The best books to rewild the mind

Edward Picton-Turbervill Author Of Talking Through Trees
By Edward Picton-Turbervill

Who am I?

I did a master's in Environmental Policy, and at the end of that year, I thought, "this is all very well, but there’s no point designing these policies if no one wants them." My response to the environmental crisis is to try to open people’s eyes to the beauty and wonder of Nature. If you pay close attention, you start to develop an expansive sense of the ordinary: Creation is stranger, more mysterious, and more wonderful than we can imagine. This in turn helps us to love the world more deeply, and we tend to look after things that we love. 

I wrote...

Talking Through Trees

By Edward Picton-Turbervill,

Book cover of Talking Through Trees

What is my book about?

Talking Through Trees was supposed to be a rather dry history of the gardens in St John’s College, Cambridge, but what came out when I sat down to write it was altogether more unexpected. The book is a rhapsody on the trees in the college’s garden, flowing between anecdote, history, biology, poetry, and philosophy. It was augmented by 35 wonderful woodcuts produced by Angela Lemaire for the book and printed by hand at the Old Stile Press. My favourite lines are "A tree is a river in reverse. A river converges on its trunk, and a tree diverges from its source. Humans are both wood and water, since our arteries are trees, and our veins are rivers."

This book is available here.

The books I picked & why

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The Old Ways: A Journey on Foot

By Robert MacFarlane,

Book cover of The Old Ways: A Journey on Foot

Why this book?

This was the first piece of British nature writing I ever read, and it inspired me to get up out of my armchair and go for an adventure on the Ridgeway. The adventure ended in some of the worst blisters I have ever seen, but the experience stayed with me and rekindled a love for the British landscape. I find it a magical idea that our land is crisscrossed by a network of ancient pathways, and that we are walking in the footsteps of our ancestors. 


By Roger Deakin,

Book cover of Wildwood

Why this book?

This was the book that made me look again at trees, seeing them for the incredible organisms that they are. Deakin goes on an amazing adventure from Suffolk to Kazakhstan, Australia, and beyond, trying to get to the heart of why wood and trees have such profound meaning for us. If you like Wildwood, you could also try Waterlog, in which he wild-swims his way through the British Isles. He’s the perfect companion for the armchair adventurer, and a very genial writer.

The Living Mountain: A Celebration of the Cairngorm Mountains of Scotland

By Nan Shepherd,

Book cover of The Living Mountain: A Celebration of the Cairngorm Mountains of Scotland

Why this book?

"The thing to be known grows with the knowing." This slim book is the distillation of a whole lifetime spent knowing the Cairngorms. Every page is radiant with wisdom, and I think it’s close to perfection. A book all about matter and spirit, and how paying close attention to creation is an endlessly rich and rewarding devotion. 

Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

By Annie Dillard,

Book cover of Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

Why this book?

This book is luminous, every page glowing with beautiful prose. The world that Annie Dillard perceives is utterly filled with wonder, and it’s so refreshing to spend time in her presence, finding enchantment in the small things. Dillard tackles some of the biggest questions, pivoting backwards and forwards between profound solemnity and quirky humour. It also has the most perfect crescendo to the end that I know – I remember reading it on a bus to Frankfurt Hahn Airport and wanting to shout for joy as she wrapped it all up.  

This Sunrise of Wonder: Letters to My Grandchildren

By Michael Mayne,

Book cover of This Sunrise of Wonder: Letters to My Grandchildren

Why this book?

This book was given to me by an Anglican priest in Valparaiso, and it’s probably been the single biggest influence on my thought of anything I have ever read. It is a series of letters from Mayne to his grandchildren, explaining his view of the world. It’s a bit quieter than Annie Dillard’s exuberant sense of enchantment, but no less filled with wonder. It’s packed full of quotations from other authors, gleaned from a lifetime’s reading. The title is a quote from GK Chesterton, "At the back of our brains, there is a forgotten blaze or burst of astonishment at our own existence. The object of the artistic and spiritual life is to dig for this sunrise of wonder." 

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in Scotland, rewilding, and trees?

5,309 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about Scotland, rewilding, and trees.

Scotland Explore 151 books about Scotland
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Trees Explore 31 books about trees

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like The Tree, Sea Room, and The Last Wilderness: A Journey into Silence if you like this list.