The best books about how nature talks to us

The Books I Picked & Why

Braiding Sweetgrass

By Robin Wall Kimmerer

Book cover of Braiding Sweetgrass

Why 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.


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Nature Matrix: New and Selected Essays

By Robert Michael Pyle

Book cover of Nature Matrix: New and Selected Essays

Why 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.


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

By Bernd Heinrich

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

Why 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.


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The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate –Discoveries from a Secret World

By Peter Wohlleben, Jane Billinghurst

Book cover of The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate –Discoveries from a Secret World

Why 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.


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

By Jon Mooallem

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

Why 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.


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