Reading list

Books to take you back to nature

As the weather warms up, these 9 books will have you racing to lace up those walking boots and get outdoors 

Cols and Passes

Graham Robb

A col is the lowest point on the saddle between two mountains. From the eleven cols of Hadrian’s Wall to the obscure and magical sites which have never been crossed, Graham Robb has uncovered and catalogued the British Isles’ 2000 cols. He provides both a fascinating new way of looking at British history, and a fresh challenge for cyclists and walkers. 

 

The Old Ways

Robert Macfarlane

Acclaimed nature writer Robert Macfarlane lays an irresistible trail for his readers to follow, as he journeys through places as diverse as the Icknield Way, the Broomway and all the way over to Israel, Spain and the mountains of Sichuan.

Macfarlane’s interests encompass art, geology, map-making, poetry, environmentalism and adventure, and he’s guided by the spirits of the poet Edward Thomas and artist Eric Ravilious, amongst others.

Scholarly, informative, moving and thought-provoking, Macfarlane will change your view on the world, and where you fit into it. It's a book that's guaranteed to have you itching to pull on your walking boots…

 

Pathlands

Peter Owen Jones

If you’re in search of tranquillity and the opportunity to find beauty around every corner, then dip into Pathlands. As one of the prime 'walks correspondents' of The Sunday Times, Peter Owen Jones is your ideal guide on these 21 circular walks that span the length and breadth of the British Isles: Suffolk, Northamptonshire, Wiltshire, Wales, Staffordshire, Scotland, Sussex and Cornwall are home to just a few of the varied landscapes covered.

 

The January Man

Christopher Somerville

A father whose war experiences were unfathomable to his son. And a love of the great outdoors that bound them together…

As Christopher Somerville walks the British Isles, following routes that continually bring his father to mind, he describes the history, wildlife, landscapes and people he encounters down back lanes and old paths, through rain and fair weather.

And as he walks, Somerville  examines what moulded the men of his father’s generation – so reticent about their wartime experiences, so self-effacing, upright and dutiful – as he searches for ‘the man inside the man’.

 

Strands

Jean Sprackland

Across the four seasons, poet Jean Sprackland visits the same beach time and time again, detailing the items that she finds. From mermaid's purses and lugworms to messages in bottles, buried cars, beached whales and a perfect cup from a Cunard liner, Sprackland’s observations turn beachcombing into a philosophical activity, as well as one that brings you closer to nature.

 

The Shepherd’s Life

James Rebanks

The No. 1 Sunday Times bestseller tells the story of a family who’ve lived and worked in and around the Lake District for generations. Their way of life is ordered by the seasons and the work they demand, and has been largely unchanged for hundreds of years. James Rebanks gives us a vivid insight into the realities of hill farming life, together with a passionate love of the land and its people.

 

Far from the Madding Crowd

Thomas Hardy

Hardy first employed the term ‘Wessex’ in Far from the Madding Crowd to describe the "partly real, partly dream-country" that unifies his novels of South West England. When beautiful, spirited Bathsheba Everdene inherits her own farm, she attracts three very different suitors: the seemingly commonplace man-of-the-soil Gabriel Oak, the dashing young soldier Francis Troy, and the respectable, middle-aged Farmer Boldwood. Her choice, and the tragedy it provokes, lie at the centre of Hardy's story, which is also imbued with his evocative descriptions of rural life and landscapes.

 

Fingers in the Sparkle Jar

Chris Packham

An introverted, unusual young boy, isolated by his obsessions and a loner at school, Springwatch and Autumnwatch’s Chris Packham only felt happy in the fields and woods around his suburban home. But when he stole a young Kestrel from its nest, he discovered a friendship that would change him forever. This is a beautifully told, deeply personal growing-up memoir about life, death, love and nature, as Chris brings to life his childhood in the 70s, from his bedroom bursting with fox skulls and birds’ eggs, to his feral adventures. But pervading his story is the search for freedom, meaning and acceptance in a world that didn’t understand him.

 

Common Ground

Rob Cowen

A detailed nature study and a moving memoir, Rob Cowen reveals the power of nature, both to move us and to root us. Relocating from London to Yorkshire, Cowen yearns for open space and ventures onto a nearby ‘edge-land’. As he explores this small area bordering the River Nidd over the course of a year, Cowen unearths histories and the common ground we share with the natural world, the past and each other, as well as natural life.

In the midst of our frantic lives, Cowen encourages us to fight against "the great societal shift indoors" and really look at nature across the seasons – especially in the unnoticed pieces of land that surround us.

 

Related features

.