Even ignoring all the awesome information I’m learning from reading so much non-fiction, I’ve been learning a lot from this project. In particular, I’m learning to do things for the journey instead of the destination; to be patient with myself; to indulge my interests; and to see where life takes me. I have zero self-control in the library, absolutely none. Which is why I ended up with All Creatures Great and Small, a book from a section I’d already read a book from! I’m absolutely amazed at the number of books I can find to desperately want to read in even a small section of a small library in Ames, Iowa. But I constantly remind myself that I’m not going to finish the project in a reasonable time frame anyway, and you know what? It doesn’t matter. Because finishing is not the point. The point is to read books I wouldn’t have read otherwise and become a more well-rounded person. Plus to enjoy myself of course, which is usually enough all by itself to make me glad I picked a book up.
Take All Creatures Great and Small for example. This is one of the first books I’ve read for this project and really thought, here is a non-fiction book for someone who doesn’t read non-fiction. The author, James Herriot, shares tales of his life, with all its’ adventures and mishaps, as a country vet in North Yorkshire, the largest county in England. Like Dewey, this book reminded me very much of the At Home in Mitford series. It’s pleasant. It’s about the mundane, but often wonderful events in someone’s life. It’s a glimpse into a simpler, less busy life than most of us live today. And it’s very much like a particularly articulate and funny friend is telling you stories about their life. So you don’t have to rely on my comparison to the Mitford series, here are two quotes I particularly liked and which give you a good feel for the story:
“Autumn had come with a sharpness in the air and at nights the log fire burned bright in the big room, sending shadows flickering over the graceful alcoves and up to the high, carved ceiling. It was always a good time when the work of the day was through and the three of lay back in the shabby armchairs and stretched our feet out to the blaze.”
“I never hurried over this part. There could be an urgent case waiting but I still took my time. Along the narrow part between the ivy-covered wall and the long offshoot of the house where the wisteria climbed, pushing its tendrils and its withered blooms into the very rooms. Then past the rockery where the garden widened to the lawn, unkempt and lost-looking but lending coolness and softness to the weathered brick. Around its flowers blazed in untidy profusion, battling with a jungle of weeds.”
I also loved the beginning. It could have been gross, as Herriot describes his experience giving birth to a cow in some detail. But it wasn’t and not only that, the author had me laughing throughout, as he compared his experience to the pristine picture painted by his school textbooks and describes the constant critiques of the farmer’s brother. Although the author jumps from one anecdote of this sort to another, the story never felt choppy. It was usually clear the stories were being presented in chronological order or had some thematic connection and there are multiple stories about many of his clients so that you get to feel you know them.
Finally, the stories really were wonderful. I would definitely recommend this book to even people who don’t like non-fiction, although I could see some people disliking the mundane setting. But the stories were always so humorous, so heart-warming, or (in a very few cases) so heart-breaking that I don’t think any fiction story could have been better.
All Creatures Great and Small – 4 stars – non-fiction for even the fiction reader. I would recommend this to anyone, except perhaps someone who really can’t stand a mundane setting. Humorous and heart-warming.