The most recommended books on natural philosophy

Who picked these books? Meet our 61 experts.

61 authors created a book list connected to natural philosophy, and here are their favorite natural philosophy books.
Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission.

What type of natural philosophy book?

Loading...
Loading...

Book cover of The Spell of the Sensuous: Perception and Language in a More-Than-Human World

Carl Nordgren Author Of Becoming A Creative Genius (again)

From my list on appreciating your natural entrepreneurial genius.

Why am I passionate about this?

I never believed the idea that creativity was for a gifted few. Throughout my life, as a teenage fishing guide, an entrepreneur and college professor, novelist, and creativity guide, the folks I’ve met are rich with creative and entrepreneurial qualities. My calling is to help you appreciate your creative genius so that it appreciates in value for you. Growing your creatively entrepreneurial genius is the best way to prepare for a future of unknowable unknowns, the best way to build careers we desire, the best way to fully appreciate life. I offer various perspectiveS on core creative and entrepreneurial concepts so you can construct the best path to your personal renewal and growth.

Carl's book list on appreciating your natural entrepreneurial genius

Carl Nordgren Why did Carl love this book?

First and foremost we are sensual critters. At birth, our brains still have significant development to accomplish and focuses initially on the Sensory Control area since it’s vital for growth that we fully realize the messages and signals that the physical world is constantly sending. Here’s a poetic and philosophical exploration of how we emerged from and continue to be part of the physical sensual world. It makes sense it’s last. I’ve been reading it for two years without finishing; after a couple of pages of Abram’s beautiful wisdom about how, for instance, the first spoken languages were composed of natural sounds I need to put the book down and ruminate for a few days on the creative implications of my speaking and the sounds I make. 

By David Abram,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Spell of the Sensuous as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Winner of the International Lannan Literary Award for Nonfiction

Animal tracks, word magic, the speech of stones, the power of letters, and the taste of the wind all figure prominently in this intellectual tour de force that returns us to our senses and to the sensuous terrain that sustains us. This major work of ecological philosophy startles the senses out of habitual ways of perception.

For a thousand generations, human beings viewed themselves as part of the wider community of nature, and they carried on active relationships not only with other people with other animals, plants, and natural objects (including…


Book cover of Dwellings: A Spiritual History of the Living World

Eric Cheyfitz Author Of The Colonial Construction of Indian Country: Native American Literatures & Federal Indian Law

From my list on Native American resistance to U.S colonialism.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am Eric Cheyfitz, the Ernest I. White Professor of American Studies and Humane Letters at Cornell University, where I am on the faculty of The American Indian and Indigenous Studies Program and its former director. Because of my expertise in federal Indian law, I have been a consultant in certain legal matters involving Native issues. Some of the many books I teach and have written about are on my Shepherd list. My work is sustaining: writing and teaching about Native life and literature is a way of joining a crucial conversation about the survival of the planet through living a socially, politically, and economically balanced life.

Eric's book list on Native American resistance to U.S colonialism

Eric Cheyfitz Why did Eric love this book?

I am recommending this book of beautifully written essays on the environment by the Chickasaw novelist, poet, and essayist Linda Hogan because it is the best book on the subject I know.

Dwellings focuses on the Indigenous relation to the natural world, one of kinship, a subject at the core of my thinking. “Here is a lesson,” Hogan tells us, “what happens to the people and what happens to the land is the same thing.” This is a lesson the West has not learned; and its ignorance of this lesson or its refusal to learn it has led us to the brink of climate collapse.

Reading Dwellings carefully and thoughtfully is a way I rehearse how to live with, not against the environment.

By Linda Hogan,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Dwellings as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Award-winning Chickasaw poet and novelist Linda Hogan's first work of nonfiction explores the author's lifelong love for the living world and all its inhabitants. As an Indian woman, grandmother, and environmentalist, Hogan questions "our responsibilities to the caretaking of the future and to the other species who share our journey." In stories about bats, bees, porcupines, wolves, and caves, Hogan honors the spirit of all living things.
Dwellings is about the idea and meaning of home. The earth is our universal home, this book tells us. Dwellings teaches us about cultures whose understanding of the world are often at odds…


Book cover of The Forest Unseen: A Year's Watch in Nature

Jessica J. Lee Author Of Dispersals: On Plants, Borders, and Belonging

From my list on change how you think about plants.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve loved plants since I was a child – that’s probably why I grew up to become an environmental historian and nature writer! But I longed for stories about plants and nature that didn’t paint them as passive and ours to dominate. And stories that represented the voices of those on the margins of nature writing. I have written three books of nature writing, as well as a nature-themed picture books, and many more shorter essays on the natural world along the way.   

Jessica's book list on change how you think about plants

Jessica J. Lee Why did Jessica love this book?

I was enthralled with this book from its very premise: a book about looking closely…really closely. Haskell tracks the growth of a square meter of forest over a year, bringing to life the minutiae of life.

It’s a book that made me want to get down on the ground and get to know the unseen details of every patch of land I encountered. 

By David George Haskell,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked The Forest Unseen as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A biologist reveals the secret world hidden in a single square meter of old-growth forest--a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and the Pen/E.O. Wilson Literary Science Writing Award 

Look out for David Haskell's new book, The Songs of Tree: Stories From Nature's Great Connectors, coming in April of 2017

In this wholly original book, biologist David Haskell uses a one- square-meter patch of old-growth Tennessee forest as a window onto the entire natural world. Visiting it almost daily for one year to trace nature's path through the seasons, he brings the forest and its inhabitants to vivid life.

Each of…


Book cover of Braiding Sweetgrass for Young Adults: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants

C.C. Harrington Author Of Wildoak

From my list on inspiring young readers to engage with the natural world.

Why am I passionate about this?

I fell in love with reading as a child and have carried that sense of magic and possibility with me ever since. As an adult and a writer, I believe passionately in the power of story to foster empathy, understanding, and greater human connection – and I still turn to children’s literature whenever I need reminding of all that we are capable of becoming and doing as human beings. This list has a strong environmental bent to it – partly because Wildoak is a book about caring for the natural world, and partly because I believe that stories shape our sense of purpose. 

C.C.'s book list on inspiring young readers to engage with the natural world

C.C. Harrington Why did C.C. love this book?

I originally read the adult version of this book and quite honestly, it’s a book I’ll never forget. It changed the way I think about the relationship between human beings and the earth. I absolutely loved it. And I was so excited when this young adult version came out, because it’s now so accessible to younger readers and I could share it with my teenage daughter. I love to read books alongside my kids and find ways to broaden and deepen our conversations about the natural world… and this one is top of my list for doing just that.

By Robin Wall Kimmerer, Monique Gray Smith, Nicole Neidhardt (illustrator)

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Braiding Sweetgrass for Young Adults as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 13, 14, 15, and 16.

What is this book about?

Drawing from her experiences as an Indigenous scientist, botanist Robin Wall Kimmerer demonstrated how all living things—from strawberries and witch hazel to water lilies and lichen—provide us with gifts and lessons every day in her best-selling book Braiding Sweetgrass. Adapted for young adults by Monique Gray Smith, this new edition reinforces how wider ecological understanding stems from listening to the earth’s oldest teachers: the plants around us. With informative sidebars, reflection questions, and art from illustrator Nicole Neidhardt, Braiding Sweetgrass for Young Adults brings Indigenous wisdom, scientific knowledge, and the lessons of plant life to a new generation.


Book cover of The Death of Nature: Women, Ecology, and the Scientific Revolution

Drew Pendergrass Author Of Half-Earth Socialism: A Plan to Save the Future from Extinction, Climate Change and Pandemics

From my list on environmental crisis and how to solve it.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a climate scientist at Harvard and an environmental activist. In my day job, I use satellite, aircraft, and surface observations of the environment to correct supercomputer models of the atmosphere. What I’ve learned has made me feel that I can’t just stay in the lab—I need to get out in the world and fight for a future that’s just and ecologically stable for everyone. My writing and activism imagines how humanity can democratically govern itself in an age of environmental crisis.

Drew's book list on environmental crisis and how to solve it

Drew Pendergrass Why did Drew love this book?

I have always loved books where the author tries to squeeze the entire world into a few short pages. Carolyn Merchant starts her extraordinary book with the observation that women and nature are often associated with one another—the nurturing mother—then launches into an argument about how the exploitation of the Earth and the domination of women have the same root causes: capitalism, but also patriarchy.

Along the way, I learned about witches, old ideas of magic, and how mining in Europe was once considered sacrilege, a violation of the Earth. After reading this book, I’ll never see science or history in quite the same way.

By Carolyn Merchant,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Death of Nature as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.


Book cover of Matter and Desire: An Erotic Ecology

Niki Harré Author Of Psychology for a Better World: Working with People to Save the Planet

From my list on living well together.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a psychologist with environmental interests people often ask me about hope. It goes something like this: “Climate change is pushing us toward disaster! What is your source of hope?”  I finally figured out that I only have one source of hope. It is that we, as people, are able to work together just well enough to keep it all afloat. There’s a lot involved in working together – learning to listen with compassion, run good meetings, empower everyone to give of their best, and rebuild trust when it starts to break down. I’ve been researching these topics in community settings for the past 15 years. 

Niki's book list on living well together

Niki Harré Why did Niki love this book?

This book stopped me being scared of death – well almost. It is a wonderful read about how we are embodied creatures of planet Earth. Our very being is relationship. Take breathing for example. As you sit there you breathe in oxygen, nitrogen, and a little carbon dioxide. When you breathe out you release extra carbon dioxide – with that carbon coming from your body itself. You gift a little of your being in exchange for the oxygen - fragments that may end up in that tree outside your window. Once we understand that exchange is the essence of life, it helps us live well on our shared planet. As Weber explains, joy comes when we sense that life is increasing – for us and for others.

Our task then becomes to nurture life – the creative striving of all living things to become themselves and connect with others. Weber…

By Andreas Weber,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Matter and Desire as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Nautilus Award Gold Medal Winner, Ecology & Environment

In Matter and Desire, internationally renowned biologist and philosopher Andreas Weber rewrites ecology as a tender practice of forging relationships, of yearning for connections, and of expressing these desires through our bodies. Being alive is an erotic process-constantly transforming the self through contact with others, desiring ever more life.

In clever and surprising ways, Weber recognizes that love-the impulse to establish connections, to intermingle, to weave our existence poetically together with that of other beings-is a foundational principle of reality. The fact that we disregard this principle lies at the core of…


Book cover of The Greek Concept of Nature

J. Baird Callicott Author Of Greek Natural Philosophy: The Presocratics and Their Importance for Environmental Philosophy

From my list on how and why science began.

Why am I passionate about this?

I studied Greek philosophy in college and graduate school and wrote my Ph.D. dissertation on Plato. In response to the environmental crisis, first widely recognized in the 1960s, I turned my philosophical attention to that contemporary challenge, which, with the advent of climate change, has by now proved to be humanity’s greatest. I taught the world’s first course in environmental ethics at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point in 1971 and, with a handful of other philosophers, helped build a literature in this new field over the course of the next decade—a literature that has subsequently grown exponentially. With Greek Natural Philosophy, I rekindled the romance with my first love. 

J.'s book list on how and why science began

J. Baird Callicott Why did J. love this book?

According to the Bible the world was created by God. In Greek mythology, the world was born of Gaia (Earth) sired by Ouranos (Sky).

The Greek natural philosophers retained this assumption but demythologized it. Their word “phusis“ translates into English as “nature” (which is of Latin origin, itself originally meaning “birth”). The words “physics,” “physical,” “physician,” etc. are derivatives. As Nadaff explains, the primal meaning of “phusis“ is “growth” and the principal project of early Greek science was to explain the birth and growth of the cosmos.

Because humans and human society are worldly things, they are parts of nature and the order of nature is reflected in the human social order. But actually the human social order was projected onto nature. Thus, for example, do we speak of the “laws” of nature.

By Gerard Naddaf,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Greek Concept of Nature as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Explores the origin and evolution of the Greek concept of nature up until the time of Plato.


Book cover of The Construction of Modern Science: Mechanisms and Mechanics

Robert K. DeKosky Author Of Knowledge and Cosmos: Development and Decline of the Medieval Perspective

From my list on the physical sciences and natural philosophy.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am Professor Emeritus of History at the University of Kansas, where I taught the History of Chemistry, History of Science in the United States, Early-Modern Scientific Revolution, and Great Lives in Science, among other courses. I also have published on late 19th-century physical science (with emphasis on spectroscopy and the work of Sir William Crookes) and the development of 20th-century electronic devices to aid chemical analyses (e.g., the development of handheld x-ray fluorescence spectrometers to measure lead concentration in paint). In addition to my interests in the history of science, I serve as the Technical Editor for an international environmental services company. 

Robert's book list on the physical sciences and natural philosophy

Robert K. DeKosky Why did Robert love this book?

No better overall treatment of the Scientific Revolution during the 17th century is available for the reader who would encounter this material for the first time.

I used this book as a major text in my survey course on the history of modern science. The author also wrote arguably the leading biography of Isaac Newton.

By Richard S. Westfall,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Construction of Modern Science as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This introduction to the history of science in the seventeenth century examines the so-called 'scientific revolution' in terms of the interplay between two major themes. The Platonic-Pythagorean tradition looked on nature in geometric terms with the conviction that the cosmos was constructed according to the principles of mathematical order, while the mechanical philosophy conceived of nature as a huge machine and sought to explain the hidden mechanisms behind phenomena. Pursuing different goals, these two movements of thought tended to conflict with each other, and more than the obviously mathematical sciences were affected - the influence spread as far as chemistry…


Book cover of A Revolution in Color: The World of John Singleton Copley

Edward G. Gray Author Of Tom Paine's Iron Bridge: Building a United States

From my list on ingenuity and innovation in the American Revolution.

Why am I passionate about this?

My interest in the American Revolution began with a college course on the French Revolution. I was enthralled by the drama of it all. Being the impressionable late adolescent that I was, I naturally explained to my professor, a famous French historian of the French Revolution, that I wanted to dedicate my life to the study of this fascinating historical period. My professor urged me to reconsider. He suggested I look at a less well-known Revolution, the one British colonists undertook a decade earlier. I started reading books about the American Revolution. Now, forty years on, I’m still enthralled by the astonishing creative energy of this period in American history. 

Edward's book list on ingenuity and innovation in the American Revolution

Edward G. Gray Why did Edward love this book?

Eighteenth-century innovators came in many forms. Some were artisans, the craftspeople who made utilitarian things. Some were what were sometimes called toy makers, not because they made toys, but because they made baubles and trinkets for adults. Some were natural philosophers, whose innovations came in the physical sciences. And some were artists—creators of high-priced, highly-prized, and beautiful things. In this latter category, John Singleton Copley was America’s most accomplished. Perhaps the finest portraitist ever to paint in America, on the eve of the War for Independence, the young Copley left for Britain, never to return to the country of his birth. Kamensky’s intimate and moving portrait shows Copley, the ex-pat and loyalist, ascending to the pinnacle of the British art world. But far more importantly, it shows the price Copley and his family paid for this ascent, reminding the reader that innovation does not happen in a political vacuum. 

By Jane Kamensky,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Revolution in Color as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In this life of painter John Singleton Copley, Jane Kamensky untangles the web of principles and interests that shaped the age of America's revolution. Copley's talent earned him the patronage of Boston's leaders but he did not share their politics and painting portraits failed to satisfy his lofty artistic goals. A British subject who lamented America's provincialism, Copley looked longingly across the Atlantic. When resistance escalated into war, he was in London. A painter of America's revolution as Britain's American War, the magisterial canvases he created made him one of the towering figures of the British art scene. Kamensky brings…


Book cover of The Copernican Revolution: Planetary Astronomy in the Development of Western Thought

Robert K. DeKosky Author Of Knowledge and Cosmos: Development and Decline of the Medieval Perspective

From my list on the physical sciences and natural philosophy.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am Professor Emeritus of History at the University of Kansas, where I taught the History of Chemistry, History of Science in the United States, Early-Modern Scientific Revolution, and Great Lives in Science, among other courses. I also have published on late 19th-century physical science (with emphasis on spectroscopy and the work of Sir William Crookes) and the development of 20th-century electronic devices to aid chemical analyses (e.g., the development of handheld x-ray fluorescence spectrometers to measure lead concentration in paint). In addition to my interests in the history of science, I serve as the Technical Editor for an international environmental services company. 

Robert's book list on the physical sciences and natural philosophy

Robert K. DeKosky Why did Robert love this book?

Although somewhat dated, this classic work in the history of science remains a readable and dependable rendition of events in astronomy and cosmology in the 16th and 17th centuries.

An appeal of this book is its suitability for discussion together with Kuhn’s Structure of Scientific Revolutions, a general interpretation of the history of science of great influence on historians and philosophers of science for approximately 60 years. 

By Thomas S. Kuhn,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Copernican Revolution as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

For scientist and layman alike this book provides vivid evidence that the Copernican Revolution has by no means lost its significance today. Few episodes in the development of scientific theory show so clearly how the solution to a highly technical problem can alter our basic thought processes and attitudes. Understanding the processes which underlay the Revolution gives us a perspective, in this scientific age, from which to evaluate our own beliefs more intelligently. With a constant keen awareness of the inseparable mixture of its technical, philosophical, and humanistic elements, Thomas S. Kuhn displays the full scope of the Copernican Revolution…