Nature Writing (top picks)

I recently read H is for Hawk and found myself falling deeper in love with nature writing. If you’re not familiar with this genre, it essentially describes a body of work that focuses on the natural environment, usually involving wildlife and landscapes, often written in the first person and containing overly lyrical prose.

It is an odd phenomenon that nature writing has seen a renaissance at a time when humans are more disconnected from the natural world than we have ever been. Perhaps it is because naturalists writing about the environment are hobbyists and enthusiasts rather than experts – and, as every good Brexiter knows, we have all had enough of experts. They can make nature more experiential and not weighed down by facts and statistics; more of a transcendence and a philosophical, Romantic narrative.

Here are some books about the natural world that every nature lover should read

  • H is for Hawk – Helen McDonald: a grieving daughter takes on the notoriously difficult task of training a goshawk, with frequent references to a book on the same subject by a fellow trainer lacking all the necessary skills.
  • The Peregrine – J. A. Baker: a man follows a pair of peregrine falcons, noting their behaviour and tallying their kills.
  • The Robin – a Biography – Stephen Moss: the nation’s favourite bird, seen from a new perspective.
  • Raptor – a journey through birds – James McDonald Lockhart: a journey around the country following all the different birds of prey in Britain, from sparrowhawks in Warwickshire to hen harriers in Orkney.
  • The Secret Life of the Owl – John Lewis-Stempel: exploring the myths and legends surrounding owls, and focusing on all the different owls in the UK.
  • Foxes Unearthed – Lucy Jones: dispelling the myths about the mysterious fox; an affectionate and engaging read.
  • Wildwood – Roger Deakin: a succession of anecdotes about the author’s love and knowledge of forests, trees, and flora.
  • ReWild – the art of returning to nature – Nick Baker: the mindfulness manual to nature – how to keep still and quiet and reconnect to wilderness.

Have you read any of these books? I’d love to know your thoughts! Or if you have any recommendations, feel free to share. 

Advertisements

17 responses

  1. Thanks for these – that looks like a good list. I would have to add Rob Cowen ‘Common Ground’, a beautiful account of his intimate connection with an edgeland close to his home. Through closely observing the wildlife there he develops a deeper understanding of our own humanity and our connection (or disconnection) with our environment.

  2. Nice, thoughtful post!

    I wonder if the interest in nature-writing follows a bit like the interest in the occult which always seems to spike when technology takes a massive leap forward. Perhaps our natural anxiety gives us a need to reconnect with tera firma, in the same sway ‘science’ sometimes pushes us towards mysteries instead of tempting us away from them.

    I would recommend Landmarks by Robert Macfarlane, because it’s a lovely journey through language and land, very compelling. And I think that’s where I read the heartbreaking account of how J.A Baker became so entangled wit his peregrines.

    • Thanks for the recommendation! I’m vaguely aware of Robert Mcfarlane but haven’t got round to him yet.

      That’s an interesting point about the occult and technology. It’s frightening how disconnected from the natural world we are since the advance of social media.

    • Yes, I agree. I got a lot from it about the conflict between training an animal to exploit it (so it can hunt for you) and the love and respect for that animal that spending time with it inevitably entails. I haven’t quite worked out all my ideas about it – it’s one of those books that you’re still figuring out long after you’ve finished reading it.

  3. Really excited about this list. I picked up H is for Hawk about a year ago, but it didn’t click for me at that time so I put it back down. Perhaps I’ll give it another go. Thanks for the ‘like’!

  4. Thank you for introducing me to nature writing. I’d never heard of it before till I read this post. I used to dream of being a outfield biologist as a kid, so all these books may well serve to fulfil that little dream of mine in my head. 😊

  5. John Lewis-Stemple’s ‘Meadowland’ and ‘The Running Hare’ are both utterly captivating; and John has a lovely writing style that isn’t overly flowery, you honestly feel by the end of each book that you’ve been with him on his wanders. I also recommend Chris Packham’s ‘Fingers In The Sparkle Jar’ which is so deeply moving, yet also joyful on so many levels. You will need a good supply of tissues.

    Reading Roger Deakin’s ‘Notes From Walnut Tree Farm’ at the moment – now there’s a chap I would have loved to have invited to a dinner party.

    I am absolutely loving your blog, by the way! I shall probably be stalking you now!

    • I love Fingers in the sparkle jar so much! I did cry a lot about the kestrel. I didn’t realise he was such a good writer as well as all his other talents.

      I’ve just bought Meadowland for my mother’s birthday following your recommendation as I think she will love it, so thanks!

      I’m loving your blog as well so ta for the follow!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: