The best books about coal

1 authors have picked their favorite books about coal and why they recommend each book.

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Sons And Lovers

By D.H. Lawrence, Taylor Anderson (editor),

Book cover of Sons And Lovers

Another book that features sons. Lawrence’s father was a Nottinghamshire coal miner and there are many little details in the book that attest to the author’s knowledge of nineteenth-century mining family life. I’ve chosen Sons and Lovers because, to me, it asks an unanswerable question and so the tale has stayed in my mind. Did Lawrence despise his own father as much as fictional Paul, influenced by Paul’s mother, despises Walter Morel? I’d love to know. I sympathised with Gertrude, the wife and mother, but I felt so sorry for Walter. He worked hard in a terrible job. He became old and tired before his time. Yes, he was uncouth and illiterate, but I felt he deserved some praise, not contempt.


Who am I?

I write fictional, contemporary gay mysteries, but I prefer to read facts and I enjoy the research that accompanies my storytelling. Industrial history and geology fascinate me, so it isn’t any wonder that I set my tales in the Durham hills of northeast England. As some of my videos in the link show, there are many abandoned quarries, lead and coal mines in the area. I can become emotional when I think about the socio-political history of mining and quarrying. My latest tale reflects my interest in quarrying and my five recommendations reflect a passion that has its roots in the UK’s once thriving, now defunct, coal industry.


I wrote...

The Refuge Bid

By Jude Tresswell,

Book cover of The Refuge Bid

What is my book about?

The Refuge Bid is a gay mystery and relationships tale set in fictional Tunhead, northeast England. Is there a link between a woman who has been missing for ten years and the people bidding to buy and redevelop Tunhead’s decommissioned church and graveyard? Can the County Durham Quad and their special friend, Nick, find out and stop the sale—one grave is special—and can they raise the cash to counter the bids with an offer of their own? Success involves their drawing on Tunhead’s industrial history and on employing their different skills but, also, they must each acknowledge what they really want from their unusual liaison.

(Note: explores asexual/ sexual relationships and contains references to teenage suicide and conversion therapy.)

Billy Elliot

By Melvin Burgess,

Book cover of Billy Elliot

Billy Elliott is a miner’s son who wants to be a ballet dancer. This is an adaptation of Lee Hall’s original screenplay and, to me, lacks the feel of a novel, but I’ve chosen it for three reasons. It’s set in County Durham. It challenges traditional, macho values. It’s as good a description as anything I’ve read that describes aspects of the UK miners’ strikes of the 1980s. When Jackie, Billy’s dad, says, "There’s coal behind everything in this country. It’s still down there. We’re not,” you can sense the anger, hurt, and bitterness—and, forty years later, just like the coal, those feelings remain.


Who am I?

I write fictional, contemporary gay mysteries, but I prefer to read facts and I enjoy the research that accompanies my storytelling. Industrial history and geology fascinate me, so it isn’t any wonder that I set my tales in the Durham hills of northeast England. As some of my videos in the link show, there are many abandoned quarries, lead and coal mines in the area. I can become emotional when I think about the socio-political history of mining and quarrying. My latest tale reflects my interest in quarrying and my five recommendations reflect a passion that has its roots in the UK’s once thriving, now defunct, coal industry.


I wrote...

The Refuge Bid

By Jude Tresswell,

Book cover of The Refuge Bid

What is my book about?

The Refuge Bid is a gay mystery and relationships tale set in fictional Tunhead, northeast England. Is there a link between a woman who has been missing for ten years and the people bidding to buy and redevelop Tunhead’s decommissioned church and graveyard? Can the County Durham Quad and their special friend, Nick, find out and stop the sale—one grave is special—and can they raise the cash to counter the bids with an offer of their own? Success involves their drawing on Tunhead’s industrial history and on employing their different skills but, also, they must each acknowledge what they really want from their unusual liaison.

(Note: explores asexual/ sexual relationships and contains references to teenage suicide and conversion therapy.)

State of the Nation

By John Dos Passos,

Book cover of State of the Nation

Reading Dos Passos’ account of his own travels across wartime America is a valuable corrective to the long-standing myth of a united home front, with civilians cheerfully sacrificing for the boys overseas. Instead, Dos Passos found rising rates of worker absenteeism in defense plants, management executives turning blind eyes to defects in airplanes in the name of profits, and lonely wives of defense workers living in makeshift housing going “trailerwacky” for lack of companionship. And when coal miners walked out on strike in 1943, imperiling war production, one miner explained to Dos Passos that “it’s the tough guys make themselves respected in this man’s country, the tough guys an’ the big winds.”


Who am I?

William Klingaman is the author of ten books, most recently The Darkest Year: The American Home Front, 1941-1942, and The Year Without Summer: 1816 and the Volcano That Darkened the World and Changed History. He holds a Ph.D. In American History from the University of Virginia, and has taught at the University of Virginia and the University of Maryland.


I wrote...

The Darkest Year: The American Home Front 1941-1942

By William Klingaman,

Book cover of The Darkest Year: The American Home Front 1941-1942

What is my book about?

For Americans on the home front, the twelve months following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor comprised the darkest year of World War Two. Despite government attempts to disguise the magnitude of American losses, it was clear that the nation had suffered a nearly unbroken string of military setbacks in the Pacific; by the autumn of 1942, government officials were openly acknowledging the possibility that the United States might lose the war. This is a history of the American home front from December 7, 1941, through the end of 1942, a psychological study of the nation under the pressure of total war.

Ghostcloud

By Michael E. Mann,

Book cover of Ghostcloud

This is an edge-of-the-seat mystery that will keep you reading long past bedtime. The story begins in a grimy underworld beneath the Battersea power station, but rapidly expands into the sky. I’d recommend this book to readers who like their magic with a thrillthe stakes are high and it’s an absolute page-turner. I particularly love the fact that Alma (a friendly ghost who befriends the main character), can change the shape of clouds. How many hours have I spent trying to do that through sheer willpower!


Who am I?

Ever since I was small, I’ve been fascinated by weather magic. Whenever we visited our Shetland family, I’d spend the last few days trying to conjuring fog, to ground the planes, and keep us there a little longer. Reader, it worked! My parents were not happy. I was over the moon and thereafter, utterly convinced that I had magical powers. This is a list of magical middle grade books guaranteed to delight anyone who’s ever been told they have their head in the clouds. Up with sky gazing, daydreaming, and chasing rainbows!


I wrote...

The Weather Weaver

By Tamsin Mori,

Book cover of The Weather Weaver

What is my book about?

11-year-old Stella has returned home to Shetland to spend the summer with her Grandpa, but it's nothing like she remembers. Grandpa is grumpy and over-protective, the island is bleak, and Stella feels trapped, until she encounters an old woman, Tamar, who can spin rainbows and call hurricanes.

With the help of Nimbus, a feisty young storm cloud, Stella begins to learn the craft of weather weaving. But when her cloud brain fogs Grandpa and a sea witch threatens the island, she realises that magic comes with big responsibilities. It will take all her heart and courage to face the coming storm...

Ancient Man

By William R. Corliss,

Book cover of Ancient Man: A Handbook of Puzzling Artifacts

Corless spent his life trawling through old magazines and scientific journals and recording articles about ancient artefacts that baffled the author at the time. He makes no comment on the articles, some of which reveal amazing discoveries. For example, the one about an iron cup that was found in a coal mine in Oklahoma. The coal had formed around it some 300m years ago and yet there it was—man-made but by whom. He outlines many other baffling discoveries as described in articles going back to the 19th century.


Who am I?

I began life as an apprentice motor engineer before starting my own business. Before I married, I used my holidays to visit some of the great historical sites of the Middle East, including, of course, Egypt. That first look at the pyramids, both inside and out, set me on a lifetime study of them and other sites across Europe. Relying on the physical work of others I was able to put down on paper my thoughts on a much earlier civilization that seems to have come from nowhere, erected incredible monuments, and then simply vanished. Now, I still have a very keen interest in it all and slowly I'm amassing enough material for another book.


I wrote...

From Whence We Came – The Biblical Age of World Enlightenment

By Robert Soper,

Book cover of From Whence We Came – The Biblical Age of World Enlightenment

What is my book about?

When seeing the Giza pyramids for the first time in 1963 I listened carefully to what the tour guide had to say. And then I looked at the Great Pyramid and to me, as an engineer, it did not add up. Since then, I've looked at other sites across the globe and again, nothing made sense. When I retired, I put it all down on paper which ended up as two controversial books on the subject.

My own research came up with credible arguments on both sides of the Darwin v Creation debate and by comparing three other massive construction projects from our own era to the Giza complex, I showed that only a very advanced hi-tech society could be responsible. It also showed irrefutable links to other sites across the globe.

How Green Was My Valley

By Richard Llewellyn,

Book cover of How Green Was My Valley

Another book that features striking miners but, this time, set in Victorian Wales. It’s more fiction than autobiography, but I do believe in its portrayal of a family trying to deal with the change from Victorian values to more modern ones. The father clings to his belief in traditional forms of authority and in the power of prayer. The sons believe in unions and fighting for what they feel are workers’ rights. There’s more to How Green Was My Valley than that, but I felt I learnt something. It hadn’t occurred to me that the growth of unions could be so divisive within families. In fact, until I read the book, I knew very little about union development. It came at a price.


Who am I?

I write fictional, contemporary gay mysteries, but I prefer to read facts and I enjoy the research that accompanies my storytelling. Industrial history and geology fascinate me, so it isn’t any wonder that I set my tales in the Durham hills of northeast England. As some of my videos in the link show, there are many abandoned quarries, lead and coal mines in the area. I can become emotional when I think about the socio-political history of mining and quarrying. My latest tale reflects my interest in quarrying and my five recommendations reflect a passion that has its roots in the UK’s once thriving, now defunct, coal industry.


I wrote...

The Refuge Bid

By Jude Tresswell,

Book cover of The Refuge Bid

What is my book about?

The Refuge Bid is a gay mystery and relationships tale set in fictional Tunhead, northeast England. Is there a link between a woman who has been missing for ten years and the people bidding to buy and redevelop Tunhead’s decommissioned church and graveyard? Can the County Durham Quad and their special friend, Nick, find out and stop the sale—one grave is special—and can they raise the cash to counter the bids with an offer of their own? Success involves their drawing on Tunhead’s industrial history and on employing their different skills but, also, they must each acknowledge what they really want from their unusual liaison.

(Note: explores asexual/ sexual relationships and contains references to teenage suicide and conversion therapy.)

Same Sun Here

By Silas House, Neela Vaswani, Hilary Schenker (illustrator)

Book cover of Same Sun Here

Same Sun Here is told by pen pals Meena and River in their letters to each other. Meena is an Indian immigrant living in New York City. River lives in the coal mining region of Kentucky. I am from a rural area myself so was especially drawn to River’s voice and the rural setting. 


Who am I?

I write about topics I’m curious about. When a friend’s daughter converted to Islam that piqued my interest in the religion. I started researching Islam, not entirely sure of where the journey would take me. Around that same time, I saw a picture in my minister’s office of a Syrian refugee and her young son. They held a handwritten sign that said, WE ARE FROM SYRIA, CAN YOU HELP US? I started writing a story about a Christian girl whose church is helping a Syrian refugee family. To enrich the book, I sought a Muslim coauthor to tell half of the story. Together, we read LOTS of books by collaborators. 


I wrote...

Flying Over Water

By Shannon Hitchcock, N.H. Senzai,

Book cover of Flying Over Water

What is my book about?

Twelve-year-old Noura Alwan's family is granted asylum in the United States, after spending two years in a Turkish refugee camp, having fled war-torn Aleppo. They land in Tampa, Florida, just days after the president restricted entry into the US from nations with a Muslim majority population. Twelve-year-old Jordyn Johnson is a record-breaking swimmer, but hasn't swum well since her mom had a miscarriage during one of her meets. Her family has volunteered to help the Alwan family through their church. 

Jordyn is sympathetic to Noura's situation, but there are other members of their Florida community who see the refugees' presence to be a threat to their way of life. While the president's Muslim ban tests the resolve and faith of many, it is friendship that stands strong against fear and hatred. 

Town Is by the Sea

By Joanne Schwartz, Sydney Smith (illustrator),

Book cover of Town Is by the Sea

This is a picture book, but not for very young children. The quiet, almost understated text and art add to the power of the story: a small boy’s experience of coal mining in Nova Scotia in the 1950s. (Though it wasn’t written till 2017). Reading it as an adult, and despite having lived in Nova Scotia as a teenager, I was completely rocked and almost disorientated as I began to grasp the reality of it. I’m not sure which aspect I found more disturbing – imagining the men in the long dark tunnels under the sea, or the boy’s complete acceptance that he would follow this way of life in his turn.  


Who am I?

I’ve always been fascinated by history, and when I dreamed of being an author, imagined I’d write historical fiction. However, it took many writing detours to arrive there. (Nim’s Island, by the way, has no basis in historical fact!). When I first imagined the story that led to the Minoan Wings trilogy, I fell in love with researching this era, which is particularly intriguing because there are virtually no written records. Visiting the ruins of a four-thousand-year-old town on Crete under the guidance of an archaeologist who had not only excavated there but had become passionately involved with my imaginary characters, was an absolute highlight of my life. 


I wrote...

Cuckoo's Flight

By Wendy Orr,

Book cover of Cuckoo's Flight

What is my book about?

If Clio had stayed to load the kiln as she should have, she’d never have seen the ship. But she saw it, and the world changed. Now the oracle is demanding the greatest sacrifice: a young maiden to serve the goddess – and Clio’s grandmother creates a sacred statue to save Clio’s life.

But Clio is torn between the demands of guarding the statue and caring for her beloved horses. Disabled in an accident, she must try to put aside her own grief at no longer being able to ride – and in the process, save a friend’s life and stop a war. 

Measures for Measure

By Mike Leeder,

Book cover of Measures for Measure: Geology and the Industrial Revolution

My sole non-fiction choice. I love the scope of this book: the early engineers and industrialists who were involved, the palaeogeological conditions that made coal deposits possible, the legacy of burning carbon, and, chapter by chapter, a description of most of the coalfields of Britain and the landscapes that resulted. Add poems and songs and paintings and you have a wonderful book. My sole gripe: the illustrations are too tiny. The breadth of content deserves something better.


Who am I?

I write fictional, contemporary gay mysteries, but I prefer to read facts and I enjoy the research that accompanies my storytelling. Industrial history and geology fascinate me, so it isn’t any wonder that I set my tales in the Durham hills of northeast England. As some of my videos in the link show, there are many abandoned quarries, lead and coal mines in the area. I can become emotional when I think about the socio-political history of mining and quarrying. My latest tale reflects my interest in quarrying and my five recommendations reflect a passion that has its roots in the UK’s once thriving, now defunct, coal industry.


I wrote...

The Refuge Bid

By Jude Tresswell,

Book cover of The Refuge Bid

What is my book about?

The Refuge Bid is a gay mystery and relationships tale set in fictional Tunhead, northeast England. Is there a link between a woman who has been missing for ten years and the people bidding to buy and redevelop Tunhead’s decommissioned church and graveyard? Can the County Durham Quad and their special friend, Nick, find out and stop the sale—one grave is special—and can they raise the cash to counter the bids with an offer of their own? Success involves their drawing on Tunhead’s industrial history and on employing their different skills but, also, they must each acknowledge what they really want from their unusual liaison.

(Note: explores asexual/ sexual relationships and contains references to teenage suicide and conversion therapy.)

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