Lately I've been asked for book recommendations that inspire a sense of hope or aren't all about "everything that's wrong with the world." I've recommended books about social justice movements and change and ways of building community. I've also been thinking about other types of books that inspire hope. For me, nature writing can instill hopefulness because it helps me feel connected to the natural world which in turns reminds me of our interconnectedness. The books below all address our connection to nature and to each other. I hope you enjoy these recommendations.
The abundance : narrative essays old and new/ Annie Dillard ; foreword by Geoff Dyer
The Abundance reminds us that Dillard’s brand of “novelized nonfiction” pioneered the form long before it came to be widely appreciated. Intense, vivid, and fearless, her work endows the true and seemingly ordinary aspects of life—a commuter chases snowball-throwing children through neighborhood streets, a teenager memorizes Rimbaud’s poetry—with beauty and irony, inviting readers onto sweeping landscapes, to join her in exploring the complexities of time and death, with a sense of humor: on one page, an eagle falls from the sky with a weasel attached to its throat; on another, a man walks into a bar.
Black nature : four centuries of African American nature poetry / edited by Camille T. Dungy
Black poets have a long tradition of incorporating treatments of the natural world into their work, but it is often read as political, historical, or protest poetry, anything but nature poetry. This is particularly true when the definition of what constitutes nature writing is limited to work about the pastoral or the wild. The author has selected 180 poems from 93 poets that provide unique perspectives on American social and literary history to broaden our concept of nature poetry and African American poetics. This collection features major writers such as Phillis Wheatley, Rita Dove, Yusef Komunyakaa, Gwendolyn Brooks, Sterling Brown, Robert Hayden, Wanda Coleman, Natasha Trethewey, and Melvin B. Tolson as well as newer talents such as Douglas Kearney, Major Jackson, and Janice Harrington. Included are poets writing out of slavery, Reconstruction, the Harlem Renaissance, the Black Arts Movement, and late twentieth- and early twenty-first-century African American poetic movements.
Braiding sweetgrass : [indigenous wisdom, scientific knowledge and the teachings of plants] / Robin Wall Kimmerer
As a botanist and professor of plant ecology, Robin Wall Kimmerer has spent a career learning how to ask questions of nature using the tools of science. As a Potawatomi woman, she learned from elders, family, and history that the Potawatomi, as well as a majority of other cultures indigenous to this land, consider plants and animals to be our oldest teachers. In Braiding Sweetgrass, Kimmerer brings these two lenses of knowing together to reveal what it means to see humans as "the younger brothers of creation." As she explores these themes she circles toward a central argument: the awakening of a wider ecological consciousness requires the acknowledgement and celebration of our reciprocal relationship with the world.
The curious nature guide : explore the natural wonders all around you / written and illustrated by Clare Walker Leslie
With dozens of simple prompts and exercises, best-selling author, naturalist, and artist Clare Walker Leslie invites you to step outside for just a few minutes a day, reignite your sense of wonder about the natural world, and discover the peace and grounding that come from connecting with nature. Using stunning photography as well as the author’s own original illustrations, The Curious Nature Guide will inspire you to use all of your senses to notice the colors, sounds, smells, and textures of the trees, plants, animals, birds, insects, clouds, and other features that can be seen right outside your home, no matter where you live.
The hidden life of trees : what they feel, how they communicate : discoveries from a secret world / Peter Wohlleben ; foreword by Tim Flannery
Are trees social beings? In this international bestseller, forester and author Peter Wohlleben convincingly makes the case that, yes, the forest is a social network. He draws on groundbreaking scientific discoveries to describe how trees are like human families: tree parents live together with their children, communicate with them, support them as they grow, share nutrients with those who are sick or struggling, and even warn each other of impending dangers. Wohlleben also shares his deep love of woods and forests, explaining the amazing processes of life, death, and regeneration he has observed in his woodland.
All descriptions are provided by the publishers.