastic book.

What is Life? by Paul Nurse

A rare foray into non-fiction for us, and we learnt a lot! Nobel prize-winner Paul Nurse has spent his career revealing how living cells work. In this book, he takes up the challenge of defining life in a way that every reader can understand. It’s a shared journey of discovery, and step by step he illuminates five great ideas that underpin biology. He traces the roots of his own curiosity and knowledge to reveal how science works, both now and in the past. Using his personal experiences, in and out of the lab, he shares with us the challenges, the lucky breaks, and the thrilling eureka moments of discovery. To survive the challenges that face the human race today – from climate change, to pandemics, loss of biodiversity and food security – it is vital that we all understand what life is.

Love After Love by Ingrid Persaud

WINNER OF THE COSTA FIRST NOVEL AWARD 2020 and AS SEEN ON BBC’S BETWEEN THE COVERS. Meet the Ramdin-Chetan family: forged through loneliness, broken by secrets, saved by love. Irrepressible Betty Ramdin, her shy son Solo and their marvellous lodger, Mr Chetan, form an unconventional household. All three keep each other safe from an increasingly dangerous world, until a glass of rum, a heart to heart, and a terrible truth explodes the family unit, driving them apart. Brave and brilliant, steeped in affection, Love After Love offers hope to anyone who has loved and lost and has yet to find their way back. A captivating insight into life and relationships in modern day Trinidad.

You can order any of these books by emailing or phoning us – or you can order them to be posted to you here: https://uk.bookshop.org/lists/books-on-our-blog

Read all about it!

You can read all about us during lockdown in these great article in the Yorkshire Post:

https://www.yorkshirepost.co.uk/heritage-and-retro/heritage/meet-owner-independent-bookshop-yorkshire-dales-has-bucked-trend-and-become-heart-community-3115050?fbclid=IwAR1zoHg1K2NiUDhxyLsy8joptm7BS0Fq3UWuKIHcr1W74MGJUnrBLGPyTWk

Events in a troubled climate

When Limestone Books opened, we had high hopes of running and supporting bookish events throughout the year. As we all know, Covid has made this impossible for the time being, but always ones to look on the bright side, we thought we’d take a look back at what we did manage to achieve in our first year.

Just before the shop opened, Margaret Atwood’s follow up to the Handmaid’s Tale, ‘The Testaments’ was published. A huge live event in London was beamed across the country and Settle was lucky to have a screening at Victoria Hall. Limestone Books was in attendance, selling copies of the book, and it gave us our first chance to chat to potential customers. We also attended ‘Fleabag’ live at Victoria Hall, and sold limited editions of the play.

Our first true shop event was opening day. Local authors Diane Allen, Julia Chapman and Leah Fleming all came to officially open the shop and sign books. There was a real buzz in the air and their enthusiasm for having a bookshop in the town was infectious.

Next up was local legend John Killick, who launched his book, ‘Onlyness’. In this book John explores the predicament of being an only child, and he gave lively readings, and led a very interesting discussion.

David Johnson gave a lunchtime talk about his book, ‘Time Please!’, which is all about the lost pubs and alehouses of the Yorkshire Dales. The event was well attended by members of the local CAMRA group who all went on to congregate in The Talbot – a very fitting end to the event!

Susan Parry, an analytical chemist and researcher at Imperial College came in to talk about her scientific work and how it informs her crime novels.

Jane Fenwick spoke to customers about her murderous Gothic romance, ‘Never the Twain’, on Christmas lights switch on day, and Sue Vickerman came in during the afternoon to introduce customers to her poetry collection ‘Adventus’.

Heather Dawe, former winner of the 3 Peaks Cyclocross, gave us a talk about her love of running, cycling and climbing in wild and mountainous places. She also gave readings from her books, ‘A Cycling Year’, ‘High Inspiration’ and ‘Waymaking’.

Marion Dunn released a memoir of her journey into the boxing in her fifties. She had a launch event at Victoria Hall with videos, readings and demonstrations and Limestone Books were in attendance to sell copies of the book.

So, all in all, quite an array of events, considering.

We really hope to have events back up and running as soon as we can in 2021. Watch this space!

We are 1 year old – happy birthday to us!!!!

Can you believe we opened our doors a year ago? Neither can we! And what a first year it’s been. We’ve had some amazing highs.

Our very first day, with local authors Diane Allen, Julia Chapman and Leah Fleming, will always be special to us. It was incredible to have their support, and their enthusiasm was infectious. All of the customers we saw on that day were fantastic too, and they seemed to be almost as excited as we were!

The Christmas lights switch on was another special day. We helped hundreds of shoppers find books for friends and family, and the atmosphere in the shop was so festive and fun. We were aided and abetted by local author Jane Fenwick who came in to talk about her Gothic novel ‘Never the Twain’, and local poet Sue Vickerman who introduced customers to her poetry collection ‘Adventus’.

We started our shop book club in January and it’s been going from strength to strength. We’ve read a huge variety of books from the worlds of fact and fiction, and we’re already planning our reading list for 2021.

We also managed to hold a few events – more about these later – before Covid put a stop to them. It was something we’d been keen to do right from the outset, and we hope to be able to reintroduce these as soon as we’re able.

Sadly, like all businesses, we have suffered the huge blow of Covid lockdown. We were devastated when we had to close our doors and things were definitely tough. But thanks to so many supportive customers who continued to order books from us via email and telephone, we managed to keep our head just above the waterline. We were relieved to be able to re-open in the middle of June.

We’re still very happy in our little shop even though things have changed. We love seeing customers, giving book recommendations (whether they’re asked for or not!), but one of our favourite things to do is collude with mischievous friends and partners to source special surprise presents. Whether it be for a birthday or anniversary, we’ve been happy to help.

But Limestone Books wouldn’t exist without the people of Settle and the surrounding area. We feel extremely lucky to have our shop here, and even more so that customers have taken us to their hearts. We hope to be serving you for many years to come. Here’s to the highs of year two.

Spotlight on Poetry

Poet laureate Simon Armitage said in August, “This is a time when poetry seems to be really having its moment, because of the comfort, consolation and form of expression that people have found in poetry over these months.” And we can’t agree more. When many of us are struggling to concentrate on long forms of writing, a poem can be just the spark we need to capture and soothe our hearts and minds.

With National Poetry Day just around the corner, we’ve decided to throw the spotlight on our poetry shelves, to give you an insight into what’s on our shelves right now.

Settle is very lucky to have a thriving poetry community. Settle Sessions Poetry, in normal times, organises readings, workshops and competitions – see http://www.settlesessionspoetry.co.uk/ During lockdown many supporters of the group came together to produce an inspiring collection of poetry, now available in our shop for just £5.

Produced by local poets during lockdown.

Naked Eye Publishing, based in Settle, also produce high quality poetical work – much of it by local authors. See – http://nakedeyepublishing.co.uk/ We currently have work by Sue Vickerman and Jean Stevens in stock, including Jean’s latest publication ‘Nothing But Words’.

Mike Harding – who many of you may know for his folk music, also writes poetry, and on our shelves we have two of his collections, ‘Cosmos Mariner’ and ‘Fishing for Ghosts’.

We also have work by some of poetry’s biggest titans: Simon Armitage, Lemn Sissay, Pam Ayres, Seamus Heaney, Andrew Motion, to name but a few. Why not pop in to see what gems you can find?

And if you’re looking for something to inspire the younger members of your family, we can offer these two gorgeous collections:

Peak Performance: Ingleborough’s Sporting Legacy by Victoria Benn

With more than two centuries of epic feats, tenacious challenges and trail blazing pioneers uncovered for the first time, Peak Performance is the definitive guide to the great sporting legacy of Ingleborough and the Yorkshire Dales’ Three Peaks.

Sponsored by Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust, this beautiful hardback book by Victoria Benn unveils the complete sporting history of one of the country’s most iconic mountains. More than 200 years of athleticism, perseverance and tenacity are brought to life through personal stories, previously unpublished photographs and several new artworks and illustrations by acclaimed Yorkshire artists, Victoria Alderson and James Innerdale.

Long the stage for the world class Three Peaks Race and 3 Peaks Cyclo-Cross, Ingleborough and its sister mountains are already familiar territory to Europe’s most intrepid adventurers and elite sportsmen and women. The history of these two iconic events, along with that of the Yorkshire Dales’ original ultra, the Fellsman, are uncovered in greater depth than ever before, with testimonies from the pioneers who created them and the selfless individuals who paved the way for others to excel, along with some of the extraordinary athletes who have made history on the mountain.

Discover what inspired Fred Bagley, organiser and winner of the very first Three Peaks Race, and find out from trail blazer Kevin Watson what prompted him to cycle the peaks when he was just 14 years old. Enjoy first-hand insights and anecdotes from fell running legend Bill Teasdale MBE, record holder of the Ingleborough Mountain Race from 1952 – 65, along with many more from some of today’s champion athletes including Rob Jebb, Andy Peace, Nicky Spinks and Victoria Wilkinson.

Peak Performance also reveals the history and stories of Ingleton Sports and Clapham Sports, both large scale events once hosted in the Ingleborough landscape and which reeled in the some of the north’s premier sports talent, one such star being future national hunt jockey Brian Fletcher, who rode to two Grand National victories on Red Rum, one of the most famous race horses of all time.

The book also includes comprehensive and entertaining insights into a wide range of traditional Yorkshire Dales’ sporting pursuits, including wrestling, whippet racing, hound trails, sheep dog trials, motor cycle racing and the horse racing events of trotting and the gallops.

A further highlight of the book is the first time ever recorded history of the prestigious Ingleborough Mountain Race – including the publication of all winners since the very first race in 1934.

Peak Performance also contains contributions from top UK athletes Rob Jebb, Victoria Wilkinson and Hannah Horsburgh in addition to stories from the leading lights of earlier decades including Norman Beck, John Bell, Reg Harrison, Roger Ingham, Arthur Lampkin, Bob Whitfield and Chris Wilkinson.

Available at Limestone Books right now for £8.50.

John Phillips, Yorkshire’s forgotten genius by Colin Speakman

Not many people, even in Yorkshire where he was once famous, have heard of John Phillips (1800-1874). Yet when people walk across the limestone crags and summits of Craven and speak of the Craven Fault, or higher up Dales, the Yoredale Series, they are using terminology and concepts he invented.

He was the first person to fully understand and describe the great limestone landscapes of the Yorkshire Dales, and his story as a scientist, teacher, writer, artist, and energetic walker, is a fascinating one.

Born in Wiltshire, and orphaned when he was only seven years old, John was the nephew of the great William “Strata” Smith (1769-1839), one of the founders of modern geological science who also prepared the first geological maps of England and Wales. After being imprisoned from bankruptcy when his map publishing enterprise failed, William fled to Yorkshire with his nephew, who was now acting as his apprentice.

In 1822 they arrived in Kirkby Lonsdale where young John began to explore and survey the fells around Ingleborough. A chance meeting with a member of the Yorkshire Philosophical Society in 1824 led to William being invited to give a series of lectures in York, assisted by John. So impressed were the Society by John’s intelligence, that he was asked to stay on to catalogue the Society’s collection of fossils. Within a few years he was taken on as their paid Secretary and first Keeper (curator) of their new Yorkshire Museum.


The next few years saw John pioneering work interpreting the cliffs of the Yorkshire Coast, before returning to the Yorkshire Dales to write a classic guide to the limestone of the Dales. He became the first Secretary of the British Association for the Advancements of Science, a brilliant lecturer, and a palaeontologist of world repute, influencing Darwin, among others, with concepts of Deep Time and classifications of early life still used to this day. He left Yorkshire in 1853 to become Professor of Geology at Oxford University, a remarkable achievement for a penniless orphan who had no academic qualifications when he was appointed.

Before leaving York had had time to write and publish one of the best ever guidebooks to Yorkshire – The Rivers, Mountains and Sea Coast of Yorkshire (1853), and what is almost certainly one of the world’s first ever railway guide books, Excursions from the North
Eastern Railway (1854).

Following his tragic death in 1874, in an accident in an Oxford College, his body was brought back to his spiritual home in York to rest in state in the Museum, with the Great Bell of York Minster tolling the funeral procession through the city streets. He was buried in a modest grave in the city cemetery.


My book John Phillips – Yorkshire’s Traveller Through Time (Gritstone Cooperative 2020) – traces the growth of this genial but gifted personality whose last visit to Yorkshire in 1873 saw him staying in Settle to visit the hugely important excavations made by his students at Victoria Cave. As a scientist, teacher, and writer, and one of the greatest interpreters of the
Yorkshire landscape of all time, he had a profound influence on later generations. Even if we have never heard his name, we still see that landscape through his eyes. His work has led directly to the Yorkshire Dales being understood and recognised as a nationally important landscape – a National Park.

Copies available in Limestone Books for £15.00.