Book Review: The Eternal Season by Stephen Rutt

The Eternal Season by Stephen Rutt

My Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

We will all have stories to tell of what 2020 was like for us. Some of us may even write about them, but few will have the unique perspective of the naturalist that Stephen Rutt has in The Eternal Season. Not only is this a tale of his summer and its margins, but a look at how things were and might be. It is a well referenced book, packed with relevant facts about what the author sees, how they have changed and what predictions we might expect.

It’s an insight into how migratory species mark time and how this has changed over the years and will be likely to further change. It is a mix of science, lore, observations and experiences carefully told by an accomplished author who is making his mark as one of the modern greats of nature writing.

The chapters are interspersed with little vignettes of species or key moments and these are in some ways the best parts of the book, carefully intertwined they bring the book as a whole together. A whole that minds us to look not just at the present but at what the future may bring.

Many of us reported how much more of nature we saw when in the midst of lockdown, remarking that it was as if without our constant presence nature breathed again. Perhaps this is true but more likely we were just more present to what was going on around us. The Eternal Season talks to those of us who were noticing parts of the natural world we have not seen before or failed to observe and what that might mean. Stephen Rutt is the expert who can help translate the natural world for us through his own feelings and observations.

The Eternal Season is a book not just for this summer or this year but for all seasons through time.

From the Publisher

None of us will ever forget the summer of 2020. For Stephen Rutt it meant an enforced stay in rural Bedfordshire before he could return to the familiar landscapes of Scotland’s Dumfries. But wherever he found himself, he noted the abundance of nature teeming in our hedgerows, marshlands, and woodlands – the birds, butterflies, moths and dragonflies, bats, frogs and plants that characterise the British summer.

Yet in his explorations of the landscapes and wildlife at the height of the year, he also began to see disturbances to the traditional rhythms of the natural world: the wrong birds singing at the wrong time, disruption to habitats and breeding, the myriad ways climate change is causing a derangement of the seasons.

The Eternal Season is both a celebration of summer and an observation of the delicate series of disorientations that we may not always notice while some birds still sing, while nature still has some voice, but that may be forever changing our perception of the heady days of summer.

About the Author

Stephen Rutt is a 29-year-old award-winning writer, birder and naturalist, originally from Suffolk. ln 2019 he published his first two books, The Seafarers and Wintering: A Season with Geese. As a teenager, he interned with
Birdguides.co.uk and in 2015 he spent seven months at the bird observatory in North Ronaldsay.

He lives in Dumfries and his writing has appeared in the Big Issue, Caught by the River, Daily Mail, Scotsmon and Guardian among others.

The Seafarers, his debut, attracted comparison to the likes of Amy Liptrot, Adam Nicolson and Tim Dee. It won the Saltire Society First Book of the Year was longlisted for the Highland Book Prize and was the recipient of a Roger Deakin Award. Wintering was a Times’ Book of the year. Both books are available as Elliott & Thompson paperbacks.


The Eternal Season – Ghosts of summers past, present and future is published on 1st July 2021 by Elliott and Thompson.


[Disclaimer: The publishers very kindly sent me a proof copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. I have received no payment for this review, and the thoughts are my own.]

Book Review: Bloom by Ruth Kassinger

“Bloom – From Food to Fuel, The Epic Story of How Algae Can Save Our World” by Ruth Kassinger.

My Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars.

From her own garden pond, back in time to when life began and fast forward to today where algae can be in soup, sushi and running shoes, Ruth Kassinger takes readers on a journey through the complexities, triumphs and tribulations of algae. Through many facets that most people won’t simply be aware of to those that could be fundamental to the future of the human race.

Now when I was asked to review this book, I had to confess that I already know a little about algae, I’ve been involved in microalgae projects that look to harness them to produce products of value. So this book for me is part Bus-man’s holiday but it was so much more than that. It is truly mind expanding, regardless of how much you already know – or think you know. Whether the author is talking about the blue-green algae (cyanobacteria), microalgae, or macroalgae (seaweeds), there is just so much information you’ll probably end up wondering how you never heard of a lot of this before, and perhaps why.

It’s extremely well written, and in a style that is engaging from first page to last, and if you think the subtitle might be a little over-the-top, then prepare to have that illusion shattered. The author clearly knows her subject and her first hand research has taken her to many places that many people won’t know exist or perhaps won’t have even considered that they have a connection to algae, but as you read you’ll realise that some pretty well known brands are investing in algal technologies and that many others probably should be.

I particularly enjoyed the parts on food and fuel, expanding my culinary knowledge, and gaining a better understanding of why some projects and companies pivoted their business models the way they did. The untapped potential in some areas is still huge, but timing or political will can be everything

This is science writing at it’s most engaging and rewarding for the reader, whether scientist themselves or just plain interested in widening your knowledge.

The book also comes with some recipes at the end for algae (mostly seaweed) dishes, which is a really nice touch (although I haven’t had a chance to try any of them out yet, I’m planning to).

Bloom – From Food To Fuel, The Epic Story of How Algae Can Save Our World by Ruth Kassinger is published by Elliott & Thompson Books on 4th July 2019.
(Published as “Slime” in the US by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt).

About The Author: Ruth Kassinger writes about the intersection of gardening, history and science. In addition to her several books, Ruth has written for the Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune, Health, National Geographic Explorer and other publications. Find her online at: www.ruthkassinger.com

Disclosure: The publisher provided me with a free copy of this book to review.