The Wild Isles is an anthology of the best of British and Irish nature writing. From Gilbert White and Dorothy Wordsworth to Laurie Lee and Nan Shepherd, literature inspired by the natural world is a part of our shared identity, and shaped our relationships with our home islands.
This book gathers together the best writers of varying moods and voices. Choices are arranged under themes like birds, woods and coastlines, to childhood, the seasons and urban nature. Find joyful celebrations of landscape and the wildlife it nurtures, and work exploring environmental problems we face together. From the bleak heights of the Cairngorms and the ancient woodlands of Essex, to the storm-lashed islands of Ireland’s west coat and the lush fields of Devon, This is a beautiful armchair explorer’s journey to delight, soothe and heal. Patrick Barkham is a natural history writer who has written several books. He has been shortlisted for the Wainwright Prize. He lives in Norfolk.
If you are browsing your local bookstore and getting fed up of celebrity autobiographies, try these books for size. They will make you want to learn more about our astounding planet, and how to save it. Read ideally in your favourite armchair – or sitting under a tree!
Our Wild World is a beautiful book to take us on a tour of the wildlife that share our world: from the birds and bees to the bogs and icy lands. Learn about migration and pollination, then about how reducing our carbon footprint can help to create a more sustainable world.
We’ve interfered with wild animals. So it’s no mystery a virus would jump from an animal to a human. It’s nothing new – it happened with Ebola, SARS, Spanish Flu, the Black Death. People can’t save the environment, if they don’t know how it works or what’s wrong with it. Éanna Ní Lamhna
Learning about our wild world is not just for children or fans of TV nature documentaries. It’s a lifelong necessary knowledge for our survive. We need to open our eyes and minds to the challenges that face us. They key is to find a our balance between our needs, and the future of our precious planet, and all its inhabitants.
- Why we must care about our natural world?
- Learn about the value of spiders and wasps
- Should we be worried by GM foods and wind farms?
- What is biodiversity?
- Are global warming and climate change the same thing?
- What happened to the hole in the ozone layer?
- Why are carbon sinks so important?
- How does a virus become a pandemic?
Takes the reader on a whirlwind trip through the wonders of pollination, predation, migration, hibernation and adaptation. Éanna zips through meteorology and climatology and explains how the balance of sunlight, warmth and gases that has kept everything on our planet running smoothly got knocked out of kilter in the space of a century. It’s science made simple. She whittles down the theory of evolution to the following explanation: Nature doesn’t tolerate eejits’. Irish Independent
It doesn’t come across as a lecture or a tirade. It’s almost like a manual to how the planet works, and the world runs. Niall Hatch, Birdwatch Ireland
Éanna Ní Lamhna is an Irish biologist, environmental consultant and president of Ireland’s version of the National Trust. She has a degree in Botany and Microbiology and is a long-standing expert on RTÉ’s wildlife programme ‘Mooney goes Wild’. A strong advocate of learning, she has recently taken up the flute!
- Our Place: Can We Save Britain’s Wildlife Before It’s Too Late? is a radical examination of what we may lose. Although the British love their countryside, it’s one of the least protected. Mark Cocker sets out from the flatlands of Norfolk to the tundra-expanse of Flow Country in northern Scotland, to map a future fit for billions of wildlife citizens.
- Wild About Britain is a collection of nature writings from Brian Jackman. An extended love letter to the British countryside with illustrations by Jonathan Truss, one of our leading wildlife artists. Meet barnacle geese on the salt marsh, star-gaze on Exmoor, visit wave-smashed rocks at Land’s End, eagles on the peninsula and the autumn rut in the New Forest. Visit ancient oaks, red kites and the oldest path.
- Journeys in Springtime is a masterpiece of nature writing, beginning in South Africa, to watch swallows before they travel to Europe. Spring moves north at the speed of swallow flight, as we follow migrants in Chad and Ethiopia, and across the Sahara. Storks venture Straights of Gibraltar, honey buzzards dodge Sicilian hunters and tiny birds find haven on the curious island of Heligoland. Tim’s journey ends on the shores of the Arctic Ocean in Scandinavia.
The Lost Words is a book about restoring nature’s lost language. This giant award-winning gorgeous book is by writer Robert Macfarlane and illustrator Jackie Morris. Called ‘a thing of astonishing beauty’ by Alex Preston of The Observer, this book about wildlife has the added benefit of teaching literature, with words that are rapidly vanishing from vocabulary.
Replace words like hashtag, voicemail and blog with words like like Dandelion, Otter, Bramble, Acorn, Bluebell, Fern, Heron, Kingfisher, Newt, Otter and Willow. This book stands against the disappearance of wild childhood. A powerful backlash against the growing gulf between childhood and the natural world.
The book was thought up when finding that a new edition of the Oxford Junior Dictionary (widely used in schools around the world) had dropped around 40 common words concerning nature. They were no longer used enough by children, to merit their place in the world’s best dictionary. So this beautiful book is a list of those ‘lost words’. Many reviewers (amateur and in the press) say this is the most beautiful and informative book ever published.
The Lost Spells invites you to conjure up an animal, bird, tree or flower. From Barn Owl and Red Fox, from Grey Seal to Silver Birch and from Jay to Jackdaw. All nature that we share our living landscapes with. This little book celebrates a sense of wonder, bearing witness to nature’s power to amaze and console. The painted brushstrokes call you to the forest, field and riverbank.
Spell Songs is a beautifully presented CD that features exclusive new artwork, and a CD of new music from a wonderful collaboration including Julie Fowlis, Karine Polwart, Seckou Keita, Kris Drever, Kerry Andrew, Rachel Newton, Beth Porter and Jim Molyneux. Also sold direct on the website, this is a mixed-media presentation box product.
Robert Macfarlane is a prize-winning author of books about landscape, nature, people and place. His work has been translated into many languages and widely adapted. He holds the EM Forster Prize for Literature. Jackie Morris wanted to be an artist, ever since she saw her dad drawing a lapwing. After designing cards for Greenpeace and Amnesty International, she fell into illustrating children’s books. She lives in Wales with her son and daughter, two odd dogs and cats of various colours (but mostly ginger). You can buy all of Jackie’s books online at Solva Woollen Mill. Jackie also wrote and illustrated Song of the Golden Hare. This tells the story of a boy and his family who families search for leverets orphaned by the hunt.
How Beautiful is a stunningly illustrated book on the meaning of the word ‘beautiful’, inspired by the beauty of the natural world. Join a curious caterpillar on a search for the true meaning of this oft-used world. The caterpillar lives a simple life on his leaf until one day, an UnKnown Thing picks him up and calls him beautiful. A question fors in the caterpillar’s mind ‘What is beautiful?’. So begins a quest to discover the meaning. Much to his surprise, each animal in the forest has their own definition:
- A bear declares that honeycomb is beautiful!
- The squirrels say leaves are beautiful
- A mole says his burrow is beautiful!
What’s a caterpillar to do? With elaborate and vivid illustrations by Melissa Castrillón, this book has a sweet central message that beauty is as diverse as we are, it means something different to everyone, and the beauty of the natural world is worth celebrating.
Author Antonella Capetti is a beloved picture book author and longtime primary school teacher in Italy. Melissa Castrillón studied illustration and children’s book illustration at the Cambridge School of Art and has illustrated many acclaimed picture books. A freelance illustrator, she lives in Cambridge, England.
Into the Tangled Bank looks at what it really means, to call us a nation of people who love nature. Lev Parikian explores the natural world from pavement to garden, and from wildlife reserve to far-flung island. He visits the haunts of famous nature lovers and meets ramblers, birders and den-builders and gets up close with nature he finds everywhere. Open a window, hear the birds calling and join this warm generous journey into the tangled bank.
A Spotter’s Guide to the Countryside is a highly readable book that’s beautifully illustrated to help you identify the masses of twigs in bare-branched trees that look like abandoned nests. Or seen fuzzy red balls on roses? A stranded pond on a hill? Or consider the shaded ways we walk along. Here a naturalist john Wright helps you to identify them all and their history. And where to find them.
The Enchanted Life is a book about reclaiming the wisdom of the natural world. Dr Sharon Blackie is an award-winning writer and teacher whose work sits on the surface of psychology, mythology and ecology. She lives on a smallholding in the Cambrian mountains of Wales.
Turning the Boat for Home is the story of Richard Mabey’s 50 years as one of our best nature writers. These essays show Richard’s belief that our planet is for all species. In a celebration that links poet John Clare with political warnings of Rachel Carson, he suggests ‘the answer to the still-present threat of a silent spring, is for us to sing against the storm’.
Richard is among the best writers at work in Britain. I don’t mean among the best nature writers. I mean the best writers, full stop. I would read anything he wrote. Pretty much all of what nature means to him, I know thanks to his loving investigation of what it means to him. Tim Dee
Richard Mabey is the father of modern nature writing. Since 1972, he has written over 40 influential books. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and Vice-President of the Open Spaces Society.
To be without trees would, in the most literal way, to be without our roots. Richard Mabey