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100 Must-Read Books About Nature

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Valerie Michael

Staff Writer

Valerie Michael is a book-ish, outdoors-y, burger-eating, beer-drinking scientist from Pittsburgh, PA. She is obsessed with books and hiking in equal measure and she’d be happy to show you pictures on her iPhone of her two dogs. Follow her on Twitter @valeriexcm.

The following list compiles books that deal with the natural world from many vantage points. I have broken them, loosely, into categories. If you are interested in nature, plants, animals, and science you are sure to find something here.


100 must read books about nature


On Birds

  1. The Beak of the Finch: A Story of Evolution in Our Time by Jonathan Weiner
  2. The Genius of BirdsThe Genius of Birds by Jennifer Ackerman
  3. The Thing With Feathers: The Surprising Lives of Birds and What They Reveal About Being Human by Noah Strycker
  • Beaks, Bones, and Bird Songs: How the Struggle for Survival Has Shaped Birds and Their Behavior by Roger Lederer
  • The Homing Instinct: Meaning and Mystery in Animal Migration by Bernd Heinrich
  • H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald
  • Rare Encounters with Ordinary Birds by Lyanda Lynn Haput
  • The Urban Birder by David Lindo
  • The Most Perfect Thing: Inside (And Outside) a Bird’s Egg by Tim Birkhead
  • What the Robin Knows: How Birds Reveal the Secrets of the Natural World by Jon Young
  • Avian Architecture: How Birds Design, Engineer, and Build by Peter Goodfellow
  • The Song of the Dodo: Island Biogeography in an Age of Extinction by David Quammen
  • The Birds of Pandemonium by Michele Raffin

    On Plants

    1. Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer
    2. The Cabaret of Plants: Forty Thousand Years of Plant Life and the Human Imagination by Richard Mabey
    3. Lab Girl by Hope Jahren
    4. The Invention of Nature: Alexander von Humboldt’s New World by Andrea Wulf
    5. The Triumph of Seeds: How Grains, Nuts, Kernels, Pulses, and Pips Conquired the Plant Kingdom and Shaped Human History by Thor Hanson
    6. The Drunken Botanist: The Plants That Create the World’s Great Drinks by Amy Stewart
    7. The Reason for Flowers: Their History, Culture, Biology, and How They Change Our Lives by Stephen Buchmann
    8. The Forest Unseen: A Year’s Watch in Nature by David Haskell
    9. The Tree: A Natural History of What Trees Are, How They Live, and Why They Matter by Colin Tudge
    10. The Botany of Desire: A Plant’s-Eye View of the World by Michael Pollan
    11. Mycophilia: Revelations from the Weird World of Mushrooms by Eugenia Bone
    12. Pawpaw: In Search of America’s Forgotten Fruit by Andrew Moore
    13. The Hidden Forest: The Biography of an Ecosystem by Jon Luoma
    14. American Canopy: Trees, Forests, and the Making of a Nation by Eric Rutkow
    15. Seeing Trees: Discover the Extraordinary Secrets of Everyday Trees by Nancy Ross Hugo

    On Animals

    1. A Primate’s Memoir: A Neuroscientist’s Unconventional Life Among the Baboons by Robert Saposkly
    2. My Life with the Chimpanzees by Jane Goodall
    3. Grizzly Years: In Search of the American Wilderness by Doug Peacock
    4. Horseshoe Crabs and Velvet Worms: The Story of the Animals and Plants That Time Has Left Behind by Richart Fortey
    5. Gorillas in the Mist by Dian Fossey
    6. The Animal Dialogues: Uncommon Encounters in the Wild by Craig Childs
    7. Clever as a Fox: Animal Intelligence and What it can Teach us About Ourselves by Sonjo Yoerg
    8. Of Wolves and Men by Barry Lopez
    9. Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are? by Frans de Waal
    10. Land of the Tiger: A Natural History of the Indian Subcontinent by Valmik Thapar

    On Bugs

    1. Sweetness and Light: The Mysterious History of the Honeybee by Hattie Ellis
    2. Pandemic: Tracking Contagions, from Cholera to Ebola and Beyond by Sonia Shah
    3. A Sting in the Tale: My Adventures with Bumblebees by Dave Goulson
    4. The Butterfly Isles: A Summer in Search of Our Emperors and Admirals by Patrick Barkham
    5. Spineless Wonder: Strange Tales from the Invertebrate World by Richard Conniff
    6. Four Wings and a Prayer: Caught in the Mystery of the Monarch Butterfly by Sue Halpern
    7. Rabid: A Cultural History of the Worlds Most Diabolical Virus by Bill Wasik and Monica Murphy
    8. The Fever: How Malaria has Ruled Humankind for 500,000 Years by Sonia Shah

    Under Water

    1. The Soul of an Octopus: A Surprising Exploration into the Wonder of Consciousness by Sy Montgomery
    2. The Ocean of Life: The Fate of Man and the Sea by Callum Roberts
    3. Poseidon’s Steed: The Story of Seahorses, from Myth to Reality by Helen Scales
    4. Voyage of the Turtle by Carl Safina
    5. The Whale: In Search of the Giants of the Sea by Philip Hoare
    6. Kraken: The Curious, Exciting, and Slightly Disturbing Science of the Squid by Wendy Williams
    7. The Dolphin in the Mirror: Exploring Dolphin Minds and Saving Dolphin Lives by Diana Reiss
    8. The Secret Life of Lobsters by Trevor Corson
    9. Listening to Whales: What the Orcas have Taught Us by Alexandra Morton
    10. The World is Blue: How Our Fate and the Ocean’s Are One by Sylvia Earle
    11. Eels: An Exploration, from New Zealand to the Sargasso, of the Worlds Most Mysterious Fish by James Prosek
    12. The Odyssey of KP2: An Orphan Seal, a Marine Biologist, and the Fight to Save a Species by Terrie M. Williams

    On How Our World Works

    1. Seven Brief Lessons on Physics by Carlo Rovelli
    2. Rain: A Cultural and Natural History by Cythnia Barnett
    3. Sapiens: A Brief History of Human Kind by Noah Yuval Harari
    4. The Gene: An Intimate History by Siddhartha Mukherjee
    5. Power, Sex, Suicide: Mitochondria and the Meaning of Life by Nick Lane
    6. Life’s Greatest Secret: The Race to Crack the Genetic Code by Matthew Cobb
    7. The Story of Earth: The First 4.5 Billion Years, From Stardust to Living Planet by Robert Hazen
    8. The Disappearing Spoon: And Other True Tales of Madness, Love, and the History of the World from the Periodic Table of the Elements by Sam Kean
    9. The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer by Siddhartha Mukherjee
    10. Your Inner Fish: A Journey into the 3.5 Billion Year History of the Human Body by Neil Shubin
    11. The Origin of Species by Charles Darwin
    12. The Tree of Life: Charles Darwin by Peter Sis
    13. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
    14. The Double Helix by James Watson
    15. The Third Chimpanzee by Jared Diamond
    16. Cosmos by Carl Sagan
    17. The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution by Richard Dawkins
    18. Genome: The Autobiography of a Species in 23 Chapters by Matt Ridley

    On Conservation

    1. The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History by Elizabeth Kolbert
    2. Our Only World: Ten Essays by Wendell Berry
    3. Silent Spring by Rachel Carson
    4. This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate by Naomi Klein
    5. Where the Wild Things Were by William Stolzenburg
    6. Half Earth: Our Planet’s Fight for Life by Edward O. Wilson
    7. The New Wild: Why Invasive Species Will Be Nature’s Salvation by Fred Pearce
    8. The End of Nature by Bill McKibben
    9. The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Creating Currents of Electricity and Hope by William Kamkwamba
    10. Unbowed by Wangari Maathai

    On Nature in Memoir

    1. The Solace of Open Spaces by Gretel Ehrlich
    2. Desert Solitaire by Edward Abbey
    3. Refuge: An Unnatural History of Family and Place by Terry Tempest Williams
    4. A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail by Bill Bryson
    5. Walden by Henry David Thoreau
    6. Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard
    7. Trace: Memory, History, Race and the American Landscape by Lauret Savoy
    8. Mississippi Solo: A River Quest by Eddy Harris
    9. Tales from Concrete Jungles: Urban Birding around the World by David Lindo

    An Extra Dose of Beauty, Just for Good Measure

    1. Black Nature: Four Centuries of African American Nature Poetry by Camille Dungy (ed.)
    2. Intimate Nature: The Bond Between Women and Animals by Linda Hogan (ed.)
    3. Sisters of the Earth: Women’s Prose and Poetry about Nature by Lorraine Anderson
    4. The Woman Who Fell from the Sky: Poems by Joy Harjo
    5. After and Before the Lightning by Simon Ortiz