The books in the list below are recommendations from book club members. This list is in alphabetical order by author. If you’ve read a natural history related book that you would like to add to this list, please e-mail your ideas to Linda at firstname.lastname@example.org. We also have a list of more than 100 books we have already discussed in this group on the first page of the Book Club website, so make sure your suggestion is not already there.
Jonathan Balcombe, What a Fish Knows: The Inner Lives of Our Underwater Cousins (2016) What a Fish Knows will forever change how we see our aquatic cousins. We rarely consider how individual fishes think, feel, and behave. Balcombe describes a variety of fish behaviors, such as courtship rituals and cooperative hunting behaviors. What a Fish Knows offers a thoughtful appraisal of our relationships with fishes and inspires us to take a more enlightened view of the planet’s increasingly imperiled marine life.
Douglas Chadwick, Four Fifths a Grizzly: A New Perspective on Nature that Just Might Save Us All (2021) We share 80 % of our DNA with grizzlies (40% with salmon, 24% with a wine grape), and Chadwick, who has spent many years observing animals like mountain goats and grizzlies, reflects on the value of exposure to nature on human biochemistry and mentality. He also gives lots of examples of helpful changes we can make in our own lives to make a difference in what is happening to our global environment. (Recommended by Linda)
Peter Harrison, Seabirds: The New Identification Guide (2021) Harrison, a local Port Hadlock resident and expedition travel guide, has written the essential new field guide to the 437 species of seabirds of the world, replacing his 1983 publication of Seabirds. The stunning 239 full color plates were done by Harrison and Swedish artist Hans Larsson. You can find more about the book, including some beautiful illustrations, at peterharrisonseabirds.com. (Recommended by Diane McDade)
Robin Wall Kimmerer, Monique Gray Smith, Nicole Neidhardt, Braiding Sweetgrass for Young Adults: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teaching of Plants (2022) Although we read the original 2013 version of Braiding Sweetgrass in 2017, many of us have joined the book club since then. This new shorter version by Smith, who is Cree and Lakota and worked closely with Kimmerer, includes lovely illustrations by Dine (Navajo) artist Neidhardt. The book reinforces how ecological understanding comes from listening to the plants around us. (Recommended by Linda)
Elizabeth Kolbert, Under a White Sky: The Nature of the Future (2021) The author takes a hard look at the new world we are creating. Along the way, she meets biologists who are trying to preserve the world’s rarest fish, which lives in a single tiny pool in the middle of the Mojave; engineers who are turning carbon emissions to stone in Iceland; Australian researchers who are trying to develop a “super coral” that can survive on a hotter globe; and physicists who are contemplating shooting tiny diamonds into the stratosphere to cool the earth. (Recommended by Wendy)
Barry Lopez, Horizon (2019) From pole to pole and across decades of lived experience, National Book Award-winning author Barry Lopez delivers his most far-ranging, yet personal, work to date. Horizon moves indelibly, immersively, through the author’s travels to six regions of the world: from Western Oregon to the High Arctic; from the Galápagos to the Kenyan desert; from Botany Bay in Australia to finally, unforgettably, the ice shelves of Antarctica. Along the way, Lopez probes the long history of humanity’s thirst for exploration, including the prehistoric peoples who trekked across Skraeling Island in northern Canada, the colonialists who plundered Central Africa, an enlightenment-era Englishman who sailed the Pacific, a Native American emissary who found his way into isolationist Japan, and today’s ecotourists in the tropics. And always, throughout his journeys to some of the hottest, coldest, and most desolate places on the globe, Lopez searches for meaning and purpose in a broken world. (Recommended by Kathy)
Douglas W. Tallamy, Nature’s Best Hope: a New Approach to Conservation That Starts in Your Yard (2019) Tallamy advocates a grassroots approach to conservation since wildlife habitat is rapidly disappearing. He contends that officially protected natural areas like National Parks aren’t sufficient to sustain nature and that we need to replace manicured lawns with wildlife habitat like native trees and shrubs. Although the book is geared toward eastern US suburbs, there are useful ideas for specific things we can do as well as a section of FAQs. (Recommended by Linda)
Jack Turner, The Abstract Wild (1996) If anything is endangered in America it is our experience of wild nature—gross contact. There is knowledge only the wild can give us, knowledge specific to it, knowledge specific to the experience of it. These are its gifts to us. We hunger for a kind of experience deep enough to change our selves, our form of life, writes Turner. Readers who take his words to heart will find, if not their selves, their perspectives on the natural world recast in ways that are hard to ignore and harder to forget. (recommended by Kathy)
David B. Williams, Homewaters: A Human and Natural History of Puget Sound (2021) Focusing on the area south of Port Townsend and between the Cascade and Olympic mountains, Williams uncovers human and natural histories in, on, and around the Sound. In conversations with archaeologists, biologists, and tribal authorities, Williams traces how generations of humans have interacted with such species as geoducks, salmon, orcas, rockfish, and herring. He sheds light on how warfare shaped development and how people have moved across this maritime highway, in canoes, the mosquito fleet, and today’s ferry system. The book also takes an unflinching look at how the Sound’s ecosystems have suffered from human behavior, including pollution, habitat destruction, and the effects of climate change. Witty, graceful, and deeply informed, Homewaters weaves history and science into a fascinating and hopeful narrative, one that will introduce newcomers to the astonishing life that inhabits the Sound and offers longtime residents new insight into and appreciation of the waters they call home.(Recommended by Kathy)
E.O. Wilson, Tales from the Ant World (2020) “Ants are the most warlike of all animals, with colony pitted against colony. . . . Their clashes dwarf Waterloo and Gettysburg,” writes Edward O. Wilson in his most finely observed work in decades. In a myrmecological tour to such far-flung destinations as Mozambique and New Guinea, the Gulf of Mexico’s Dauphin Island and even his parents’ overgrown yard back in Alabama, Wilson thrillingly evokes his nine-decade-long scientific obsession with more than 15,000 ant species. A personal account by one of our greatest scientists, Tales from the Ant World is an indispensable volume for any lover of the natural world. (recommended by Wendy)
Ed Yong, An Immense World: How animal senses reveal the hidden realms around us (2022). All animals, including humans, perceive only a tiny amount of our immense world. Yong, a staff writer for The Atlantic, looks at the sights, textures, sounds, smells, electric and magnetic fields and more that are experienced by a variety of animals. He describes turtles that track magnetic fields, scallops with complex vision, what dogs smell on the street, what songbirds hear in their songs. This book is a joy to read and it is no wonder that it received rave reviews. (Recommended by Linda)