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Must-reads for nature lovers

Grace Clift lists her top 8 books for all nature lovers to read, from poetry to non fiction.


Eco-fiction has rapidly increased in popularity in recent years, with nature-centred books like Richard Powers’ The Overstory reaching mass success. With the climate crisis becoming more pressing by the day, readers are turning to literature to gain knowledge, solace and clarity on what’s happening in our environment. This list aims to widen eco-fiction to eco-literature in general, covering general non fiction, poetry, essay collections, and of course, novels. 


Picture Credits: Unsplash, Hitoshi Suzuki 


The Overstory (and Bewilderment) – Richard Powers (Fiction)

The Overstory won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2019, so it’s an obvious pick for nature lovers. Powers’ narrative follows nine Americans through their unique relationships with trees, exploring an up-close and personal account of the issues of deforestation. The sequel, Bewilderment, released in 2021 and was shortlisted for the 2021 Booker Prize. As it works its way towards the label ‘modern classic’, The Overstory has more than earned its place on this list. 


The Anthropocene Reviewed – John Green (Essays)

In this touching collection of essays, Green argues for the beauty of the human-centred world. While recognising the many flaws of the human species, Green covers the often-ignored positive aspects of our current planet, from Dr. Pepper to Kentucky bluegrass. This is amongst Green’s first works targeted at an older audience following the success of his young adult fiction writing like Turtles All The Way Down and The Fault in Our Stars. This book is sure to bring tears to your eyes – the inevitable result of such moving prose. 


Braiding Sweetgrass – Robin Wall Kimmerer (Memoir/essays)

For fiction fans who love sweeping, expansive prose, this book is the perfect transition into nonfiction. Kimmerer, a Potawatomi botanist, joins current scientific research and historically embedded indigenous wisdom to detail her relationship to nature. Though distinctly a memoir, it is reminiscent of being a collection of essays centred around different aspects of nature, all connected by Kimmerer’s indigenous and scientific background. 


Unearthed – Claire Ratinon (Memoir) 

In this memoir, Ratinon discusses the way in which connections to nature can create a social and emotional rooting in society. Considering how race can leave one feeling ‘cut off’, Ratinon writes of nature as a tool for belonging – a way to reassure yourself that you deserve to be here. For fans of vegetable growing, this book should hit home. Outside of this piece of writing, Ratinon is a gardening journalist, and has written another book called How to Grow your Dinner. 


Picture Credits: Unsplash, Jonathan Kemper 


Otherlands – Thomas Halliday (Non fiction)

This book is a very popular pick among the ‘Nature’ section – Otherlands was Waterstones’ Non-Fiction Book of the Month in February 2023, and has reigned in the section ever since. Written by a palaeobiologist, it is rich in both detail and accuracy, creating an informative, intensely exhilarating depiction of ancient landscapes across the last 500 million years. 


Wintering – Katherine May (Memoir)

Katherine May was recently diagnosed with autism, and discusses the ways in which nature can act as a salve to burnout and distress. This book is half memoir, half exploration of what it means to engage with nature. Nature is turned into a metaphor to demonstrate real self care – dormice burrowing in tree roots become symbolic of giving oneself the necessary time to rest. I’ve written a more personal article on the impact this book had, click here to read it.


Devotions – Mary Oliver (Poetry)

Mary Oliver has been crowned as the nature poet by readers, as the winner of both a Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award. In her 2017 collection Devotions, Oliver connects religion, mental health and nature, all the while welcoming the reader into her descriptive world of natural prose. The key message prevalent throughout all of her works is that nature is consistent; a steadying force that exists alongside all other chaotic aspects of life.


Picture Credits: Unsplash, James Lee


The Lost Rainforests of Britain – Guy Shrubsole (Non fiction)

This piece of non-fiction is extremely popular in conservationist circles, ever since its win of the James Cropper Wainwright Prize for Writing on Global Conservation. It’s a book with a clear mission to bring back these lost rainforests through strong conservationist efforts, and wider political and public support. The research is shocking and poignant and will make you think deeper next time you walk along built up streets of Central London. For more details, check out the Literary Review’s full review. 


Picture Credits: Unsplash, Soliman Cifuentes 


Hopefully, this collection demonstrates just how wide the definition of ‘nature literature’ is. While a few more widely known texts may take most of the attention, it is important to note the breadth of works that are available for nature lovers. By writing and reading about nature, we can develop our understanding and connection with the world that surrounds us. Diversity within ‘nature literature’ is essential to opening up this conversation to everyone, no matter what type of reader they are. 


Let us know if you’ve read any of the books on this list, or if there’s any brilliant nature books that we’ve missed. Happy reading! 



About the Author: Grace Clift is an English Literature student at the University of York with particular interest in UK politics, climate issues and arts. Grace can be contacted via her email, gracevclift@gmail.com, or through Instagram @gracevclift



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