The best books on nature/forests that leave you bewitched

Who am I?

I come from a family of some of the earliest big-game hunters turned conservationists of India and grew up treading jungles with my naturalist father. As a child, I was often found trying to catch a snake or spin a yarn or reading from the collection of wildlife and natural history books at home. Jungles were as much a part of growing up as was going to school, and I learnt precious life lessons from them. To pursue the cause of conservation, I’ve written several fiction and non-fiction books, as well as articles in national dailies/magazines on wildlife and nature, and I was appointed the Honorary Wildlife Warden of Udaipur, India.

I wrote...

Iora and the Quest of Five

By Arefa Tehsin,

Book cover of Iora and the Quest of Five

What is my book about?

Iora and the Quest of Five is a rainforest-based MG/YA fantasy novel, the first in the series of six. 

Iora overhears sinister whispering coming from her well and is attacked by a strange creature. She knows her father is in mortal danger, but no one will listen! She sneaks out to search the enchanted Wacky Wilderness for him, but Agogwe Beetle isn’t about to let her go alone. Among the jungle denizens, they encounter wild animals, hidden tribes, secretive lands, and strange and magical creatures: some friendly and some not. The search for her father becomes a quest to save the forest. They only have 17 days to find five forest Angels and the elusive Spirit of the Jungle! But the dark forces aren’t going to let that happen…

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The books I picked & why

Book of Great Jungles

By Ivan T. Sanderson,

Book cover of Book of Great Jungles

Why did I love this book?

"When you step into a jungle, unless you have been conditioned against it, you start to breathe, perhaps for the first time in your life.” This classic 1965 book will make you see the jungles as you never have.

When I started writing my adventure series, the setting came naturally to me. It had to be about forests and wildlife. What I needed though, other than my own experience of the wild and imagination, was a lot of information about the actual characteristics of the rainforests. This book bubbled up in my memory from my father’s excellent collection of books on wildlife and natural history. As I reveled in the accounts of the explorer and naturalist Ivan T. Sanderson, it helped me greatly to shape Iora’s enchanting rainforest, which is an amalgamation of all the rainforests of the world.

By Ivan T. Sanderson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Book of Great Jungles as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

1965 Ivan Sanderson's Book of Great Jungles.

Underland: A Deep Time Journey

By Robert Macfarlane,

Book cover of Underland: A Deep Time Journey

Why did I love this book?

When we talk about nature, we think of trees, lakes, rivers, oceans, mountains. But there is a parallel world that exists right beneath our feet! 

MacFarlane’s narration flows in a dreamlike prose and moves in gentle and deep shifts. The book that describes itself as “A book about burial and unburial and deep time” is one of the most mesmerising books on natural history that I have read. The prose is as transcendental as the subject matter. Formidably and masterfully told.

By Robert Macfarlane,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked Underland as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In Underland, Robert Macfarlane delivers an epic exploration of the Earth's underworlds as they exist in myth, literature, memory, and the land itself. Traveling through the dizzying expanse of geologic time-from prehistoric art in Norwegian sea caves, to the blue depths of the Greenland ice cap, to a deep-sunk "hiding place" where nuclear waste will be stored for 100,000 years to come-Underland takes us on an extraordinary journey into our relationship with darkness, burial, and what lies beneath the surface of both place and mind.

Global in its geography and written with great lyricism, Underland speaks powerfully to our present…

Book cover of The Island of Missing Trees

Why did I love this book?

The setting of the book is unfamiliar in more ways than one. The story, which has its origins in Cyprus, is of a Cypriot Greek and a Cypriot Turk couple, their British-born daughter, and a Ficus carica tree. 

I’ve always had a deep love for the Ficus tree – be it a bo tree or a banyan or a fig. My dream garden did not have glamorous roses or palms but an old Ficus with its roots hanging and birds and bees in its hair. Even in my book, the Tree Angel is a banyan. 

The author, with her originality, eco-sensitivity, and magical realism, recreates the life and times of a divided island and the consequences of the division not just on the people but on its ecology as well. A book of extraordinary beauty.

By Elif Shafak,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Island of Missing Trees as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?


A rich, magical novel from the Booker-shortlisted author of 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in this Strange World - now a top ten Sunday Times bestseller

It is 1974 on the island of Cyprus. Two teenagers, from opposite sides of a divided land, meet at a tavern in the city they both call home. The tavern is the only place that Kostas, who is Greek and Christian, and Defne, who is Turkish and Muslim, can meet, in secret, hidden beneath the blackened…

On the Track Of Unknown Animals

By Bernard Heuvelmans,

Book cover of On the Track Of Unknown Animals

Why did I love this book?

Another book (1958 edition) from my father’s fascinating library. 

When I began penning my first book, I wanted to be as true as I could to a rainforest and bring forth the actual characteristics and legends of the jungles. On the Track of… gave me ideas for unusual creatures, instead of the normal elves and dwarves and fairies of fantasies. I came to know about the less-known local legends, ‘hidden’ animals, and strange creatures from the remote wild corners of our planet, be it tatzulwurms or Kongamato, the last flying dragon.  

The author has combined zoology and cultural anthropology in a captivating account.

By Bernard Heuvelmans,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked On the Track Of Unknown Animals as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

First published in 1995. Routledge is an imprint of Taylor & Francis, an informa company.

Book cover of The Man-Eating Leopard of Rudraprayag

Why did I love this book?

500 square miles of terror. 125 deaths. One hunter. 

The Rudraprayag man-eater’s reign of terror went on from 1918 to 1926. 

The remarkable hunter cum conservation Jim Corbett’s inimitable style, simple language, and unadulterated love for the forests will keep you hooked to this gripping tale of true adventure as he follows the footsteps of the leopard in the wild mountains. What makes Corbett special is that he empathised with not just the plight of humans, but of animals too. “(The crime) of the leopard was not against the laws of nature, but against the laws of man,” the hunter wrote in his book. 

Corbett was a real-life hero and an inspiration for my father. And subsequently for me too.

By Jim Corbett,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Man-Eating Leopard of Rudraprayag as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Jim Corbett's books are usually collections of stories about how he tracked and shot man-eaters in the Indian Himalayas. The present volume consists of a single story, which is perhaps the most exciting of all Corbett's jungle tales.

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Interested in forests, the underworld, and India?

9,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about forests, the underworld, and India.

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