The most recommended naturalist books

Who picked these books? Meet our 33 experts.

33 authors created a book list connected to naturalists, and here are their favorite naturalist books.
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Book cover of Miss Benson's Beetle

Susan McCormick Author Of The Fog Ladies

From Susan's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Who am I?

Author Doctor Cozy mystery lover Giant dog lover San Francisco fog lover

Susan's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Susan McCormick Why did Susan love this book?

This was one of the most unusual books I’ve read, about two women after the war in England who embark on an adventure to find an elusive golden beetle. The women are nothing alike, are thrown together by accident, don’t even like each other in the beginning, but become the very best of friends.

One is running from something, and one has nothing to run from. Both characters are so believable, even though they are incredibly unique, and their blossoming friendship is lovely to watch. The story is funny and sad and heartwarming and heartbreaking and like nothing you’ve read before.

By Rachel Joyce,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked Miss Benson's Beetle as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

WINNER OF THE WILBUR SMITH ADVENTURE WRITING PRIZE | BEST PUBLISHED NOVEL
WOMAN & HOME BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR and A NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

'The perfect escape novel for our troubled times.' PATRICK GALE

It is 1950. In a devastating moment of clarity, Margery Benson abandons her dead-end job and advertises for an assistant to accompany her on an expedition. She is going to travel to the other side of the world to search for a beetle that may or may not exist.
Enid Pretty, in her unlikely pink travel suit, is not the companion Margery had in…


Book cover of On a Farther Shore: The Life and Legacy of Rachel Carson

Liz Heinecke Author Of Radiant: The Dancer, the Scientist, and a Friendship Forged in Light

From my list on meeting fascinating historical figures.

Who am I?

I adore non-fiction books that read like novels. After ten years of working in research labs, my master’s degree in biology led me to a new career in science writing. I recently dove into the worlds of narrative non-fiction and history when I wrote Radiant, the Dancer, The Scientist and a Friendship Forged in Light. Immersing myself in Belle Époque Paris to research and intertwine the stories of Marie Curie and the inventor/dancer Loie Fuller helped me discover a passion for telling the stories of important figures forgotten by history. 

Liz's book list on meeting fascinating historical figures

Liz Heinecke Why did Liz love this book?

While I knew that Rachel Carson was involved in starting the environmental movement with her revolutionary book Silent Spring, I had no idea that she was also a best-selling popular science author who wrote lyrical books about the ocean. It was fascinating to learn about her life and the challenges that she faced in while standing up to big chemical companies, whose profits were threatened by her writing. 

By William Souder,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked On a Farther Shore as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Published on the fiftieth anniversary of her seminal book, Silent Spring, here is an indelible new portrait of Rachel Carson, founder of the environmental movement

She loved the ocean and wrote three books about its mysteries, including the international bestseller The Sea Around Us. But it was with her fourth book, Silent Spring, that this unassuming biologist transformed our relationship with the natural world.

Rachel Carson began work on Silent Spring in the late 1950s, when a dizzying array of synthetic pesticides had come into use. Leading this chemical onslaught was the insecticide DDT, whose inventor had won a Nobel…


Book cover of The Anthropology of Turquoise: Reflections on Desert, Sea, Stone, and Sky

Stephen Trimble Author Of The Capitol Reef Reader

From my list on Utah Canyon Country.

Who am I?

Long ago, in college in Colorado, I discovered Edward Abbey’s Desert Solitaire—the classic that grew from journals he kept while a ranger at Utah’s Arches National Park. I’d grown up in the West, visiting national parks and revering park rangers. Abbey gave me the model—live and write in these wild places. After graduating, I snagged jobs myself as a seasonal ranger/naturalist at Arches and Capitol Reef national parks. I was thrilled. Since then, I’ve spent decades exploring and photographing Western landscapes. After working on 25 books about natural history, Native peoples, and conservation, Capitol Reef still remains my “home park” and Utah Canyon Country my spiritual home.  

Stephen's book list on Utah Canyon Country

Stephen Trimble Why did Stephen love this book?

Ellen Meloy just might be my favorite Utah writer. She’s smart and witty. She’s laugh-out-loud funny. She’s self-deprecatory and never preachy. She gets her natural history right. And her writing is gorgeous. She died far too young, at 58, in 2004, and I miss her. As she wanders outward across Bears Ears National Monument from her home in Bluff, Ellen’s musings apply equally to the slickrock spine of the Waterpocket Fold in Capitol Reef. So I was determined to include her in my own book. I chose an excerpt from The Anthropology of Turquoise—a terrific piece on sensual canyon country wildflowers, “slickrotica.” In her book, Ellen follows turquoise to the ends of the earth, but she always brings us back to her home territory in the canyons. 

By Ellen Meloy,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In this invigorating mix of natural history and adventure, artist-naturalist Ellen Meloy uses turquoise—the color and the gem—to probe deeper into our profound human attachment to landscape.

From the Sierra Nevada, the Mojave Desert, the Yucatan Peninsula, and the Bahamas to her home ground on the high plateaus and deep canyons of the Southwest, we journey with Meloy through vistas of both great beauty and great desecration. Her keen vision makes us look anew at ancestral mountains, turquoise seas, and even motel swimming pools. She introduces us to Navajo “velvet grandmothers” whose attire and aesthetics absorb the vivid palette of…


Book cover of Out of School and Into Nature: The Anna Comstock Story

Kaye Baillie Author Of Railroad Engineer Olive Dennis

From my list on girl-power picture book biographies.

Who am I?

I’m an award-winning children’s author who lives in Australia. I love reading and writing picture books, and although I mostly write fiction, I also love writing biographies. I am drawn to stories about women who have achieved something inspirational and unexpected and who may have not received wide recognition at the time or that any recognition has faded from public knowledge. I find it exciting to work with a team, that is the illustrator and the publisher, to create books that will find their way to children and allow them to imagine and feel another person’s life, and to see that everyday people do amazing things.

Kaye's book list on girl-power picture book biographies

Kaye Baillie Why did Kaye love this book?

The Anna Comstock story shows us a girl who loved the natural world. She was a naturalist and an artist who was determined to encourage schools to take students outdoors to increase their interest in nature. Outdoors! ‘Didn’t she know school rules?’ Her persistence paid off when several schools agreed to let students tromp through forests and fields. Her art which is beautifully represented in the illustrations, and her books helped children realize that all living things are connected. I love a book that shows passion for wildlife and the environment. Anna’s story does just that. 

By Suzanne Slade, Jessica Lanan (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Out of School and Into Nature as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 6, 7, 8, and 9.

What is this book about?

**2018 NSTA Outstanding Science Trade Book**This picture book biography examines the life and career of naturalist and artist Anna Comstock (1854-1930), who defied social conventions and pursued the study of science. From the time she was a young girl, Anna Comstock was fascinated by the natural world. She loved exploring outdoors, examining wildlife and learning nature's secrets. From watching the teamwork of marching ants to following the constellations in the sky, Anna observed it all. And her interest only increased as she grew older and went to college at Cornell University. There she continued her studies, pushing back against those…


Book cover of A Pirate of Exquisite Mind: The Life of William Dampier: Explorer, Naturalist, and Buccaneer

Patrick Dean Author Of Nature's Messenger: Mark Catesby and His Adventures in a New World

From my list on trailblazing explorers in the Americas.

Who am I?

Born and raised in Mississippi, I have long been fascinated with the natural history of the South and of the Americas in general. And as an outdoorsy guy, a NOLS graudate, mountain-biker, trail-runner, and paddler, I revel in reading accounts of the early days of Western exploration in the woodlands, mountains, and coastal regions of our hemisphere. Finally, as an avid reader and now author, I constantly seek out enthralling and wide-ranging narratives about exploration, outdoor adventure, and the natural world.

Patrick's book list on trailblazing explorers in the Americas

Patrick Dean Why did Patrick love this book?

The real-life inspiration for both Gulliver’s Travels and Robinson Crusoe, William Dampier was a pirate turned legit explorer who circumnavigated the earth three times, and was the first European to reach the Galapagos and to encounter the aboriginal people of Australia.

He makes my list because of his explorations of the Caribbean…and because I really wanted to include him!

By Diana Preston, Michael Preston,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Pirate of Exquisite Mind as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Seventeenth-century pirate genius William Dampier sailed around the world three times when crossing the Pacific was a major feat, was the first explorer to visit all five continents, and reached Australia eighty years before Captain Cook. His exploits created a sensation in Europe. Swift and Defoe used his experiences in writing Gulliver's Travels and Robinson Crusoe. Darwin incorporated his concept of "sub-species" into the theory of evolution. Dampier's description of breadfruit was the impetus for Captain Bligh's voyage on the Bounty. He was so influential that today he has more than one thousand entries in the Oxford English Dictionary, including…


Book cover of Untamed: The Wildest Woman in America and the Fight for Cumberland Island

Jennifer Pharr Davis Author Of Becoming Odyssa: Adventures on the Appalachian Trail

From my list on women who love the outdoors.

Who am I?

Jennifer Pharr Davis has covered over 14,000 miles - and explored trails on six different continents - and in all fifty states. In 2011 she set a record on the Appalachian Trail by covering 2,190 mile miles in 46 days (an average of 47 miles per day). Jennifer is a National Geographic Adventurer of the Year and a member of the President’s Council on Sports, Fitness and Nutrition.

Jennifer's book list on women who love the outdoors

Jennifer Pharr Davis Why did Jennifer love this book?

Carol Ruckdeschel is one of the foremost naturalists of our time. The majority of her learning did not come from books or classrooms but from tens of thousands of hours spent outdoors studying animals and their environment. A book that leaves you feeling more wild.

By Will Harlan,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Carol Ruckdeschel is the wildest woman in America. She wrestles alligators, eats roadkill, rides horses bareback, and lives in a ramshackle cabin that she built by hand in an island wilderness. A combination of Henry David Thoreau and Jane Goodall, Carol is a self-taught scientist who has become a tireless defender of sea turtles on Cumberland Island, a national park off the coast of Georgia.

Cumberland, the country’s largest and most biologically diverse barrier island, is celebrated for its windswept dunes and feral horses. Steel magnate Thomas Carnegie once owned much of the island, and in recent years, Carnegie heirs…


Book cover of The Invention of Nature: Alexander Von Humboldt's New World

Maxim Samson Author Of Invisible Lines: Boundaries and Belts That Define the World

From my list on redefining your understanding of geography.

Who am I?

I am a Geography professor at DePaul University with a long-standing obsession with the world, comparing puddle shapes to countries as a small child and subsequently initiating map and flag collections that I cultivate to this day. Having lived in different parts of the UK and the USA, as well as being fortunate enough to travel further afield, I’ve relished the opportunity to explore widely and chat with the people who know their places best. I love books that alter how I look at the planet, and I am particularly intrigued by the subtle ways in which people have shaped our world—and our perceptions of it—both intentionally and inadvertently.

Maxim's book list on redefining your understanding of geography

Maxim Samson Why did Maxim love this book?

Even prior to reading this book, I casually considered Alexander von Humboldt to be one of my geographical heroes, a workaholic as addicted to adventure as he was obsessed with advancing our understanding of the planet.

However, Wulf’s book opened my eyes not only to the sheer extent of his contributions to how we view the world, from human-induced climate change to the development of increasingly accurate and informative maps and diagrams but also to his cultural and political significance, influencing politicians and inspiring poets to continue fashioning and representing the planet as they see fit.

In placing the founder of ecology and modern environmentalism centre-stage, this engaging biography extols Humboldt’s revolutionary understanding of how the natural and human worlds are interconnected and helps us appreciate how our relationship with the planet can be scientific and emotional simultaneously. 

By Andrea Wulf,

Why should I read it?

8 authors picked The Invention of Nature as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

WINNER OF THE 2015 COSTA BIOGRAPHY AWARD

WINNER OF THE ROYAL SOCIETY SCIENCE BOOK PRIZE 2016

'A thrilling adventure story' Bill Bryson

'Dazzling' Literary Review

'Brilliant' Sunday Express

'Extraordinary and gripping' New Scientist

'A superb biography' The Economist

'An exhilarating armchair voyage' GILES MILTON, Mail on Sunday

Alexander von Humboldt (1769-1859) is the great lost scientist - more things are named after him than anyone else. There are towns, rivers, mountain ranges, the ocean current that runs along the South American coast, there's a penguin, a giant squid - even the Mare Humboldtianum on the moon.

His colourful adventures read…


Book cover of Confessions of a Barbarian: Selections from the Journals of Edward Abbey, 1951-1989

Sean Prentiss Author Of Finding Abbey: The Search for Edward Abbey and His Hidden Desert Grave

From my list on reads by or about to Edward Abbey.

Who am I?

I’ve been passionate about Edward Abbey since I read Desert Solitaire in 1994. By 2010, I decided to write a biography on Abbey, Finding Abbey: The Search for Edward Abbey and His Hidden Desert Grave, which allowed me to research and explore Abbey. I interviewed his great friends, including Jack Loeffler, Doug Peacock, Ken Sleight, and David Petersen. I visited Abbey’s special collections library and read his master’s thesis on anarchism and an unpublished novel. I visited his first home in Pennsylvania and many of his Desert Southwest homes. Along the way, I found the spirit of Abbey and the American Southwest. Finding Abbey won the National Outdoor Book Award.

Sean's book list on reads by or about to Edward Abbey

Sean Prentiss Why did Sean love this book?

Confessions of a Barbarian is an edited collection of Abbey’s private journals.

Across these pages, we get so many of the stories that never made it into an Ed Abbey novel or memoir. Instead, we see Abbey in all his glory and failures. We see Abbey at his emotional best and at his neediest. We see Abbey wrestling over anarchism, philosophy, and environmentalism. We see the complexity of a great writer and thinker.

Abbey’s “scribblings” offer some of the most complex and beautiful writing by Abbey and act, more or less, as his autobiography. 

By Edward Abbey, David Petersen (editor),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A collection of excerpts from the private journals of an eccentric environmentalist features his notes, philosophies, and character sketches, chronicling his lifelong struggle to preserve the Southwestern wilderness. 20,000 first printing.


Book cover of A Passion for Nature: The Life of John Muir

Kim Heacox Author Of John Muir and the Ice That Started a Fire: How a Visionary and the Glaciers of Alaska Changed America

From my list on John Muir.

Who am I?

Kim Heacox has written 15 books, five of them published by National Geographic. He has twice won the National Outdoor Book Award (for his memoir, The Only Kayak, and his novel, Jimmy Bluefeather), and twice won the Lowell Thomas Award for excellence in travel journalism. He’s featured on Ken Burns’ film, The National Parks, America's Best Idea, and he’s spoken about John Muir on Public Radio International’s Living on Earth. He lives in Gustavus, Alaska (next to Glacier Bay Nat’l Park), a small town of 500 people reachable only by boat or plane.

Kim's book list on John Muir

Kim Heacox Why did Kim love this book?

This is a complete biography of Muir that according to the Journal of American History “Supplants all earlier Muir biographies and will undoubtedly stand the test of time for its sophisticated interpretations and impressive narrative power.” The journal added that it’s also “a pleasure to read.” Worster knows his stuff. He’s Hall Distinguished Professor of American History at the University of Kansas.

By Donald Worster,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Donald Worster's A Passion for Nature is the most complete account of the great conservationist and founder of the Sierra Club ever written. It is the first to be based on Muir's full private correspondence and to meet modern scholarly standards, yet it is also full of rich detail and personal anecdote, uncovering the complex inner life behind the legend of the solitary mountain man. It traces Muir from his boyhood in Scotland and frontier Wisconsin to his
adult life in California right after the Civil War up to his death on the eve of World War I. It explores…


Book cover of Personal Narrative of a Journey to the Equinoctial Regions of the New Continent

Tristan Gooley Author Of The Lost Art of Reading Nature's Signs: Use Outdoor Clues to Find Your Way, Predict the Weather, Locate Water, Track Animals--And Other Forgotten Skil

From my list on for intelligent travellers.

Who am I?

I am an author and natural navigator. I set up my natural navigation school in 2008 and am the author of award-winning and internationally bestselling books, including The Natural Navigator (2010) The Lost Art of Reading Nature’s Signs (2014), How to Read Water (2016), and The Secret World of Weather (2021), some of the world’s only books covering natural navigation. I have spent decades hunting for clues and signs in nature, across the globe, which may be why I am sometimes nicknamed: “The Sherlock Holmes of Nature”.

Tristan's book list on for intelligent travellers

Tristan Gooley Why did Tristan love this book?

Humboldt is the Godfather of so many fascinating areas of natural history. His mind unravels mysteries for breakfast. The book is a great travel story in its own right, but this tale envelopes countless examples of groundbreaking discovery. 

Personally, I find his work inspiring because he excelled at revealing how nature and place reflect each other. The plants and animals we encounter change with latitude, altitude, and a dozen other variables. This is the science that allows us to start making maps from plants and animals. We are all indebted to Humboldt and I feel it strongly. 

By Alexander von Humboldt,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Personal Narrative of a Journey to the Equinoctial Regions of the New Continent as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

One of the greatest nineteenth-century scientist-explorers, Alexander von Humboldt traversed the tropical Spanish Americas between 1799 and 1804. By the time of his death in 1859, he had won international fame for his scientific discoveries, his observations of Native American peoples and his detailed descriptions of the flora and fauna of the 'new continent'. The first to draw and speculate on Aztec art, to observe reverse polarity in magnetism and to discover why America is called America, his writings profoundly influenced the course of Victorian culture, causing Darwin to reflect: 'He alone gives any notion of the feelings which are…