Staff Picks

Nature Writing

"I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could learn what it had to teach..." Thoreau penned these words in his classic Walden. Since then many authors have celebrated the natural world. Here are a few more to discover or to savor again.

Keith C.
A Conservationist Manifesto     A Conservationist Manifesto    
Scott Russell Scanders
    333.72 San

Local essayist and storyteller Sanders recommends that we all follow an "ark builder" ethic in which we live frugally, simply, and in accord with nature using as guides Native Americans and naturalists such as Thoreau, Muir, Leopold, and Carson. Sanders recommends that we undertake "a way of life that is worthy of our magnificent planet."

A Sand County Almanac     A Sand County Almanac    
Aldo Leopold
    508.7755 Le

In describing a Wisconsin riverside, this early ecologist argues for the value of all land: its worth is much greater than the merely economic. One of the most poignant memories that Leopard recalls here was as a rookie forest ranger killing a young wolf and watching "a fierce green fire dying in her eyes."

Build Me an Ark     Build Me an Ark    
Brenda Peterson
    800.92 Peterson Pet

A wildlife expert who grew up on a national forest station describes her life with animals from the marine mammals of the Pacific Northwest to the wolves and bears of Alaska. Peterson describes herself as someone who has always lived "in the generous and instructive slipstream of other species."

Crossing Open Ground     Crossing Open Ground    
Barry Lopez
    814.54 Lo

These essays examine the lives of whales, seals, and white geese. Also included are ruminations on an ancient stone horse and investigations on a Yukon wilderness. This naturalist shows us how individual landscapes can teach, bless, and restore the human spirit.

Finding Beauty in a Broken World     Finding Beauty in a Broken World    
Terry Tempest Williams
    814.54 Wil

One of the best contemporary nature writers who often writes about the intermountain west tackles broaden concerns here: life, death, and our relationship to a fragmented world.

Pilgrim at Tinker Creek     Pilgrim at Tinker Creek    
Annie Dillard
    LP 818 Di

A poet and essayist explores the natural history of one creek and in so doing teaches us how to really experience the world. Crystalline prose that captures one small part of North America.

The  Island Within     The Island Within    
Richard Nelson
    508.798 Ne

An anthropologist explores a remote island near his Sitka, Alaska home. He decides to become a participant in nature's life cycle, not merely an observer. Through contact with the island's animals, forest, and shore, Nelson teaches us about the web of life and how to live cooperatively
with our fellow creatures.

The Birds of Heaven     The Birds of Heaven    
Peter Matthiessen
    598.32 Ma

In myths, cranes were known as messengers from heaven, but now eleven of fifteen species of these birds face extinction. The author traveled to China, Siberia, Africa, Australia and the US and met with scientists trying to save them. A book praising a magnificent bird.

The End of Nature     The End of Nature    
Bill McKibben
    304.28 Mck

Never before in history have we humans possessed the ability to seriously harm life on our planet. This social scientist writes an eloquent plea for change to save Earth.

The Future of Ice     The Future of Ice    
Gretel Ehrlich
    818.54 Eh

This talented naturalist summed up her book this way, "What follows is both ode and lament, a wild-time song and elegy, and a cry for help -- not for me, but for the tern, the ice cap, the polar bear, and the lenga forest; for the river of weather and the ways it chooses to be born."

The Future of Life     The Future of Life    
Edward O. Wilson
    333.9522 Wi

Written by a Pulitzer-prize winning evolutionary biologist, this book not only details the wonders of our fellow creatures, but presents a plan to save them. A practical call to action written by one of the world's leading scientists.

Two in the Far North     Two in the Far North    
Margaret Murie
    921 Murie Mur

Explore the world north of the arctic circle with this naturalist's account of a stay in Alaska with her husband. A vivid portrait of the natural world unspoiled by humans.

Under the Sea Wind     Under the Sea Wind    
Rachel Carson
    578.773 Car

This classic examination of marine biology was written by the woman whose book Silent Spring spurned the environmental movement.

Walden     Walden    
Henry David Thoreau
    818.3 Th

The granddaddy of them all. This pencil maker and conscientious objector to the Civil War has inspired thousands to learn about our planet and to work for its protection by describing a solitary stay by a pond near Boston.