Here are the 49 best nature books of 2020 according to Google. Find your new favorite book from the local library with one click.
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NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER From the bestselling author of H is for Hawk, a brilliant and insightful work about our relationship to the natural world Our world is a fascinating place, teeming not only with natural wonders that defy description, but complex interactions that create layers of meaning. Helen Macdonald is gifted with a special lens that seems to peer right through it all, and she shares her insights–at times startling, nostalgic, weighty, or simply entertaining–in this masterful collection of essays. From reflections on science fiction to the true story of an Iranian refugee’s flight to the UK, Macdonald has a truly omnivorous taste when it comes to observations of both the banal and sublime. Peppered throughout are reminisces of her own life, from her strange childhood in an estate owned by the Theosophical Society to watching total eclipses of the sun, visits to Uzbek solar power plants, eccentric English country shows, and desert hunting camps in the Gulf States. These essays move from personal experiences into wider meditations about love and loss and how we build the world around us. Whether more journalistic in tone, or literary–even formally experimental–each piece is generous, lyrical, and speaks to one another. Macdonald creates a strong thematic undertow that quietly takes the reader along piece to piece and sets them down, finally, at a place they’ve never been before.
The smash-hit Sunday Times bestseller that will transform your understanding of our planet and life itself. ‘Dazzling, vibrant, vision-changing’ Robert Macfarlane The more we learn about fungi, the less makes sense without them. They can change our minds, heal our bodies and even help us avoid environmental disaster; they are metabolic masters, earth-makers and key players in most of nature’s processes. In Entangled Life, Merlin Sheldrake takes us on a mind-altering journey into their spectacular world, and reveals how these extraordinary organisms transform our understanding of our planet and life itself. ‘Gorgeous!’ Margaret Atwood (on Twitter) ‘Reads like an adventure story… Wondrous’ Sunday Times ‘Urgent, astounding and necessary’ Helen Macdonald ‘A magical writer’ Russell Brand * A Sunday Times, Daily Telegraph, New Statesman, The Times, Evening Standard, Mail on Sunday, BBC Science Focus and Time Book of the Year *
THE SUNDAY TIMES NATURE BOOK OF THE YEAR The new bestseller from the author of The Shepherd’s Life ‘A beautifully written story of a family, a home and a changing landscape’ Nigel Slater As a boy, James Rebanks’s grandfather taught him to work the land the old way. Their family farm in the Lake District hills was part of an ancient agricultural landscape: a patchwork of crops and meadows, of pastures grazed with livestock, and hedgerows teeming with wildlife. And yet, by the time James inherited the farm, it was barely recognisable. The men and women had vanished from the fields; the old stone barns had crumbled; the skies had emptied of birds and their wind-blown song. English Pastoral is the story of an inheritance: one that affects us all. It tells of how rural landscapes around the world were brought close to collapse, and the age-old rhythms of work, weather, community and wild things were lost. And yet this elegy from the northern fells is also a song of hope: of how, guided by the past, one farmer began to salvage a tiny corner of England that was now his, doing his best to restore the life that had vanished and to leave a legacy for the future. This is a book about what it means to have love and pride in a place, and how, against all the odds, it may still be possible to build a new pastoral: not a utopia, but somewhere decent for us all. ‘A heartfelt book and one that dares to hope’ Alan Bennett ‘I was thrilled by it’ Philip Pullman Shortlisted for the Ondaatje Prize | Shortlisted for the Orwell Prize | Shortlisted for Fortnum & Mason Food Book Award | Longlisted for the Wainwright Prize | Longlisted for the Rathbones Folio Prize
An astonishing, evocative exploration of the natural world and all its wonders, by 15-year-old conservationist and rising literary star Dara McAnulty
A New York Times Notable Book of 2020 Longlisted for the National Book Award Winner of the PEN/E.O. Wilson Literary Science Writing Award and the Minnesota Book Award for General Nonfiction A Finalist for the Stanford Dolman Travel Book of the Year Award A Best Book of the Year: NPR, The Wall Street Journal, Smithsonian, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, The Globe and Mail, The BirdBooker Report, Geographical, Open Letter Review Best Nature Book of the Year: The Times (London) “A terrifically exciting account of [Slaght’s] time in the Russian Far East studying Blakiston’s fish owls, huge, shaggy-feathered, yellow-eyed, and elusive birds that hunt fish by wading in icy water . . . Even on the hottest summer days this book will transport you.” —Helen Macdonald, author of H is for Hawk, in Kirkus I saw my first Blakiston’s fish owl in the Russian province of Primorye, a coastal talon of land hooking south into the belly of Northeast Asia . . . No scientist had seen a Blakiston’s fish owl so far south in a hundred years . . . When he was just a fledgling birdwatcher, Jonathan C. Slaght had a chance encounter with one of the most mysterious birds on Earth. Bigger than any owl he knew, it looked like a small bear with decorative feathers. He snapped a quick photo and shared it with experts. Soon he was on a five-year journey, searching for this enormous, enigmatic creature in the lush, remote forests of eastern Russia. That first sighting set his calling as a scientist. Despite a wingspan of six feet and a height of over two feet, the Blakiston’s fish owl is highly elusive. They are easiest to find in winter, when their tracks mark the snowy banks of the rivers where they feed. They are also endangered. And so, as Slaght and his devoted team set out to locate the owls, they aim to craft a conservation plan that helps ensure the species’ survival. This quest sends them on all-night monitoring missions in freezing tents, mad dashes across thawing rivers, and free-climbs up rotting trees to check nests for precious eggs. They use cutting-edge tracking technology and improvise ingenious traps. And all along, they must keep watch against a run-in with a bear or an Amur tiger. At the heart of Slaght’s story are the fish owls themselves: cunning hunters, devoted parents, singers of eerie duets, and survivors in a harsh and shrinking habitat. Through this rare glimpse into the everyday life of a field scientist and conservationist, Owls of the Eastern Ice testifies to the determination and creativity essential to scientific advancement and serves as a powerful reminder of the beauty, strength, and vulnerability of the natural world.
A NEW YORK TIMES NOTABLE BOOK OF 2020 “In this superbly articulate cri de coeur, Safina gives us a new way of looking at the natural world that is radically different.”—The Washington Post New York Times bestselling author Carl Safina brings readers close to three non-human cultures—what they do, why they do it, and how life is for them. A New York Times Notable Books of 2020 Some believe that culture is strictly a human phenomenon. But this book reveals cultures of other-than-human beings in some of Earth’s remaining wild places. It shows how if you’re a sperm whale, a scarlet macaw, or a chimpanzee, you too come to understand yourself as an individual within a particular community that does things in specific ways, that has traditions. Alongside genes, culture is a second form of inheritance, passed through generations as pools of learned knowledge. As situations change, social learning—culture—allows behaviors to adjust much faster than genes can adapt. Becoming Wild brings readers into intimate proximity with various nonhuman individuals in their free-living communities. It presents a revelatory account of how animals function beyond our usual view. Safina shows that for non-humans and humans alike, culture comprises the answers to the question, “How do we live here?” It unites individuals within a group identity. But cultural groups often seek to avoid, or even be hostile toward, other factions. By showing that this is true across species, Safina illuminates why human cultural tensions remain maddeningly intractable despite the arbitrariness of many of our differences. Becoming Wild takes readers behind the curtain of life on Earth, to witness from a new vantage point the most world-saving of perceptions: how we are all connected.
‘Beautifully written, movingly told and meticulously researched … a convincing plea for a wilder, richer world’ Isabella Tree, author of Wilding ‘By the time I’d read the first chapter, I’d resolved to take my son into the woods every afternoon over winter. By the time I’d read the sixth, I was wanting to break prisoners out of cells and onto the mossy moors. Losing Eden rigorously and convincingly tells of the value of the natural universe to our human hearts’ Amy Liptrot, author of The Outrun Today many of us live indoor lives, disconnected from the natural world as never before. And yet nature remains deeply ingrained in our language, culture and consciousness. For centuries, we have acted on an intuitive sense that we need communion with the wild to feel well. Now, in the moment of our great migration away from the rest of nature, more and more scientific evidence is emerging to confirm its place at the heart of our psychological wellbeing. So what happens, asks acclaimed journalist Lucy Jones, as we lose our bond with the natural world-might we also be losing part of ourselves? Delicately observed and rigorously researched, Losing Eden is an enthralling journey through this new research, exploring how and why connecting with the living world can so drastically affect our health. Travelling from forest schools in East London to the Svalbard Global Seed Vault via primeval woodlands, Californian laboratories and ecotherapists’ couches, Jones takes us to the cutting edge of human biology, neuroscience and psychology, and discovers new ways of understanding our increasingly dysfunctional relationship with the earth. Urgent and uplifting, Losing Eden is a rallying cry for a wilder way of life – for finding asylum in the soil and joy in the trees – which might just help us to save the living planet, as well as ourselves.
Winner of the 2021 Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Nonfiction * Finalist for the 2020 Kirkus Prize for Nonfiction * Finalist for the PEN/E.O. Wilson Literary Science Writing Award A “delving, haunted, and poetic debut” (The New York Times Book Review) about the awe-inspiring lives of whales, revealing what they can teach us about ourselves, our planet, and our relationship with other species. When writer Rebecca Giggs encountered a humpback whale stranded on her local beachfront in Australia, she began to wonder how the lives of whales reflect the condition of our oceans. Fathoms: The World in the Whale is “a work of bright and careful genius” (Robert Moor, New York Times bestselling author of On Trails), one that blends natural history, philosophy, and science to explore: How do whales experience ecological change? How has whale culture been both understood and changed by human technology? What can observing whales teach us about the complexity, splendor, and fragility of life on earth? In Fathoms, we learn about whales so rare they have never been named, whale songs that sweep across hemispheres in annual waves of popularity, and whales that have modified the chemical composition of our planet’s atmosphere. We travel to Japan to board the ships that hunt whales and delve into the deepest seas to discover how plastic pollution pervades our earth’s undersea environment. With the immediacy of Rachel Carson and the lush prose of Annie Dillard, Giggs gives us a “masterly” (The New Yorker) exploration of the natural world even as she addresses what it means to write about nature at a time of environmental crisis. With depth and clarity, she outlines the challenges we face as we attempt to understand the perspectives of other living beings, and our own place on an evolving planet. Evocative and inspiring, Fathoms “immediately earns its place in the pantheon of classics of the new golden age of environmental writing” (Literary Hub).
Washington Post • 50 Notable Works of Nonfiction in 2020 Finalist • Kirkus Prize for Nonfiction Kirkus Reviews • Best Nonfiction Books of 2020 Library Journal • Best Science & Technology Books of 2020 Booklist • 10 Top Sci-Tech Books of 2020 New York Times Book Review • Editor’s Choice With A Furious Sky, best-selling author Eric Jay Dolin tells the history of America itself through its five-hundred-year battle with the fury of hurricanes. In this “compelling” chronicle (New York Times Book Review), Eric Jay Dolin tells the history of America through its battles with hurricanes.Weaving together tales of tragedy and folly, of heroism and scientific progress, best-selling author Eric Jay Dolin shows how hurricanes have time and again determined the course of American history, from the nameless storms that threatened the New World voyages to our own era of global warming and megastorms. Along the way, Dolin introduces a rich cast of unlikely heroes, and forces us to reckon with the reality that future storms will likely be worse, unless we reimagine our relationship with the planet.
‘Read this book to learn, but also to honour the man. We shall never see his like again.’ – Sunday Times See the world. Then make it better. ‘I am 94. I’ve had an extraordinary life. It’s only now that I appreciate how extraordinary. As a young man, I felt I was out there in the wild, experiencing the untouched natural world – but it was an illusion. The tragedy of our time has been happening all around us, barely noticeable from day to day – the loss of our planet’s wild places, its biodiversity. I have been witness to this decline. A Life on Our Planet is my witness statement, and my vision for the future. It is the story of how we came to make this, our greatest mistake – and how, if we act now, we can yet put it right. We have one final chance to create the perfect home for ourselves and restore the wonderful world we inherited.’ All we need is the will to do so.’
“Enthralling . . . breathtaking . . . Metazoa brings an extraordinary and astute look at our own mind’s essential link to the animal world.” —The New York Times Book Review (Editors’ Choice) “A great book . . . [Godfrey-Smith is] brilliant at describing just what he sees, the patterns of behaviour of the animals he observes.” —Nigel Warburton, Five Books The scuba-diving philosopher who wrote Other Minds explores the origins of animal consciousness Dip below the ocean’s surface and you are soon confronted by forms of life that could not seem more foreign to our own: sea sponges, soft corals, and serpulid worms, whose rooted bodies, intricate geometry, and flower-like appendages are more reminiscent of plant life or even architecture than anything recognizably animal. Yet these creatures are our cousins. As fellow members of the animal kingdom—the Metazoa—they can teach us much about the evolutionary origins of not only our bodies, but also our minds. In his acclaimed 2016 book, Other Minds, the philosopher and scuba diver Peter Godfrey-Smith explored the mind of the octopus—the closest thing to an intelligent alien on Earth. In Metazoa, Godfrey-Smith expands his inquiry to animals at large, investigating the evolution of subjective experience with the assistance of far-flung species. As he delves into what it feels like to perceive and interact with the world as other life-forms do, Godfrey-Smith shows that the appearance of the animal body well over half a billion years ago was a profound innovation that set life upon a new path. In accessible, riveting prose, he charts the ways that subsequent evolutionary developments—eyes that track, for example, and bodies that move through and manipulate the environment—shaped the subjective lives of animals. Following the evolutionary paths of a glass sponge, soft coral, banded shrimp, octopus, and fish, then moving onto land and the world of insects, birds, and primates like ourselves, Metazoa gathers their stories together in a way that bridges the gap between mind and matter, addressing one of the most vexing philosophical problems: that of consciousness. Combining vivid animal encounters with philosophical reflections and the latest news from biology, Metazoa reveals that even in our high-tech, AI-driven times, there is no understanding our minds without understanding nerves, muscles, and active bodies. The story that results is as rich and vibrant as life itself.
A NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER Douglas W. Tallamy’s first book, Bringing Nature Home, awakened thousands of readers to an urgent situation: wildlife populations are in decline because the native plants they depend on are fast disappearing. His solution? Plant more natives. In this new book, Tallamy takes the next step and outlines his vision for a grassroots approach to conservation. Nature’s Best Hope shows how homeowners everywhere can turn their yards into conservation corridors that provide wildlife habitats. Because this approach relies on the initiatives of private individuals, it is immune from the whims of government policy. Even more important, it’s practical, effective, and easy—you will walk away with specific suggestions you can incorporate into your own yard. If you’re concerned about doing something good for the environment, Nature’s Best Hope is the blueprint you need. By acting now, you can help preserve our precious wildlife—and the planet—for future generations.
From the New York Times bestselling author of The Genius of Birds, a radical investigation into the bird way of being, and the recent scientific research that is dramatically shifting our understanding of birds — how they live and how they think. “There is the mammal way and there is the bird way.” But the bird way is much more than a unique pattern of brain wiring, and lately, scientists have taken a new look at bird behaviors they have, for years, dismissed as anomalies or mysteries –– What they are finding is upending the traditional view of how birds conduct their lives, how they communicate, forage, court, breed, survive. They are also revealing the remarkable intelligence underlying these activities, abilities we once considered uniquely our own: deception, manipulation, cheating, kidnapping, infanticide, but also ingenious communication between species, cooperation, collaboration, altruism, culture, and play. Some of these extraordinary behaviors are biological conundrums that seem to push the edges of, well, birdness: a mother bird that kills her own infant sons, and another that selflessly tends to the young of other birds as if they were her own; a bird that collaborates in an extraordinary way with one species—ours—but parasitizes another in gruesome fashion; birds that give gifts and birds that steal; birds that dance or drum, that paint their creations or paint themselves; birds that build walls of sound to keep out intruders and birds that summon playmates with a special call—and may hold the secret to our own penchant for playfulness and the evolution of laughter. Drawing on personal observations, the latest science, and her bird-related travel around the world, from the tropical rainforests of eastern Australia and the remote woodlands of northern Japan, to the rolling hills of lower Austria and the islands of Alaska’s Kachemak Bay, Jennifer Ackerman shows there is clearly no single bird way of being. In every respect, in plumage, form, song, flight, lifestyle, niche, and behavior, birds vary. It is what we love about them. As E.O Wilson once said, when you have seen one bird, you have not seen them all.
An urgent and illuminating portrait of forest migration, and of the people studying the forests of the past, protecting the forests of the present, and planting the forests of the future. Forests are restless. Any time a tree dies or a new one sprouts, the forest that includes it has shifted. When new trees sprout in the same direction, the whole forest begins to migrate, sometimes at astonishing rates. Today, however, an array of obstacles—humans felling trees by the billions, invasive pests transported through global trade—threaten to overwhelm these vital movements. Worst of all, the climate is changing faster than ever before, and forests are struggling to keep up. A deft blend of science reporting and travel writing, The Journeys of Trees explores the evolving movements of forests by focusing on five trees: giant sequoia, ash, black spruce, Florida torreya, and Monterey pine. Journalist Zach St. George visits these trees in forests across continents, finding sequoias losing their needles in California, fossil records showing the paths of ancient forests in Alaska, domesticated pines in New Zealand, and tender new sprouts of blight-resistant American chestnuts in New Hampshire. Everywhere he goes, St. George meets lively people on conservation’s front lines, from an ecologist studying droughts to an evolutionary evangelist with plans to save a dying species. He treks through the woods with activists, biologists, and foresters, each with their own role to play in the fight for the uncertain future of our environment. An eye-opening investigation into forest migration past and present, The Journeys of Trees examines how we can all help our trees, and our planet, survive and thrive.
ONE OF THE GUARDIAN’S BEST NATURE BOOKS OF 2020 ‘As our lives constrict again, the long spring lockdown already seems a lifetime ago. But that beautiful and frightening time has been perfectly captured in The Consolation of Nature…It’s lovely: full of fascinating detail and anecdote, but the undertow of the virus moving in real time beneath its sunlit surface gives it a unique emotional heft.’ -Melissa Harrison, The Times ‘What joy! . . . There’s acute and beautiful observation on every page, thrown into exquisite relief by the poignancy of the circumstances.’ -Isabella Tree ‘An entrancing testament to nature’s power to restore us to ourselves.’ -Ruth Padel Nature took on a new importance for many people when the coronavirus pandemic arrived, providing solace in a time of great anxiety – not least because the crisis struck at the beginning of spring, the season of light, growth, rebirth and renewal. Three writers, close friends but living in widely separated, contrasting parts of the country, resolved to record their experiences of this extraordinary spring in intimate detail, to share with others their sense of the wonder, inspiration and delight the natural world can offer. The Consolation of Nature is the story of what they discovered by literally walking out from their front doors.
A BBC RADIO 4 BOOK OF THE WEEK SHORTLISTED FOR THE WAINWRIGHT PRIZE A SUNDAY TIMES AND FINANCIAL TIMES BOOK OF THE YEAR ‘Marks the birth of a new star of non-fiction’ William Dalrymple ‘A beautiful account of immersion in an alien world’ Philip Marsden, Guardian There is the Cornwall Lamorna Ash knew as a child – the idyllic, folklore-rich place where she spent her summer holidays. Then there is the Cornwall she discovers when, feeling increasingly dislocated in London, she moves to Newlyn, a fishing town near Land’s End. This Cornwall is messier and harder; it doesn’t seem like a place that would welcome strangers. But before long, Lamorna finds herself on a week-long trawler trip with a crew of local fishermen, afforded a rare glimpse into their world, their warmth and their humour. Out on the water, miles from the coast, she learns how fishing requires you to confront who you are and what it is that tethers you to the land. Dark, Salt, Clear is a bracing journey of discovery and a captivating portrait of a community sustained and defined by the sea for centuries.
A Best Book of 2020: The Washington Post * NPR * Chicago Tribune * Smithsonian A “remarkable” (Los Angeles Times), “seductive” (The Wall Street Journal) debut from the new cohost of Radiolab, Why Fish Don’t Exist is a dark and astonishing tale of love, chaos, scientific obsession, and—possibly—even murder. “At one point, Miller dives into the ocean into a school of fish…comes up for air, and realizes she’s in love. That’s how I felt: Her book took me to strange depths I never imagined, and I was smitten.” —The New York Times Book Review David Starr Jordan was a taxonomist, a man possessed with bringing order to the natural world. In time, he would be credited with discovering nearly a fifth of the fish known to humans in his day. But the more of the hidden blueprint of life he uncovered, the harder the universe seemed to try to thwart him. His specimen collections were demolished by lightning, by fire, and eventually by the 1906 San Francisco earthquake—which sent more than a thousand discoveries, housed in fragile glass jars, plummeting to the floor. In an instant, his life’s work was shattered. Many might have given up, given in to despair. But Jordan? He surveyed the wreckage at his feet, found the first fish that he recognized, and confidently began to rebuild his collection. And this time, he introduced one clever innovation that he believed would at last protect his work against the chaos of the world. When NPR reporter Lulu Miller first heard this anecdote in passing, she took Jordan for a fool—a cautionary tale in hubris, or denial. But as her own life slowly unraveled, she began to wonder about him. Perhaps instead he was a model for how to go on when all seemed lost. What she would unearth about his life would transform her understanding of history, morality, and the world beneath her feet. Part biography, part memoir, part scientific adventure, Why Fish Don’t Exist is a wondrous fable about how to persevere in a world where chaos will always prevail.
A rollicking true-crime adventure about a rogue who trades in rare birds and their eggs—and the wildlife detective determined to stop him. On May 3, 2010, an Irish national named Jeffrey Lendrum was apprehended at Britain’s Birmingham International Airport with a suspicious parcel strapped to his stomach. Inside were fourteen rare peregrine falcon eggs snatched from a remote cliffside in Wales. So begins a tale almost too bizarre to believe, following the parallel lives of a globe-trotting smuggler who spent two decades capturing endangered raptors worth millions of dollars as race champions—and Detective Andy McWilliam of the United Kingdom’s National Wildlife Crime Unit, who’s hell bent on protecting the world’s birds of prey. The Falcon Thief whisks readers from the volcanoes of Patagonia to Zimbabwe’s Matobo National Park, and from the frigid tundra near the Arctic Circle to luxurious aviaries in the deserts of Dubai, all in pursuit of a man who is reckless, arrogant, and gripped by a destructive compulsion to make the most beautiful creatures in nature his own. It’s a story that’s part true-crime narrative, part epic adventure—and wholly unputdownable until the very last page.
Medicine is one of the great fields of achievement of the Ancient Greeks. Hippocrates is celebrated worldwide as the father of medicine and the Hippocratic Oath is admired throughout the medical profession as a founding statement of ethics and ideals. In the fifth century BC, Greeks even wrote of medicine as a newly discovered craft they had invented. Robin Lane Fox’s remarkable book puts their invention of medicine in a wider context, from the epic poems of Homer to the first doctors known to have been active in the Greek world. He examines what we do and do not know about Hippocrates and his Oath and the many writings that survive under his name. He then focuses on seven core texts which give the case histories of named individuals, showing that books 1 and 3 belong far earlier than previously recognised. Their re-dating has important consequences for the medical awareness of the great Greek dramatists and the historians Herodotus and Thucydides. Robin Lane Fox pieces together the doctor’s thinking from his terse observations and relates it in a new way to the history of Greek prose and ideas. This original and compelling book opens windows onto many other aspects of the classical world, from women’s medicine to street-life, empire, art, sport, sex and even botany. It fills a dark decade in a new way and carries readers along an extraordinary journey form Homer’s epics to the grateful heirs of the Greek case histories, first in the Islamic world and then in early modern Europe.
The author of the highly acclaimed Insectopedia now gives us a unique meditation on the significance of endurance as embodied in stone, and the fascination that permanence exerts on all of us. Drawing on history, anthropology, accounts of exploration, and observation, Hugh Raffles undertakes a journey to places north–to investigate the uncertain survival and unsettling presence of ancient stones and the alluring glimpse that these stones open into lives and meanings now faded from view. He travels to Iceland, to the once standing Odin Stone in the Orkney Islands, to the Isle of Lewis in the Hebrides, to the coal mines of Spitsbergen, and to the Museum of Natural History in New York to see the Cape York meteorite that Admiral Peary brought back from Greenland. Raffles also journeys to his own everyday north, on a crowded uptown New York City subway, rattling beneath Broadway, hurtling to a place called Marble Hill–the subterranean marble that soared into peaks, weathered into wooded hills, extruded and folded to form an island that once roamed upon an ancient ocean. Raffles’s meditation leads him to understand how these fundamental objects and places can seem to lose their solidity and become inextricable from historic account and the architecture of human fate.
“Re-centers and gives voice to a diversity of women naturalists and writers across time.” —Cultivating Place In Writing Wild, Kathryn Aalto celebrates 25 women whose influential writing helps deepen our connection to and understanding of the natural world. These inspiring wordsmiths are scholars, spiritual seekers, conservationists, scientists, novelists, and explorers. They defy easy categorization, yet they all share a bold authenticity that makes their work both distinct and universal. Part travel essay, literary biography, and cultural history, Writing Wild ventures into the landscapes and lives of extraordinary writers and encourages a new generation of women to pick up their pens, head outdoors, and start writing wild. Featured writers include Dorothy Wordsworth, Susan Fenimore Cooper, Gene Stratton-Porter, Mary Austin, and Vita Sackville-West. Nan Shepherd, Rachel Carson, Mary Oliver, Carolyn Merchant, and Annie Dillard. Gretel Ehrlich, Leslie Marmon Silko, Diane Ackerman, Robin Wall Kimmerer, and Lauret Savoy. Rebecca Solnit, Kathleen Jamie, Carolyn Finney, Helen Macdonald, and Saci Lloyd. Andrea Wulf, Camille T. Dungy, Elena Passarello, Amy Liptrot, and Elizabeth Rush.
When summer is at its zenith and the sallow foliage develops a bluish tinge, a giant butterfly – beautiful, bold and brazen – flies powerfully over the tree canopy. Females of this species, wary yet determined, haunt the sallow thickets, depositing their eggs, while the males establish treetop territories and descend to the woodland floor in search of indelicacies to feed upon. Mysterious, elusive and enthralling in equal measure, this is the butterfly that Victorian collectors yearned for above all others: His Imperial Majesty, the Purple Emperor. A wondrous enigma, the Purple Emperor is our most elusive and least-known butterfly – we glimpse it only through fissures in its treetop world, yet this giant insect has fascinated us for centuries and has even inspired its own ‘Emperoring’ language. Matthew Oates became captivated by the Purple Emperor following his first sighting as a boy. He has studied it assiduously ever since, devoting his life to trying to unravel the Emperor’s secrets. His Imperial Majesty takes us on a journey, beginning with a dalliance into the bizarre history of our engagement with the butterfly, with daring doings and gross eccentricities from the Victorian and Edwardian eras. Subsequent chapters explore all aspects of this remarkable butterfly’s life cycle, including behaviour, habitat preferences, life history and conservation, all relayed in Matthew’s unique, informative and witty style. Not so long ago, our knowledge of the Emperor was largely based on a blend of mythology and assumption. This book dispels the fabrications and reveals all about the Purple Emperor – the king of British butterflies.
‘Luminous’ The Times ‘Beautiful’ Caught by the River Bringing together contemporary Scottish writing on nature and landscape, this inspiring collection takes us from walking to wild swimming, from red deer to pigeons and wasps, from remote islands to back gardens, through prose, poetry and photography. Edited and introduced by Kathleen Jamie, and with contributions from Amy Liptrot, Jim Crumley, Chitra Ramaswamy, Malachy Tallack, Amanda Thomson and many more, Antlers of Water urges us to renegotiate our relationship with the more-than-human world, in writing which is by turns celebratory, radical and political.
“Derek Gow might be the most colorful character in all of Beaverdom”–Ben Goldfarb, author of Eager “A treasure”–Booklist Bringing Back the Beaver is farmer-turned-ecologist Derek Gow’s inspirational and often riotously funny firsthand account of how the movement to rewild the British landscape with beavers has become the single most dramatic and subversive nature conservation act of the modern era. Since the early 1990s – in the face of outright opposition from government, landowning elites and even some conservation professionals – Gow has imported, quarantined and assisted the reestablishment of beavers in waterways across England and Scotland. In addition to detailing the ups and downs of rewilding beavers, Bringing Back the Beaver makes a passionate case as to why the return of one of nature’s great problem solvers will be critical as part of a sustainable fix for flooding and future drought, whilst ensuring the creation of essential lifescapes that enable the broadest possible spectrum of Britain’s wildlife to thrive.
A distinguished psychiatrist and avid gardener offers an inspiring and consoling work about the healing effects of gardening and its ability to decrease stress and foster mental well-being in our everyday lives. The garden is often seen as a refuge, a place to forget worldly cares, removed from the “real” life that lies outside. But when we get our hands in the earth we connect with the cycle of life in nature through which destruction and decay are followed by regrowth and renewal. Gardening is one of the quintessential nurturing activities and yet we understand so little about it. The Well-Gardened Mind provides a new perspective on the power of gardening to change people’s lives. Here, Sue Stuart-Smith investigates the many ways in which mind and garden can interact and explores how the process of tending a plot can be a way of sustaining an innermost self. Stuart-Smith’s own love of gardening developed as she studied to become a psychoanalytic psychotherapist. From her grandfather’s return from World War I to Freud’s obsession with flowers to case histories with her own patients to progressive gardening programs in such places as Rikers Island prison in New York City, Stuart-Smith weaves thoughtful yet powerful examples to argue that gardening is much more important to our cognition than we think. Recent research is showing how green nature has direct antidepressant effects on humans. Essential and pragmatic, The Well-Gardened Mind is a book for gardeners and the perfect read for people seeking healthier mental lives.
A Times/Sunday Times Book of the Year DISCOVER HOW LIFE REALLY WORKS – ON EARTH AND IN SPACE ‘A wonderfully insightful sidelong look at Earthly biology’ Richard Dawkins ‘Crawls with curious facts’ Sunday Times _________________________ We are unprepared for the greatest discovery of modern science. Scientists are confident that there is alien life across the universe yet we have not moved beyond our perception of ‘aliens’ as Hollywood stereotypes. The time has come to abandon our fixation on alien monsters and place our expectations on solid scientific footing. Using his own expert understanding of life on Earth and Darwin’s theory of evolution – which applies throughout the universe – Cambridge zoologist Dr Arik Kershenbaum explains what alien life must be like. This is the story of how life really works, on Earth and in space. _________________________ ‘An entertaining, eye-opening and, above all, a hopeful view of what – or who – might be out there in the cosmos’ Philip Ball, author of Nature’s Patterns ‘A fascinating insight into the deepest of questions: what might an alien actually look like’ Lewis Dartnell, author of Origins ‘If you don’t want to be surprised by extraterrestrial life, look no further than this lively overview of the laws of evolution that have produced life on earth’ Frans de Waal, author of Mama’s Last Hug
The bird book for birders and nonbirders alike that will excite and inspire by providing a new and deeper understanding of what common, mostly backyard, birds are doing—and why: “Can birds smell?”; “Is this the same cardinal that was at my feeder last year?”; “Do robins ‘hear’ worms?” “The book’s beauty mirrors the beauty of birds it describes so marvelously.” —NPR In What It’s Like to Be a Bird, David Sibley answers the most frequently asked questions about the birds we see most often. This special, large-format volume is geared as much to nonbirders as it is to the out-and-out obsessed, covering more than two hundred species and including more than 330 new illustrations by the author. While its focus is on familiar backyard birds—blue jays, nuthatches, chickadees—it also examines certain species that can be fairly easily observed, such as the seashore-dwelling Atlantic puffin. David Sibley’s exacting artwork and wide-ranging expertise bring observed behaviors vividly to life. (For most species, the primary illustration is reproduced life-sized.) And while the text is aimed at adults—including fascinating new scientific research on the myriad ways birds have adapted to environmental changes—it is nontechnical, making it the perfect occasion for parents and grandparents to share their love of birds with young children, who will delight in the big, full-color illustrations of birds in action. Unlike any other book he has written, What It’s Like to Be a Bird is poised to bring a whole new audience to David Sibley’s world of birds.
A dynamic aerial exploration of our changing planet, published on the 50th anniversary of Earth Day The Human Planet is a sweeping visual chronicle of the Earth today from a photographer who has circled the globe to report on such urgent issues as climate change, sustainable agriculture, and the ever-expanding human footprint. George Steinmetz is at home on every continent, documenting both untrammeled nature and the human project that relentlessly redesigns the planet in its quest to build shelter, grow food, generate energy, and create beauty through art and architecture. In his images, accompanied by authoritative text by renowned science writer Andrew Revkin, we are encountering the dramatic and perplexing new face of our ancient home.
‘Breathtakingly beautiful’ i ‘Tender and wholehearted’ Helen Jukes LONGLISTED FOR THE WAINWRIGHT PRIZE A BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR IN FINANCIAL TIMES AND I When she suddenly finds herself uprooted, heartbroken, grieving and living out of a suitcase in her late twenties, Alice Vincent begins planting seeds. She nurtures pot plants and vines on windowsills and draining boards, filling her many temporary London homes with green. As the months pass, and with each unfurling petal and budding leaf, she begins to come back to life. Mixing memoir, botanical history and biography, Rootbound examines how bringing a little bit of the outside in can help us find our feet in a world spinning far too fast.
‘A superb naturalist and writer.’ CHRIS PACKHAM ‘From Stone Age remains to modern day skyscrapers, Stephen Moss takes us on an exhilarating journey through place and time, providing a fascinating insight into nature’s relationship with environments created by man.’ DR MYA-ROSE CRAIG (BIRDGIRL) Welcome to The Accidental Countryside. This is the fascinating and remarkably empowering story of our influence upon the landscape and wildlife of these crowded islands, and of how wildlife has co-opted its most unlikely corners – even when we least expected it. From the seabirds sheltering in the prehistoric stone structures of Shetland to the peat diggings in Somerset teeming with life, and from the rare insects hidden in Belfast’s docklands to the falcons that make London’s Shard their home, Stephen Moss reveals the unexpected oases which foster the crucial links in the chain that bind the natural world together.
“Earth Keeper is a prayer for continuity in these days of uncertainty. I cannot tell you why I loved this book, I can only tell you I wept my way through it. Each page brought me closer to myself, a self I had lost in the pandemic. We need Scott Momaday’s calm, clear prose and stories. Words are medicine. There is wisdom in sharing what one knows, especially at a time when we know so little. ‘Let me say my heart,’ he says. And he does.” — Terry Tempest Williams, author of Erosion: Essays of Undoing A beautifully written and poignant tribute to the Earth, from Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist and poet N. Scott Momaday. One of the most distinguished voices in American letters, N. Scott Momaday has devoted much of his life to celebrating and preserving Native American culture, especially its oral tradition. A member of the Kiowa tribe who was born and grew up on Indian reservations throughout the Southwest, Momaday has an intimate connection to the land he knows well and loves deeply. In Earth Keeper: Reflections on the American Land, he reflects on his native ground and its influence on his people. “When I think about my life and the lives of my ancestors, I am inevitably led to the conviction that I, and they, belong to the American land. This is a declaration of belonging. And it is an offering to the earth.” he writes. Momaday recalls stories of his childhood, stories that have been passed down through generations, stories that reveal a profound and sacred connection to the American landscape and a reverence for the natural world. In this moving and lyrical work, he offers an homage and a warning. Momaday reminds us that the Earth is a sacred place of wonder and beauty; a source of strength and healing that must be protected before it’s too late. As he so eloquently yet simply expresses, we must all be keepers of the Earth.
There is no place like home. The conditions of Earth are not just good for life, they are perfect. Everything about our planet – its size, its distance from the Sun, its spin and tilt, its moon – is perfectly suited to our existence, and our planet’s forces serve to nurture its spectacular biodiversity. A Perfect Planet shows in stunning detail how Earth has always been more than the sum of its parts. Unlike any other astronomical body, it is a living world. Focusing on four key natural forces – global weather systems distributing fresh water to all corners; marine currents delivering nutrients to the deepest reaches of the ocean; solar energy warming and electrifying everything it touches; and volcanic activity fertilising the earth’s surface – Huw Cordey reveals to us new levels of this living world, a place populated with astonishing characters living remarkable lives. From Arctic wolves prowling moonlit landscapes or wood frogs, frozen in winter and magically thawing back to life, to flamingos flying thousands of miles to a vast volcanic lake in Africa to breed, we see time and again how animals are perfectly adapted to whatever the environment throws at them. Packed with over 250 full-colour images, and including a foreword by David Attenborough and stills from the BBC series’ spectacular footage, A Perfect Planet is a stunning exploration of life on Earth – life that is increasingly precious and rare.
‘One of the most thrilling moments occurred ten years ago when I found a single wild flower growing on a grassy bank. It was not particularly rare – a common spotted orchid – but it was like discovering a pot of gold – or perhaps, more accurately, the promise of gold. It was a sign that recovery was possible from even the most inauspicious situation.’ Spend a year in the garden with Monty Don – the UK’s favourite gardener, writer and broadcaster – accompanied by his beloved dogs, Nigel and Nellie. A breath of fresh country air. Each season has something different to delight in – from the primroses and bluebells of spring, to butterflies that colour summer skies and the crowds of migrating swallows that herald the coming of autumn – all have a place alongside the yearly cycle of growth and renewal. My Garden World is an ode to the ever-surprising and comforting presence of nature. In exquisitely written prose, reflecting the best of nature writing, this book offers an opportunity to walk alongside Monty, month by month, and experience the commonplace miracles and rhythms of nature through his eyes.
“Two powerful phenomena are simultaneously unfolding on Earth: the rise of the climate movement and the rise of women and girls. The People’s Climate March and the Women’s March. School strikes for climate and the #MeToo movement. Rebellions against extinction and declarations that time’s up. More than concurrent, the two trends are deeply connected. From sinking islands to drought-ridden savannas, the global warming crisis places an outsized burden on women, largely because of gender inequalities. In many parts of the world, women hold traditional roles as the primary caregivers in families and communities, and as the main providers of food and fuel, they are more vulnerable when flooding and drought occur; the U.N. estimates 80% of those who have been displaced by climate change are women. Women are on the front line of the climate-change battle, and are uniquely situated to be agents of change–to find ways to mitigate the causes of global warming and adapt to its impacts on the ground. Today, across the world, from boardrooms and policy positions to local communities, from science to activism, women everywhere are using their voices to take leadership and call for action on climate change. This anthology is a collection and celebration of these diverse voices, asking critical questions and providing invaluable insight and solutions. Curated by two climate leaders, this book leads us away from the brink and toward the possibility of a life-giving future”–
A collection of the best science and nature writing published in North America in 2019, guest edited by New York Times best-selling author and ground-breaking physicist Dr. Michio Kaku. “Scientists and science writers have a monumental task: making science exciting and relevant to the average person, so that they care,” writes renowned American physicist Michio Kaku. “If we fail in this endeavor, then we must face dire consequences.” From the startlingly human abilities of AI, to the devastating accounts of California’s forest fires, to the impending traffic jam on the moon, the selections in this year’s Best American Science and Nature Writing explore the latest mysteries and marvels occurring in our labs and in nature. These gripping narratives masterfully translate the work of today’s brightest scientists, offering a clearer view of our world and making us care. THE BEST AMERICAN SCIENCE AND NATURE WRITING 2020 INCLUDES RIVKA GALCHEN – ADAM GOPNIK – FERRIS JABR – JOSHUA SOKOL – MELINDA WENNER MOYER – SIDDHARTHA MUKHERJEE – NATALIE WOLCHOVER and others
The story of the people who see beyond the stars—an astronomy book for adults still spellbound by the night sky. Humans from the earliest civilizations through today have craned their necks each night, using the stars to orient themselves in the large, strange world around them. Stargazing is a pursuit that continues to fascinate us: from Copernicus to Carl Sagan, astronomers throughout history have spent their lives trying to answer the biggest questions in the universe. Now, award-winning astronomer Emily Levesque shares the stories of modern-day stargazers in this new nonfiction release, the people willing to adventure across high mountaintops and to some of the most remote corners of the planet, all in the name of science. From the lonely quiet of midnight stargazing to tall tales of wild bears loose in the observatory, The Last Stargazers is a love letter to astronomy and an affirmation of the crucial role that humans can and must play in the future of scientific discovery. In this sweeping work of narrative science, Levesque shows how astronomers in this scrappy and evolving field are going beyond the machines to infuse creativity and passion into the stars and space and inspires us all to peer skyward in pursuit of the universe’s secrets.
In this “deeply personal and lyrical book” (Publishers Weekly) from the New York Times bestselling author of The Horse, Wendy Williams explores the lives of one of the world’s most resilient creatures—the butterfly—shedding light on the role that they play in our ecosystem and in our human lives. “[A] glorious and exuberant celebration of these biological flying machines…Williams takes us on a humorous and beautifully crafted journey” (The Washington Post). From butterfly gardens to zoo exhibits, these “flying flowers” are one of the few insects we’ve encouraged to infiltrate our lives. Yet, what has drawn us to these creatures in the first place? And what are their lives really like? In this “entertaining look at ‘the world’s favorite insect’” (Booklist, starred review), New York Times bestselling author and science journalist Wendy Williams reveals the inner lives of these delicate creatures, who are far more intelligent and tougher than we give them credit for. Monarch butterflies migrate thousands of miles each year from Canada to Mexico. Other species have learned how to fool ants into taking care of them. Butterflies’ scales are inspiring researchers to create new life-saving medical technology. Williams takes readers to butterfly habitats across the globe and introduces us to not only various species, but “digs deeply into the lives of both butterflies and [the] scientists” (Science magazine) who have spent decades studying them. Coupled with years of research and knowledge gained from experts in the field, this accessible “butterfly biography” explores the ancient partnership between these special creatures and humans, and why they continue to fascinate us today. “Informative, thought-provoking,” (BookPage, starred review) and extremely profound, The Language of Butterflies is a “fascinating book [that] will be of interest to anyone who has ever admired a butterfly, and anyone who cares about preserving these stunning creatures” (Library Journal).
Shows readers how we can all help solve the climate crisis by focusing on a few key, achievable actions.
An informative and eye-catching reference book for beginner and intermediate backyard bird enthusiasts The Backyard Birdwatcher’s Bible is that rare type of book, one that is as packed with information as it is pleasing to look at. The latest in a successful line of “bibles,” following The Beekeeper’s Bible and TheBotanical Bible, this new volume has the broadest appeal yet. An elegant aesthetic is paired with practical tips on identifying, attracting, and caring for backyard birds, as well as crafting bird-friendly gardens and bird houses. With additional sections focused on everything from the bird life cycle to bird behavior, symbolism, and meaning in art, this authoritative book is brimming with engaging answers to all of your birdwatching questions.
From the bestselling author of The Robin, The Wren and The Twelve Birds of Christmas. With around 700,000 breeding pairs, the swallow is one of the most familiar birds in Britain. Though we consider the swallow to be ‘our’ bird, we also share this beloved creature with millions of others across the globe. Whilst we see it on a daily basis for half the year, the swallow then flies south to Africa, living on only in our memory in the long, dark winter. In The Swallow Stephen Moss documents a year of observing the swallow close to home and in the field to shed light on the secret life of this extraordinary bird. We trace the swallow’s life cycle and journey, including the epic 12,000-mile round trip it takes every year, to enable it to enjoy a life of almost eternal sunshine, and the key part the swallow plays in our traditional and popular culture. With beautiful illustrations throughout, this captivating year-in-the-life biography reveals the hidden secrets of this charismatic and beautiful bird. PRAISE FOR STEPHEN MOSS: ‘A superb naturalist and writer’ Chris Packham ‘Inspired, friendly and blessed with apparently limitless knowledge’ Peter Marren ‘Moss has carved out an enviable niche as a chronicler of the natural world’ Daily Mail
“Alexander von Humboldt (1769-1859) was one of the most influential scientists and thinkers of his age. A Prussian-born geographer, naturalist, explorer, and illustrator, he was a prolific writer whose books graced the shelves of American artists, scientists, philosophers, and politicians. Humboldt visited the United States for six weeks in 1804, engaging in a lively exchange of ideas with such figures as Thomas Jefferson and the painter Charles Willson Peale. It was perhaps the most consequential visit by a European traveler in the young nation’s history, one that helped to shape an emerging American identity grounded in the natural world. In this beautifully illustrated book, Eleanor Jones Harvey examines how Humboldt left a lasting impression on American visual arts, sciences, literature, and politics. She shows how he inspired a network of like-minded individuals who would go on to embrace the spirit of exploration, decry slavery, advocate for the welfare of Native Americans, and extol America’s wilderness as a signature component of the nation’s sense of self. Harvey traces how Humboldt’s ideas influenced the transcendentalists and the landscape painters of the Hudson River School, and laid the foundations for the Smithsonian Institution, the Sierra Club, and the National Park Service. Alexander von Humboldt and the United States looks at paintings, sculptures, maps, and artifacts, and features works by leading American artists such as Albert Bierstadt, George Catlin, Frederic Church, and Samuel F. B. Morse”–
Meet the incredible animals that have disappeared due to competition, mass extinctions, hunting, and human activity. Lost Animals brings back to life some of the most charismatic creatures to inhabit the planet. It captures the imagination with more than 200 incredible photographs, artworks of fossils, and scientific drawings of charming creatures like dodos, paraceratherium (the largest land mammal), spinosaurus (the biggest carnivorous dinosaur), placeoderm fishes (the sharks of their day), and more! Lost Animals is a captivating documentation of evolution and extinction. Each chapter focuses on a specific time in Earth’s history, from the Cambrian explosion (the most intense surge of evolution the world has ever experienced) to present times, with profiles of the key species that lived then. From long extinct animals to Lazarus species–animals that were thought to be extinct before being rediscovered–this book takes readers on a journey through Earth’s natural history, highlighting the world’s biggest animal losses and its moments of conservational hope.
Robert Burleigh’s narrative nonfiction picture book follows a hummingbird’s migration south for the winter, with stunning art by Wendell Minor. When the last summer flowers open their petals to the sun, it’s time for a tiny ruby-throated hummingbird to dip its beak into the heart of each bloom, extracting as much nectar as possible before the hard trip ahead. Today is the day Tiny Bird begins its amazing journey south for the winter, traveling as fast as thirty miles an hour for hundreds of miles on end. The trip is long, with savage weather and many predators along the way, but Tiny Bird is built for this epic journey and eventually arrives at its winter home. This inspiring migratory and life cycle story celebrates the important and impressive feat of a small but mighty creature. Christy Ottaviano Books
‘A hymn of love to the world … A journey that is every bit as mythic as it is scientific, as sacred as it is historical, as clever as it is wise’ Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love As a botanist, Robin Wall Kimmerer has been trained to ask questions of nature with the tools of science. As a member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, she embraces the notion that plants and animals are our oldest teachers. In Braiding Sweetgrass, Kimmerer brings these two ways of knowledge together. Drawing on her life as an indigenous scientist, a mother, and a woman, Kimmerer shows how other living beings – asters and goldenrod, strawberries and squash, salamanders, algae, and sweetgrass – offer us gifts and lessons, even if we’ve forgotten how to hear their voices. In a rich braid of reflections that range from the creation of Turtle Island to the forces that threaten its flourishing today, she circles toward a central argument: that the awakening of a wider ecological consciousness requires the acknowledgment and celebration of our reciprocal relationship with the rest of the living world. For only when we can hear the languages of other beings will we be capable of understanding the generosity of the earth, and learn to give our own gifts in return.
Last updated on October 17, 2021