Ironically, one of the great things about the Internet is the way it can help you find those special books that have somehow vanished from your shelves.
Aged eighteen or so I read a short guide to backpacking which - and there's no overstatement here - changed my life. I bought it when I was working in a crisp factory, endlessly packing boxes of Ready Salted and waiting for Fridays to come. The book inspired me to take my first proper trips to the mountains, and in so doing, gave me a lifelong love of the outdoors. A few weeks after buying it, I packed in my job and walked the Pennine Way.
For years I recommended The Backpacker's Handbook to friends; as much a celebration as a technical guide, a book to keep by your bed and dip into again and again. I must have lent it once too often, as someone didn't return it and for twenty years I'd been looking for a replacement. So imagine my delight when after few clicks on abebooks.com a copy was on its way.
It was just as I recalled: the same cover and red banner strip, the same format and photos that had stuck in my memory. What I'd forgotten though, was the quality of the writing.
How many backpacking guides open like this?
Time was when the world was limitless. Time was when the human race moved around - if at all - on its two feet. Time was when man didn't crave freedom to wander but took it for granted....
Or finish with a note like this:
Today, Boxing Day, was for me the moment the tide turned. Across the grey-blue marshes the sun subsided into the marram grass horizon and a brown froth edged nuzzle of a new tide dribbled up the gulleys between the saltings. .. the world turned to pewter.
As I re-read the first chapters I understood why it had so affected me. It's written not just with knowledge and experience, but with a care for the outdoors and a perception for the landscape that gives it a dimension so many guidebooks lack. Information is easy to collate; inspiration and resonance are harder to achieve.
I wonder what happened to Derrick Booth? I never see his name in print; as far as I can tell he doesn't write for any of the outdoor magazines; for all I know he might have passed on. But his little book on backpacking is a classic - a world apart from the pseudo 'new nature' tosh that seems to centre round East Anglian writers (notable exception being Mark Crocker's, Crow Country). So thanks Derrick Booth -whoever and wherever you are - you changed one person at least.
Sorry, this time my copy is not for borrowing.