The best books for improving your connection with nature

Who am I?

My parents took my brother and me out of school on April Fool’s Day 1979 (when I was 13). We spent the next eight years sailing from the UK to the Americas. Our ‘boat-schooling’ was informed by the world around us: trying to plot our position with sextant taught me mathematics; squinting at a scooped bucket of seaweed taught me about biodiversity; hunkering down in horrendous storms made me realise my insignificance; and finding a way to communicate in local markets took away my fear of difference. April 1st is my most significant anniversary. I'm indebted to my courageous parents for helping me understand I'm a small part of of an incredible planet.

I wrote...

Saving Sun Bears: One man's quest to save a species

By Sarah R. Pye,

Book cover of Saving Sun Bears: One man's quest to save a species

What is my book about?

When I met Malaysian ecologist Dr. Wong, I asked what she could do to help him save the Bornean rainforest. He replied, “do what you do best.” Those five powerful words sparked a Doctor of Creative Arts degree, an enduring friendship, and his award-winning biography, Saving Sun Bears

In this inspirational story, ‘papa bear’ (as he is known), tries to save the ‘forgotten bear’ from extinction. It’s a journey of leaky gum boots, remote helicopter expeditions, incense-smoked Buddhist temples, heart-pumping rejection letters, and momentous goodbyes. Wong’s quest takes him around the world, and in 2017 he is named a CNN Wildlife Hero - proving one person can make a difference.

The books I picked & why

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The Last Migration

By Charlotte McConaghy,

Book cover of The Last Migration

Why this book?

We are living through what some scientists have termed the ‘sixth mass extinction'. No matter if species belong in tropical rainforests of which I write, or the desolate arctic deserts Charlotte McConaghy describes so well, they are disappearing fast. This dystopic climate change story, which follows one deeply troubled young woman as she tracks a feathered migratory species, has the power to wake us from our slumber before it is too late. What I love the most are the rich and complex characters, who fall outside stereotypical boxes, and incredibly evocative descriptions of wild places. This really is a page-turner that left me wanting to sign petitions and join picket lines.

Becoming Animal: An Earthly Cosmology

By David Abram,

Book cover of Becoming Animal: An Earthly Cosmology

Why this book?

Becoming Animal changed the way I look at my habitat. I hope it does the same for you. In his philosophical musings, David Abram contemplates why nature is something we look at, not something we are. He suggests our calloused coldness and ordered separation from other species allows us to subdue the wild-ness, but it comes with a numbing feeling of solitude. I too believe our disconnect with natural systems fuels many human ailments (physical and psychological). I love Abram’s suggestion that we change the spelling of Earth to Eairth to acknowledge that we, and the air we breathe, are part of this planet, not separate from it. 

In the Shadow of Man

By Jane Goodall,

Book cover of In the Shadow of Man

Why this book?

I must admit, I am in awe of Dr. Jane Goodall, who travelled deep into the jungle of Tanzania at the unfazed age of 26 (accompanied by her mum) to see what she could learn from chimpanzees. Her research undermined scientific thought as she watched chimps using tools and lived through a four-year primate war. I loved the way I learnt to differentiate and empathise with individual animals in this book. I introduced individual sun bears in my own book with the aim to bridge the species divide in the same way. After all, as Jane herself says, "Only if we understand, can we care. Only if we care, will we help."


By Inga Simpson,

Book cover of Nest

Why this book?

In my living room, I have a shelf of discarded birds’ nests, and my sofa is a beachy aqua colour. It’s no wonder then, that I was initially drawn to this book’s cover. The story itself was a pleasant surprise. I can best describe this novel as a nature meditation because, when I started reading, Inga Simpson’s prose seemed to slow time. I became less interested in achieving my daily tasks and paid minute attention to the birds and trees outside my window. Although a story of loss and heartache is weaved through this Nest, it is less important than the gaps between the plot. I am convinced this delightful novel about an art teacher and her garden added a year or two to my life! 

A Sand County Almanac: And Sketches Here and There

By Aldo Leopold,

Book cover of A Sand County Almanac: And Sketches Here and There

Why this book?

My own book is the biography of an inspirational conservationist. It was he who prompted me to read A Sand County Almanac. This unassuming paperback was required text when he studied wildlife management and it fueled his desire to work with endangered species. Published the year after my birth, it is comparable in its beautiful language to David Thoreau’s Walden. My dog-eared copy is peppered with highlighter pen and pencil underlines that allow me to flick back through its pages to find extraordinary natural imagery and deep wisdom. Perhaps this classic’s lasting legacy is a reminder to value natural land for more than its economic value. 

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in nature conservation, birds, and birdwatching?

5,887 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about nature conservation, birds, and birdwatching.

Nature Conservation Explore 23 books about nature conservation
Birds Explore 121 books about birds
Birdwatching Explore 26 books about birdwatching

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like Desert Solitaire, The Outermost House, and Of Wolves and Men if you like this list.