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Norwegian Wood is the surprise best-seller from Norwegian Lars Mytting about chopping, stacking and drying wood.

Well, that’s what it says in the title but there is so much more to this superb book than that. From the land of long, cold winters, where a supply of good firewood can make the difference between life and death, comes this wonderfully engaging book covering all the things you never realised you wanted to know about how wood gets from a tree in the forest to ash in your grate.

Along the way Lars Mytting not only lets us into the world of working with “captured sunlight” but effortlessly manages to awaken our primal association with nature. For many of us heating appears simply by turning a dial on the wall but here we re-discover forests, wood and trees. The crackling fire. Warmth on a winter day. Wood smoke. Hard, physical labour and the rewards from it. The visible comfort and security of a stockpile of fuel.

While being far from an instruction manual it is nevertheless stuffed full of fascinating information ranging from the latest scientific data to fun facts that tickle the curious mind. Who knew that burning rowan wood used to be taboo because it was valued as a protection against witches? The book is liberally sprinkled with personal stories of firewood enthusiasts revealing their methods and proudly displaying their amazing woodpiles or favourite cutting tools.

Lars Mytting has produced an excellently-written book which taps into the collective psyche concerning our place in the natural world, while also providing an evocative insight into the life of a woodsman. It’s just as easy to dip into as to read all the way through and by the end you’ll be yearning to swing an axe to feed a wood burning stove or even that archetypal roaring log fire.

Read more about the book here, and how lovely that Maclehose Press is an imprint of Quercus, which means oak.

Nik Lawrence

Quercus/978-0857052551/£19.99

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