The best books on nature by naturalists

Why am I passionate about this?

Will Stolzenburg writes about wild things, with particular focus on great predators and the vanishing places they inhabit. A wildlife biologist and magazine editor in former lives, he has since written three non-fiction books concerning those irreplaceable predators, plus a children’s story about a dog with a magically happy tail that's pretty close to true.


I wrote...

Book cover of Where the Wild Things Were: Life, Death, and Ecological Wreckage in a Land of Vanishing Predators

What is my book about?

For half a billion years, life on Earth had been policed by great predators, those big, meat-seeking animals at the top of the food chain. Over the past ten thousand years, those wolves and big cats, monstrous fish and flying raptors have been swept under by the human tide. And what of it? A cadre of concerned scientists asking that very question are finding landscapes of pest and plague, chaos and decay, and a world of reason to reconsider the meat-eating beasts we’ve so blithely banished from the web of life.

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The books I picked & why

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

William Stolzenburg Why did I love this book?

Every modern student of wildlife and wild places has either been assigned this book, or felt obliged to pick it up from the sheer volume of references harking back to it. Written in the 1940s, A Sand County Almanac is a slim but weighty book of essays by the wildlife professor Aldo Leopold, whose prophet’s eye and poetic prose so eloquently celebrate the wild while damning our abuse of it. Or in the words of Leopold himself, who always said it best, “There are some who can live without wild things, and some who cannot. These essays are the delights and dilemmas of one who cannot.”

By Aldo Leopold,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked A Sand County Almanac as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Aldo Leopold's A Sand County Almanac has enthralled generations of nature lovers and conservationists and is indeed revered by everyone seriously interested in protecting the natural world. Hailed for prose that is "full of beauty and vigor and bite" (The New York Times), it is perhaps the finest example of nature writing since Thoreau's Walden.
Now this classic work is available in a completely redesigned and lavishly illustrated gift edition, featuring over one hundred beautiful full-color pictures by Michael Sewell, one of the country's leading nature photographers. Sewell, whose work has graced the pages of Audubon and Sierra magazines, walked…


Book cover of Under the Sea-Wind

William Stolzenburg Why did I love this book?

Rachel Carson will forever be known for Silent Spring, her courageous, farsighted warning of our pesticidal poisoning of the world. But it was her three ocean-oriented books preceding Silent Spring that best showcase her artistic melding of meticulous research with her wide-eyed sense of wonder. And none more so than Under The Sea Wind, her first and most intimate work, tracing the seasonal travails of fish and shorebirds—living, heroic creatures we come to know by name—through their inspiring, interlocking circles of life.

By Rachel Carson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Under the Sea-Wind as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"Under the Sea-Wind" presents a naturalist's picture of ocean life. This book is her breathtaking canvas of the fierce, competitive struggle for life takes place along the shore, in the open sea, and along the sea bottom.


Book cover of The Outermost House: A Year of Life on the Great Beach of Cape Cod

William Stolzenburg Why did I love this book?

In 1925, Henry Beston had a 20 x 16 beach cottage built for him on a Cape Cod dune overlooking the Atlantic. He went there for what was to be a two-week stay and left some two years later, with his chronicle condensed into “a year of life on the great beach of Cape Cod”—what Rachel Carson said was the only book that influenced her writing. His poetic ruminations on wheeling shorebirds and schooling fish, on sea and sky, surf and sand and roaring storm, of nights walking barefoot on the beach, leave you smelling the salt spray and breathing to the rolling rhythm of the waves.

By Henry Beston,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The seventy-fifth anniversary edition of the classic book about Cape Cod, "written with simplicity, sympathy, and beauty" (New York Herald Tribune)

A chronicle of a solitary year spent on a Cape Cod beach, The Outermost House has long been recognized as a classic of American nature writing. Henry Beston had originally planned to spend just two weeks in his seaside home, but was so possessed by the mysterious beauty of his surroundings that he found he "could not go."

Instead, he sat down to try and capture in words the wonders of the magical landscape he found himself in thrall…


Book cover of Desert Solitaire

William Stolzenburg Why did I love this book?

Like Henry Beston, Edward Abbey brought fresh, penetrating eyes to an epic, seductive landscape that inspired him to his greatest art. In Desert Solitaire, Abbey weaves his two years as an itinerant park ranger in Arches National Monument in southeast Utah, and his various forays into the surrounding canyon country, into one year’s tale of revelation. Abbey’s rebellious, anti-establishment musings and biting commentary are what have made him an icon of the environmental movement. But it is his talent for so palpably conveying this magical land of naked rock and cathedral canyon and brilliant sky that keeps us fellow desert rats forever returning for yet another season in the wilderness with him.

By Edward Abbey,

Why should I read it?

12 authors picked Desert Solitaire as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'My favourite book about the wilderness' Cheryl Strayed, author of Wild

In this shimmering masterpiece of American nature writing, Edward Abbey ventures alone into the canyonlands of Moab, Utah, to work as a seasonal ranger for the United States National Park Service.

Living out of a trailer, Abbey captures in rapt, poetic prose the landscape of the desert; a world of terracotta earth, empty skies, arching rock formations, cliffrose, juniper, pinyon pine and sand sage. His summers become spirit quests, taking him in search of wild horses and Ancient Puebloan petroglyphs, up mountains and across tribal lands, and down the…


Book cover of The Voyage of the Beagle

William Stolzenburg Why did I love this book?

In December of 1831, a 22-year-old Charles Darwin set sail aboard HMS Beagle out of Plymouth, England, on a five-year voyage around the world. Upon returning, he published his notes—hence this book—and after 19 years of ruminating on his observations he birthed his earth-shaking masterpiece, On The Origin of Species. It is that fact—knowing the end of the story before even Darwin—that makes this book more than just another chronicle of a momentous expedition. It is a privileged peek at a nascent genius on his journey toward rewriting the very history of natural history.

By Charles Darwin,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked The Voyage of the Beagle as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

With an Introduction by David Amigoni.

Charles Darwin's travels around the world as an independent naturalist on HMS Beagle between 1831 and 1836 impressed upon him a sense of the natural world's beauty and sublimity which language could barely capture. Words, he said, were inadequate to convey to those who have not visited the inter-tropical regions, the sensation of delight which the mind experiences'.

Yet in a travel journal which takes the reader from the coasts and interiors of South America to South Sea Islands, Darwin's descriptive powers are constantly challenged, but never once overcome. In addition, The Voyage of…


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Book cover of Leora's Letters: The Story of Love and Loss for an Iowa Family During World War II

Joy Neal Kidney Author Of What Leora Never Knew: A Granddaughter's Quest for Answers

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

I'm the oldest granddaughter of Leora, who lost three sons during WWII. To learn what happened to them, I studied casualty and missing aircraft reports, missions reports, and read unit histories. I’ve corresponded with veterans who knew one of the brothers, who witnessed the bomber hit the water off New Guinea, and who accompanied one brother’s body home. I’m still in contact with the family members of two crew members on the bomber. The companion book, Leora’s Letters, is the family story of the five Wilson brothers who served, but only two came home.

Joy's book list on research of World War II casualties

What is my book about?

The day the second atomic bomb was dropped, Clabe and Leora Wilson’s postman brought a telegram to their acreage near Perry, Iowa. One son was already in the U.S. Navy before Pearl Harbor had been attacked. Four more sons worked with their father, tenant farmers near Minburn until, one by one; all five sons were serving their country in the military–two in the Navy and three as Army Air Force pilots.

Only two sons came home.

Leora’s Letters is the compelling true account of a woman whose most tender hopes were disrupted by great losses. Yet she lived out four…

By Joy Neal Kidney, Robin Grunder,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Leora's Letters as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The day the second atomic bomb was dropped, Clabe and Leora Wilson’s postman brought a telegram to their acreage near Perry, Iowa. One son was already in the U.S. Navy before Pearl Harbor had been attacked. Four more sons worked with their father, tenant farmers near Minburn until, one by one, all five sons were serving their country in the military. The oldest son re-enlisted in the Navy. The younger three became U.S. Army Air Force pilots. As the family optimist, Leora wrote hundreds of letters, among all her regular chores, dispensing news and keeping up the morale of the…


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11,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about park rangers, nature conservation, and Cape Cod.

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