Stephen has always been a reader, even if sometimes the books are beyond his grasp.
A haunting and unforgettable meditation on time, loss, and the stories that grow on stone.
Gallery of Clouds is an associatively linked collection of essays (or clouds, as she puts it) touching on any number of topics, including the pastoral tradition, the meaning of home, and the essay form itself. Erudite without ever being anything less than charming, the book is an absolute delight that rewards its readers with brilliant insights on nearly every page.
A seminal and highly influential book about the interplay between landscape and humanity.
Entangled Life, Merlin Sheldrake's visionary work on fungi and mycorrhizal networks, is a masterpiece of science writing. In lucid and playful prose, Sheldrake brings to light the mysterious, long-overlooked symbiotic relationships at the heart of the natural world, relationships that have profound implications for what it means not only to be a tree or lichen, but a human being.
Anarchism may bring to mind chaos and violence, but this poorly understood philosophy has much to recommend for it. James C. Scott, author of the classic 'Seeing Like a State,' lucidly explicates a rich history of anarchist thought in this primer for mutual aid, non-hierarchical political action, and vernacular knowledge. A breath of fresh air in a world where politics seems increasingly untethered from the daily world.
CLR James' classic study of Toussaint l'Ouverture and the Haitian slave rebellion is a gripping and, in times like ours when tyranny seems on the rise, inspiring read. Full of intrigue and drama, this epoch-making event is rendered in vibrant colors and with a clear-eyed understanding of its impact in the Caribbean and beyond.
A beautiful collection of essays about the varieties of ways humans have made their way in this world and a plea for true multiculturalism in the face of an increasingly monolithic worldview. Full of rich insights from years spent in the field, Davis's book is full of insight and incident. A life-affirming book.
An unforgettable and haunting collection of thematically linked stories tracing the black experience in the new world. Written in a virtuosic range of styles, Counternarratives announces John Keene as one of our great--and seriously underappreciated--talents.
As much a book about how our attentions are being diverted to less-than-fulfilling digital compulsions as it as a call to arms to reconnect with the local, Jenny Odell's How to Do Nothing is an inspiring and associative meditation on what it means to live in a place and to engage fully with the world around us. A surprising and delightful book.
What a book this is! Written with a passionate exuberance that nearly makes the words jump off the page, A Country Called Childhood is a fierce cry against the (artificial) disconnect between children and the nature. Griffiths hones her righteous indignation, and a variety of examples from indigenous cultures and literature, to argue that children are healthiest when intimately entangled with animals, mud, and the untameable forces of the living world.
Eliot Weinberger, a college drop-out turned tanslator (of Paz, Borges, Bei Dao, and others) writes essays unlike anything you've read. These pieces -- erudite, wide-ranging, poetic -- are of universal scope, touching on topics as diverse (and cohesive) as the varieties of Chinese wind, a history of the rhinocerous in Europe, the Nazca lines in the Peruvian desert, and a reverie on the stars that is breathtakingly beautiful. Weinberger's vast learning is matched by an equally encompassing sense of wonder, and his ability to draw the "exotic" closer, while still permitting it an air of mystery, is a thing to marvel at.
This lyrical and sweeping essay on race, memory, and the American landscape covers ground sadly neglected in much nature writing. Its ethical argument — that the way we treat the environment is inextricable from how we treat our fellow human beings (and vice versa) — is one we should all pay close attention to, now more than ever.
Cartographer and artist Tim Robinson fled the London art world for the west coast of Ireland and, through decades of wandering on foot, charting the landscape, and collecting stories (as well as making intricate maps), wrote a trilogy of books about Connemara. Combining natural and social history with the perceptiveness of an artist and the lyrical sentences of a poet, Robinson's work offers an unparalleled example of what writing about place can be. 'Listening to the Wind,' the first of the Connemara trilogy, is a work of profound depth and light.
I was a member of the poetry committee for the 2018 National Book Awards and no book stood out to me in quite the same way as Jenny Xie's debut collection. With clarity and insight, Xie stakes a claim as one of our exciting young poets.
Lolly Willowes is utterly beguiling. A prim and proper British spinster decides unexpectedly to renounce the normality of her staid life and dashes off into the wilds, where witchy things await. Lolly is one of the most memorable characters I've had the pleasure of meeting.
A delirious yet finely tuned collection of droll stories from the renowned Surrealist-affiliated painter Leonora Carrington, The Complete Stories reads like fairy tales from a parallel world. If the so-called real world feels dull and uninspired, try this bracing tonic.
Heid Erdrich has put together one the most exciting collections of poems I have read in ages. Collecting 21 Native poets first published in the twenty-first century, New Poets of Native Nations offers a fresh and dynamic anthology of work that is destined to become a classic of American literature. As Linda Hogan says, this is a watershed moment.
Joy Williams is an American treasure and Ninety-Nine Stories of God, a collection of sharp-eyed, occasionally heartbreaking, and often mordantly funny short fictions has become for me an instant desert island book. Williams is no stranger to the darker, inexplicable currents of life, which gives this book a weight far beyond its slimness.
If the best books are those that make you itch for something new—or, in this case, something as ancient as walking—Robert Macfarlane’s poetic travel memoir is certainly one of the best books I’ve read in a long time. Tracing his ramblings across moors and seas, up mountains, and along meandering paths, Macfarlane describes in lush, precise prose a natural (and human) world that reveals itself leisurely, step by step. Full of remarkable scenes and a memorable cast of characters, The Old Ways brings to mind recent memoirs like Cheryl Strayed’s Wild and classic nature writing a la Peter Matthiessen. I recommend it with only one caveat: read it with your hiking boots on; it’ll make you want to get up and go.
To call J.A. Baker's book a book about birds is similar to saying Moby-Dick is a book about whales. This is so much more than ornithology. It's a marvelously textured, understated, and beautifully written account of a man's quest to learn certain aspects of the natural world--to become part of the corner of the universe he's come to inhabit. Baker's language is precise and poetic and his insights, on the behavior of birds and man, are remarkable. I love this book all out of proportion.
Approaches to the natural world vary over time and geography, but one thing is certain in the early 21st century: our approach--in which nature is a resource to be exploited without thought to the consequences of depletion and destruction--is leading us toward disaster. And so, we need a new paradigm, and quickly. William Bryant Logan's history of the simple but lost art of coppicing and pollarding, which are pruning practices that enable trees to live, in some cases, for centuries even as they are harvested for wood, provides a small way to re-imagine our approach to a more sustainable and ethical relationship with the natural world. Beautifully written and full of anecdote, Sprout Lands belongs on the shelf with The Hidden Life of Trees and The Overstory.