Nature and Environmental Book Reviews

Short List of Best Nature and Environmental Books



Nature Writing Anthologies

Anthologies may be the best way to get an introduction to nature writing – you’re benefitting from the editors’ selection of material they judge to be the finest writing on the particular theme represented by the anthology or collection you’re reading . . . learn more about Nature Writing Anthologies»

The great diversity in American nature writing is reflected in the diversity of these wonderful anthologies. It’s a good place to start.

Recommended Nature Writing Anthologies

The Alphabet of TreesThe Alphabet Of The Trees: A Guide To Nature Writing
Christian McEwen and Mark Statman, editors

This superb collection of essays about teaching all aspects and forms of nature writing includes poems, field journals, fiction, and nonfiction. It is a practical handbook; an introduction to nature writing, nature poetry, and fieldwork; and a guide to some basic strategies for teachers at all levels. The distinguished contributors to this volume include nature writers, poets, fiction writers, and educators. 2007, Teachers & Writers Collaborative

American Earth
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American Earth: Environmental Writing Since Thoreau
Bill McKibben

In his introduction to this superb anthology, editor McKibben proposes that "environmental writing is America's most distinctive contribution to the world's literature." The collected pieces amply prove the point. Arranged chronologically, McKibben's selection of more than 100 writers includes great early conservationists, the early exponents of national parks and wilderness areas, writers who have borne witness to environmental degradation, visionaries, contemporary activist/writers, and many other eloquent nature writers. McKibben's trenchant introductions to the pieces sum up each writer's thoughts and form a running commentary on the progress of the conservation movement. The book can be read as a survey of the literature of American environmentalism, but above all, it should be enjoyed for the sheer beauty of the writing. 2008, Library of America

American Sea WritingAmerican Sea Writing: A Literary Anthology
Peter Neill and Nathaniel Philbrick, editors

This theme-driven anthology features American literature of the sea from its beginnings, starting with William Strachey's A True Reportory of the Wrack and Redemption of Sir Thomas Gates, Knight, concluding with a selection from John McPhee's Looking for a Ship, and in-between teaching the reader a thing or two with such pieces as Olaudah Equiano's narrative about life on a slave ship, Longfellow's The Wreck of the Hesperus, Peter Matthiessen's Under Montauk Light, and Rachel Carson's The Marginal World. It's an imaginatively edited anthology that gives readers a strong sense of American sea writing. 2000, Library of America

Arctic RefugeArctic Refuge: A Circle of Testimony
Hank Lentfer and Carolyn Servid, editors

Yoking an activist desire to influence the debate surrounding proposed oil exploration and drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to the rapid publication now possible with e-book technology, Alaska residents Lentfer and Servid solicited, compiled and completed this powerful collection of 31 essays, letters and poems in eight weeks. The contributors, who range from global leaders to nomadic hunters, attest to the ecological diversity and spiritual sanctity of the 18 million-acre wilderness, home to caribou, bears, wolves, eagles, wolverines, foxes and ravens, and the 15 villages of the Gwich'in Indians. 2001, Milkweed Editions

BedrockBedrock: Writers on the Wonders of Geology
Lauret E. Savoy, Eldridge M. Moores and Judith E. Moores

Novelists, poets, artists, anthropologists, traditional elders, philosophers, and naturalists come together to create a geological portrait of the Earth — from the violence of earthquakes and erupting volcanoes to epochal patterns in stone and the sinuous flow of rivers. With insights from many cultures and across time, Bedrock wonderfully illuminates the geology of our home planet. The book is organized into sections that deal with rock and stone; deep time; earthquakes and faults; volcanoes and eruptions; rivers to the sea; mountains and high¬lands; wind and desert; the flow of ice; and the life of the Earth. 2006, Trinity University Press

The Colors of NatureThe Colors of Nature: Culture, Identity, and the Natural World
Alison Hawthorne Deming and Lauret E. Savoy, editors

Our perception of nature is a cultural construct formed in part by nature writing, which has long been dominated by Euro-American voices. The exclusion of writings by people of color about place, nature's wonders, and our species' uncanny ability to wreak havoc on the natural world has skewed and limited the genre, and cheated society out of a fuller understanding of the connection between social injustice and environmental destruction. In this book the editors offer an unprecedented and invaluable collection of forthright and bracing essays by writers of "diverse cultural origins and disciplinary backgrounds." 2011, Milkweek Editions

Coyote at LargeCoyote at Large: Humor in American Nature Writing
Katrina Schimmoeller Peiffer

Coyote at Large shatters the misconception that nature writing - works that seem limited to expressing conventional awe, reverence, piety, and wonder - is a humorless genre. In this important and surprising book, Peiffer reveals and explores the comedy and humor long overlooked in traditional and contemporary environmental literature. Edward Abbey, Louise Erdrich, Wendell Berry, and Rachel Carson command center stage in this study; but the trickster-coyote of Native American mythology appears in the wings, roaming at large through the prose and poetry of Simon Ortiz, Ursula Le Guin, Sally Carrighar, and Gary Snyder, providing a recurring analog of how comedy and humor show themselves in the larger canon of American nature writings. 2000, University of Utah Press

Denali: A Literary AnthologyDenali: A Literary Anthology
Bill Sherwonit

Spanning centuries of storytelling, Denali: A Literary Anthology considers the Denali region from the perspectives of Native Alaskans, early explorers, prospectors, naturalists, conservationists, mountaineers, and modern homesteaders. Weaving together the threads of Native tales and myths, explorations, mountaineering, natural history, and outdoor adventure, this rich collection creates a vivid tapestry of Denali past and present. 2000, Mountaineers Books

Elemental SouthElemental South: An Anthology of Southern Nature Writing
Dorinda G. Dallmeyer

Elemental South is a gathering of works by some of the region's best nature writers. Arranged by theme according to the basic elements by which many cultures on earth interpret themselves and their place in the world - earth, air, fire, water - the writers consider our actual and assumed connections in the greater scheme of functioning ecosystems. As we read of bears, ancient magnolias, swallow-tail kites, the serenity of a country childhood, the pleasure of eating real food, the remarkable provenance of ancient pottery shards, and much more, these works lure us deep into the southern landscape, away from the constructs of humanity and closer to a recognition of our inextricable ties to the earth. 2004, University of Georgia Press

The Environmental Justice ReaderThe Environmental Justice Reader: Politics, Poetics, & Pedagogy
Joni Adamson, Mei Mei Evans and Rachel Stein, editors

From the First National People of Color Congress on Environmental Leadership to WTO street protests of the new millennium, environmental justice activists have challenged the mainstream movement by linking social inequalities to the uneven distribution of environmental dangers. Grassroots movements in poor communities and communities of color strive to protect neighborhoods and worksites from environmental degradation and struggle to gain equal access to the natural resources that sustain their cultures. This book examines environmental justice in its social, economic, political, and cultural dimensions in both local and global contexts, with special attention paid to intersections of race, gender, and class inequality. 2002, University of Arizona Press

The Future of Nature
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The Future of Nature: Writing on a Human Ecology from Orion Magazine
Barry Lopez, editor

Since its inception in 1982, Orion magazine has been a forum for looking beyond the effects of ecological crises to their root causes in human culture. Less an anthology than a vision statement, this timely collection challenges the division of human society from the natural world that has often characterized traditional environmentalism. Edited and introduced by Barry Lopez, The Future of Nature encompasses such topics as local economies, the social dynamics of activism, America’s incarceration society, naturalism in higher education, developing nations, spiritual ecology, the military-industrial landscape, and the challenges of wilderness designation. 2007, Milkweed Editions

The Height of Our MountainsThe Height of Our Mountains: Nature Writing from Virginia's Blue Ridge Mountains and Shenandoah Valley
Michael P. Branch and Daniel J. Philippon

"With its mixture of fiction, personal, and scientific writing, the book has something for everyone... From colonization to contemporary times, the list of writers represented (70 in all) is both impressive and surprising, including Jefferson's former slave Isaac, James Audobon, Walt Whitman, Willa Cather, Ellen Glasgow, and Annie Dillard." -- Blue Ridge Outdoors 1998, The Johns Hopkins University Press

At Home on this EarthAt Home on This Earth: Two Centuries of U.S. Women's Nature Writing
Lorraine Anderson and Thomas S. Edwards, editors

The canon of U.S. nature writing, like the literary canon in general, has long been male-centered. But as this anthology shows, women's voices have been there since the early Republic. At Home on This Earth features the most readable and accomplished pieces of nature writing by more than 50 U.S. women authors, from the early 19th centrury to the present. Spanning a range of genres including memoir, story, journal entry, sketch, and essay, it brings together pieces long out of print by forgotten authors with selections by well-known and acclaimed authors such as Rachel Carson and Alice Walker. Moving beyond the customary association of nature writing with New England and its Yankee progenitors, the book offers work from across the United States by Jewish, Asian, Hispanic, African-American, and Native American women. 2002, UPNE

Natural StateNatural State: A Literary Anthology of California Nature Writing
Steven Gilbar, editor

This is a wonderfully diverse collection of essays, diary entries, and exerpts of larger works (including fiction) by 40 writers spanning over a century. Loosely grouped by geographical areas and by the various features encountered (e.g., mountains, deserts), the authors presented range from the likely suspects - John Muir, Wallace Stegner, John McPhee - to the less familiar and a few surprising choices. Each piece is introduced by setting the context, and includes a concise biography of the author. 1998, University of California Press

Nature Writing
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Nature Writing: The Tradition in English
Robert Finch and John Elder, editors

This fine, well-annotated anthology offers selections from familiar writers such as Henry David Thoreau, John Muir, Annie Dillard, and Barry Lopez. It contains surprises as well, including George Orwell's little-known essay, "Some Thoughts on the Common Toad" and Herman Melville's musings on how the great white whale came to be so white in the first place, the fruit of the deep natural-historical research that underlies Moby-Dick. At more than 900 pages, The Norton Book of Nature Writing is too hefty to pack into the wild, but every page is an inspiration to take into the world outdoors. 2002, W. W. Norton

Nature's Fading ChorusNature's Fading Chorus: Classis and Contemporary Writings on Amphibians
Robert Michael Pyle and Gordon Miller

Naturalists in every age have been intrigued by frogs, toads, and salamanders. Nature's Fading Chorus presents an anthology of writings on amphibians drawn from the entire Western natural history tradition, beginning with Aristotle's Inquiry Concerning Animals written in the fourth century B.C.E., and continuing through recent scientific accounts of the relatively sudden - and alarming - global declines and deformities in amphibian species. The offerings not only reveal much about amphibian life, but also provide fascinating insight into the worldviews of the many writers, scientists, and naturalists who have delved into the subject. 2000, Island Press

The New Desert ReaderThe New Desert Reader
Peter Wild

The New Desert Reader is a 384-page collection of informed and informative writings about the American Southwest that show how perceptions of the great American deserts have changed over time. The shift in attitude is really more of a circle, a coming home to the notion that the desert is perhaps a type of sacred space to be cultivated and respected, rather than a despicable environment to be used and abused. 2006, University of Utah Press

The Oxford Book of Nature WritingThe Oxford Book of Nature Writing
Richard Mabey, editor

In The Oxford Book of Nature Writing, John Mabey has brought together a sampler of some of the greatest writings on nature ever penned, in pieces that capture our endless fascination with the natural world. There are passages from ancient writers such as Aesop and Aristotle and Pliny, from the medieval manuscripts of Albertus Magnus, the prose of the great Romantic writers, from the journals of Henry David Thoreau and a most impressive gallery of contemporary nature writers. Here then are two thousand years of great nature writing. Ranging from the fabulous imaginings of medieval bestiaries, to accounts of far-flung expeditions to the corners of the globe, to contemporary science writings that combine beautiful description, scientific accuracy, and ecological concern, this book will delight everyone who loves nature and the great outdoors as well as all lovers of fine writing. 1995, Oxford University Press

The Presence of WhalesThe Presence of Whales: Contemporary Writings on the Whale
Frank Stewart, editor

Frank Stewart, an observer, writer, storyteller, and lover of whales gathers the most compelling contemporary essays on cetaceans in The Presence of Whales.  The essays are organized in five sections that celebrate our ongoing fascination with these fragile giants. Sharing the World of Giants contains essays inspired by being in the presence of whales, Songs from the Deep concentrates on whale vocalizations, Sightings of the Leviathan are compelling accounts of personal observations of whale behavior, Death at Sea and On Shore touch on the mystery of whale groundings and other violent encounters, and A Splendid but Uncertain Company explores the privilege humans sense when near whales and the impact human contact has had on these glorious but gentle beasts. 1995, Alaska Northwest Books

Pride of PlacePride of Place: A Contemporary Anthology of Texas Nature Writing
David Taylor

Taylor has gathered essays that express an affinity for the natural landscape of Texas even as they celebrate a state in flux. The late naturalist Roy Bedichek's "Still Water" focuses on the vermilion flycatcher extending its range north from the tropics. In a tribute to the environment on the banks of the Rio Grande, Carol Cullar writes that the limestone has literally become a part of her bones. In his own essay, Taylor says that he has made his peace with the loss of ancient wilderness to development. The strength of the selections lies both in the skill of the writers and the variety of their subject matter. 2006, University of North Texas Press

Reading the RootsReading the Roots: American Nature Writing Before Walden
Michael P. Branch, editor

This is an unprecedented anthology of outstanding early writings about American nature - a rich, influential, yet critically underappreciated body of work. Rather than begin with Henry David Thoreau, who is often identified as the progenitor of American nature writing, editor Michael P. Branch instead surveys the long tradition that prefigures and anticipates Thoreau and his literary descendants. The selections in Reading the Roots describe a diversity of landscapes, wildlife, and natural phenomena, and their authors represent many different nationalities, cultural affiliations, religious views, and ideological perspectives. The writings gathered here also range widely in terms of subject, rhetorical form, and disciplinary approach - from promotional tracts and European narratives of contact with Native Americans to examples of scientific, theology and romantic nature writing. 2004, University of Georgia Press

Reading the TrailReading the Trail: Exploring the Literature and Natural History of the California Crest
Corey Lee Lewis

The work of three major California writers in the context of the landscapes they loved. John Muir, Mary Austin, and Gary Snyder are perhaps best known for their connection to specific California ecological regions--Muir’s Sierra Nevada "Range of Light," Austin’s southern "Land of Little Rain," and Snyder’s "Kitkitdizze" region of the north. In Reading the Trail, ecocritic and outdoorsman Corey Lewis proposes a provocative new way to read and interpret the classic works of these major nature writers and to bring their ideas into the discussion of ecological values and viable responses to the current environmental crisis. 2005, University of Nevada Press

A Republic of RiversA Republic of Rivers: Three Centuries of Nature Writing from Alaska and the Yukon
John A. Murray, editor

Murray has produced an exceptional compendium of nature writing about Alaska, a total of 48 selections. It is arranged in chronological order from 1741 to 1989 and includes such well-known authors as John Muir, Jack London, and Barry Lopez. The writing encompasses geographical descriptions and animal accounts, as well as human encounters with the environment and themselves. 1992, Oxford University Press

Spirit of PlaceSpirit of Place: The Making Of An American Literary Landscape
Frederick Turner

Turner focuses on the importance of place in the development of an American literature, paying special attention to specific works by Thoreau, Twain, Cable, Cather, Sandoz, Faulkner, Steinbeck, Williams, and Silko. His ambition is to examine how particular places captured the lives and imaginations of these writers and how the locales insinuated themselves into the creation of literature. 1992, Island Press

The Wilderness ReaderThe Wilderness Reader
Frank Bergon, editor

Editor Bergon includes the writings of 26 conservationists from John Wesley Powell and John Muir to Mary Austin and Rachel Carson. Their personal experiences offer an excellent representation of classic texts, ranging from the 18th to the 20th century, that traces a history and defines the genre of American wilderness literature. The writers blend emotions with informed observation. Their purpose is literary, for they successfully convey the experience of participating firsthand in the life of the wilderness. 1994, University of Nevada Press

Wolf SongsWolf Songs: The Classic Collection of Writing about Wolves
Robert Busch

Wolves, once the bad guys of nature--viewed as vicious, bloodthirsty, and cunning--are now undergoing a reassessment as part of the whole environmental movement. This predator is no longer a creature to be poisoned, strafed from airplanes, brutally trapped, and otherwise eradicated. Championed at last, the big bad wolf is even the subject of the "Wolf Manifesto," which states, "The wolf has the right to exist in a wild state . . . in no way related to their known value to mankind." 1997, Sierra Club Books

Words from the LandWords from the Land: Encounters With Natural History Writing
Stephen Trimble

Here is a choice sampler of this decade's very best nature writing. Trimble interviewed nine literary naturalists to find out how they work. All regard themselves primarily as writers; most had liberal arts educations rather than scientific training, and the scientists among them claim to be generalists. Trimble offers excerpts from John McPhee's Basin and Range, Barry Lopez's Arctic Dreams, Peter Matthiessen's The Snow Leopard, Annie Dillard's Teaching a Stone to Talk, Sue Hubbell's A Country Year, Ann Zwinger's The Mysterious Lands, plus nine other delicious pieces from award-winning books. This is an admirable introduction to the genre; readers unfamiliar with the original writings have a treat awaiting them. 1995, University of Nevada Press

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