Probably the most important book you could ever read. But unless you want nightmares it's not for bedtime. Nevertheless I found the savagery of its truth somehow uplifting, I felt a queasy relief as I digested this blunt and brutal treatise of the reality of our excessive population and its inexorable result. Then I felt giddy having had the horror so precisely explained. This short, diagrammatic outline of the impact of 10 billion humans on planet earth with its statistical analysis and clinical prose is the best contraception you’ll ever need. And its consequent message is clear...don’t have children.
The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating
Elisabeth Tova Bailey
I’m not keen on indulging zoological celebrities. I can coo at a glamorous animal but its sparkle quickly fades because in truth its beauty can never be greater than any other. So I was immediately drawn to this wonderful championing of an everyday underdog - a snail, a creature ignored, poisoned or crushed by most. The bed ridden author is drawn into a cascade of fascination for the little mollusc that first inhabits a potted plant and then its own vivarium. And her measured excitement and developing determination to unravel its natural history vividly reminded me of all those formative hours I spent staring into jam jars full of humble but brilliant things. The result is a lovely celebration of curiosity and the immeasurable reward that brings.
The Future of Life
Edward O. Wilson
Wilson is the guru for my ilk - the learned, considered master of ecology. And for me this is his finest hour. The opening letter to Thoreau is a sublime precursor to the succinct pragmatism that is to come. You read it and you believe and love and trust him...then he hits you in the face with the facts about the horrific state of life on earth and quietly informs you how rapidly the handcart is heading to hell.
But essentially he explains why, and how, and what the result will be, and then critically and skilfully he outlines what we could do to prevent it. So rather than pessimistic this is an articulate manual for protecting our planets biodiversity and for our own survival. It should be mandatory reading.
A Sand County Almanac
Escudilla. If you want nature writing to rival Thoreau’s Walden then this short section of Leopold’s collection of essays is it. Poetic and eloquent, it so defines this mountain in Arizona. You can see, hear, feel it - it's spellbinding. Then go on to explore his original philosophies on ecological conscience and the aesthetic importance of nature and its conservation. And then pinch yourself because you will struggle to believe this was published in 1949. And then curse your grandparents for not implementing his ‘land ethic’ - oh that they had, our world would be such a better place.
The Tiger: A True Story of Vengeance and Survival
Siberia, 1997, a man-eater, a poacher, and Yuri Trush, the lead tracker, on the trail of nature's greatest masterpiece gone rogue. It's gripping stuff in a frozen fairy tale landscape and it comes to a dizzying climax deep in the Russian taiga forest. But the book offers so much more. It's fabulously informative, historically and ecologically, and concludes with a refreshingly realistic discussion about the problems of protecting tigers when they are worth more dead than alive. Together with Steven Rinella’s equally exceptional American Buffalo: In Search of a Lost Icon, for me it defines the best of modern nature writing because it bravely explores the reality of nature in the 21st Century, rather than only painting ravishing portraits of it.
More about the author
Voted the UK’s Favourite Nature Book
The memoir that inspired Chris Packham's BBC documentary, Asperger’s and Me
Every minute was magical, every single thing it did was fascinating and everything it didn't do was equally wondrous, and to be sat there, with a Kestrel, a real live Kestrel, my own real live Kestrel on my wrist! I felt like I'd climbed through a hole in heaven's fence.
An introverted, unusual young boy, isolated by his obsessions and a loner at school, Chris Packham only felt at ease in the fields and woods around his suburban home. But when he stole a young Kestrel from its nest, he was about to embark on a friendship that would teach him what it meant to love, and that would change him forever. In his rich, lyrical and emotionally exposing memoir, Chris brings to life his childhood in the 70s, from his bedroom bursting with fox skulls, birds' eggs and sweaty jam jars, to his feral adventures. But pervading his story is the search for freedom, meaning and acceptance in a world that didn’t understand him.
Beautifully wrought, this coming-of-age memoir will be unlike any you've ever read.
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