We’re in need of distraction. In this time of isolation and self-quarantine, movie theaters, museums, bars, and restaurants are closed, and we’re binged-out on TV shows. We can’t do what we’d normally be doing in our spare time—wandering around outside unfettered, searching for migratory birds streaming through our cities, soaking up the splendors of spring. So we turned to several of our favorite authors to recommend books that will help us get that fix. If you’re craving to get outside but can’t make the trip just yet, these eight books—a mix of nonfiction and fiction—will connect you with nature, from your couch.
We've provided suggested links for puchase, but many local bookstores are offering curbside pickup or delivery during the coronavirus shutdown. In the mood for a great listen instead? Support your independent bookstore by purchasing a digital audiobook through Libro.fm. And if you're in need of birdy books for kids to add to your order, we've got you covered. Happy reading, and stay safe.
Nature Obscura: A City's Hidden Natural World
By Kelly Brenner
(Mountaineers Books; 208 pages; $18)
A love song to Seattle's wild places, but also a guide of use to anyone in an urban setting who wants to know more about birds and animals--and to use that knowledge in their own lives. Beautiful, passionate, and practical.
—Jeff VanderMeer, author of the Southern Reach Trilogy
Buy it at Bookshop.
(Vintage; 224 pages; $15)
A clearly written, thoroughly researched, and very readable account of how we led ourselves into the current climate crisis and also the overuse of Earth’s resources, coupled with some suggestions about how we can get ourselves out of our own human-created rock-and-a-hard-place corner. Very timely, very necessary, very accessible. And not preachy.
—Margaret Atwood, Booker Prize-winning novelist, poet, and conservationist
Buy it at BetterWorldBooks.
By J.A. Baker
(NYRB Classics; 208 pages; $16)
Actually it's not fair to call it a book. It would be more accurate to say that it's a spiritual journey, a kind of vision quest induced by words rather than by something like sacred peyote. If the Peregrine Falcon itself (one of the most magnificent creatures on Earth) could write, it would write like this. A fun tidbit: When The Peregrine was first published (in England, a little over 50 years ago), it was introduced to American audiences by way of excerpts in Audubon magazine, thanks to the fact that editor Les Line loved the book.
—Kenn Kaufman, author, naturalist, and Audubon Field Editor
Buy it at Powell's.
Pilgrim at Tinker Creek
By Annie Dillard
(Harper Collins; 304 pages; $16)
Pilgrim at Tinker Creek is as total a literary immersion into nature as I’ve ever read. Annie Dillard’s timeless account of a year in Virginia’s Roanoke Valley doesn’t read as a traditional “nature book,” but rather as a meditation on what it means to simply bear witness, to take in the world as it is, in all its rapturous beauty and rapturous violence.
—Omar El Akkad, journalist and author of American War
Buy it at Indiebound.
Gifts of the Crow: How Perception, Emotion and Thought Allow Smart Birds to Behave Like Humans
By John Marzluff and Tony Angell
(Free Press; 306 pages; $17)
This is a smart and delightful exploration of crow behavior full of fascinating insight into the complex lives of crows. Grounded in science but full of entertaining stories accompanied by clever illustrations, it left me even more in love with my favorite corvid.
—Rebecca Roanhorse, author of the Sixth World series
Buy it at Strand.
Things That Are: Essays
By Amy Leach
(Milkweed Editions; 208 pages; $16)
Things That Are is a wonderfully imaginative book of essays that consider the natural world from a fantastical, energetic lens. This book is a real favorite among my students!
—Elena Passarello, author of Animals Strike Curios Poses
Buy it at Bookshop.
Letters to a Young Farmer: On Food, Farming, and Our Future
By Martha Hodgkins
(Princeton Architectural Press; 176 pages; $20)
I like this book because it’s full of diverse voices—from Barbara Kingsolver to Alice Waters to Marion Nestle—and these letters are short, brief, and written to a new generation. This historic moment we’re living in is something that will stick in the minds of this young generation, and perhaps what they are reading, too, at this moment will carry meaning some 40-50 years from now, when old folks like me are long gone, but hopefully we left behind a few stories. (Disclosure: I have one of the 40 or so letters in this book, written to my daughter as we begin our partnership on our organic farm.)
—David Mas Masumoto, author and organic farmer
Buy it at Biblio.
The Best of Edward Abbey
By Edward Abbey
(Counterpoint; 458 pages; $17)
Edward Abbey, raw storyteller and poetic activist, wonders alone in the desert as the whispering champion of wild places. Why can't we hear the echoes of empty canyons and damned rivers? “The desert will still be there in the spring.” Or will it? And yet beyond the cautionary tales, his humor breaks through the hardened core of his mind, and pulls us into nature's beauty and thrill.
—Delia Owens, nature writer and author of Where the Crawdads Sing
Buy it at IndieBound.