Seven Reading Recommendations From Audubon Editors

Some of our favorite books—old and new—for birders and nature lovers to curl up with this holiday season

The holidays are a time to relax and recharge from the year. At the close of an especially challenging one, Audubon's editors are excited to detach and find new curiosities and inspiration in books—and we wanted to share some of our favorite reads with you. 

Here are seven books that are sure to appeal to bird lovers, naturalists, and travelers. We hope you love them as much as we do. 

What It’s Like to Be a Bird

Newcomers and seasoned birders alike will discover something useful and new in David Sibley’s latest book, What It’s Like to Be a Bird. It’s a collection of essays that delves into birds’ evolution, adaptation, and physiology—and proves birds are fascinating enough creatures to continually surprise even experts like Sibley. Fans of the author’s field guides will be glad to hear that each essay is accompanied by a gorgeous illustration.



All We Can Save: Truth, Courage, and Solutions for the Climate Crisis​

This climate-focused essay and poetry collection is unlike any other. Edited by climate scientists and activists Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson and Dr. Katharine Wilkinson, it brings together ideas and perspectives from women working throughout the climate movement. Together, their voices form a clarion call to action. The essays are personal stories that foreground diverse sets of knowledge (ecology, Indigenous wisdom, activist strategy, racist histories of colonialism, and environmental justice, among others) and describe how to integrate them into a growing climate movement that centers marginalized groups—those most affected by climate change. No single essay provides a solution. But taken together, the various perspectives meld into a universal vision about how to move forward: The patriarchal systems that got us into this mess cannot get us out of it, the book argues. Instead we need a fundamental shift that understands humans not as overseers of a planet, but as part of a community of life worth fighting for and worth saving.



Becoming Wild: How Animal Cultures Raise Families, Create Beauty, and Achieve Peace 

This book is Carl Safina’s latest effort to pierce through humanity’s knee-jerk exceptionalism about its place in the animal kingdom. Even for those who dedicate their lives to appreciating and protecting wild animals, it’s hard to escape the idea that our species is inherently unique. You’ll feel differently after reading this deep dive into the highly developed cultures of social Scarlet Macaws, collaborative sperm whales, and scheming chimpanzees.

Kingbird Highway: The Biggest Year in the Life of an Extreme Birder

Kenn Kaufman’s rolicking adventure across the United States in the 1970s, in search of as many birds as he could possibly see, is a timeless read among Audubon staffers. This holiday season, it offers both a fascinating look back at the burgeoning subculture of birding in the 1970s, and a blissful escape from 2020’s lockdowns and travel restrictions.



Encounters with the Archdruid: Narratives About a Conservationist and Three of His Natural Enemies

Now a literary journalism classic, John McPhee’s 1971 book is at once a travelogue across three wildernesses, a story of the early days of American environmentalism, and a portrait of the man who stood particularly tall in the early days of the environmental movement: David Brower, the first Executive Director of the Sierra Club. It’s a helpful reminder that there is always reason for hope when it comes to the environment. After all, the three places McPhee writes about were under threat of destruction, and each of them has received protections that ensure their futures for generations to come.



Fathoms: The World in the Whale

What’s in a whale? According to author Rebecca Giggs, a lot more than just blubber. In Fathom, she takes readers on a historical and philosophical journey that explores topics from the Japanese whaling industry to solar storms and the music industry. We at Audubon seem to find that birds are connected to everything, and Giggs does the same: look closely at a whale, she seems to say, and you will find the entirety of our planet within.



Photography Birds: Field Techniques and the Art of the Image

Those looking to step up their bird photography game in the New Year should look no further than Gerrit Vyn’s detailed guide. Operating under the premise that a fantastic shot “doesn’t happen by accident,” the Cornell Lab of Ornithology photographer steers readers through each step, from equipment choices to image editing. Perhaps Vyn’s most important advice, though, is about approaching birds ethically in the field, and making choices that are both creative and responsible in the decisive moments when you take your shot.