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Chris Packham's Fingers in the Sparkle Jar voted UK's favourite nature book

Date: 31/01/2018

Chris Packham

Chris Packham's book Fingers in the Sparkle Jar has been voted Britain's favourite piece of nature writing in an online poll organised by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC).

The result was announced on BBC Winterwatch on BBC2 on Wednesday 31 January.

In total, 7,300 votes were cast in a national online poll featuring 10 shortlisted books. In second place was the classic Tarka the Otter by Henry Williamson and in third was Common Ground by Rob Cowen.

3 winning book covers

Also on the final shortlist (in alphabetical order) were:

  • The Peregrine by JA Baker
  • Poems by John Clare
  • The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame
  • Findings by Kathleen Jamie
  • The Lost Words by Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris
  • ‘The Living Mountain by Nan Shepherd
  • The Natural History of Selborne by Gilbert White

These were selected by a panel of experts (see 'Notes to editors') from more than 270 (278) titles nominated by the public last year. The campaign to find the UK’s favourite book about the natural world was used to help launch Land Lines, a two-year research project, funded by the AHRC.

Led by the Universities of Leeds, St Andrews and Sussex, the project will take a deep look at the history of modern nature writing from 1789, when Gilbert White’s The Natural History of Selborne was first published, to the present day.

Dr Pippa Marland, Research Fellow on the Land Lines project, University of Leeds said: “The Land Lines team would like to congratulate Chris Packham wholeheartedly on his well-deserved win. Fingers in the Sparkle Jar is an outstanding book: raw and brave, and written with an astonishing vividness of perception and recall.

“With this memoir Chris has succeeded in attracting readers who would perhaps not usually pick up a ‘nature book’. Informative and heart-breaking in equal measure, and graced with a punk sensibility and wry sense of humour, Fingers in the Sparkle Jar is a work of great originality which pushes at the boundaries of the nature writing genre'.”

Book cover with Review quotes


Public comments about Fingers in the Sparkle Jar included:
“It's the most powerful, honest account I've ever read about how nature can shape a person and how interactions with wildlife can stay with someone for ever. It's beautifully written and the messages and story stayed with me long after I turned the last page.”

“Fingers in the Sparkle Jar is a truly beautiful, honest account of growing up with Asperger’s and in love with nature, when everyone around you wasn't. It's brutal and hard to read at times but ultimately brilliant. And very well written! I couldn't put it down.”


Gary Grubb, Associate Director of Programmes at the Arts and Humanities Research Council said: “The AHRC funds a wide range of research that contributes to our cultural understanding of the natural world and of our environmental values, experiences and behaviours, as well as the ways that nature inspires and contributes to human creativity and cultures.

“Research on the ways the environment is represented through art media and literature, including the Land Lines project, is helping us to better understand the cultural value of the natural environment, the role that it plays in societal wellbeing and how communities are engaging with narratives about environmental change.”

Notes to editors

For further information, please contact:
Toby Shergold, Communications Manager at the Arts and Humanities Research Council, on 01793 416082 or t.shergold@ahrc.ac.uk

Selection panel - The panel members who selected the final 10 titles, were: Mike Collins, Arts and Humanities Research Council; Miriam Darlington, nature writer and lecturer at the University of Plymouth; Naomi Fuller from Avon Wildlife Trust; Ben Hoare, Features Editor at BBC Wildlife Magazine; Professor Graham Huggan, University of Leeds.

YouTube video

The Arts & Humanities Research Council catches up with TV presenter and naturalist, Chris Packham, whose memoir Fingers in the Sparkle Jar has been voted Britain's favourite piece of nature writing in an online poll organised by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), as part of the new Land Lines project.

Land Lines - Modern British Nature Writing 1789-2014 Research organisations involved: University of Leeds School of English (Lead research organisation), University of Sussex and University of St Andrews. Funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council. www.landlinesproject.wordpress.com  or email: LandLines@leeds.ac.uk Twitter: @LandLinesNature or Facebook: www.facebook.com/LandLinesNature

The Arts and Humanities Research Council funds world-class, independent researchers in a wide range of subjects: history, archaeology, digital content, philosophy, languages, design, heritage, area studies, the creative and performing arts, and much more. This financial year the AHRC will spend approximately £98 million to fund research and postgraduate training, in collaboration with a number of partners. The quality and range of research supported by this investment of public funds not only provides social and cultural benefits and contributes to the economic success of the UK but also to the culture and welfare of societies around the globe.

Visit us at: www.ahrc.ac.uk, on Twitter at @ahrcpress, on Facebook at Arts and Humanities Research Council, or Instagram at @ahrcpress.

The University of Leeds is one of the largest higher education institutions in the UK, with more than 33,000 students from more than 150 different countries, and a member of the Russell Group of research-intensive universities. We are a top 10 university for research and impact power in the UK, according to the 2014 Research Excellence Framework, and in the top 100 for academic reputation in the QS World University Rankings 2018. Additionally, the University was awarded a Gold rating by the Government’s Teaching Excellence Framework in 2017, recognising its ‘consistently outstanding’ teaching and learning provision. Twenty-four of our academics have been awarded National Teaching Fellowships &- more than any other institution in England, Northern Ireland and Wales - reflecting the excellence of our teaching.  www.leeds.ac.uk

The University of St Andrews was founded in the 15th century. St Andrews is Scotland’s first university and the third oldest in the English speaking world. Teaching began in the community of St Andrews on the east coast of Scotland in 1410 and the university was formally constituted by the issue of Papal Bull in 1413. The university is now one of Europe’s most research-intensive seats of learning - over a quarter of its turnover comes from research grants and contracts. It is one of the top rated universities in Europe for research, teaching quality and student satisfaction and is consistently ranked among the UK’s top five in leading independent league tables produced by The Sunday Times and The Times, The Guardian and The Complete University Guide. www.st-andrews.ac.uk

The University of Sussex - Since its foundation in 1961, the University has valued - and encourages- a pioneering spirit. We’ve pushed for change and demanded more, creating a better future for individuals and communities all over the world. Our staff conduct original research to explore the great questions of our age. Their findings impact policy and practice for businesses, NGOs and governments, ensuring that Sussex students are also at the forefront of knowledge in their subject. Creative thinking, pedagogic diversity, intellectual challenge and interdisciplinarity have always been fundamental to a Sussex education. The University’s goal is to deliver teaching and learning programmes that are informed by current research, are attractive to students from all socioeconomic and cultural backgrounds, and which deliver skills for life. www.sussex.ac.uk

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