10 Books Celebrating Our Natural World

These ten books encourage you to rejoice in our natural environment, a world that we are an integral part of and should feel connected to. These ten very different books bewitch with spells, stun with facts, haunt with poems, and take you on journeys with people who feel, really really feel nature and have the wonderful ability to take your hand and allow you to explore with them. Every single author here encourages a connection, a link that expands, and I hold them in high esteem for their love of our surrounding landscapes, animals and birds. So take a step into the wonders that await, lose yourself for a while, learn something new, and celebrate with us, our amazing natural world.

The Lost Spells

The Lost Spells

Author: Robert Macfarlane, Jackie Morris Format: Hardback Release Date: 01/10/2020

A seriously beautiful, absolute treasure of a book which is just as magical and bewitching as its big sister The Lost Words. Read, chant, feel each spell-poem by Robert Macfarlane and sink into the artwork by Jackie Morris, each giving life to the other. I was haunting my postbox waiting for this to arrive, suitable for any age it would be the perfect present for any lover of our natural world. It isn’t in the slightest bit fluffy (as the barn owl declares), instead you’ll find the most vibrantly real and alive book awaits you. Jackie Morris and Robert Macfarlane make the most wonderful combination of words and pictures together, each part without the other would be lost, together they just create magic. The fox, both city and countryside dweller is the perfect start, the jackdaw leapt into my heart and was conjured in front of me, while the last spell sent a shiver skittering down my arms. This is a book to tell your friends about, I’ve read the poems to family and friends and I will be thrilled when I see it on their bookshelves. Yes, of course I adored it, once again I have lost my heart to a creation of the team behind The Lost Words. It just had to be one of my picks of the month, and a LoveReading star book too, it really is that gorgeous.

Star Books
Entangled Life

Entangled Life

Author: Merlin Sheldrake Format: Paperback Release Date: 02/09/2021

Truly fascinating, this is one of the most surprising books I’ve read in a while. Seriously, I could rave on and on about it! Journey to what feels like an entirely different planet and explore the wonder of fungi. “Fungi provide a key to understanding the planet on which we live...Yet they live their lives largely hidden from view , and over 90% if their species remain undocumented.” Author Merlin Sheldrake caught and held my attention from the outset. I had to stop reading every so often just to contemplate the world that was opening up in front of me. I still feel gobsmacked days after reading it. Fungi has shaped our history and “the ability of fungi to digest plastic, explosives, pesticides and crude oil is being harnessed in breakthrough technologies, and the discovery that they connect plants in underground networks, the ‘wood wide web’, is transforming the way we understand ecosystems.” Entangled Life made me reconsider established thoughts and opened my eyes to new ones. I want to recommend it to everyone, for me it’s a genuine must-read and just had to be included on my list of Liz Picks of the Month and as a LoveReading Star Book.

Star Books
Empire of Ants

Empire of Ants

Author: Olaf Fritsche, Susanne Foitzik Format: Hardback Release Date: 06/05/2021

What a fabulously readable and eye-opening book this is. With experts guiding your way, visit the amazing world of ants as they build, raise, grow, and hunt, raid and devour. I’ve always been enthralled by ants and have watched in fascination as they purposefully march their way through life. I’ve also wondered what happens to the lone lost explorer who ends up on your clothing potentially miles away from home, well I found out the answer to this and learned a whole host of other interesting facts in Empire of Ants. Yet this isn’t a data and statistic gala, the writing duo of Susanne Foitzik and Olaf Fritsche have ensured an engaging and absorbing read. One of the first things we are told is that: “If all the ants suddenly disappeared, terrestrial ecosystems across the word would be on their knees… Without ants, the natural world would suffer a long period of instability and would never look the same again”. They’re important then, these bustling ants who exist and create and invent, there’s plenty to learn as we are introduced to them by biologist Susanne. There are so many similarities with humans, and yet their structure could quite easily sit in the realms of fantasy. Empire of Ants is an intensely satisfying and entertaining read that opens up a whole new world.  

I Belong Here

I Belong Here

Author: Anita Sethi Format: Hardback Release Date: 29/04/2021

Thought-provoking, inspiring, and inclusive, this is a wonderful blend of nature and an examination of language, community and friendship. Journalist and writer Anita Sethi decided to hike the ‘backbone of Britain’ The Pennines after she was the victim of a vicious race-hate crime. Born in Manchester and holding a particular love for the natural world around us, in I Belong Here she reclaims her sense of belonging while being open and giving of herself and her thoughts. She walks through the land, often by herself, and explores her experiences and love for nature. Words dance in her hands, she shows how much language matters, looking at the various meanings of words, particularly with regards to nature and emotions, stating: “language can imprison or liberate”. She is so beautifully eloquent. I’ve always had a deep connection to the countryside, yet Anita’s words encouraged me to look again, to not just see the face of our natural surroundings but to look in more depth at our natural history and how it exists and connects us. And, that resonates deeply with her thoughts on the colour of skin: “it is exhausting to be pigeon-holed, people not seeing beyond skin colour”. While at times this is a challenging read as she experiences anger and despair, there is an awful lot of love to be found as she welcomes her surroundings and the people she meets along the way. Ultimately I felt a connection with Anita as she held out a hand and invited me to explore thoughts, feelings and nature alongside her. A LoveReading Star Book, I Belong Here is a truly beautiful and important read that I can wholeheartedly recommend. 

Star Books
The Seafarers A Journey Among Birds

The Seafarers A Journey Among Birds

Author: Stephen Rutt Format: Paperback Release Date: 04/06/2020

Open your hearts and minds to the world of seabirds and the wild landscape of the British Isles in this thoughtful and eloquently written book. Stephen Rutt travels the British Isles and tells of his love for birds that spend much of their life out at sea. Even if not previously entranced by seabirds or nature, Stephen Rutt’s words cast a spell to draw you in. If like me, nature is part and parcel of your inner soul, then this is simply magical, but also holds a warning for our future. One huge reminder from The Seafarers is that it proves just how important nature is for our mental health and wellbeing. The introduction really spoke to me, we learn a little about Stephen before he moves on to ten chapters focusing on different seabirds. From the thrill of meeting a Lech’s storm petrel, to the declining population of the skua, he travels from Lundy to Shetland and we learn as much about the islands as we do seabirds. His thoughts on: “the Anthropocene - defined as the era in which the majority of things on earth have been altered by the actions of humans” and that: “We are losing our seabirds. I fear that what we are seeing with plastics is perhaps the beginning of another death spiral” really hit home. Winner of the Saltire First Book of the Year 2019, The Seafarers is not only a beautiful book to read, it acts as a reminder of the importance of our natural world.

Star Books
A Nature Poem for Every Night of the Year

A Nature Poem for Every Night of the Year

Author: Jane McMorland Hunter Format: Hardback Release Date: 02/09/2020

Companion to A Nature Poem for Every Day of the Year and Friends: A Poem for Every Day of the Year, A Nature Poem for Every Night of the Year is an exquisitely curated collection that induces calm contemplation as it evokes nature in all its awe-inspiring forms - frozen lakes, majestic trees, creeping autumnal twilights, disquieting night winds, multitudes of birds, and much more besides. It’s a book to reach out to before bed, for pondering each poem will instil a sense of slowing down before sleep sets in, nurturing gentle focus and moments of natural respite.  As the book progresses through the year, there’s a tangible sense of nature budding, blooming and abating through the shifting seasons. We walk with Oscar Wilde by the “withered leaf of the moon”. We pass through the “door of spring” with Ethelwyn Wetherald. We revel in springtime birdsong beside William Wordsworth. We’re dazzled by Christina Rossetti’s blossoming “golden glories”. And then comes Betjeman’s harvesttime hues, Tennyson’s September dew, and Sara Teasdale’s “feathery filigree of frost”. Alongside such esteemed names, lesser-known poets are included too, which means it also serves as an excellent springboard to discovering hitherto unknown voices.

Star Books
Barn Club

Barn Club

Author: Robert Somerville Format: Hardback Release Date: 11/03/2021

Our March 2021 Book Club Recommendation Click here to see our Reading Group Questions. This is such a welcoming and warming read with community spirit, traditional craft, and the environment at its heart. Author Robert J Somerville was commissioned to build an elm barn by hand in Hertfordshire. Over the course of a year volunteers gathered together to help build the barn, and this is the story. There are so many positive elements to this read. A community of volunteers come together to: “teach, practice and celebrate skilled rural craftsmanship”. And while Dutch elm disease has decimated our Elm population, there is hope for the trees survival. As Robert Somerville says: “Elm is a species that suffered a major pandemic, but its incredible determination to survive prevails. Elm is proving itself to be a tree with an enduring life force, and, to my mind, is an appropriate icon for getting closer to nature, the resurgence in making things by hand and for bringing old skills back to life”. The book contains a myriad of interesting illustrations and photos as well as the story from concept to raising of the barn. At a time when community really matters, when our environment needs love and nurturing, Barn Club echoes with all that is good. It is a wonderful read that lightened my spirits and made me smile.   

Star Books
Grounded

Grounded

Author: Ruth Allen Format: Hardback Release Date: 04/03/2021

A rewarding and eloquent book that focuses on our connection with nature and how it can bring us back to ourselves, to become more grounded and aware of the world around us. Dr Ruth Allen is a psychotherapist, writer, speaker, and adventurer. She is very aware that we don’t all have equal access to nature, yet she shows that access is possible and encourages us to forge relationships with our natural environment. She has: “suggestions, tools, approaches and inklings” and I found an accessible, satisfying read that really spoke to me. She introduces her own story with nature, followed with a guide on how to use the book, stating: “You don’t have to be wealthy, athletic, ‘outdoorsy’, from an adventurous family or of any particular age demographic, gender, ethnicity, nationality or sexuality: the words over the following pages are for all of you.” Beautiful photos accompany her guidance, suggestions, and activities. I feel that this is a book you can take your time with, dip in and out of, or just get on and do, be, and find what strikes a chord with you. Balanced and wise, Grounded helps us to explore our relationship with nature, and I’m pleased to recommend it as a Liz Pick of the Month.    Find our full list of recommended adventure reads for the London Mountain Film Festival Bookfest 2021.  

Liz Robinson's Picks of the Month
The Birds They Sang

The Birds They Sang

Author: Stanislaw Lubienski Format: Hardback Release Date: 02/04/2020

Diving through history and soaring across borders this truly fascinating book about birds was winner of the readers’ vote in Poland’s most prestigious literary prize, the Nike Award. Author Stanislaw Lubienski first began to observe birds as a child, he explores how people and art (stories, paintings, music, and dance) interact with birds. While he has always lived in and around his home town of Szczesliwice, his love for birds has taken him in person and in his thoughts around the world and back in time. I picked up my love for birds through my father, at home as a child we looked after some blind pheasants he had rescued, once he even nursed a particularly ill-tempered seagull back to health. So, I smiled at the story of James Bond, winced in sympathy as I heard how the photo of the eagle owl was taken, and my heart ached at the Last of the Curlews. A little bit different and a lot lovely, The Birds they Sang has crept into my heart to become a Liz Robinson Pick of the Month. 

Liz Robinson's Picks of the Month
Baggage

Baggage

Author: Jeremy Hance Format: Paperback Release Date: 26/11/2020

Take one articulate, impassioned environmental journalist with anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder, add honesty, humour, and some fascinating travels stories and you have an inspirational book in your hands. Jeremy Hance is an award-winning journalist with a job that means he has to travel to some of the most remote countries in the world. Each time he begins a journey he is joined by OCD (Jeremy has named Steve), and depression (Malachi) which makes for an interesting trip. We first join Jeremy in 2017 en route to Jakarta as he struggles to cope with the journey, we then travel back to 2006 when his love for travel and the environment really began. His honesty is refreshing and uplifting, I smiled, laughed, and winced on occasion as I travelled to some truly wonderful places. And then he invited me to feel his sorrow at the loss of nature across this world that we are a part of: “There are things in the world we’ve take advantage of for our ten thousands years of civilisation: a stable climate, a rich biodiverse white of wildlife, healthy oceans, and a deep connection to other forms of life. We’re risking all of these now.” He also sees the good, the possibilities: “… in reality, we’re all just human. And every day we can choose kindness or cruelty. We can choose to be brave or ambivalent”. And then he introduces hope: “Leave nature alone and it will flourish. Help it along a little, and it will come back all the faster and richer. Life is tenacious. Life will find a way, but we first have to leave it a path.” And so I travelled the world with Jeremy as he faced his fear every single day, and I found it inspiring, and fascinating in equal measure. Baggage: Confessions of a Globe-Trotting Hypochondriac is a wonderfully readable, engaging, and rewarding read, that I have chosen as a Liz Pick of the Month.

Liz Robinson's Picks of the Month

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