A Sand County Almanac by Aldo Leopold

A Sand County Almanac, a new addition to Penguin Classics, has sold over 2 million times and been published in fourteen languages since its first release in 1949. With famous fans including George Monbiot, James Rebanks and Wendell Berry, it's a staple of ecological writing.

‘There are some who can live without wild things, and some who cannot,’ begins Aldo Leopold's totemic work of ecological thought. Ranging from lyrical observations of the changing seasons on his Wisconsin farm to his hugely influential idea of a ‘land ethic’ signifying an equal relationship between humans and all other life on earth, A Sand County Almanac changed perceptions of the natural world and helped give birth to the modern conservation movement.

 

The Death of Grass by John Christopher

In his introduction for John Christopher's post-apocalyptic vision of a world pushed to the brink by famine, Robert Macfarlane calls the novel ’a thought experiment in future-shock survivalism’ – something which doesn't seem so far from our current reality.

In The Death of Grass, a virus wiping out grass and crops has decimated Asia, causing mass starvation and riots but Europe is safe and a counter-virus is expected any day. Except, it turns out, the governments have been lying to their people. When the deadly disease hits Britain, society starts to descend into barbarism and humanity is tested to its very limits. The Death of Grass shows people struggling to hold on to their identities as the familiar world disintegrates – and the terrible price they must pay for surviving.

 

Silent Spring by Rachel Carson

Now recognized as one of the most influential books of the twentieth century, Silent Spring exposed the destruction caused by widespread use of pesticides. Despite condemnation in the press and the chemical industry's heavy-handed attempts to ban the book, Rachel Carson succeeded in creating a new public awareness of the environment, leading to changes in government and catalysing the ecological movement. 

Carson's biologist background coupled with her lyrical prose made Silent Spring the book which woke people up to humanity's hand in the destruction of nature, and is as relevant today as when it was first published.

 

 

Ecology of Wisdom by Arne Naess

Philosopher, mountaineer, activist and visionary: Arne Naess was the co-founder of the term ‘Deep Ecology‘ – a belief that all living things have value, regardless of their worth to humans – and one of the most inspirational figures within the environmental movement.

Drawing on his years spent in an isolated hut high in the Norwegian mountains, and on influences as diverse as Gandhi's nonviolent action and Spinoza's all-encompassing worldview, this selection of his writings is filled with wit, charisma and intense connection with nature. Emphasizing joy, cooperation and ‘beautiful actions’, they create a philosophy of life from a man who never lost his sense of wonder at the world.

 

Nature and Selected Essays by Ralph Waldo Emerson

Ralph Waldo Emerson called for harmony with, rather than domestication of, nature, and for a reliance on individual integrity, rather than on materialistic institutions. This echoed many of the great American philosophical and literary works of his time – and ours — and has given momentum to modern political and social activism.

Larzer Ziff's introduction to this collection of fifteen of Emerson's most significant writings provides an important backdrop of the society in which Emerson lived during his formative years.

The Georgics: A Poem of the Land

Virgil's Georgics is a glorious celebration of the eternal beauty of the natural world, now brought vividly to life in Kimberly Johnson's powerful new translation.

‘Georgic’ means ‘to work the earth’, and this poetic guide to country living combines practical wisdom on tending the land with exuberant fantasy and eulogies to the rhythms of nature. It describes hills strewn with wild berries in ‘vine-spread autumn’; recommends watching the stars to determine the right time to plant seeds; and gives guidance on making wine and keeping bees. Yet the Georgics also tells of angry gods, bloody battles and a natural world fraught with danger from storms, pests and plagues.

Walden and Civil Disobediance by Henry Thoreau

Henry David Thoreau left Concord, Massachusetts, in 1845 to live in solitude in the woods near Walden Pond. Walden, the account of his stay, conveys at once a naturalist’s wonder at the commonplace and a Transcendentalist’s yearning for spiritual truth and self-reliance. But even as Thoreau disentangled himself from worldly matters, his musings were often disturbed by his social conscience. 

Selected Poems by John Clare

Clare's highly personal evocations of landscape and place are some of the most poignant lyrics in English poetry. His celebration of all forms of natural life and his laments for the death of rural England grew directly out of his intimate knowledge of the labourer's life and the wheatfields and hedgerows of his village in Northamptonshire.

This engaging selection includes poems from every stage of Clare's poetic career, organised by theme, from ‘Birds and Beasts’ all the way to ‘Madhouses, Prisons and Whorehouses’.

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