Our 10 Favorite Nature Books
Posted on March 22 2019
Spring brings new beginnings, and we couldn't be more excited. In anticipation of our favorite season, we have been revisiting our collection of nature-related books. In no particular order, here are our top ten. This was a nearly impossible list to make, and surely we left out tons of classics, but these are our current personal favorites.
We have added links to the books from some of our favorite small bookstores. Since a few of the titles are out of print, you might have to search around a little to find them. When in doubt, support your local bookstore.
1. Stalking the Wild Asparagus by Euell Gibbons
- First published in 1962, this is the classic American guide to foraging and living off the land. It has been beautifully reissued by Alan C Hood & Company
- Here is a link to a review and profile of the author from the April 6, 1968 issue of The New Yorker.
2. How to Read Water - Clues and Patterns from Puddles to the Sea - by Tristan Gooley
- Gooley has written six prior books, all of which surely belong on this list as well. You can't go wrong with any of his titles, but we found How to Read Water especially interesting since we live by the sea.
3. A Field Guide to Wildflowers by Roger Tory Peterson and Margaret McKenny
- Part of the original Peterson Field Guide Series, this book was first published in 1968. There have been many updates since then, but the original is still our favorite.
4. A Beachcomber's Botany - An Illustrated Handbook of New England Shore Plants and Seaweeds - with Essays and Comments by Loren C Petry and Illustrations and Captions by Marcia G. Norman
- First of all, the author's last name is too perfect. He clearly had no choice but to become a scientist.
- This is a beautiful book, published in 1963 and again in 1968, with pertinent essays about the seaside and conservation. Our favorite chapter is At the Edge of the Salt Marsh.
5. The Illustrated Book of Trees - the Comprehensive Field Guide to More than 250 Trees of Eastern North America- by William Carey Grimm
- From the forward, "Man will live a fuller, happier life if he knows the trees that abound by his home. As one scans the bark, the twig, the leaf, he feels the life about him. The forest becomes a living dynamic force to the person who acquaints himself with its individual members..."
- For excellent tree-related fiction see also The Overstory by Richard Powers. Here is a great review. We also enjoyed The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert
6. Bizarre Botany by Christina Harrison and Lauren Gardiner
- Published by Kew Royal Botanic Gardens in England, this wry, alphabetically organized book is overflowing with interesting facts about plants, food, and grasses, and about botanists and botanical history.
- One of our favorite bits falls under the letter M, which in this case is for: "Magical Mandragora.... While it's roots were perhaps viewed with suspicion, its fruits were called 'apples of love', and in some stories they are used to create love potions. Make of that what you will."
7. The Complete Wilderness Paddler by James West Davidson and John Rugge
- A detailed, working handbook on planning, outfitting, and conducting a canoe trip. Map reading, portaging, camping; how to read water, wind and current on lakes and rivers; tactics, strategy and strokes for all conditions of still and whitewater canoeing.
8. Sisters of the Earth - Women's Prose and Poetry About Nature - edited and with a preface by Lorraine Anderson
- From the preface, "To me, the story most worth telling.... has to do with the earth, and with the relationship to it of the one species that while utterly reliant on it, has nonetheless seemed bent on, or perhaps just oblivious to, its destruction. If we're to give our endangered planet the time and space to heal, we must begin to see nature not just as a backdrop against which the human drama is enacted, but as an integral part of our lives..."
9. Searching for Stars from an Island in Maine by Alan Lightman
- A Harvard and MIT educated theoretical physicist, Lightman has vacationed on the same Maine island for over 20 years. One night, while gazing at the stars from his rowboat on the bay, he was suddenly gripped by his realization that we are all one with the universe. This book is an exploration of his epiphany and his subsequent attempts to reconcile this newfound understanding with his lifetime of scientific training.
10. Gods of the Morning - A Bird's-eye View of a Changing World by John Lister-Kaye
- A lifelong naturalist, conservationist, and bird lover, Lister-Kaye has transformed his family home in the Scottish Highlands into a world-renowned wildlife center, the Aigas Field Center. We are planning a trip there soon.
- Read this article in Audobon Magazine about birdpunks.
And of course, we mustn't forget to include Gerald Durrell's ultimate naturalist trilogy/hilarious family drama/coming of age stories - if you haven't watched The Durrells in Corfu on PBS, you should probably do so immediately.