Five Books for the Nature Geek
Posted by on December 5, 2013

nature geek books

There are at least a dozen environmental fiction and nonfiction books that I enjoy re-reading. Most are written by some of our favorite writers. But then there are a few others who I really enjoy their prose and story development, or that really surprise me–in a good way. How about you? I’d love to hear some of the books that keep surprising you!

I thought it’d be fun to come up with a list of five of my all-time favorite environmentally-themed books. It was a challenge to narrow it down to just five. Here they are:

1.) The Wilderness World Of John Muir edited by Edwin Way Teale – One of the best collections of Muir writing. I kept mine from my environmental literature course that I took back when I was an undergrad student. The book also has short biographical sketches written by Edwin Way Teale woven in.

2.) Crossing Paths: Uncommon Encounters with Animals in the Wild by Criag Childs – Really everything by Craig Childs is good. Crossing Paths is one of my favorites. Childs blends first-rate biological descriptions with beautiful language that one can only find in the best fiction. But this is nonfiction, making him one of the best contemporary nature writers in my opinion.

3.) The Dharma Bums by Jack Kerouac – If you’ve only read On the Road, you’re missing out. The semi-fictional accounts in the novel are based upon events that occurred years after the events of On the Road. The main characters are the narrator Ray Smith, based on Kerouac, and Japhy Ryder, based on the poet, essayist and wild mountaineer Gary Snyder. If you already read this one, his novel Desolation Angels is another great work.

4.) The Snow Leopard by Peter Matthiessen – No other writers take us on their epic trips like Peter Matthiessen. The Snow Leopard chronicles Mathiessen and naturalist George Schaller’s trek across the Himalayas from south to north, then, outbound, from north to south, going up to 17,000 feet, Mathiessen and Schaller search for the snow leopard.

5.) Burning Bright by Ron Rash – For contemporary fiction, Ron Rash is one of the best writers examining the place his characters live and struggle in. His story collection Burning Bright is a good way to get to know his writing. Throughout his stories he captures the complexities of the Appalachia setting. Caution: His latest novel The Cove has had some lackluster reviews, and I haven’t read it. But I can vouch for Burning Bright!

6.) Caribou Island by David Vann – OK, so I know I said I would only list five reads; but I had to add a sixth — David Vann’s novel Caribou Island — for those nature enthusiasts who like a little drama with their nature. Vann, a young writer and professor, may not make many nature writing lists. But that might change soon. Caribou Island centers on a small island in a glacier-fed lake on Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula. Not a lighthearted read, Caribou Island is brilliantly drawn. It captures the drama and pathos of a husband and wife who face tough times in a distant place.

If you’re in search of a great new read or maybe haven’t found a Christmas gift for the nature-enthusiast in your life, any of these would be make thoughtful gifts.

What environmental works would be at the top of your list?

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