With Earth Day this month and spring finally upon us, you may be in the mood to celebrate the great outdoors. While the best way to enjoy nature is to get outside and be in nature, sometimes it’s nice to curl up with a great book that reminds you of the sheer amazingness that nature provides. These selections aren’t just flowering love letters to nature. We’ve included a wide range of options that don’t always depict nature as kind and gentle. They offer poignant reminders of how important it is to acknowledge and respect the planet.
Proulx, Pulitzer Prize and National Book award-winning author, crafts an illustrative novel that begins when Rene, an illiterate woodsman, lands in Canada at a time when the wild North was being tamed by colonists. Rene appreciates nature, and the story follows his descendants, as well as the descendants of the people he worked for, with the wilds of Canada setting the stage for an amazing two centuries’ worth of drama based around the land and what comes from it.
A fascinating literary thriller similar to Where the Crawdads Sing. The novel focuses on arborist Silvania — who has no friends other than her collection of bonsai trees — as she rediscovers her own roots. She begins to trace her grandmother’s early years as a beekeeper to her time in a fanatical doomsday cult, and realizes that her grandmother may still be alive and can be rescued. The bonsai trees weave their way into the story, and the descriptions of the canyons and wilds where the cult lives are captivating.
This classic young reader novel can easily be enjoyed by readers of all ages. You may have read this book in school — the story of a young girl and her brother who were accidentally left alone on an island to fend for themselves — and you may remember shedding a tear or two at some of the tougher moments. The vivid descriptions of nature that both endangers and saves the main character still resonate.
Similar to Island of the Blue Dolphins, Hatchet is another young reader classic. The Newbery Honor winning survival novel tracks a 13-year-old after his plane crashes in Alaska. Alone in the Canadian wilderness with only a (you guessed it) hatchet to help him survive, this story will keep you on the edge of your seat. If you have kids who complain about camping with you in the summer, this might be a good bedtime story to convince them that sleeping in a tent isn’t so bad after all.
Bees are an important part of our ecological past, present, and future, and this literary novel follows three generations of beekeepers as they contend with global environmental crises and family dramas. The three beekeepers from 1852, 2008, and 2098 are connected over the generations, despite living in different countries, and the bonds between them as families, but also as guardians of nature, string them together.
This New York Times bestseller follows four young orphans traveling the Mississippi River during the 1930s at the height of the Great Depression. They connect with other drifters along the way, and the river itself plays an important role, connecting the protagonists to the people they need to meet. As they search for a new home, they also uncover the story of the rapidly developing world around them.
Vanderah brings together two unlikely strangers as they struggle to help a mysterious child. The protagonist, Joanna Teale, is living in a small cabin in the woods, focusing on her research on nesting birds, when she stumbles upon a young girl in search of miracles. The book is a beautiful display of magical realism while incorporating the actual wonders and miracles of the natural world. It’s a touching audiobook to listen to while out on long walks in the woods.
Looking for a literary masterpiece about one of the oddest beauties found in nature? This short novel won the Saroyan International Prize for Writing, the John Burroughs Medal, and the National Outdoor Book Award in Natural History Literature — all thanks to closely observing the tiny intricacies of the natural world, specifically a snail. As Bailey recounts her time spent bedridden with nothing but a snail on her nightstand to provide entertainment, she shares the wisdom that can come from taking the time to be amazed by a tiny part of nature. This book will make you appreciate every blade of grass, every tiny bug, and every grand moment that happens in your life.
Nature can be harsh, and people can be as well. Harper explores the connection between the two. In this thriller, the New York Times bestselling author of The Dry brings us into another mystery: Five women leave to go into the woods on a long hike, but only four return from their wilderness corporate retreat. Meanwhile, federal police agent Aaron Falk begins to search for the missing woman, and discovers secrets deep within the forest.
If you loved Watership Down, you’ll love A Black Fox Running. The struggle between the fox and a trapper in the winter of 1947 is a vivid, thrilling tale. This book is about so much more than sentient animals: Its portrayal of the natural world will leave you longing to get outside. It’s a great read-aloud book for the whole family.
If you never have a minute to read a novel by yourself, skip to A Stone Sat Still, an adorable picture book that shares the story of … a stone. Caldecott Honor-winning Wenzel illustrates an adorable exploration of the natural world and a story of how everything is connected. A stone isn’t just a stone, and for many animals, it can be so much more.