Wishing to leave behind the quiet isolation of her Orkney island life, Amy Liptrot books a one-way flight to Berlin. Searching for new experiences, inspiration and love, she rents a loftbed in a shared flat and looks for work. She explores the streets, nightclubs and parks and seeks out the city's wildlife - goshawks, raccoons and hooded crows. She looks for love through the screen of her laptop. Over the course of a year Amy makes space hoping for the unexpected. And it comes with an erotic jolt, in the form of a love affair that obsesses her. The Instant is an unapologetic look at the addictive power of love and lust. It is also an exploration of the cycles of the moon, the flight paths of migratory birds, the mesmerising power of Neolithic stonework and the trails followed by a generation who exist online.
Passionate and poetically compelling, Nicola Chester’s On Gallows Down is a rich and rewarding must-read for nature-lovers, and for readers who adored H is for Hawk. Charting a life lived in - and through - rural landscapes, Chester writes with a painterly eye. Her descriptions of nature and wildlife are staggeringly evocative - sensory, but never overblown or sentimental. Rather, her style has an elegant, measured beauty as she tells a personal story of protest and resistance, of a profound connection to the earth and nature, to offer a story of hope and connectedness in fractured times. Chester shares her experiences during the days of the Greenham Common protests, her experiences as a new mother rearing her children in the ways and words of nature, and her journey to protesting environmental destruction, a journey she’s still consummately committed to. Birds, especially, play a vital and beautiful role in the book, as they do in the author’s life - their migratory cycles, their movement and influence, her fights to combat the destruction of habitats. Moving, stirring, stuff.
Written and illustrated by designer Jani Tully Chaplin, A Greek Island Nature Diary is a joyous journal-format ode to its creator’s love of the islands, as expressed through her detailed watercolours and personal observations of nature and the shifting seasons. Having lived in Corfu, the author’s immersion in - and love for - this alluringly beautiful part of the world is infectious. Through spreads dedicated to different species of plant, flower, tree and animal, she shares her personal encounters with these natural wonders, alongside fascinating information about connected mythology, folklore, medicinal uses, and literature. Take the evocatively-named snake’s head iris, for example. Chaplin blissfully describes encountering these beauties in the undergrowth near her ancient olive trees, before sharing the flower’s connections to Iris, goddess of the rainbow and messenger to the gods. Published in an attractive hardback format, and resplendent with the author’s pencil drawings and watercolours (often vibrant, and always detailed), this will make a splendid gift for friends and family who adore exploring the Greek Islands, and for armchair travellers who’ve yet to discover their delights.
Imbued with infectious personal passion as it shares expert information and plenty of practical guidance, Vicki Hird’s Rebugging the Planet is a brilliant book for bug-lovers of all ages and, given bugs’ vital importance to the upkeep and well-being of Planet Earth (let’s pause for a moment to acknowledge the fact that bees contribute more to the UK economy than the Queen), it deserves to be enjoyed and implemented far and wide - at home, and in classrooms too. In fact, this is perfect for reading and implementing during longer holidays from school, or over the course of a term, especially chapter four which presents an extensive range of how-to ideas for re-bugging your own patch of the world. But back to the beginning. The book sets out its inspirational stall in the opening chapters by explaining all the vital things bugs do for us, among them pollinating plants, feeding birds, feeding humans, defending our food crops, cleaning our water, controlling pests, and healing us. Maggots, for example, can remove (munch) and disinfect rotting flesh, leeches can stop clots, and the honey made by bees has anti-inflammatory properties. To play a role in the author’s re-bugging initiative, readers might find themselves inspired to build a bug palace, buy bug-friendly food from bug-buddy farmers, and much more. This is packed with plenty of ways to live a bug-better life, which in turn means living on a better planet.
Befitting its beautiful subjects, Jon Dunn’s The Glitter in the Green: In Search of Hummingbirds is a dazzling work of nature writing. Blending a thrilling sense of personal adventure with bewitching detail on the habitats, habits and mythology of these most handsome of birds, the book has huge appeal for both dedicated bird-lovers and general readers. Framed by the author’s inspiring viewing of the Natural History Museum’s hummingbird cabinet, Dunn shares how he was driven to feed his hummingbird addiction by immersing himself in their world - “I had to see them for myself. Stuffed historical specimens had sown a seed that had, in time, flourished into a consuming hunger”. To that end, he plans and embarks on a journey to see these birds with their “otherworldly, metallic and jewel-like plumages”, their “rainbow array of colours, shapes and sizes” across their global range - from the wilds of Alaska, to the very tip of Argentina. As well as taking in hummingbirds’ full geographic range (with each place and its people evoked in glorious technicolour), the book’s style has a broad wingspan too - it flits and flutters from having the tension of a thriller, the poetic impact of a literary prize-winner, and the unadulterated glee of a piece of personal passion. Having failed to find one myself (to date, at least), boy was I envious of the author’s enraptured description of seeing Bee Hummingbirds (the world’s smallest bird) during an entrancing Cuban experience that left him feeling “a little like Alice in Wonderland”.
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.
When Joe Harkness suffered a breakdown in 2013, he tried all the things his doctor recommended: medication helped, counselling was enlightening, and mindfulness grounded him. But nothing came close to nature, particularly birds. How had he never noticed such beauty before? Soon, every avian encounter took him one step closer to accepting who he is. The positive change in Joe's wellbeing was so profound that he started a blog to record his experience. Three years later he has become a spokesperson for the benefits of birdwatching, spreading the word everywhere from Radio 4 to Downing Street. In this groundbreaking book filled with practical advice, Joe explains the impact that birdwatching had on his life, and invites the reader to discover these extraordinary effects for themselves.