Explore Nature Writers

This month at East Side Books, our Nature books are on sale. Our shelves are overflowing with amazing writing by some of the top nature writers around.

Here is a short list of some of my all-time favorite nature books:

The Country Year by Sue Hubbell

Hubbell, former librarian turn beekeeper turn writer, lives and works on a 100 acre farm in the Ozarks. There she tends 200 beehives and produces honey on a commercial scale.  Her book, A Country Year, is a beautiful collection of short vignettes arranged by seasons that give a glimpse into her work and landscape. The descriptions of beekeeping are engrossing, the writing is simple and lovely, and finishing the last page will leave you longing for more.

The John McPhee Collection by John McPhee

I first read John McPhee in a college seminar on writing. We were given an essay he wrote about oranges. At the time, my classmates and I couldn’t imagine anything more boring that a handful of pages dedicated to a fruit. Wisely, our professor made us read McPhee’s essay in class.  I was blown away; I had never read anyone who wielded the English language more deftly.  From that moment on I was a McPhee convert.  One of his very best books is Coming Into the Country–copies can be found in our Alaska section.   If you have yet to experience McPhee, you might want to check out The John McPhee Collection, a book comprised of selections from the first twelve books he published. But really, you can’t go wrong no matter which book of McPhee’s you pick up.

Dakota: A Spiritual Geography by Kathleen Norris

Perhaps I am biased by my Midwestern upbringing, but I found Dakota by Kathleen Norris to be one of the most powerful nonfictional accounts of the Plains on record. (The best fictional exploration of the Midwestern landscape is far and away the work of Willa Cather. Her books can be found on our General Fiction shelves.) Norris moved from New York to an isolated town in northwestern South Dakota, and explores her inner and outer landscapes in this personal account of that transition. I was not surprised to read that Norris is also a poet–her writing is at once lyrical and moving. Her later works delve more into her spiritual quests. The Cloistered Walk, her account of the time she spent living at a Benedictine monastery, can be found in our Christianity section.

Refuge: An Unnatural History of Family and Place by Terry Tempest Williams

Although I first read Refuge over 20 years ago, it has remained one of my top five favorite books of all time. In one slim volume, Williams tells the story of her family history of breast cancer, governmental nuclear weapons testing in the Nevada desert, and the destruction of bird habitat along the shores of the Great Salt Lake in Utah. Williams weaves the bits and pieces of these heartbreaking stories into a lovely tapestry using language that is spare yet gorgeously crafted. It is a book you have to discover and experience for yourself.  When I closed the cover for the last time, I felt that my life was enriched and changed by the story William so masterfully told.

Woodswoman by Anne LaBastille

In the 60’s, Anne LaBastille purchased a bit of land in the Adirondack Mountains and built a log cabin where she lived in a Thoreau-like fashion. She chronicled her adventures, lifestyle, and personal relationship with the land in her books Woodswoman, Beyond Black Bear Lake, Woodswoman III, and Woodswoman IIII. Reading the books by LaBastille years and years ago sent me on a lifelong exploration of homesteading. My personal shelves teem with books on living off the land, cabin building, and survival manuals. I may never live like LaBastille, but her example of living in harmony with her surroundings still effects the decisions I make in my daily life.

Some other titles you might not want to miss are: Living by the Word by Alice Walker; Crossing Open Ground by Barry Lopez; Teaching a Stone to Talk and Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard; Silent Spring by Rachel Carson; and The Good Rain by Timothy Egan.

Come on down to East Side Books and discover your own favorite nature writers by browsing through our extensive collection. If you need any help locating the books mentioned above, please ask our staff for assistance.

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