The best books on the Everglades

1 authors have picked their favorite books about the Everglades and why they recommend each book.

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Shadow Country

By Peter Matthiessen,

Book cover of Shadow Country: A New Rendering of the Watson Legend

Shadow Country is Peter Matthiessen’s tour-de-force, semi-fictional account of life and death in the Ten Thousand Islands region of Florida’s Gulf Coast at the turn of the 20th Century. It is a slightly shorter and reworked version of a trilogy originally published separately – Killing Mr. Watson (1990); Lost Man’s River (1997); and Bone by Bone (1999). Matthiessen’s immediate story is that of Edgar Watson, a planter and outlaw, and his murder by his neighbors, but his broader canvas is the American frontier and the ecological costs of empire. His evocation of a long-lost Florida wilderness and those who exploited and transformed it evokes Dostoevsky, Conrad, and Faulkner, and is among the most powerful works of modern American literature.


Who am I?

I have been writing about nature and nature conservation for nearly 35 years. I have seen it from all angles—government, non-government, private, local—in the US, Africa, Asia, and Latin America. I have written five books about how we can do better at both saving wild places and wild creatures, while also understanding how those efforts must also account for the human communities that depend on those places for their lives and livelihoods. Over the decades I have seen enormous and promising shifts in conservation practices, and although we are in the midst of a biodiversity crisis that is entirely of our own making, we are not doomed to repeat the mistakes of our past. 


I wrote...

Nature's Fortune: How Business and Society Thrive by Investing in Nature

By Mark R. Tercek, Jonathan S. Adams,

Book cover of Nature's Fortune: How Business and Society Thrive by Investing in Nature

What is my book about?

Nature is not only the foundation of human well-being, but also the smartest commercial investment any business or government can make. The forests, floodplains, and oyster reefs often seen simply as raw materials or as obstacles to be cleared in the name of progress are, in fact as important to our future prosperity as technology or law, or business innovation.

When is protecting nature a good investment? With stories from the South Pacific to the California coast, from the Andes to the Gulf of Mexico, Nature's Fortune shows how viewing nature as green infrastructure allows for breakthroughs not only in conservation -- protecting freshwater; enhancing fisheries; making cities more livable; and dealing with unavoidable climate change -- but in economic progress, as well.

The Swamp

By Michael Grunwald,

Book cover of The Swamp: The Everglades, Florida, and the Politics of Paradise

During research for my book, I visited manmade wetlands in south Florida, built to filter farm runoff from the water before it flows into Everglades National Park. These constructed wetlands are thick with alligators, spoonbills, storks, hawks, and other wildlife—but they’re just an echo of the surviving Glades. Now among the most cherished natural areas on Earth, in the settlement era the Everglades was written off as wasted space. Early in the 20th century the northern half of the Everglades was drained and turned into sugar fields. Today polluted runoff from those farms threatens the surviving remnants of the Everglades ecosystem. 

Grunwald’s book shows the human quirks and greed that drove the Everglades’ destruction, and that sometimes get in the way of its restoration.


Who am I?

I fell in love with the Arcata Marsh and Wildlife Sanctuary thirty years ago, when I first moved to town. At the time, I was working as a field biologist, and I loved to hang out at the marsh and birdwatch—I’d see everything from pelicans to peregrine falcons. Later I shifted from field biology to science writing, and some of my first articles were about how the Arcata Marsh serves both as a wildlife habitat and a means of treating the city’s sewage. I learned about the grassroots movement that created the marsh, and the global history of wetlands loss. I’ve been hooked on wetlands ever since.


I wrote...

The Marsh Builders: The Fight for Clean Water, Wetlands, and Wildlife

By Sharon Levy,

Book cover of The Marsh Builders: The Fight for Clean Water, Wetlands, and Wildlife

What is my book about?

The majority of the original wetlands in the US have vanished, transformed into farm fields, or buried under city streets. The Marsh Builders delves into the intertwined histories of wetlands loss and water pollution. 

The book’s springboard is the tale of a citizen uprising in Humboldt County, California, which led to the creation of one of the first US wetlands designed to treat city sewage. The book explores the global roots of this local story: the cholera epidemics that plagued 19th-century Europe; the researchers who invented modern sewage treatment after bumbling across the insight that microbes break down contaminants in water; the discovery that wetlands act as powerful filters for the pollution unleashed by modern humanity.

The Everglades

By Marjory Stoneman Douglas,

Book cover of The Everglades: River of Grass

Miami Herald columnist and author Marjory Stoneman Douglas can rightfully be described as the woman who saved the Everglades. The Everglades: River of Grass was published in 1947, the same year Everglades National Park opened. For over fifty years Douglas fought tirelessly against human encroachment on the Everglades and devoted nearly all her time to explain how vital it was to the entire state of Florida. In the 1960s (while in her late seventies) she became involved with the Audubon Society of Miami’s efforts to halt the building of an international airport in the Everglades. She also formed the Friends of the Everglades, an organization that is still today one of the most powerful voices for the area’s preservation. Proving that good people do not always die young, Marjory Stoneman Douglas passed away in 1998 at the age of 108.


Who am I?

Bruce Hunt is a native Floridian writer and photographer. He has authored eleven Florida travel and history books, and over the last three decades has written and photographed hundreds of articles for magazines and newspapers. For five years he was a regular feature writer and photographer for DuPont Registry Tampa Bay Magazine. His work has also appeared in The St. Petersburg Times (Tampa Bay Times), Tampa Tribune, The Visit Tampa Bay Official Visitors Guide, Backpacker Magazine, Rock & Ice Magazine, Skydiving Magazine, Florida Trend Magazine, Celebrity Car Magazine, Coastal Living Magazine, and Southern Living Magazine, among others.


I wrote...

Visiting Small-Town Florida

By Bruce Hunt,

Book cover of Visiting Small-Town Florida

What is my book about?

This 4th Edition of the Visiting Small-Town Florida travel guide features 79 charming, eclectic, and historic towns, tiny villages, and crossroads. Readers can tour historic districts, museums, galleries, and antique shops, and find quaint lodging, great local-cuisine diners, and hole-in-the-wall bar-and-grills. They can also learn about each town’s history and meet a few of the endearing characters that live in these places.

Simultaneously a guide book, history book, and travelogue, Visiting Small-Town Florida, 4th Edition lets the reader experience the flavor of Florida’s back road burgs, while having all the pertinent visitor information at their fingertips.

St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves

By Karen Russell,

Book cover of St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves

Russell has written many books that traffic in underworlds, weirdness, and magic, but for me this book—her first—takes the cake. Written when the author was just twenty-five, St. Lucy’s Home is a collection of magical coming-of-age stories—my favorite one features the children of werewolves who are sent to a rigid school with impossible rules. Russell is a poet at the sentence level—her verbs constantly do acrobatics! In these stories, she portrays adolescence as a sort of sieve in which we must leave all our wonderful weirdness behind in order to become adults.


Who am I?

I’m an American author and writing teacher both at Harvard and Oxford’s online programs. I've mostly written poetry and nonfiction, then in 2021 I published my first novel, She Never Told Me about the Ocean. I started writing the book when my daughter was born as a way to explore the complicated feelings and fears that suddenly washed over me. The book—like a daughter—outgrew my plans and expectations for it. It became, unexpectedly, a mythology of mothers and daughters. For two decades I've studied fairy tales and myths. Fairy tales deal in fears and the stories we tell ourselves to feel safe—which is why I read them and use them in my writing.


I wrote...

She Never Told Me about the Ocean

By Elisabeth Sharp McKetta,

Book cover of She Never Told Me about the Ocean

What is my book about?

Magic. Mothers. Daughters. Birth, love, and death. Enchanted islands. Underworlds. Plant medicine. Generations learning to understand each other through the stories we tell and hear. In the words of one of my favorite authors, Arthur Golden, “She Never Told Me about the Ocean is a heroine's journey through forgiveness, birth and rebirth, all the while treading the line between honoring the dead and feeling paralyzed by them. She has offered us a complicated portrait of mothers and daughters, cupped inside one another like nesting dolls.” 

Live and Let Die

By Ian Fleming,

Book cover of Live and Let Die

Drawing on Fleming's experiences in Jamaica, MI6 intelligence officer Bond, James Bond, not only outwits the villain's attempt to turn him into shark and barracuda bait but also deploys a limpet mine to good effect in order to save himself and his female companion from death by coral reef dragging, a device I pay homage to in a later novel.

Fleming's Bond novels introduced the world to a clever hero required to take direct responsibility for stopping great evil. Bond doesn't shy away from brute force when required, but prefers more elegant solutions, inspiring later writers.

Like millions of others, the popular movies introduced his work to me, but Fleming was the early master of the art of an espionage/action thriller novel, inspiring many who followed.


Who am I?

When writing about quick-witted heroes fighting through danger to protect the innocent and those they love, I draw on the thousands of books and their authors who shaped my own understanding of how a hero behaves; of the principles and emotions which drive a person to persist in the face of massive adversity. Lost in the worlds of those books, inspired by the reading habits of my adopted father, I inhaled these five authors' works in particular. They became an illustrated history of the craft for me, showing through example how adventure writing had evolved and what it could become at its finest.


I wrote...

Techno Ranger: A Sam Harper Military Thriller

By Thomas Sewell,

Book cover of Techno Ranger: A Sam Harper Military Thriller

What is my book about?

North and South Korea collide with the prospect of reigniting war in this action-packed military thriller! 

1LT Sam Harper, surfing engineer, just wants to fit in on his job and impress his CIA ex-girlfriend, but he'll risk everything to prevent mass destruction. Sam's intelligence analysts identify security vulnerabilities in a government lab in Seoul. Meanwhile, a desperate North Korean general sends a naïve Special Forces lieutenant and team across the DMZ to steal nuclear materials technology.

Sends them in disguise to infiltrate the top-secret lab Sam protects. Sam must defend against the Korean People's Army while figuring out how to end the danger to those he cares about, but his involvement with a traitor and a CIA temptress may teach him the wrong lessons about trust.

Birds

By Robert Bateman, Kathryn Dean,

Book cover of Birds

Bob Bateman is a great wildlife observer and a consummate artist, passionate about conservation. This beautifully illustrated book carries the message of care for the environment, its inhabitants, the world! And it carries it in gentle words and striking artistic paintings of nature. His paintings are accurate and realistic, made with superb artistic skill, I love to just flick open the book and stare. It makes you realise the beauty of the natural world. I have met Bob a couple of times, he is a thoughtful, measured, and highly knowledgeable man. His artistic skill is extraordinary.


Who am I?

I am a photographer based in Oxford who has published books for 40 years. I love to be outside, whether it's enjoying the urban landscape of historic Oxford or the wild beauty of the Scottish hillside. The charm of the natural world and the romance of historic buildings are equal enthusiasms. To capture some essence of this, either by camera or paintbrush is a true skill. And it's not easy! To really create a new view is a constant challenge which is my driving force, in my own books I try for images that are just slightly different, atmospheric, romantic, yet always recognisable. I love to search out others who achieve the same, this is why I love these books.


I wrote...

Belfast, A View of the City

By Chris Andrews,

Book cover of Belfast, A View of the City

What is my book about?

Contemporary coffee table book, a visual celebration of all that is good in this remarkable city today. Beautiful photographs show the energy, diversity, industry, and quality of a great environment. A place of work, life, and beauty. From the river Lagan with its wildlife to the huge cranes and work at Harland and Wolff, from the craic in the vibrant pubs to the landscape of the wild surrounding hills, from the locations of gardens and historic buildings to the locations of Game of Thrones and more.

A book for everyone: Belfast’s citizens, locals, tourists, visitors for work or pleasure.

This is available only direct from the publishers here.

Bright Orange for the Shroud

By John D. MacDonald,

Book cover of Bright Orange for the Shroud

I could list almost any of the color-coded McGee series, but this one stands out: McGee helps an old buddy bankrupted by a real estate swindle. Vicious bad guys, rapists, killers, a tense stand-off and truly grisly ending for the bad guy -- yay! What makes this one special is Mac’s evocation of a rural Florida being devoured by greedy developers, a theme even more developed in Pale Gray for Guilt, 1968, where a buddy has been murdered because he refused to sell his waterfront property and … but that’s enough McDonald. If there is such a thing.


Who am I?

I’m the author of the Peter Pike private eye series. Detective, PI, and mystery fiction have come a long way since Poe’s Dupin and Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes. The genre allows you to explore almost any theme you want. What is Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment if not crime/detective fiction? My passion is history and the evolution of societies, and writing in this genre lets me explore the huge, sophisticated ancient Indian civilizations that were here before the white invasion. The ugly history of the Mormons, not taught in school. Lincoln’s murky sexuality. The Russian Revolution, Lenin and Stalin, the downfall of the Romanovs. Nazis and war dogs. The U.S.-Soviet space race. The -- well, you get the idea. 


I wrote...

Peter Pike and the Lincoln Love Letters: (Ah, Love)

By Neal W. Fandek,

Book cover of Peter Pike and the Lincoln Love Letters: (Ah, Love)

What is my book about?

Scandal! Explosive Lincoln love letters have disappeared from the University of Illinois Library – and with them, the last person to see the letters, erratic adjunct poetry instructor Danny Ejderhan. His fiancé Dani hires once-homeless private eye Peter Pike (he sleeps in his office now) to find Dan. To find Dan, Pike must navigate a world of fluid sexuality, political correctness, race riots, musty archives, and inconvenient truths. On top of that, Pike is falling in love with Greta, a librarian with some secrets herself. 

Why all the excitement? Because these documents will upend history. The letters to and from Lincoln are not correspondence with Mary Todd or even a woman at all. His crush is on ... John Wilkes Booth. The book asks the eternal question: What price love?

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