Modern Nature by Derek Jarman (1991)

Filmmaker, artist and diarist also found solace in the world around him, and it flourished under his hand even as his own future was uncertain. In 1986 Derek Jarman discovered he was HIV positive and decided to make a garden at his cottage on the bleak coast of Dungeness. While some perished beneath wind and sea-spray others flourished, creating brilliant, unexpected beauty in the wilderness.

Modern Nature is both a diary of the garden and a meditation by Jarman on his own life: his childhood, his time as a young gay man in the 1960s, his renowned career as an artist, writer and film-maker. It is at once a lament for a lost generation, an unabashed celebration of gay sexuality, and a devotion to all that is living.

Our Place by Mark Cocker (2018)

Our Place is a history of the British countryside and the people that have shaped it: Victorian visionaries like Octavia Hill, founder of the National Trust, as well as brilliant naturalists such as Max Nicholson or Derek Ratcliffe, who helped build the framework for all environmental effort. It also looks to the future, asking how it is that the British seem to love their countryside more than almost any other nation, yet have come to live in one of the most denatured landscapes on Earth. And it offers a vision as to how this overcrowded island of ours could be a place fit not just for human occupants, but also for its billions of wild citizens.

Bee Quest by Dave Goulson (2017)

A hunt for the world's most elusive bees leads Dave Goulson from Poland to Patagonia as well as closer to home, amongst the secret places hidden right under our noses: the abandoned industrial estates where great crested newts roam; or the rewilded estate at Knepp Castle, where, with the aid of some hairy, bluebell-eating Tamworth pigs, nightingale song has been heard for the first time in generations.

Goulson’s wit, humour and deep love of nature make him the ideal travelling companion for bee lovers old and new.

H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald (2014)

As a child, Helen Macdonald was determined to become a falconer, learning the arcane terminology and reading all the classic books. Years later, when her father died and she was struck deeply by grief, she became obsessed with the idea of training her own goshawk. She bought Mabel for £800 on a Scottish quayside and took her home to Cambridge, ready to embark on the long, strange business of trying to train this wildest of animals, all the while grappling with her understanding of a world without her father, trying to reconcile death with life and love.

Nature Cure by Richard Mabey (2005)

The natural world can care for us in ways we might not often imagine: when Richard Mabey fell into a severe depression. The natural world – which since childhood had been a source of joy and inspiration for him – became meaningless. Then, cared for by friends, he moved to East Anglia and he started to write again. Having left the cosseting woods of the Chiltern hills for the open flatlands of Norfolk, Richard Mabey found exhilaration in discovering a whole new landscape and gained fresh insights into our place in nature.

Structured as intricately as a novel, a joy to read, truthful, exquisite and questing, this is a book of hope, not just for individuals, but for our species.


Ground Work, edited by Tim Dee (2018)

This collection of essays from writers including John Burnside, Julia Blackburn and Helen Macdonald takes stock of how we live in the world that nurtures us; how we care for it and how we neglect it. With glimpses at life in different corners of our planet, from a walled estate to the Arizona desert, from the Canadian Arctic to an urban garden in London, it's a timely reminder of the fragility of the nature we rely on.

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