5 Books to Help You See Nature in a Whole New Way
Thank goodness for books, especially this year. With so many activities off-limits, and so many friends out of reach, we’ve turned to that teetering book pile on our nightstand again and again.
The great thing about reading is you can do it anywhere, and we love to read outdoors. It’s a great way to take a restorative break on a solo hike or just while away the hours on a picnic blanket in a park. Even now that the weather has turned cold, we still like to bundle up and take a book outside so we can snag that extra dose of vitamin D.
Whether you’re taking a book along in your hiking pack so you can enjoy some reading in a secluded wilderness spot or just curling up in your backyard cozy-zone this winter, here are some amazing reads that will make you appreciate the natural world in new ways. Read them outside, or read them when you just wish you could be outside. (We've included links to one of our favorite bookstores here in Portland, Powell's, where you can often find used books, too.)
Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer
Subtitled “Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants,” Braiding Sweetgrass draws on Kimmerer’s experience as both a professor of environmental biology and a daughter of the Potowatomi people. She reflects on the interdependence and kinship between plants and people, and she advocates for relating to nature as an elder relative with lessons to share, if we’re patient enough to listen. This book reads almost like poetry and will have you quoting Kimmerer to your friends (over Zoom).
The Unlikely Thru-Hiker by Derick Lugo
What makes Derick Lugo such an unlikely thru-hiker? Well, he doesn’t fit the stereotype; he’s a young Black man who was raised in Brooklyn and never hiked or camped a day in his life. And yet, he set out to hike all 2,190 miles of the Appalachian Trail. With basically no idea what he’s doing. What follows is a hiking memoir from a fresh perspective, one that’s equally insightful and hilarious (oh, and you have to find out how he gets his trail name, “Mr. Fabulous”).
The Names of the Stars by Pete Fromm
A “sequel” of sorts to Fromm’s earlier memoir, Indian Creek Chronicles, The Names of the Stars is a reflective memoir of a month spent solo in the wilderness. In between dodging grizzly bears and checking up on salmon eggs (the job that has brought him to such remote surroundings), Pete contemplates the tension between his love of this wild life and his longing to return to the family that domesticated him. (It’s really as much about fatherhood as it is about adventure.)
Devotions by Mary Oliver
A celebrated poet of the natural world, Oliver is known for her intimate observations of the minutiae of nature that surrounds us, from mushrooms and seashells to a swan gliding across the water or a snake coiled in the grass. This volume curates 200 poems selected from across nearly 60 years of work. Her poems are known for their brevity; we think they’re perfect for a moment of rest and reflection in the middle of a day hike (or for enjoying with your early-bird coffee at the campsite).
The Healing Magic of Forest Bathing by Julia Plevin
Nonfiction; Health and Fitness
What is forest bathing? It doesn’t have anything to do with sudsing up in the woods. Inspired by the Japanese practice of shinrin-yoku, forest bathing is simply the art of spending time in nature. Author Julia Plevin, founder of The Forest Bathing Club, wants to get more people to experience the inner change that can come from tuning in to nature. As she says in the introduction, “No two forest baths are the same. When you go into the forest, you may get the forest bath you need instead of the one you want.”
Want to know more about forest bathing (before you read the book)? Check out our article ‘Forest Bathing’ is a Thing! Here’s How to Start.