The best natural history books 📚

Browse the best books on natural history as recommended by authors, experts, and creators. Along with notes on why they recommend those books.

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Book cover of Possessing Nature: Museums, Collecting, and Scientific Culture in Early Modern Italy

Possessing Nature: Museums, Collecting, and Scientific Culture in Early Modern Italy

By Paula Findlen

Why this book?

This is an excellent and fascinating book on the scientific culture of Renaissance Italy, where intellectuals and the wealthy elite began collecting and cataloging curiosities long before their northern European counterparts. Findlen demonstrates a key way in which Renaissance intellectuals could look back to an idealized ancient past while also creating new knowledge and institutions – namely the museum. This book is beautifully written, full of engaging stories, and shows a side of early modern science often ignored.

From the list:

The best books on Renaissance Italy

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Book cover of The Wisdom of Birds: An Illustrated History of Ornithology

The Wisdom of Birds: An Illustrated History of Ornithology

By Tim Birkhead

Why this book?

This book is a fascinating look at ornithology through the ages, from mythology and legend to the evolution of our scientific understanding of birds today. It includes beautiful illustrations from medieval monks to early naturalists through the 20th century. Even the most casual birdwatcher will learn something fascinating from this book; I read it slowly, digesting a section at a time, and it’s one I’m sure I’ll return to again and again.

From the list:

The best books about natural history

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Book cover of A Natural History of Dragons: A Memoir by Lady Trent

A Natural History of Dragons: A Memoir by Lady Trent

By Marie Brennan

Why this book?

Due to my short attention span, I was hesitant to read this book at first, due to the words “History” and “Memoir” in the title; however, “Dragons” sold me, and I’m very glad it did.

This book reads like a classic Victorian travel narrative, following an intelligent and likable protagonist in her quest to learn more about the natural life around her—namely, dragons. The way this genre-bending novel treats dragons, showing them in scientific diagrams and field drawings, makes for an interesting semi-fantasy world that’s exciting to step into and so much fun to…

From the list:

The best books with weird writing styles

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Book cover of Bats of the Republic: An Illuminated Novel

Bats of the Republic: An Illuminated Novel

By Zachary Thomas Dodson

Why this book?

Bats of the Republic is by far one of the most engaging, unique reading experiences I have ever had the delight to enjoy. The breathtaking art decorating every page (and I do mean every page, from the copyright page to the back of the dust jacket) enhances a deep and intriguing story.

One of my favorite parts of this book is that every piece of writing you encounter comes from one of the characters in the story. This makes for a completely immersive experience as you flip through maps, examine drawings of new animal species, and even uncover a few…

From the list:

The best books with weird writing styles

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Book cover of A Naturalist Buys an Old Farm

A Naturalist Buys an Old Farm

By Edwin Way Teale

Why this book?

“For us it is a farm with a different kind of harvest,” Teale describes of how his aging Trail Woods farm yields observations, memories, and adventures. Teale has been called a “20th-century Thoreau” for his work as a naturalist, writer, and nature photographer. But in chapters titled A Hammock in the Woods, Stone Fences, The Man in the Brushpile, and more, his expression of love for living things transcends scientific observation; he shares his relationships with stones, plants, and animals so that we recognize they are made not only of earth, but of spirit, too.

From the list:

The best nature books to help us disconnect from modern life

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Book cover of Under the Sea-Wind

Under the Sea-Wind

By Rachel Carson

Why 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.

From the list:

The best books on nature by naturalists

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