The best books about how nature talks to us

Who am I?

Much of what Deb knows about writing, nature, and life she learned in Alaska, where she also mastered the art of hauling water and cooking ptarmigan. She loves characters who tug at the heart and stories that grab you from the opening line and never let go. Deb is the co-founder of Alaska’s 49 Writers, and she has been invited to join the faculty at several writers’ conferences. After 36 years in Alaska, she now lives on Oregon’s north coast, where you’ll find her strolling the beaches and forests with her husband and boxer dog.

I wrote...

Roar of the Sea: Treachery, Obsession, and Alaska's Most Valuable Wildlife

By Deb Vanasse,

Book cover of Roar of the Sea: Treachery, Obsession, and Alaska's Most Valuable Wildlife

What is my book about?

Over a century ago, treachery in Alaska's Bering Sea twice brought the world to the brink of war. The US seized Canadian vessels, Great Britain positioned warships to strike the US, and Americans killed Japanese pirates on US soil, all because of the fur seals that crowded onto the tiny Pribilof Islands.

The herd's population plummeted while notorious seafarers like Alex MacLean poached indiscriminately. Enter an unlikely crusader to defend the seals: self-taught artist and naturalist Henry Wood Elliott, whose zeal and love for the sea creatures urged him to go against all odds and take on giants of the sea. Impossible as it seemed for him to win, Elliott exposed corruption while setting the course for the modern wildlife protections.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants

Why did I love this book?

My personal encounters with indigenous ways of knowing began over forty years ago, and I still have much to learn. Toward that end, I was thrilled to discover this book, which holds a special place on my shelf. In it, Kimmerer braids the wisdom of her Elders with scientific teachings as deftly as the women of her family braid sweetgrass.

By Robin Wall Kimmerer,

Why should I read it?

39 authors picked Braiding Sweetgrass as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Called the work of "a mesmerizing storyteller with deep compassion and memorable prose" (Publishers Weekly) and the book that, "anyone interested in natural history, botany, protecting nature, or Native American culture will love," by Library Journal, Braiding Sweetgrass is poised to be a classic of nature writing. As a botanist, Robin Wall Kimmerer asks questions of nature with the tools of science. As a member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, she embraces indigenous teachings that consider plants and animals to be our oldest teachers. Kimmerer brings these two lenses of knowledge together to take "us on a journey that is…

Book cover of Nature Matrix: New and Selected Essays

Why did I love this book?

One of my delights upon moving to the Oregon coast was learning that the venerable yet approachable biologist and writer Robert Michael Pyle lives right across the Columbia River. Eclectic, insightful, and never stuffy or overwrought, he’s on equally firm footing delving into the mysteries of butterflies and Sasquatches. No wonder he’s the subject of the recent feature film The Dark Divide. None of his books disappoint, but this recent essay collection is especially remarkable for its depth and breadth.

By Robert Michael Pyle,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Nature Matrix as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Nature Matrix is a gathering of some of Robert Michael Pyle’s most significant, original, and timely expressions of a life immersed in the natural world, in all its splendor, power, and peril

Nature Matrix: New and Selected Essays contains sixteen pieces that encompass the philosophy, ethic, and aesthetic of Robert Michael Pyle. The essays range from Pyle’s experience as a young national park ranger in the Sierra Nevada to the streets of Manhattan; from the suburban jungle to the tangles of the written word; and from the phenomenon of Bigfoot to that of the Big Year—a personal exercise in extreme…

Book cover of Mind of the Raven: Investigations and Adventures with Wolf-Birds

Why did I love this book?

When I was far too young to understand it, I devoured Konrad Lorenz’s King Solomon’s Ring, fascinated by how he communicated with animals. Fast forward several years, and I was even more delighted to read Bernd Heinrich’s account of his interactions with ravens. Any Alaskan who’s paying attention has to marvel at these smart, ubiquitous, hardy “wolf birds.” I’m embarrassed to admit that one of the ravens I most remember from the book is the one which, perched near an outdoor bathroom, could precisely imitate the sound of a flushing toilet.

By Bernd Heinrich,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Mind of the Raven as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Heinrich involves us in his quest to get inside the mind of the raven. But as animals can only be spied on by getting quite close, Heinrich adopts ravens, thereby becoming a "raven father," as well as observing them in their natural habitat. He studies their daily routines, and in the process, paints a vivid picture of the ravens' world. At the heart of this book are Heinrich's love and respect for these complex and engaging creatures, and through his keen observation and analysis, we become their intimates too.

Heinrich's passion for ravens has led him around the world in…

The Hidden Life of Trees

By Peter Wohlleben, Jane Billinghurst (translator),

Book cover of The Hidden Life of Trees

Why did I love this book?

Among the joys of living in the Pacific Northwest is hiking through lush evergreen forests. As evidenced by the growing practice of forest bathing, there’s something remarkably soothing about being among trees. In this book, forester Peter Wohlleben delves into what makes trees so special to us, including evidence that trees feel and communicate with one another. My husband and I enjoyed this book so much that we also bought the coffee-table edition, which features resplendent photos.

By Peter Wohlleben, Jane Billinghurst (translator),

Why should I read it?

10 authors picked The Hidden Life of Trees as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"A paradigm-smashing chronicle of joyous entanglement that will make you acknowledge your own entanglement in the ancient and ever-new web of being."--Charles Foster, author of Being a Beast Are trees social beings? In this international bestseller, forester and author Peter Wohlleben convincingly makes the case that, yes, the forest is a social network. He draws on groundbreaking scientific discoveries to describe how trees are like human families: tree parents live together with their children, communicate with them, support them as they grow, share nutrients with those who are sick or struggling, and even warn each other of impending dangers. Wohlleben…

Book cover of Wild Ones: A Sometimes Dismaying, Weirdly Reassuring Story about Looking at People Looking at Animals in America

Why did I love this book?

While researching my most recent book I wanted to explore the various ways people have interacted with wildlife throughout history. Mooellam’s book proved exactly what I was looking for. Fun and readable, it was a pleasant counterbalance to some of the hefty tomes I consulted, and yet it left me with much to think about.

By Jon Mooallem,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Wild Ones as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"Intelligent and highly nuanced... This book may bring tears to your eyes." -- San Francisco Chronicle

Journalist Jon Mooallem has watched his little daughter's world overflow with animals butterfly pajamas, appliqued owls-while the actual world she's inheriting slides into a great storm of extinction. Half of all species could disappear by the end of the century, and scientists now concede that most of America's endangered animals will survive only if conservationists keep rigging the world around them in their favor. So Mooallem ventures into the field, often taking his daughter with him, to move beyond childlike fascination and make those…

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in indigenous peoples, trees, and threatened species?

9,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about indigenous peoples, trees, and threatened species.

Indigenous Peoples Explore 27 books about indigenous peoples
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Threatened Species Explore 20 books about threatened species