Life Musings

My Favorite Books for Nature Lovers

       It’s cold outside. The gray sky is heavy and claustrophobic. This time of the year is often the most difficult for me. I find myself longing for the smell of freshly cut grass, the feel of the cold earth on my bare feet, the sun’s rays on my face, and the sound of crickets softly singing. Instead, I am in my bed under the covers looking at flights to Cancun and researching camping gear in preparation for hiking the Appalachian Trail. I need nature NOW, but in this moment, reading about it may be as close as I get.
        I will admit, I was lucky to grow up on 10 acres of wooded property secluded from the noise of traffic out of sight from neighbors. I spent my childhood listening to bullfrogs, climbing trees, and “rescuing” turtles. I was surrounded by nature in my youth but until recently I’ve been ignorant about how to take care of it. In my adult years I became detached from the environment that nurtured me as a kid, spending more time indoors and buying into the idea that things are more important than time and dominance is necessary for survival. Luckily, I have been fortunate to read some amazing authors who have helped cultivate a new perspective and appreciation for our delicate ecosystem and the importance of preserving it. If you, like me, are also trapped indoors these books may provide some thoughtful insight until the next time you can bask in the sunlight.
Chicago, IL
My Favorite Books for Nature Lovers

1) A Language Older than Words -Derrick Jensen
This book is searingly honest and heavy. It is best taken in small doses, yet I could not put it down. It is single handedly one of the most important books I’ve read as an adult. Jensen shares his personal experiences with trauma and of the gentle comfort he received from the stars as a young boy-his first lesson in listening to the language of the Universe. He exposes our destructive need to subdue nature and offers a different way. “One can affect another by merely being present and listening to that other. All this is true whether we speak of forests, children, rocks, rivers, stars, and wolverines, or races, cultures, and communities.”

2) Ishmael -Daniel Quinn
This book takes a philosophical look at man’s relationship with nature by examining two different types of cultures. The “Takers” and the Leavers. “The premise of the Taker story is ‘the world belongs to man’. The premise of the Leaver story is ‘man belongs to the world’.” This shift in thinking leads to a completely different attitude towards all of creation and our interaction with it. “It’s the idea that people living close to nature tend to be noble. It’s seeing all those sunsets that does it. You can’t watch a sunset and then go off and set fire to your neighbor’s tepee. Living close to nature is wonderful for your mental health.”

3) Prodigal Summer- Barbara Kingsolver
Barbara Kingsolver is one of my favorite authors. She possesses the ability to turn works of fiction into beautiful reflections on the intricacy of life. This novel weaves several stories into a lovely tapestry that makes you feel a part of each thread. “Solitude is a human presumption. Every quiet step is thunder to beetle life underfoot, a tug of impalpable thread on the web pulling mate to mate and predator to prey, a beginning or an end. Every choice is a world made new for the chosen.”

4) A Walk In the Woods -Bill Bryson
This book was recommended to me back in my college years when I had little time for leisurely reading. I finally finished it and am now determined to experience a part of the Appalachian Trail he so aptly describes in this true tale of his adventures in the woods. Bryson is comical and sarcastic but he provides a unique perspective. He is a true hero for any aspiring travel writer. “My particular dread–the vivid possibility that left me staring at tree shadows on the bedroom ceiling night after night–was having to lie in a small tent, alone in an inky wilderness, listening to a foraging bear outside and wondering what its intentions were.” 

5) Walden -Henry David Thoreau
This classic piece of literature is well worth its reputation. It was one of the few books I took with me to Ecuador and sadly left behind on the seat of a bus. The problem of separating ourselves from nature is not a new one and its something Thoreau set out to rectify. His reflections on living in a small cabin built by his own hands and spending his mornings weeding his bean patch or walking through the woods is a delight. “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practise resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms.”

What are your favorite books about nature? I would love to hear about them!

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