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. 

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July Favourites

This last month has been a good chance to get back into the habit of actually reading books again. I don’t know how long it had been but I had lost my bookmark so that probably indicates it was a fair while.

In Books

Recently I read a very interesting book called The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly and even wrote a long book review all about it, which you can read here. It’s an allegory about motherhood through the eyes of a hen called Sprout, one of the most endearing characters I’ve ever encountered. The book by Sun Mi Hwang is a subtle examination of animal welfare on farms so I’m sure my veggie/vegan readers will enjoy it. :)

In Plants

Next up it’s a new houseplant! I spent my weekend at various garden centres and came home with two new house plants, a pilea and a rosary vine. I’ve seen both of these plants on Instagram – they are very Insta-friendly – and have been on the look out. I don’t think I could ever get tired of looking at the strange chains of heart-shaped leaves that are now cascading over my mantlepiece.

Finally, another garden centre steal was this gorgeous vintage plant pot that has been distressed. It’s quite heavy but small and I don’t yet have a plant to put in it. Any suggestions?

 


Post contains affiliate links to Amazon. FYI I only recommend and link to products I like.

Book Review: The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly – by Sun-Mi Hwang

The-Hen-Who-Dreamed-She-Could-Fly

There is a bit of a trend in libraries these days to display recommended books on designated shelves to help out the indecisive library-goers who want something to read but have no idea what. I always find something there that catches my eye and recently it was The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly *** by Sun-Mi-Hwang.

The blurb on the inside cover read:

“This is the story of a hen named Sprout. No longer content to lay eggs on command, only to have them carted off to the market, she glimpses her future every morning through the barn doors, where the other animals roam free, and comes up with a plane to escape into the wild – and to hatch an egg of her own.”

It sounds exactly like the books I like to read and it didn’t disappoint. I actually read it in one sitting, which I very rarely do, but it was only 133 pages so it’s an easy read. Sprout is an instantly sympathetic character – an animal whose natural fundamental desires are thwarted by capitalist exploitation. The book has a lot to say about the conditions of farmyard animals but from a perspective I hadn’t considered before: that while some are relatively well treated (the free range chickens) and some treated badly (the battery hens), both are denied their basic instinct for motherhood.

This is an existential problem.

Sprout manages to escape and lives a while in the farmyard, which from the unpleasant conditions of the coop she had idealised; now outside she finds a strict hierarchical society that excludes her. She makes a friend with another outsider, a wild duck named Straggler, who is also marginalised due to his injured wing and ‘otherness’.

Sprout escapes to the fields, where she finds an egg that she is compelled to look after until the mother returns. She doesn’t return, but Straggler does, and he guards and protects her throughout the incubation. I’ll stop there as I don’t want to give away any more of the plot.

There are obvious parallels with Animal Farm but it is not political in the same way. This novel is about motherhood, the exploitation of fertility, and the hidden internal world of sentient creatures. Vegans and animal rights activists will find this novel very interesting but it is also an allegorical tale about the human condition and the universal desire to survive and to raise offspring.


 

*** FYI this is an affiliate link to the Amazon listing of this book.

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