These nature diaries through the year, are ideal to read throughout each season, to have us appreciate the changing of the plants and how wildlife reacts. Forget about politics and the media for a while, and just sit under a tree, enjoying one or more of these lovely books.
A Year in the Woods is by Torbjørn Ekelund, the gifted Norwegian writer. After his beautiful debut book In Praise of Paths, now he decides he wants to leave the city after work and camp near a tiny pond in the forest. He has a family and busy life, so can’t just ‘go off on a trek’.
So once a month for a year, he goes off camping by himself in the woods. A tale of communing with nature in small rituals and reflection. He describes his changing relationships with the landscape as he monthly greets the same trees, rocks, streams and soil. And also observes minute signs of growth and decay around him. And gradually shifts his perspective on his role with the forest, and nature itself.
This author has been described as a modern-day Henry David Thoreau. If you’re not familiar, he wrote the classic book Walden, about his 2 years and 2 months living in semi-isolation by Walden Pond in Massachusetts. Born into a family that made pencils, he attended Harvard University and author Louisa May Alcott (who wrote ‘Little Women’) fondly remembers him teaching her as a child about the natural world. He was a kind man who after capturing a woodchuck who had chewed up most of his bean field, could not bring himself to kill it, so set it free. Thoreau died of TB, just 44.
A Natural Year is a nice book that takes us over the water, to observe Irish nature by the seasons. Michael Fewer, who combined architecture with academia for several years, before focusing on writing about local natural history. A regular columnist for the Irish Times, here he lends his expertise for bedtime reading. These beautifully written diaries are observed from his homes in south Dublin and rural Waterford, where he delights at the startling beauty and complexity of the natural world, through the passing seasons. His infectious passion will inspire your own observations, and shows how careful study of the natural world, can be a cure for modern stress.
An Irish Nature Year is a daily meditation on nature of the Emerald Isle. The author takes a year to explain the mysteries of who is cutting perfect circles in your roses, which birds wear feathery trousers, and what is an amethyst deceiver? This illustrated day book is filled with plants, animals, birds and creepy-crawlies from nature writer Jane Powers. From ‘weeds’ in the pavement cracks to surprising inhabitants of vacant lots, to finds along the shore and hedgerows.
The Stubborn Light of Things is by Londoner Melissa Harrison, who after adopting a dog and reconnecting to nature on daily walks (swifts nesting in a nearby church, ivy-leaved toadflax growing out of brick walls and the first blackbird’s song), moved to ancient rural Suffolk. This diary (compiled from her beloved Nature Notebook column in The Times, maps her joyful engagement with the natural world, showing how we must first learn to see, then act to preserve the beauty on our doorsteps, no matter where we live.
A Year in the Wild is a beautiful book by artist Helen Ahpornsiri, which The Guardian calls ‘a meditative wonder through the seasons’. Watch this artist transform petals, leaves and seeds into bounding hares, swooping swallows and fluttering butterflies. The hardback edition has a different cover:
Helen’s book Beneath the Waves takes a journey through the oceans, made entirely from silky seaweeds, feathery algae and bright coastal blooms, turned into playful penguins, scuttling crabs and schools of silvery sharks. Again, the hardback edition has a different cover.
A Year Unfolding is a beautifully illustrated guide to nature through the seasons, by beloved printmaker Angela Harding. The cover of this stunning book has an exclusive triptych printed on the reverse, and the book is dedicated to Angela’s art and a celebration of her beautiful prints. This is a journey through Angela’s year in nature-watching, as the seasons unfold in front of her from her studio in Rutland. The book gives the reader detail into how nature transforms and evolves, over the course of a year.
Angela Harding trained in Fine Art and studied printmaking. She now lives in the small county of Rutland, and works out of the studio at the bottom of her garden. Her unique and distinct style has become instantly recognisable to lovers of nature and books alike.
A Greek Island Nature Diary is a lavish journal of detailed watercolours and accompanying pencil drawings of flora, fauna and natural objects observed during years living in Corfu. Based on notes and sketches made in remote cavees and in the thyme-scented mountains, the text reveals links between Ancient Greece and modern medicine and quotes from poetrol and prose associated with the plants.
Light Rains Sometimes Fall: A British Year Through Japan’s 72 Seasons looks at Britain through the prisom of Japan’s 72 ancient microseasons. Lev Parikian charts the changes of just a few days each to bring to his local patch of garden, streets, park and wild cemetary. From the birth of spring (risshun) in early Feb to the greater cold (daikan) in late January, instead of Japan’s lotus blossom, praying mantis and bear, he watches bramble, woodlouse and urban fox, hawthorn, dragonfly and peregrine. But the seasonal rhytms and the power of nature to reflect and enhance mood. By turns reflective, witty and joyous, this is both a nature diary and a revelation of thte beauty of the small and subtle changes of the day, to ‘look, look again, look better’.
Secrets of a Devon Wood is a gorgeous illustrated diary by a local artist who records local wildlife events. The pages are an exact replica and offer a rich illustrated memory of discoveries, from a bog beacon mushroom, a buff-tailed bumble bee or a native bluebell. A treat for the senses, a hymn to the intricate beauty of the natural world and a quiet call to arms for us to acknowledge and preserve it.