The best books about nature in Britain

Who am I?

I'm a writer and a botanist with a lifelong interest in nature. I grew up in southern England where I spent my time running around the fields and woods searching for birds, insects and wild plants (as one does). As well as writing about nature, I run plant identification training courses and have a genetics PhD.


I wrote...

The Orchid Hunter: A Young Botanist's Search for Happiness

By Leif Bersweden,

Book cover of The Orchid Hunter: A Young Botanist's Search for Happiness

What is my book about?

In the summer after leaving school, a young botanist sets out to fulfill a childhood dream--to find every species of orchid native to the British Isles. He has just a few months to complete his quest, which no one has ever done before within one growing season, and it will require ingenuity, stamina and a large dose of luck. As he battles the vagaries of the British climate, feverishly chasing each emerging bloom, Leif Bersweden takes the reader on a remarkable botanical journey. This study of the 52 native species is a fantastic gateway into the compendious world of orchids, and one that will open your eyes to the rare hidden delights to be found on our doorstep. Includes an essential guide to finding all 52 British orchids.

The books I picked & why

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Otter Country: In Search of the Wild Otter

By Miriam Darlington,

Book cover of Otter Country: In Search of the Wild Otter

Why this book?

Miriam Darlington is my favourite author and Otter Country is one of the most thumbed, tatty-cornered, precious books that I own. I love it: for its voice, its humour and its beautiful prose. Darlington takes you on a gentle meander through the world of the otter in the most relatable of writing styles. She doesn’t start out as an otter expert; she learns as she goes, and so do you. Everything about this book is wonderful, and I would say the same about her other book, Owl Sense, which I have only left off this list because I wanted to cover five different authors!


Butterfly Isles: A Summer in Search of Our Emperors and Admirals

By Patrick Barkham,

Book cover of Butterfly Isles: A Summer in Search of Our Emperors and Admirals

Why this book?

This book is a classic natural history quest: Patrick Barkham tries to find all the butterfly species in Britain and Ireland in one summer. It explores our age-old relationship with these fantastic insects, the eccentricities of the butterfly watcher's world, and the author’s adventures along the way, all tied together by the challenge he’s set himself. This is a really entertaining book and brilliantly captures the butterfly obsession, offering an excellent portrayal of what makes butterfly watchers tick.


The Peregrine

By J.A. Baker,

Book cover of The Peregrine

Why this book?

The Peregrine is magnificent and widely considered a classic of British nature writing. For me, I love its simplicity: you sit and watch with Baker, observing one of Britain’s most iconic birds through the seasons. The writing is incredibly therapeutic; it delivers you into the moment and keeps you there. Baker’s observations are as shrewd as the bird he writes about. You can read it all at once or dip in and out of it. It’s a book to be kept by the bedside and returned to again and again.


Wilding: Returning Nature to Our Farm

By Isabella Tree,

Book cover of Wilding: Returning Nature to Our Farm

Why this book?

Wilding is a real landmark in our move towards living side by side with nature, and a fantastic example of what can happen if we simply let nature take its course, with minimal human intervention. This book tracks the success story of one of the largest rewilding projects in Europe: in a matter of years, this Sussex estate is transformed from intensively farmed agricultural land into a wild landscape home to turtle doves, nightingales, and purple emperor butterflies. In a world where it is all too often difficult to feel hopeful about the future of our planet, Wilding is a timely reminder that we can bring back what we’ve lost if we simply give it the chance.


Thinking on My Feet: The Small Joy of Putting One Foot in Front of Another

By Kate Humble,

Book cover of Thinking on My Feet: The Small Joy of Putting One Foot in Front of Another

Why this book?

This is a book for people who like to come home to a steaming mug of tea after a long walk in the countryside – rain or shine. Kate Humble takes us with her on her walks through the year, both at home and abroad. Her descriptions of the Wye Valley make you want to put on your wellies and walk out the door, dogs in tow, ready to splash through puddles, hop styles, and walk beneath the trees and the clouds. It is a lovely reminder that it is so often the little things in life that can bring us the most happiness: muddy walks in the woods, chatting to friends over a pot of coffee, watching the sky change as the sun rises. I love this book so much: it’s a lesson in the benefits of learning to live in the moment and to not take the simple things in life for granted.


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in land use, butterflies, and walking?

5,888 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about land use, butterflies, and walking.

Land Use Explore 8 books about land use
Butterflies Explore 16 books about butterflies
Walking Explore 11 books about walking

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like Sustainable Energy - Without the Hot Air, This Is Not A Drill, and Riverwise if you like this list.