Rag and Bone:
A History of What We’ve Thrown Away
(John Murray, 2020)

Royal Society of Literature Giles St Aubyn Award for Non-fiction

From relics of Georgian empire-building and slave-trading, through Victorian London’s barged-out refuse to 1980s fly-tipping and the pervasiveness of present-day plastics, Rag and Bone traces the story of our rubbish, and, through it, our history of consumption.

In a series of beachcombing and mudlarking walks – beginning in the Thames in central London, then out to the Kentish estuary and eventually the sea around Cornwall – Lisa Woollett also tells the story of her family, a number of whom made their living from London’s waste, and who made a similar journey downriver from the centre of the city to the sea.

A beautifully written but urgent mixture of social history, family memoir and nature writing, Rag and Bone is a book about what we can learn from what we’ve thrown away – and a call to think more about what we leave behind.

‘Lyrical and intriguing… Woollett writes beautifully’
Literary Review

‘Poetic prose and brilliant stories… gloriously and richly strange: a portrait of what we were and what we might become’
Philip Hoare

‘Warmth, wit and gorgeously descriptive language… Woollett’s alchemy is to form narrative gold from these scraps
Evening Standard
 

‘Lisa Woollett’s beautifully descriptive language intertwines the stories of the river’s history with that of her family, like a muddy journey through time… A really important book’
Raynor Winn

Rag and Bone is more than a history in a hundred objects: it is a meditation on our relationship with objects themselves
Times Literary Supplement

‘A beguiling blend of memoir, nature writing and social history
The Bookseller, Editor’s Choice

‘Enthalling’
Patrick Gale

‘An absorbing memoir… Woollett has a gift for bringing to life the strange borderlands of the foreshore’
Guardian

‘A powerful book that has much to say about the present and future state of our world
Countryfile 

Wonderful… if you loved The Salt Path, you’ll love this book. A glorious celebration of where the natural world meets the human
Viv Groskop

‘Subtle, dark and funny, with flashes of beauty and wonder, Rag and Bone is a compelling meditation on the consumer culture and its consequences
Caspar Henderson

‘Fascinating… Rag and Bone digs deep into the mud of the Thames estuary, and comes up with something compelling and urgent – history told through rubbish’
Philip Marsden

‘A delicious confection of a book, blending history and memoir with thoughts and close observation. I so enjoyed watching shadows of the past flit across Lisa Woollett’s watery pages. I
Sara Wheeler

Travelling Museum of Finds

Beachcombing & mudlarking

For more on the shore finds collected while writing Rag and Bone, visit the Travelling Museum of Finds.

There is also a Radio 4 Ramblings programme, BBC2’s Rick Stein’s Cornwall (a few minutes in), an ABC Conversations interview and a short North Cornwall Book Festival lockdown film.


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