A Bookworm’s Guide to Nature
Growing up, I was a curious soul with countless interests and passions that changed once a month. From art to science, from boybands to magic and origami, I constantly sought new avenues of exploration. But amidst the multitude of curiosities, there were two constants that shaped my life: reading and nature. My family took a lot of camping trips when I was small, so my fascination with nature started early. My passion for reading started early too, and you can still usually find me with my nose stuck in a book. It wasn’t until I was 19, though, that I started to connect those two constants and read books based on nature and ecology. It was then that I started dreaming of being like the scientists I read about, and switched my college major to environmental science.
In this blog post, I want to share with you a small collection of books that have fueled my passion for the natural world and kindled a deeper sense of environmental stewardship. In a world where our connection with the natural world has dwindled, the extraordinary writing in these books have reignited a sense of wonder and nostalgia within me. There’s something for everyone, whether you’re looking for fiction, non-fiction, or something in between the two. Whatever your preference, these books offer a cornucopia of knowledge, inspiration, and heartfelt stories that will leave you with a renewed appreciation for the place we call home.
In no particular order, here are some of the best books I can recommend to anyone searching for a nature-inspired reading sesh:
A true story about Christopher Knight, who retreated into the forest when he was 20 years old, and didn’t interact with another person for the next 27 years. Michael Finkel skillfully weaves together interviews, research, and his own reflections to provide a thought-provoking exploration of the allure of wilderness and one man’s desire for complete solitude. Knight’s journey illustrates the story of what some call “the last true hermit”, who embraced a life removed from society’s expectations. Both the writing and the story itself are extremely captivating, and this book is the first of many that led me to the career path I’m on!
This fictional story follows Joanna Teale, an ornithologist who moves to Illinois after the loss of her mother and her own battle with breast cancer. While doing research on nesting birds, a strange child shows up at her cabin, claiming to be sent from the stars to witness five human miracles. This book is heartwarming and portrays the transformative power of nature! The author, Glendy Vanderah, worked as an endangered bird specialist before she became a writer, so the ecological descriptions in all her books are extremely accurate and demonstrate what life looks like through a scientist’s eyes. I’d also recommend The Oceanography of the Moon by this author.
In this memoir, Timothy Treadwell tells the story of his time in Alaska spending eight seasons studying grizzly bears alone, with no experience in wilderness camping or encountering wild
bears. Treadwell provides an up-close and personal outlook on life as a grizzly bear through vivid storytelling and intimate observations. Along with his awe-inspiring encounters, the author sheds light on the importance of habitat conservation and how different these creatures are portrayed from their true nature.
Into the Wild describes the adventures of one Chris McCandless, a young man who ventured into the Alaskan wilderness in search for meaning and self-discovery. It explores the consequences of McCandless’s actions and the allure of nature.
Tristan Gooley teaches readers how to use all five senses when in nature. This book is part memoir, part self-help book, and part interesting facts! The author strives to reawaken our senses to help us understand and deepen our personal experience of nature. His message is to connect – however we can, and to whatever draws us in.
While not officially described as a book “about nature”, Where the Crawdads Sing is, indeed, a book about nature. Although this work of fiction is primarily a coming-of-age story and a murder mystery, this novel is deeply rooted in the natural world. It explores the beauty and resilience of nature through the eyes of a young girl living alone in the marshlands of North Carolina.
Robin Wall Kimmerer is an Indigenous botanist who shows how other living beings offer us gifts and lessons. The writing style is lyrical in a way, inviting readers to reexamine how intertwined human life and the land are. Both this book and Gathering Moss combine Indigenous wisdom, scientific knowledge, and personal stories to explore our relationship with nature and offer guidance on becoming better stewards of our environment.
In this book, Maloof shares her experiences and insights gained from spending time in forests, highlighting the interconnectedness of all living beings and the importance of conserving and learning from these ecosystems. She primarily focuses on the old growth forests she lives near.
This book explores the remarkable intelligence and emotional lives of octopuses and delves into the author’s personal experiences with these creatures as she works in the New England Aquarium.
The books listed above are important to me not only because of the field I’m in, but because the writing is truly inspiring. They remind me of the enduring connection between humans and the natural world – a bond that is vital to nurture and protect. Each book I mentioned offers a unique perspective on our relationship with the environment, and I’ve loved sharing my passions with our community.
About the Author:
Maria is originally from Las Vegas, NV, where she got her Associate's Degree in Biology in 2021. She moved to Reno in early 2022 to continue working towards her Bachelor's Degree in Environmental Science - Conservation and Restoration Ecology, and in doing so, has found her home. She's excited to work with TMPF as a naturalist educator because she knows how much of a difference the organization has made within the Reno community, and is excited to be part of the change. She's an avid reader, a home cook, and a cellist!