Environmentally-conscious books for humans of every age!
This month, the Nature Works Land Care Blog is offering something a bit different: reading recommendations! Escaping to a great book is a time-honored summer tradition. It supplies us with enjoyment and restoration while (potentially) expanding our consciousness. Whether on the beach or in your backyard, reading about nature is a fantastic way to pass the time in the high heat of summer. After you’ve devoured our recommendations, we encourage you to ask an independent bookseller, or the wonderful librarians at your local Public Library, to help you find more!
For Young Environmentalists
Never too early to care for nature…
Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney
With illustrations by the author, this book is visually stunning and carries a great message: leave the Earth better than you found it! It has the poetic lilt of a folktale, and exquisite details––it’s the rare gem that parents won’t tire of despite kids requesting it on repeat!
The Lorax by Doctor Seuss
This classic children’s’ book hardly needs an introduction. A whimsical yet cautionary tale about the effects over consumption and exploiting nature for economic gain, it’s narrated by an entrepreneur whose business causes an ecosystem collapse. Colorful illustrations, classic Seussian wordplay and the imaginary species that populate the pages keep the story uplifting despite its serious message.
Middle Grades & YA
Hoot by Carl Hiaasen
An “ecological mystery” novel about misfit middle schoolers determined to outsmart the adults and save a family of owls whose habitat is slated for destruction by a pancake joint. With hyjinx, humor, and intrigue, it’s a perfect beach read for upper elementary through young high schoolers.
Gwinna by Barbara Helen Berger
Born with wings, Gwinna is a young girl who aligns with the power of nature––and her own inner truth–––when she follows an elusive melody she hears in the wind. With the assistance of her animal brothers and sisters, including a loyal (and adorable) Owl named Tobin, she embarks on a journey to find the song and bring it home to share. It’s an illustrated chapter book, so we’re listing it as “middle grades,” though younger children will love the painted illustrations and adults will find themselves drawn to the beautifully told hero’s journey.
Don’t Call Me a Hurricane by Ellen Hagan
Eliza Marino is a climate-change fighting high schooler who’s life was turned upside-down five years ago when a hurricane devastated her seaside home. Her current mission: to save Clam Cove Reserve, a marshland slated for construction projects. Initially hesitant to connect with outsiders, she finds herself the reluctant surfing teacher to a tourist who has both devastating charm and devastating secrets.
For the Grown-ups
From novels about the natural world to homeowner ‘how-to’s, there are books for every kind of environmentalist
Summer’s favorite genre…
The Overstory by Richard Powers
An undeniably epic novel, The Overstory “unfolds in concentric rings of interlocking fables” sweeping across the continent of North America and through multiple centuries. The through-line? The nearly invisible, slow-moving world overhead and underfoot, and the rare people who take notice of it. Lauded as a rare novel that is both readable and grounded in solid science, The Overstory also happened to be a Pulitzer Prize winner.
Those moments when prose just won’t cut it…
Owls & Other Fantasies: Poems and Essays by Mary Oliver
There is nothing quite like the poetry of Mary Oliver to connect us to the sublime in the every-day, help us notice the details of the natural world, and remind us how to celebrate the rhythms of the seasons. Nearly any collection of hers fits this bill, but we particularly recommend Owls & Other Fantasies for the bird-lovers out there.
It’s time to move this classic from your “to read” list to your “loved it!” list…
Walden by Henry David Thoreau
This book is a record––alternately practical, philosophical and personal––of Thoreau’s 2 year sojourn in a cabin in Massachusetts, and is the inspiration of many naturalists since it’s publication in 1854. It’s the perfect companion on a camping trip, and a vicarious escape when you’re stuck at home. (And if you’re a Thoreau fan, but intimidated by his seemingly die-hard lifestyle, take heart: he doesn’t mention it in the book, but apparently his mom bought him a basket of doughnuts each week!)
At the intersection of science & storytelling, these three authors share their expertise through personal narratives interwoven with innovative science and sometimes nearly forgotten traditional knowledge…
Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer
Robin Wall Kimmerer is a botanist, professor, and member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation. As an author, she is knowledgeable and generous, inviting readers to share in her narratives and knowledge with warmth and humor. If you’ve already discovered the wisdom of flora she shares in New York Times Bestselling Braiding Sweetgrass, her first book Gathering Moss: A Natural History of Mosses will bring you deeper into the interconnected lives of bryophyta (the scientific classification for mosses).
To Speak for the Trees: My Journey from Ancient Celtic Wisdom to a Healing Vision of the Forest
by Diana Beresford-Kroeger
Along with being an author skilled at explaining scientific topics to the general public, Diana Beresford-Kroeger is a medical biochemist and botanist. Like Kimmerer, Beresford-Kroeger grew up in two wildly different worlds: raised by extended family in the Irish countryside, she was heir to a fading traditional Celtic wisdom, before pursuing a career in Western botany. As she recounts in her book, it wasn’t until many years later that she began to understand the powerful connection between the two and the prophetic power of her nearly forgotten heritage.
Nature’s Best Hope: A New Approach to Conservation that Starts in Your Yard
by Doug Tallamy
Nature’s Best Hope is Doug Tallamy’s how-to for homeowners––or anyone with agency over a plot of land––who want to take the health of the planet into their own hands. It’s an empowering vision and step-by-step guide to backyard conservation that can have a real impact on local habitat. For anyone who wants to learn more about the essential link between native species and the wider environment, Tallamy’s first book Bringing Nature Home: How You Can Sustain Wildlife with Native Plants lays it out in detail. His most recent, The Nature of Oaks, reveals the essential place native oaks hold in the ecosystem.
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