2021 might have been my most enjoyable reading year ever. I think it’s because I read so many nature-related books this year and they just made me so happy, and provided a relaxing mental escape. Interestingly, I find that I can’t really remember any of the audiobooks I listened to. I’ve tried audiobooks several times but I just don’t think they’re for me – I can’t listen and do something else. Rambling aside; if you’re after some book recommendations, check out five of my favourite reads from 2021.
Down from the Mountain: the Life and Death of a Grizzly Bear – Bryce Andrews.
This book still regularly pops into my thoughts several months after finishing it. It’s about grizzly bears, so obviously I went into it with high hopes but it completely surpassed my expectations. It’s just so beautifully written.
The book focuses on one specific grizzly bear, Millie, but it also talks more generally about co-existing with bears and other large carnivores. You learn about the bear and the author separately, until their stories start to come together. I thought it was a brilliant way to write it, and it pulled me in. Death is in the title, so I don’t think it’s a spoiler to mention it, but I was sad about that for days after finishing it. Sadness aside, I could happily pick this up and re-read it and I’m sure it won’t be too long before I do.
A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail – Bill Bryson.
I am years late to the Bill Bryson train, I know, I don’t know where I’ve been. Honestly, I ordered this because there’s a bear on the cover of some versions (and that’s the version I tracked down).
A Walk in the Woods follows Bill and an old friend who naively decide to tackle the Appalachian Trail in America. I laughed a lot reading this book. Partly at them being fools but also because if I lived in the US, I’m pretty sure I would have tried to cook up a grand plan to do the Appalachian Trail and felt about as miserable as they did also. I like being outside but I’m fooling myself if I think I’m the kind of person who would want to carry all their belongings in a bag for a month. My patience for trying to find things in bags is tested after a couple of days camping, let alone months of it.
Disasterology: Dispatches from the Frontlines of the Climate Crisis – Samantha Montano.
It seems weird to say I find disaster response interesting because it’s disasters are never good. I enjoy planning, problem solving, and helping people so it’s a topic I find interesting. Samantha walks us through responses and the ongoing recovery after major disasters like Hurricane Katrina. She also highlights that disaster planning and response is not just for the government, or big cities; it’s important for people to get involved in their local community and learn about what’s happening.
Disasterology is written in a way that makes it easy for everyone to understand. It’s also not heavy on climate science or the science behind the incidents as the focus is planning, management, and recovery. She clearly and simply lays our her damning arguments about how people have been repeatedly failed by those in charge. The book ends by talking about what needs to happen at a government and local level, and what individuals can do to help themselves and their community.
Tools for Surviving a Storm: Eleven Tales of Nature, Love and Fear – Nadia Henderson.
This is probably my most anticipated read this year. I began following Nadia’s blog years ago, back when I was way more active, and was so happy when this book was announced.
As the title may tell you, it’s a collection of short stories and they’re all fantastic. I admire the ability to craft such realistic scenes, fleshed out characters, and a story in such a short amount of time. Flitting between each story was like being picked right up out of one character’s life and immersed in the next. The stories are so varied as well but they all have some kind of link to the natural world. The characters have stayed with me, lurking in the corners of my brain.
A Richness of Martens – Polly Pullar.
Daz got me this for Christmas, and I sped through it in just over a day. I do have a full review of it coming soon – it’s written, I just need to post it.
A Richness of Martens explores wildlife in Ardnamurchan on the west coast of Scotland. We switch between Polly’s wildlife watching experiences, and learning about the Humphreys, who have pine Martens frequenting their garden every night. Though martens are the focus of the book, we also read about seals, eagles, deer, and more.
Some nature books are hard but important reads. They talk about the damage humans are doing to the environment, and they don’t always leave you feeling inspired. If you want a wildlife book that leaves you feeling inspired, warm and cosy, then A Richness of Martens is the book for you.
12 Months of Nature reading challenge
I’ve loved the nature books I’ve read this year, so I set myself a challenge to read at least 12 nature books in 2022. If you want to join in, I’ve set up a challenge with prompts on StoryGraph – here’s the link if you want to check it out.