I don't read enough nonfiction, and when I do I am even more predictable in my choices than I am with fiction. Of late, it's been diaries that I reach for. Otherwise it is almost always memoirs (and here, too). Of course there is nothing wrong with this as there are certainly some very good diaries and memoirs out there these days. As so typically it goes with my reading, one book almost always leads to another, and sometimes a whole new reading project will form in my mind that I excitedly plan (and buy . . .) for.
It's thanks to Roger Deakin that I have added nature books to my list of nonfiction interests. Actually my nonfiction interests are really quite broad but I tend to put off reading certain books thinking I need to set aside a chunk of reading time, which never seems to materialize by the way, in order to really tackle a subject--nonfiction books so often being very dense with information. So these books tend to be pushed back for later or aside for books that will be 'easier' to manage.
So, Notes from Walnut Tree Farm (and a few other books) have led to a new desire to read more about the natural world. And being fond of list making in general and book lists in particular I've come up with a list of ten books I would love to read in the near future (near meaning I would start now but with no set date to finish the list--just meander through it as time and mood permit). Most are books I own (a few are recent acquisitions, but many I have owned for far too long without having read) or are books my library has available.
My list is pretty idiosyncratic and I've left off lots of classic authors (like Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson and John Muir . . .), but these are books that have been on my mind of late and appeal the most at the moment.
The Morville Hours by Katherine Swift -- "This beautifully written, utterly absorbing book is the history of the many people who have lived in the same Shropshire house, tending the same soil, passing down stories over the generations. Spanning thousands of years, The Morville Hours takes the form of a medieval Book of Hours. It is a meditative journey through the seasons, but also a journey of self-exploration."
Apples by Frankin Browning -- "Frank Browning leads us on a beguiling journey through the primal myths of the world's most popular fruit, then explains that the first apples really appeared in Kazakhstan on the slopes of the Heavenly Mountains. He visits the apple germ-plasm repository in Geneva, New York, and describes the powerful effects of genetic engineering on the apples of the future. In Wenatchee, Washington, world capital of apple growing, he meets Mr. Granny Smith and learns about the apple's niche in the global marketplace, before setting off to sample Calvados from the pot stills of Normandy and cider from Somerset."
Wildwood: A Journey Through Trees by Roger Deakin -- "In Deakin's glorious meditation on wood, the "fifth element" -- as it exists in nature, in our culture, and in our souls -- the reader accompanies Deakin through the woods of Britain, Europe, Kazakhstan, and Australia in search of what lies behind man's profound and enduring connection with trees."
To the River by Olivia Laing -- "One midsummer week more than 60 years after Virginia Woolf drowned in the Ouse in 1941, Olivia Laing walked that same Sussex river from source to sea. The result is a passionate investigation into how history resides in a landscape—and how ghosts never quite leave the places they love. Along the way, Laing explores the roles rivers play in human lives, tracing their intricate flow through literature and mythology alike."
Stones of Aran: Pilgrimage by Tim Robinson -- "Robinson explores Aran in both its elemental and mythical dimensions, taking us deep into the island’s folklore, wildlife, names, habitations, and natural and human histories."
Sweetness and Light: The Mysterious History of the Honeybee by Hattie Ellis (a good companion read: Robbing the Bees: A Biography of Honey--The Sweet Liquid that Seduced the World by Holley Bishop) -- "Hattie Ellis leads us into the hive, revealing the fascinating story of bees and honey from the Stone Age to the present, from Nepalese honey hunters to urban hives on the rooftops of New York City. Uncovering the secrets of the honeybee one by one, Ellis shows how this small insect, with a collective significance so much greater than its individual size, can carry us through past and present to tell us more about ourselves than any other living creature."
Silent Spring by Rachel Carson -- "Carson’s passionate concern for the future of our planet reverberated powerfully throughout the world, and her eloquent book was instrumental in launching the environmental movement. It is without question one of the landmark books of the twentieth century."
Beatrix Potter: A Life in Nature by Linda Lear -- "In this remarkable biography, Linda Lear offers a new look at the extraordinary woman who gave us some of the most beloved children’s books of all time. Potter found freedom from her conventional Victorian upbringing in the countryside. Nature inspired her imagination as an artist and scientific illustrator."
Arctic Dreams by Barry Lopez -- "Lopez offers a thorough examination of this obscure world-its terrain, its wildlife, its history of Eskimo natives and intrepid explorers who have arrived on their icy shores. But what turns this marvelous work of natural history into a breathtaking study of profound originality is his unique meditation on how the landscape can shape our imagination, desires, and dreams."
The Botany of Desire: A Plant's-Eye View of the World by Michael Pollan -- "Every schoolchild learns about the mutually beneficial dance of honeybees and flowers: The bee collects nectar and pollen to make honey and, in the process, spreads the flowers’ genes far and wide. In The Botany of Desire, Michael Pollan ingeniously demonstrates how people and domesticated plants have formed a similarly reciprocal relationship."
Of course I am always happy to take recommendations, so please share any favorites or must-reads of yours as well! I am especially interested, too, in gardening books (or rather books about gardens--I suppose there's a difference), but haven't come across quite what I have in mind yet. I think I will likely start with Apples by the way.