Inspired by Birds: Nicholas Royle with Alex Preston at Folkestone Literary Festival


Two very different books, both inspired by birds, question our relationship to nature and the role of literature.

In As Kingfishers Catch Fire, Alex Preston tells how adolescence made him stop being a birdwatcher. Instead he began birdwatching in the books that he read, creating his own personal anthology of nature writing. Illuminated by the celebrated graphic artist Neil Gower, Preston weaves the very best writing about birds into a personal and eccentric narrative that is as much about the joy of reading and writing as it is about the thrill of wildlife.

Nicholas Royle’s An English Guide to Birdwatching combines a page-turning story about retirement in a coastal town, literary theft, adultery and ambition with a poetic and moving investigation into our relationship to birds and to the environment. It is exquisitely inventive and very funny, juxtaposing the stuff of scandalous gossip with scathing reports of how the world has gone to hell in a handcart. Playfully commenting on the main story are 17 interlinked ‘Hides’ beautifully illustrated by artist Natalia Gasson.