Recommended Reading List

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 linda.rhines@gmail.comWe also have an 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. 

Joe Arnett, Walking in the Beauty of the World: Reflections of a Northwest Botanist (2004)  Joe has been a professional botanist and teacher in the Northwest for over twenty years. This collection of 24 essays describe wild – and not so wild – places, personal knowledge of the plants, and wider topics of a human relationship with nature. The writer invites the reader to step off the path of routine and catch a glimpse of the natural world in which we live. (Recommended by Kathy)

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.

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)

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)

Alexandra Morton, Not on My Watch: How a renegade whale biologist took on governments and industry to save wild salmon (2021).  Morton has been called “the Jane Goodall of Canada” because of her passionate thirty-year fight to save British Columbia’s wild salmon.  Her account of that fight is both inspiring in its own right and a roadmap of resistance  (Recommended by Oma)
 
Michelle Nijhuis, Beloved Beasts: Fighting for Life in an Age of Extinction (2021)
In the late nineteenth century, humans came at long last to a devastating realization: their rapidly industrializing and globalizing societies were driving scores of animal species to extinction. In Beloved Beasts, acclaimed science journalist Michelle Nijhuis traces the history of the movement to protect and conserve other forms of life. From early battles to save charismatic species such as the American bison and bald eagle to today’s global effort to defend life on a larger scale, Nijhuis’s “spirited and engaging” account documents “the changes of heart that changed history” (Dan Cryer, Boston Globe). (Recommended by Holly)
 
Merlin Sheldrake, Entangled Life: How Fungi Make Our Worlds, Change Our Minds, & Shape Our Futures (2020) Fungi provide a key to understanding the planet on which we live, and the ways we think, feel, and behave. In Entangled Life, the brilliant young biologist Merlin Sheldrake shows us the world from a fungal point of view, providing an exhilarating change of perspective. (Recommended by Cheryl)

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)

Scott Weidensaul, The World on the Wing: The global odyssey of migratory birds (2021) “In vivid prose that conjures up the rich spell of each landscape, Scott Weidensaul takes us on exhilarating expeditions that crisscross the globe and travel deep into the heart of nature. For lifelong experts and backyard birders alike, he’s a superb guide to the winged marvels that share our planet and our lives.” (Diane Ackerman).  (Recommended by Noreen)

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)