The best books on the nature and the environment

Edward Struzik Author Of Swamplands: Tundra Beavers, Quaking Bogs, and the Improbable World of Peat
By Edward Struzik

The Books I Picked & Why

E. O. Wilson: Biophilia, the Diversity of Life, Naturalist

By Edward O. Wilson

E. O. Wilson: Biophilia, the Diversity of Life, Naturalist

Why this book?

I took a course from Ed Wilson when I was a Knight Science Journalism Fellow at MIT and Harvard. Each one of his classes was a revelation, as were his books. He won the Pulitzer twice for On Human Nature and The Ants. But I particularly enjoyed The Diversity of Life. It was engaging and so prophetic – a sequel, as someone once said, to Darwin’s Origin of the Species.


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Desert Solitaire

By Edward Abbey

Desert Solitaire

Why this book?

The book struck a chord because I worked in a remote national park (Kluane National Park and Reserve, along the Yukon/Alaskan border) early in my career as Abbey did. Like him, I was incensed by the push to exploit wilderness more for the enjoyment of people than for the plants and animals that dwell there. What makes this book stand out is that it is lyrical as well as angry. It makes you laugh and want to do something to right the wrongs that have been done to nature.


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Arctic Dreams: Imagination and Desire in a Northern Landscape

By Barry Lopez

Arctic Dreams: Imagination and Desire in a Northern Landscape

Why this book?

I was the Arctic bureau chief (a one-person show) for a now long-forgotten news chain, living in the Northwest Territories of Canada when Lopez was there collecting stories for this book. It was fun to read because I had visited many of the places he explored and knew almost all of the scientists he profiled. What the book lacks because of its largely Eurocentric view of the polar world is made up by the fact it turned so many people onto the much neglected polar world.


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Landmarks

By Robert MacFarlane

Landmarks

Why this book?

This is a book about language and how we have lost so many words that clarify our understanding of the natural world. For my book Swamplands, I borrowed from MacFarlane’s glossary of words describing peat. Yarpha, for example, is an Orkney word for peat that is full of fibers and roots, Water-sick is a Cumbrian word for peatlands that are saturated with water. The book reminds us that we need to be more explicit in describing nature in all of its manifestations. It is also addictive. You can start from the middle and read to the beginning or to the end, It never fails


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Wolf Willow: A History, a Story, and a Memory of the Last Plains Frontier

By Wallace Stegner

Wolf Willow: A History, a Story, and a Memory of the Last Plains Frontier

Why this book?

Stegner was an American writer who viewed nature not only as a complex set of ecosystems but as a state of mind. In a letter to Congress, he famously stated that we need to preserve wilderness as a means of “reassuring ourselves of our sanity as creatures, a part of the geography of hope.” Wolf Willow stands out for me because it speaks of a place on the prairies that I have explored. It is also storytelling at its best.


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